Yoga and the Art of Compassion

How to awaken something, which is inborn in our being—but is often forgotten? Something that brings peace and harmony in human’s life, something that leads one to the light. The word “compassion” is gaining much popularity nowadays, yet the practice of compassion has been started since the ancient time. Here we have Jennifer Prugh to explain about compassion and how it relates to yoga.

How do you define “compassion”?

Compassion has several definitions, one of which is kindness. We understand that essentially we all want the same things in life, and so we treat each other as we wish to be treated. Another is living by the understanding that for every living creature on the planet to flourish, we need to care as much about each other as we do for ourselves. It’s not just a good idea any more. It’s essential. In fact, our own happiness and health depends upon the happiness and health of others. The quintessential example is that of a mother who loves her child so much she will risk her own life for that child because they are so connected. When we can feel empathy for others, because we fundamentally understand that another’s suffering impacts us, and we feel compelled to alleviate suffering whenever we can, that is compassion.

How can yoga make someone become more compassionate?

Trying to make someone do anything will always be unsuccessful. I know, I’ve tried. But you can create a set of conditions that support people becoming motivated to care for themselves through practice. The practice of yoga works to become more attentive and as a result, we care and love our life a great deal more. We realize that so much of why we were unable to feel love or caring for ourselves and others has to do with the mind which spends most of its time living in the past or the future, wanting to control things, wanting things to be any other way than how they are. When we can learn to let the mind rest and enjoy and welcome the present moment, we are more available to life, and to others. And naturally we become more compassionate.

How can being compassionate transform one’s life?

We are each unique and that is useful. It means we each have a unique contribution to make. And when we make it, there is a sense of fulfillment that comes from that. We expressed ourselves in a way that was unique to us and we made the world around us a better place for doing so. If we try to hold onto life, to have it be all about ourselves, we will inevitably suffer. So by letting go, by offering what we can to support others, we are moving with the course of life instead of against it. Ultimately, we all have to let go of everything and everyone. By making letting go, offering up, as the motivation behind our daily lives, we are moving with the course of things. This makes things easier on ourselves and on others. It produces a joy that is sustainable.

What is the “Yoga and Art of Compassion” retreat about?

Many spiritual traditions address what it means to be a compassionate human being. Yogic teachings are ripe with reference to teachings on compassion. We all know that being a loving and compassionate person is a good idea. But what exactly does it mean to be compassionate? How can compassion be cultivated? Compassion is something that is deeply innate to our being. As we are guided back to the shores of compassion through our yoga practice, we find a reservoir of joy and goodness that fuels our practice and completely transforms our experience of life itself. In this retreat we will immerse ourselves in the study and experience of compassion: compassion for ourselves, and compassion for others, so that we can open our capacity for the experience of joy and bliss in our daily lives.

Who could benefit from the “Yoga and Art of Compassion” retreat?

Anyone could benefit from it, but it’s sold out now. So I hope we’ll be able to offer it again next year!

Please tell us a bit more about the yoga style you teach.

I teach a Vinyasa-Krama (intelligent flow) based on experience, incorporating the five elements and the eight limbs of yoga in each class I teach. A professor of storytelling, creativity and mythology, I have studied Ashtanga, Iyengar, and also, Eastern and Western Philosophy, Ayurvedic principles, Tibetan practices and Buddhism.

You are co-leading this retreat with Mark Tanaka, please tell us a bit more about his teaching style.

Mark Tanaka has been studying and practicing various approaches to the art of yoga for 14 years. His background includes studies and practice in Indian and Taoist yoga. Mark has studied nutrition, acupressure, massage, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, meditation, Buddhist philosophy, yoga philosophy, Chinese Medicine principles and Ayurvedic principles with many teachers and draws upon his wide spectrum of studies to support his students in realizing their goals.

Jennifer Prugh is the owner of “Breathe, Los Gatos” and the founder of the Yoga Alliance certified RYT 200 and 500-hour “Joy of Yoga” teacher training. Together with Mark Tanaka, she will lead the “Yoga and Art of Compassion” retreat in Ubud from January 27 to February 2, 2013.

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