When we set a positive intention for ourselves or for others at the beginning of a yoga class, we are focusing our minds and looking to something bigger. Contemporary psychology often talks about the benefit of having a positive outlook, in regard to mental health. It teaches us to be optimistic and grateful.
When this has a devotional element, we transcend all religions and get in touch with our higher self/consciousness.
Yoga has ancient roots. Patanjali, dubbed the father of yoga, prescribes four Bhavani’s (qualities) for the spiritual seeker:
There’s service with compassion (karuna), friendliness (maitri), an attitude of joy (mudita) and non-attachment (upeksha). These four elements comprise universal kindness and considering them in our daily life helps make it easier, for ourselves and those around us.
During our yoga practice, it is important to be friendly to ourselves, to be kind and loving, to keep safe and to begin to explore our inner world. Harsh self-talk makes that much harder. Lokha samastah sukhino bhavantu is a Sanskrit sloka (prayer) that is often chanted at the end of a yoga practice:
“May everyone, in the whole world, be happy.”
It can be chanted or meditated upon and offered as a prayer for the whole world. This increases our feelings of maitri and mudita, as we send this positivity out into the world.
In Buddhism these same qualities are called “the four immeasurables” (brahmaviharas) and the Pali only differs a little from the Sanskrit; maitri is metta and refers to loving kindness and upeksha is upekkha. Buddhists see them as four elements of true love and there is a wonderful meditation called metta bhavana that is really helpful for developing metta.
There are many variations of wording in the loving-kindness meditation, one major one:
“May I be safe, be happy, be healthy, live with ease.”
Repeat these three times, directing the love and kindness to yourself. Then, think of someone you love, who brings you joy and repeat the words. Repeat them thinking of someone neutral; this could be someone in your local shop, your postman, whoever springs to mind. Now repeat them with someone who you find tricky or irritating—someone with whom you have a dispute perhaps. If this proves difficult then send the words back to yourself, to help you soothe yourself in this relationship. Finally, send out the words to the whole world and then back again to yourself.
This is a brief synopsis of a powerful technique but if you search “metta bhavana” or “loving kindness meditation” online, there are lots of variations to help you.
By setting positive intentions, whilst chanting or meditating, and paying kind attention to yourself on your mat and in your life, that you will be filled with friendliness and loving kindness for yourself and the world.
Art Therapist and Healer, Mumbai
Image from Pixabay by Amit N