What is unselfish love?

By Aimee Hughes | Published: November 28, 2016 | Last updated: August 25, 2020

Yogis speak of love in many ways, just like Westerners do, but common between both cultures is the idea of selflessness. When love is an emotion, it aligns with asmita, or the ego sense. Love is a feeling that we seek to cultivate because of the way our understanding of it makes us feel. There is nothing wrong with wanting to feeling loved. It is one of the most incredible feelings of all. But what society may sell as love or what our families may have modeled as love, isn't necessarily what true love is in the spiritual sense. (Surround yourself in love with the Baba Nam Kevalam Mantra.)

From a yogic perspective, that is why the yamas (outer observances) come first, especially before the niyamas (inner observances). Yamas are about taking actions that are in direct consideration of others over our own needs, wants and desires. Principles like non-violence (in action, thought or spoken word), truth, non-stealing, sexual and emotional restraint, purity, as well as non-hoarding are all attributes needed for the aspiring yogi. Each of these observances speaks to the ways that we can love without putting ourselves first.

In Buddhism, metta ("loving-kindness") is about taking one's self out of negative mindsets by putting kindness towards others first. It is important to note that the rewards of being kind and unselfish in action introduce you to a higher realm of love. This is a dominion where one need not ache, or be left yearning or uncertain. It is a liberating love when one's motives are pure and acts of love are made without conditions. Yoga provides us with its teachings on viveka ("discernment") on how to better feel and understand the difference. (Read on in Integrating Feelings of the Heart.)


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Written by Aimee Hughes

Aimee Hughes

Aimee is a yogi and writer who's been practicing yoga daily for more than 21 years. Since a journey to India when she was 20, the practice has been her constant companion. She loves exploring the vast and seemingly endless worlds of yoga. Aimee has also written a book titled, "The Sexy Vegan Kitchen: Culinary Adventures in Love & Sex." You can find her at her new site:

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