Resolution: Compassion

Have you made resolutions for the new year? In the United States 38% to 65% of people make them, yet 45% to 92% don’t stick to their resolve. 

If you don’t make resolutions, you might set goals at some other time. For many, a mandate for change comes as a result of a health situation, yet the often-disappointing results are the same.

People seek change out of a sense of lack, failure, inadequacy, or fear—emotions that put us on edge. Research on self-compassion, a common yoga practice, offers a promising approach to achieving our goals and resolutions.

(Self) compassion is the key

“Evidence suggests that people are more likely to change behavior or try again after making a mistake if they offer self-kindness and support, in a non-judgemental way,” writes Shelly Prosko, C-IAYT, in the book Yoga and Science in Pain Care. This attitude is also known as self-compassion.

On her website, Kristin Neff, PhD, a leading researcher in compassion, describes the essential components of compassion as

  1. noticing that suffering is happening, 
  2. being affected by that noticing and responding by offering understanding and kindness (rather thanjudgment), and 
  3. realizing that suffering, struggling, failure, and shame are part of being human; in these experiences you are with many others, not alone.

Neff points out that compassion is not pity, which is characterized by ego and isolation rather than shared humanity. Compassion is not indulgence, which is about pleasure rather than care, and it is not esteem, which has an element of judgment. With self-compassion, according to Neff, you “may try to change in ways that allow you to be more healthy and happy, but this is done because you care about yourself, not because you [view yourself as] worthless or unacceptable.”

Compassion—and yoga therapy—in healthcare

Many integrative medicine departments, healthcare programs, and rehabilitation centers include yoga therapists. Yoga therapists are trained in techniques that develop and support compassion (and self-compassion). Yoga is one of the most effective tools known to teach us not only to connect to our inner experience but also to develop a shared feeling of care so deep that it inspires us to help ease another’s—or our own—suffering.

Integrative medicine emphasizes connections between mind and body across physiological systems. Yoga therapy starts with these connections as a foundational understanding; a person’s attitude, inner feelings, and

approach to their own healing are also foundational to the process of change. Whether your journey currently involves New Year’s resolutions or changes driven by a health situation, a yoga therapist can help you frame these changes and work with yourself for your best outcome.

Compassion practices for you

If you are interested in exploring, Jorge Armesto, C-IAYT, has created several practices intended to support compassion and self-compassion. They range from 5 to 30 minutes long. 

Find an IAYT-certified yoga therapist to guide you through practices like these and many others.