Here’s December’s Guest Post from Sharyn Hahn! Enjoy and let us know what you think in the comments.
METTA: – kindness – engendered in us encourages us to accept ourselves and others, and so to understand ourselves and others. Understanding implies wisdom. And this wisdom is that which allows us to find the way, to grow beyond, or let go of, that which limits and binds the heart. The kindness expressed to others allows them to accept themselves and others. 
There are many forms of yoga being practiced these days and the number of practitioners are growing exponentially in the western world. People are coming to the mat for a variety of reasons; fitness, flexibility, stress-reduction, and meditation are the top attractions for new students. Those of us who have been studying and practicing for a while know that yoga has been around for thousands of years and has a profound tradition of ethics and spirituality. This is one of the reasons that I am so committed to this practice in my life and why I get such joy out of teaching and sharing what I have learned.
As I explained briefly in my first article, I decided to pursue my certification in yoga when I met my future teacher at the Kripalu workshop “The Guru is You.” I attended this weekend program with my sister who was searching for ways to heal from a tragic event. We had both taken yoga classes sporadically over the years; this workshop seemed like a promising approach to trauma that we were willing to try. I have to admit that we were a little skeptical when the yoga teacher strolled in and started to strum his guitar and sing to us. However, the ensuing breathing and visualization exercise resulted in a huge release of tears and emotion in the entire room, and the feeling of connection to everyone there was profound.
One of the most enlightening moments of the workshop was the explanation of creating and passing on positive energy. We did a few more exercises in the room, and the result was incredible. The teacher gave many examples of this phenomenon and its effect on us and ultimately the entire world. During the three days of healing work and discussion with other people in search of clarification of their own journeys, my path revealed itself to me so vividly that I immediately told the teacher that I had to study with him! It was a complicated process since his yoga school is in California and I am on the East coast with a family and a full time job. But we figured it out and I accomplished my goal; after two years I became a Deep Yoga Mastery of Life teacher. My goal was and is to share the ways in which we can cultivate self-love, compassion for others, and the manifestation of positivity and resulting personal growth.
Being kind to others is desperately needed in these troubled times for sure. Even small gestures have a ripple effect that travels to others in amazing ways. We often feel like it takes too much energy or planning to make a difference, but in fact a shift in mindset and a daily practice of positivity that we share will be felt by many people. My teacher described the scene in which you walk into a room where family members are all in a bad mood, complaining about something and yelling at each other. Although you are feeling fine before entering, once you are there, your mood is brought down to meet theirs and your energy shifts. When you leave, you bring that negativity with you, and you may overreact to a colleague or snap at a child because you absorbed a percentage of that energy from your family. This will be passed along in a chain to people who come into contact with others throughout the day. Have you experienced this situation? Think of a specific time when this happened and what the outcome was for you.
On the flip side, when we walk into a room filled with positive energy and compassion, we also absorb that, carry it with us, and share a spark with others whom we meet. Our gestures of kindness and compassion as a result of this energy kindles similar behaviors in others. As Adrian Cooper writes at Our Ultimate Reality:
“The laws of attraction and correspondence are always in operation whenever we project thoughts, ideas, emotions and anything at all involving our imagination. In all spheres of life, including the physical world, like always resonates with like; if you therefore focus on something negative it will result in the resonation of the corresponding negative Energy, in turn resulting in the attraction of more of the same negative Energy and corresponding negative circumstances, in other words negative effects. Of course, the very same principle also applies with positive thinking; positive thinking will always result in the resonation of positive Energy, in turn attracting the corresponding positive results.”
You know that warm, fuzzy feeling that you get when you offer help to a person in need or reach out to a lost animal? That is compassion; it creates a perceivable shift in the energy field and affects your mood. An act of kindness often encourages the receiver to help someone else. Within the teachings of yoga there are many precepts that invite the practice of compassion, love, and acceptance of others. As Dee Yergo writes: “According to this teaching, we learn to develop four attitudes in our interaction with others: loving kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity. Loving kindness (maitri) is wanting others to experience joy. Compassion (karuna) is wanting others to be free from suffering. Appreciative joy (mudita) is taking enjoyment in the successes of others. The last of the Four Immeasurables is Equanimity (upeksha). This is the practice of seeing all beings as equal and not holding some dear and others distant.”
When we make kindness a regular and deliberate act, the way that we view and experience the world shifts. Our own sense of happiness and well-being increases and we develop a feeling of interconnectedness with others, and a sense of belonging, and peace within our hearts. It takes some focus and intention-setting in order to be able to create a mindset of positivity in all situations. Being able to accept bumps along the way on our path without falling into a negative space is an outcome of practicing yoga and meditation. My levels of stress and anxiety as well as my reaction to problems at work and in my family have all changed as a result of establishing a practice that embraces positivity, kindness and compassion.
Finally, I would like to share a beautiful example of how a small helpful gesture can have a large impact – please watch this awesome Youtube video that we viewed in my 7th grade classroom. Enjoy and pass it on! Namaste.
Sharyn Hahn has been a teacher to students of all ages for 33 years, with a focus on teaching French at a private school in NYC. During the past eight years she has added a new dimension to passion for teaching and is now an ACE certified Personal Trainer (FitWomaNow!), and a YogaFit instructor with a 200-hour RYT certification in Mind-Body Balancing from the Deep Yoga Center in San Diego, California. She is currently pursuing a certification in Yoga for Traumaas she continues to broaden her understanding of the significance of yoga, meditation, and breath in her students’ lives. Sharyn holds a Master’s degree in French literature and language and runs Tutorcise.com.