Fostering Compassion: A Yoga Sequence and Meditation

It is difficult to cultivate compassion, a loving kindness, when in pain. The first step in any compassion practice is getting into a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down.

 

  • Seated easy pose or Constructive rest pose Renz (26 of 85)

 

Allow your awareness to move from outside of yourself to the breath. Notice the inhale, filling the lungs, and as you exhale say, silently to yourself, releasing releasing releasing (1-2 minutes).

Allow your awareness to move throughout the body. Notice areas where you might be holding unnecessary tension. With your next exhale allow your body to soften and release any physical tension.Your shoulders may drop, you might soften your brow, the belly might release, allowing your next breath to be received in a softening belly (1-2 minutes).

Compassion is a mind free from hatred. When there are no negative emotions in our minds, then we are automatically at peace. Compassion is the wish that others not suffer, as well as having the urge to help end the suffering of others. Cultivating compassion is a source of peace and harmony in the heart and mind (Psychological Science Compassion Meditation).

Allowing your awareness to move to the heart space, notice and feel the space there as well as the warmth radiating outward. While focusing on the heart center and the breath, repeat silently to yourself, ‘May I be happy, May I be free from suffering, May I experience joy and ease’. ‘May I be happy, May I be free from suffering, and May I experience joy and ease’ (1-2 minutes).

Bringing one hand to the heart and one hand to the belly, setting your intention for your practice today. It may be compassion for a loved one, a family member, child, spouse, co-worker, or yourself. Bring that person to mind. Notice the warmth and the space surrounding the heart, and repeat silently to yourself, ‘May you be happy. May you be free from suffering. May you experience joy and ease’ (1-2 minutes). Allow your hands to drop to your side and gently blink the eyes open. If you have chosen to lay, roll to one side and come into a comfortable seated position.

  • Head to knee forward bend – Janu Sirsasana (4-6 breaths)Janu-Shirasana-300x200
  • Bharadvaja’s twist– A wringing out of the spine (4-6 breaths)
  • Seated Wide Leg Forward Fold – Upavistha Konasana Do this in between switching from left to right
    • (Opposite side) Head to knee forward bend – Janu Sirsasana
    • (Opposite side) Bharadvaja’s twist- A wringing out of the spine
  • Seated Forward Fold (4-6 breaths)Renz (30 of 85)

Move onto the hands and knees. Knees hip distance width apart and hands underneath the shoulders. Spread the fingers and align the creases on the wrist with the top of the mat.

 

  • Cat/ Cow

 

      • Inhale as you lift the tailbone as the shoulders role away from the ears
      • Exhale as you press into the hands, tucking the tailbone as the shoulder blades fall open
        • Here, feel both the back and front of the heart space as you lift and open the chest, then pull the front heart space inward to allow the back of the heart space to shine.
    • Lift the knees, Pressing back into Downward Facing Dog – Adho Mukha Svanasana
    • (3) Sun Salutations focused on the movement of the breath with the movement of the body
    • Mountain, inhaling the arms up, stepping the right leg back

 

  • Low Lunge – Anjaneyasana

 

        • Right hand on right knee- Gentle twist (4-6 breaths)
        • Arms come up on an inhale, engaging the pelvic floor, bringing the Renz (83 of 85)belly button energetically to the spine, and lifting the chest (4-6 breaths)
        • Straightening out the bent right leg, forward fold over it, keeping the hips in line with the knees (4-6 breaths)
        • Bend the right knee, with the left hand reach for the left toes, coming into a modified King Arthur’s pose. Place your right hand on your heart and repeat, silently to yourself, ‘May I be happy, May I be free from suffering, May I experience joy and ease’.
    • Moving into Downward Facing Dog, moving through a Sun Salutation if you would like, then move to the opposite side.

 

  • Child’s Pose

 

      • The act of placing our hand on our hearts has been proven to calm our nervous system, allowing us to move from a reactionary state of mind (fight, flight freeze) to a connected state, enabling us to act out of loving kindness and compassion.
    • Downward Facing Dog – Moving through a Sun Salutation

 

  • High Lunge – Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana

 

      • 3 dips connected to the breath followed by a 6 breath hold. Move to the opposite side.

