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Yoga, Buddhism, brahmavihārā, lovingkindness, maitrī, compassion, karuṇā, sympathetic joy, muditā, equanimity, upekṣā


Yoga is a method that practitioners use to expand their sense of self. According to Stuart Ray Sarbacker, yoga has been used to attempt two types of goals: the numinous which bestows special powers upon the practitioner, and the cessative which brings the process of saṃsāra, the endless cycle of rebirth, to an end. Both of these are goals that are focused on an individual self. In modern American yoga, a commodified practice has served to solidify the sense of individualized self by focusing solely on the body-based practices such as āsana. But yoga has a history of adaptability, and some practitioners may include other practices outside of Classical Yoga’s eight limbs. We can see that happening as yoga teachers incorporate practices such as the brahmavihārā--lovingkindness (maitrī), compassion (karuṇā), sympathetic joy (muditā) and equanimity (upekṣā)--into their teachings. These concepts, found in South Asian dharmic traditions, complement modern yoga by providing an expanded sense of self – one that includes one’s own self and others. The brahmavihārā are vitally important for practical reasons, breaking down the physical and psychic divisions that are heightened during this time. By incorporating the brahmavihārā practices into yoga practice, it helps temper the tendency for modern yoga to emphasize the individual self, thus opening the door for an expanded sense of self.