Did you know there is a science of compassion? And you can actually measure how compassion helps people heal? As a yoga therapist, that makes me super excited. If you want to help your students heal with yoga therapy, here’s how - and why - compassion is a key ingredient.
[Keep reading because I've got a free gift for you - once you've learned about the science of compassion!]
What if there was a free, easy to administer treatment that not only improves the health of a patient, but also improves the wellbeing of the health practitioner treating them? There is. It’s called compassion and science shows it can make a HUGE difference to health outcomes for clients . It can also reduce burn-out for YOU, the practitioner - that’s a real a win-win.
How compassion heals
If you think compassion simply makes people feel more relaxed or positive, think again. Studies show that receiving compassionate care modulates a person’s perception of pain. In other words, somebody who is cared for by a practitioner who shows them compassion actually feels less pain than a person in the care of somebody who demonstrates less compassion. Notice this is about demonstrating compassion and not just being a compassionate person.
Compassionate care even reduces the risk of developing PTSD. Around one-third of patients who go through the experience of critical illness in an intensive care unit meet the diagnostic criteria for P.T.S.D. at 30 days. A 2019 study showed that patients who received compassionate care were less likely to develop PTSD.
Another study showed that a compassionate interaction with a practitioner significantly reduced anxiety levels in cancer patients in less than a minute.
What compassion can do for YOU as a practitioner
If you’re a yoga or meditation teacher, your job is to help people manage their wellbeing with yoga. But what about your own wellbeing? Anecdotally, burn-out is rife in the yoga teacher community (Google it). Here’s where compassionate care gets really interesting.
A number of studies have linked compassion or empathy to lower levels of burnout. Researchers have shown that dispensing compassion has psychological benefits. It can also activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which has a deeply calming effect. Compassion - the quality that we need to show as yoga and meditation teachers - is exactly what we need for ourselves.
How to be compassionate
Practicing, cultivating and sharing compassion is a key component in Yoga Therapist and Meditation Teacher Training at Adore Yoga. You’d think that yoga teachers and caring professionals embarking on these trainings would already be compassionate and caring. And you’d be right. But. When it comes to working with students, many practitioners go straight into ‘fix it’ mode. They do exactly what many doctors do.
Recent data from the Mayo Clinic in the US show that physicians will interrupt patients when they are talking about their main concern at the 11-second mark. That’s the median time to first interruption. Patients may not even get to fully explain the reason they’ve come to see the doctor.
As a yoga therapist and meditation teacher trainer, I’ve seen yogis do the same thing. They usually give students a little longer than 11-seconds, but many jump in and try to figure out the problem long before the student has finished sharing what they want to say.
While we definitely want to produce results for our students, we also want to step back from trying to problem solve right away. We start by showing empathy and compassion. We allow students to be heard. We sit beside them and validate their experience. Students in the Adore Yoga Therapy training learn counselling microskills such as active listening, reflecting and summarizing to help them build meaningful rapport with students.
Adding compassion - for self and others - to your daily personal practice is a key way of keeping compassion at the heart of your work as a teacher or therapist. Practicing Metta, or Loving Kindness meditation, is a simple way to do that.
Here's the Free Gift!