 

  • Warrior II – Virabhadrasana II

 

      • Imagining you have paintbrushes in your hands, inhale into Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana), exhale into Reverse Warrior Pose (Viparita Virabhadrasana) 3-4 breath cycles. Then, hold Warrior II 4-6 breath cycles. Move to the opposite side.

 

  • Warrior II – Virabhadrasana II

 

      • Imagining you have paintbrushes in your hands, inhale into Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana), exhale into Reverse Warrior Pose (Viparita Virabhadrasana) 3-4 breath cycles.
      • Lifting off the front bent knee, come into Half Moon Pose (Ardha Candrasana) Putting your hand to your heart, repeat silently to yourself, ‘May I be happy. May I be free from suffering. May I experience joy and ease’.  Move to the opposite side.
    • Downward Facing Dog Moving through a Sun Salutation

 

  • Child’s Pose

 

    • Allow the body to soak in the practice by releasing the weight of the body into the earth. Noticing the breath and where it is felt in the body. With your next exhale, repeating silently to yourself, ‘Releasing, releasing, releasing, letting go, letting go, letting go’.Renz (38 of 85)
  • Moving onto your back, soles of the feet behind the sit bones, shoulders roll back. Pressing into the earth with the soles of the feet, come into Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana). Relaxing the face, neck, and chest. Energetically bringing the legs toward the center line, breath. 4-6 breath cycles. Exhale as your role down, releasing the pelvis last.
  • Windshield wiper the legs left and right. Do any poses your body needs (1-2 minutes).
  • Come into Final Relaxation Pose – Savasana, where all the work is integrated into the body and mind.Renz (34 of 85)
    • Allow the body to release into the earth, feeling supported and at ease.

Bring your awareness to the heart space. Feel the warmth in the chest. Visualize someone you neither like or dislike. It may be someone you see in your everyday life such as the grocery store clerk, a post office employee, the receptionist at the gym or dentist office. Although you do not know this person well, bring to mind the suffering this person could be going through such as illness, loss of a loved one, addiction. Imagine the warmth in your heart spreading to encompass them. Repeating, silently to yourself, ‘May you be happy. May you be free from suffering. May you experience joy and ease’.

Gently inhale, filling the lungs, the upper belly, and the lower belly. Slowly releasing the breath as you wiggle fingers and toes, shaking your head left and right. Make your way to one side and eventually to a seated position. Take your time, move compassionately and with ease.

Bringing one hand to the heart and one hand to the belly, come back to the intention you set for yourself at the beginning of practice today. It may have been for self-compassion, kindness toward others, or loving kindness toward a specific person or situation (1 minute).

Bringing the palms together in front of the heart space and bowing the head, may we be happy. May we be free from suffering. May we experience joy and ease. May our thoughts, actions, and words contribute to the happiness and freedom of all. Namaste.


In the yoga classes I teach there is a focus on the breath, breathing 4-6 in each posture. There will be some postures one might only want to do for 1-2 breathes. Notice this tendency and try to stay one breath longer than feels comfortable. If there is a pose in which one would like to stay longer than the 4-6 breathes, that is fine, but I encourage one to take the middle path. Balanced, investigative, and open to the findings. If something hurts, don’t do it. If something is uncomfortable, as Erich Schiffmann puts it, play the edge, pushing beyond what’s comfortable to broaden oneself physically and mentally.

I truly hope you enjoy this Cultivating Compassion practice. It has allowed me to experience a more open heart space and more loving thoughts, actions and words toward friends, loved ones, colleagues, and grocery store clerks.

May we all experience peace, love and happiness. Namaste.

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Published by

Caitlin Renz

I create healthy recipes, share natural self-care tips, provide mindfulness practices, offer private and group yoga classes, and health and wellness coaching to my amazing community of wellness seekers. I hope you'll join me on this journey to wellness by subscribing below!

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