In the words of American poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Nothing can bring you peace but yourself." The relationship with yourself is one of the longest and most important relationships you’ll have. While the words “loneliness” and “alone” are similar in etymology, there’s a tremendous difference between the two. Loneliness is a negative emotional state, whereas being alone is a physical state which one can find complete contentment.
In today’s fast-paced world, feelings of loneliness are more common than one might expect and nearly everyone can identify with loneliness on some level — whether that means healing from a romantic relationship or a friendship that has ended on bad terms or coping with feelings of anxiety or shyness. Loneliness is rooted in a feeling of disconnectedness or separateness from the world and it can cause us to feel physically and emotionally weighed down. At the end of the day, we need to learn how to overcome this emotion to reach a higher sense of Self. Accepting that you feel this way and taking necessary actions to improve negative thoughts and emotions is the first step to conquering loneliness. Although it’s not always an easy journey, confronting these feelings head on is more effective than burying them. Take a moment to reflect: Why do you feel lonely? What do you feel separated from? Where are these emotions rooted in your body? Are these emotions causing you tension and stress? Reaching a greater sense of Self, or awareness behind your innermost thoughts and feelings, is the key to not feeling lonely at all. But how can we reach this state of inner bliss?
Yoga is an extremely powerful antidote to loneliness through its fundamental teachings. At its core, yoga is an individual practice — no two people are experiencing the same emotional and physical journey when they step onto their mats — but they are guided by the positive force of the collective. Other yogis in the room can provide peer support through spiritual force and physical presence. One of the practice’s deepest goals is to show us that apparent emptiness helps bring us together. Connectedness to other positive, happy people enriches our lives and enhances our Self, and we can use this emotional and physical connection to deepen our yoga practice. This might involve trying a new asana, getting one step closer to santosha or weaving meditation into our practice.
Like yoga, meditation, helps us reach a place of physical contentment by being alone. Meditation involves embracing solitude, tranquility, freedom, space and the opportunity to connect with our deeper Self. Oftentimes, people who are lonely have not come to terms with their emotions and meditation can help awaken the happiness that has perhaps been dormant after a difficult journey (Learn more about finding happiness here.). Through the practice of metta bhavana, or "loving kindness," we can consciously transform feelings of isolation into feelings of connectedness with our Self and those around us. By reciting positive affirmations, we can expel negative thoughts and develop greater feelings of confidence, strength and love.
To help overcome loneliness, begin in a seated position with your hands at the heart chakra. Tune into your feelings of loneliness, inhale deeply and affirm: “I am full of love and contentment. May I be at peace with myself.” Then exhale and say, “My life is full, rich and meaningful.” Using an image, such as the warm sunlight flooding your body, can help augment the meditation and the feeling of metta. Be mindful of how you feel after each breath (Learn more about the breath and breathing exercises here.). Do you feel your inner strength building? Carving out just five minutes at the beginning of every day to focus on cultivating Self-love through meditation can contribute to a healthy mind, body and emotions.
If you’re feeling lonely, rest assured that you’re not alone. Through yoga and meditation, we can confront our feelings of loneliness, open our hearts and reach a more meaningful, abundant life.