Patience - A Yogic Virtue

Patience. It’s a quality that is in limited supply for many of you. The practices of yoga can serve to increase your ability to find and rest in patience. There is a tremendous amount of chatter about mindfulness these days, so much so that its meaning seems unclear. Patience is something we all understand. If you struggle with being patient, adjusting your practice can be a great start. 

Patience and our modern lives 

In terms of physical yoga practice, are you someone who goes to class and starts doing the next move in the vinyasa flow before the instructor announces it? This is a perfect example of impatience. 

In terms of your daily life, do you struggle with slowing down and taking time to enjoy the simple things? A lack of patience prevents you from being in the moment and noticing the beauty around you. 

At work, do you find yourself being short with colleagues and frustrated by their work ethics? A lack of patience removes opportunities for empathy and compassion. 

Are you are constantly moving forward to the next task in the endless pursuit to get things done and forgetting to look after yourself? When self-care is absent you create the environment for impatience. 

Life is busy for most of you. You are over-committed, seeking balance and wondering how to keep it all together in ways previous generations couldn’t have imagined. Busyness fuels impatience.

You have responsibilities that you can’t walk away from and you may wonder how on earth you can keep all these balls in the air, fear at some point that is all may come crashing down. This stressful reality is a foe of patience; the more stress in your life, the less opportunity for patience.  

The pace and practices of modern life keep you in a state of flux. When calm is missing in your life, patience is fleeting. 

Like many, you may live with economic strains that weigh heavily. Canadians have a household debt rate of 179%; in 2019 there was roughly $1.79 in credit market debt for every dollar of household disposable income. Financial stress eats away at you, fueling impatience.

Yoga patience practices

As mentioned above, you may only need to make modest shifts in your practice to begin to experience more patience. Some of you will need to do a deeper reflection on how you are practicing and consider more changes. 

Yoga, when practiced according to the traditional teachings, should bring you to states of greater clarity, ease, peacefulness and equanimity. Take a moment now to reflect on whether you are living a life with more of these qualities than before you began your yoga journey. Be honest with yourself.

If you are not experiencing more of these sattvic qualities of clarity, ease, peacefulness and equanimity here are three things I’d like you to consider:

  1. Your yoga objectives

    If you approach yoga as exercise rather than a spiritual journey, chances are you are attending classes to challenge you physically, to help with weight loss and to get a workout.

    If this is you consider shifting your objective to yoga of self-care and healing

  2. Type of yoga classes you frequent

    Look for classes that are slower, including focused breath work and meditation. This may sound radical to you (and in some markets, these classes may be hard to find) but slowing down how you “do” yoga will exponentially increase your patience over time.

    It may initially feel if you’re not challenging yourself physically you aren’t achieving much, but a slower approach will help you to build self-awareness, master your breath and ultimately your mind. You need these elements to achieve greater patience.

  3. Meditation

    The most potent tool of yoga that will bring you to greater clarity, ease, peacefulness and equanimity is meditation. The calm that is created soothes the mind and by extension creates space for patience.

    Meditation is not complicated. Start with a simple breath meditation by spending 2-3 minutes inhaling and exhaling through the nose with full breaths (don’t strain) that are equal length inhalations and exhalations. After 3 minutes let the breath resume its own rhythm and simply watch the flow of breath in and out of the nostrils. Do this for another 2-3 minutes.

    I recommend setting a timer so you can surrender to the process and not start thinking about how long you’ve been doing it.

    I promise you, this simple approach to meditation will change your life if done daily with consistency and dedication. I caution you not to get attached to how it feels or the outcomes, the “juice” is in simply doing the practice.

Step out of the familiar and into patience

To achieve more patience in your life you do need to make changes. The three yoga changes I’ve suggested above will reap huge dividends. 

Losing control of your patience hurts you and those around us. The yogic principle of non-harming (ahimsa)  comes with patience. Impatience raises our stress level and can even cause physical harm to our bodies. 

Aside from physical symptoms, impatience can also damage relationships - family, friends and colleagues. 

If you are not sure whether you are impatient or not (hopefully it’s obvious is you’re practicing yoga!) here is a list of things to watch for (from

  • Shallow breathing (short breaths).
  • Muscle tension.
  • Hand clenching/tightening.
  • Jiggling/restless feet.
  • Irritability/anger.
  • Anxiety/nervousness.
  • Rushing.
  • Snap/quick decisions.

Patience is an indicator of spiritual evolution

I’m someone who struggled with impatience for much of my life. It was not apparent to me initially, but when I started meditating my life changed. The change was incremental, I became more calm and balanced and my life became more integrated. As my self-awareness grew through practice, I would see myself responding to situations differently than I would in the past.

I could feel myself embodying patience. This was indeed a more pleasant response to life’s challenges than impatience. 

At one training I was attending with Pandit Rajmani Tugunait at the Himalayan Institute he was asked how we know if our spiritual practice is working. What a great question. His response was perfect for me: you have more patience. 

So my dear yogi, do the reflection, make the changes I’m suggesting and bring meditation into your daily life. You will be more patient and you will be advancing your spiritual journey in ways you can’t even imagine. 

My wishes are that you live a life with greater clarity, ease, peacefulness, and equanimity. A life with more patience. 

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash


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