Compassion in Yoga

How can we practice Karuna (compassion) in our yoga class?

It’s an insidious force in spiritual practice…..the myth that if we just practice hard enough and long enough, our lives will be perfect. And too often Yoga is marketed as a surefire path to a body that never breaks down, a mind that never goes nuts and a heart that never breaks.

Fortunately in yoga philosophy we are taught to practice compassion in yoga classes and to view our personal issues not as failures of, or distractions from our spiritual journey but as a potent opportunity to awaken our compassion and explore and open our hearts.


As a yoga teacher I am given this opportunity on a daily basis.  Yes I do have injuries that come and go and different life situations that need a little more attention and compassion. It’s funny what the stereotype of a yoga teacher is and that because we are teachers we don’t get sick, we don’t get angry and we don’t eat chocolate . Wrong.

When we practice Karuna we are invited to breath through our pain and others without drawing away or guarding our hearts.  So in a yoga class situation we can transform the way we habitually relate to pain and suffering.  We can use our bodies as tools to help refine and enhance our ability to feel, peeling away the layers of insulation in the body and mind that prevent us from sensing what is actually going on in the present moment.  We learn how to relax the body by breath observation and move into the sensations, having compassion for our bodies and not pushing our way through our practice, rather softening our jaws and bellies even when our leg muscles feel like they are on fire.  We can learn how to welcome different emotions offering compassionate attention – whether it’s a throat tight with sorrow or the inability to speak the truth, a stomach that is tied up in knots with fear or anxieties that rob us of energy and zest.

During my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training we will be working on the different layers of yoga asana and philosophy which will be a big part of your own self enquiry and personal development.

Yoga in Mongolia

About Julie Stephens

I started my yoga journey approximately 30 years ago and after many years of travelling around the world I decided I was ready to commit myself to becoming a yoga teacher. The draw card for me was/is more of the spiritual aspect as I have always been curious about the bigger picture, meditating and finding contentment. The physical side was an added bonus. In the late 90s, I was living on the Gold Coast in Australia and practising regularly at the Gold Coast Yoga Centre. In 2000, I started my yoga teacher training apprenticeship – at that time it didn’t have an end to it. I was basically told that I would be finished my training when they saw that I was ready. This took 18 months of practising six days a week, 30 hours a week. There were no excuses for missing the training and if I didn’t turn up, I would have been expelled from the program. With hindsight, this was one of the most important lessons I learnt, as it gave me the dedication to continue my six-day-a-week practice no matter what the circumstances were and I can tell you, there were many interesting situations where I would be practising amongst the local people in Mongolia, China, The Tibetan plateau, Nepal, India etc, on trains, planes, airport disabled toilets because they were big… anyway, my point being, is that I had to maintain this combination of devotional practice and study which has allowed me to gain a much deeper knowledge and understanding of the amazing art and science of yoga. Since I qualified I have owned a yoga studio on the Gold Coast, taught in Korea, Taipei, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Australia, Bali and of course New Zealand, which is where I am now based. For me this has been the perfect balance of doing what I love, teaching yoga and travelling. I am blessed to have trained with a lot of great inspirational teachers along this journey, such as Erich Schiffman, Donna Farhi, Seane Corn, Shiva Rea, Rodney Yee, Ana Forest, David and Sharon, the founders of Jivamukti, Andrey Lappa from Universal Yoga, Nicky Knoff (Iyengar), John Friend (Anusara), David Soul Ray, Lance Schuler, Clive Sheridan and of course my teachers: Kameron Story, Mark Togni and Suzanne Grey from whom I learnt the Ashtanga Primary and Second series, Vinyasa Flow, Restorative Yoga, meditation and pranayama. The style of yoga I predominantly teach is Vinyasa Flow, which leads you through a flowing series of postures with an emphasis on the breath. Options are given and the yoga class is structured so that each pose prepares the student for the next. Everybody can do my yoga from a beginner level, pre-natal, general through to advanced. In the beginner and pre-natal yoga classes the emphasis is on the foundations of yoga with the correct use of props ie; blankets, blocks, straps and bolsters, to enable the student to practise safely. I also teach Hatha, Iyengar and Ashtanga Yoga. I offer beginners’ classes and yoga therapy. The class environment is positive and fun, so you can feel at ease and comfortable to practice at your own level, after all it is ultimately about your own self exploration. As a yoga teacher I feel truly honoured and privileged to be able to share such an ancient practice – one that offers not only great physical benefits, but ultimately allows us to be mindful, happy and content.

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