Thoughts on Yoga, Kindness and Peace

Joanna Tisell

“I have to ask you…does practicing Yoga make you a…kinder person?”

It was a few years ago, but I still remember this question from one of my students. We were all having a cup of warm tea after an invigorating yoga session. I could see she was not sure of how to ask, or if she was being silly. This was only her fifth class ever. She explained she had noticed how much nicer she was to people around her on the days she had been to Yoga class. After a few days the effect inevitably wore off and her impatience and irritation towards her surroundings came back, until the next time she stepped onto her yoga mat. The result of the hour and a half she spent in class lasted for days.

I loved her question and think about it often. The thing I love is that she had not tried to become nice, or expected to become more considerate or more heart centered – it just happened! It happened simply because it is one of the many great side effects of practicing yoga.

If you have ever been to a Yoga class you know that it can be very challenging physically. Often times though, it is the mental hurdles that are the hardest to get past. We might have to accept that we cannot get into a difficult yoga position despite the fact that we used to be able to do it. And to make matters worse our friend is doing it just fine. This can be really frustrating. I remember how I used to get annoyed in class when we had to hold a position for longer then a few minutes. My mind would race and my nervous system would be ”lit up”. These instances would come with less and less frequency as I learned to keep my mind calm and my breath even and steady throughout the exercises.

It seems like such a personal and small thing to be able to breath through a yoga pose, or to be able to stay calm while standing on one leg. But, these small things are precious gifts. As we step off the yoga mat and walk out into the world we will be faced with many challenging situations and personalities. What if we could keep our mind calm and peaceful, and breathe while dealing with the task at hand? The peace and calm we cultivate in class is not only a gift to ourselves. It spreads to our friends and family, and well beyond that. If you want to change the world around you, your own self is a great place to start.

The observation my student made is also a reminder of how you have to keep working actively at keeping peace alive and strong.

By continuously nurturing our inner peace we nurture everyone around us. This to me is also what the Little Big Peace Event is about. Celebrating peace in one community leads to ideas and changes well beyond that specific neighborhood.

I believe yoga makes you kinder, and I believe The Little Big Peace Event makes the world a better place.

Joanna Tisell, 05/09/12, Sweden

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