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When you walk into a room, can you feel what the energy is like? Have you ever left a meeting feeling extremely tired—or energized? Do you ever feel like you just know how another person is feeling without exchanging any words? If you answered yes to any of these questions, chances are you are an empath.
Empaths are highly sensitive, intuitive people. We can read people and situations clearly and easily, and have fine-tuned senses. Due to this sensitivity, we have huge hearts—but can tend to give too much until we run dry. We can, in some ways, also absorb other people’s emotional energy when we’re not aware of it at all.
What I’ve come to learn is that being an empath is like having a super power: the ability to see the truth in situations and read feelings and energy. It’s a beautiful gift that should be cherished and practiced with compassion. In fact, being an empath can feel like a gift and a curse all at once, depending on how aware you are of your abilities. It can feel like your nervous system and emotional perception is dialed up to 100% at all times, which can give you an amazing read of your environment—but also becomes burdensome if there are no boundaries in place.
If you’re a yoga teacher, like I am, your job can be particularly draining. (Think about how many yogis, and all of the “stuff” they bring with them into the yoga studio in an effort to work through, you come in contact with on a daily basis!) Even if you’re not a teacher but you are an empath, there are likely countless ways in which your interactions with others impact you deeply on a daily basis.
Here’s the good news: You do have control over how you receive and respond to outside influences. Here are the 11 rules I believe every empath needs to follow in order to stay centered and in charge of their own personal energy:
Empath Rule No. 1: Set Clear Boundaries
This is simultaneously the most important and hardest rule for all empaths. It is crucial that you set boundaries when and where they are needed. Boundaries can be in regard to your physical space, your body, your possessions, or your time. Be firm with these limits and don’t let your caring nature leave you with your guard down. Boundaries are there to protect your energy, your health, and your emotional safety, not to punish other people. It is not selfish to have boundaries, it’s a matter of letting others know who you are and where you stand. You’re more honest with people when you tell them your preferences and give a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when it comes to what you want.
See also The Ultimate Guide to Energy Healing
Empath Rule No. 2: Meditate, Meditate, Meditate!
Daily meditation (even just for 5 minutes!) is the best way to reset and steady your mind, which is so important when it comes to getting a clear read on your own personal mood and energy that day. Whether you set an alarm for a few minutes of silently observing your breath or follow a guided meditation on an app, taking any time at all to sit, pause, and bring mindfulness to your day will have a seriously strengthening effect on your energy. After all, if you have a steady, clear mind that’s grounded in the present you’re less likely to be effected by the energy around you.
Empath Rule No. 3: Ground Your Energy
Just like a tree with deep roots, when we ground our energy we become solidly connected to our own frequency and less influenced by others around us. An easy way to ground your energy is to simply stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) or sit in a chair and bring your awareness into your body, specifically on the points of contact with the floor. Then, create the intention of sending energy down into your feet, and growing energetic “roots” into the earth every time you exhale deeply.
Empath Rule No. 4: Create a Protective Shield
As an empath, we become susceptible to energies around us, so it’s important to build an energetic shield around yourself so you don’t take on others’ pain or negativity. To do this, simply close your eyes and envision a protective cloak or shield around your body. Ask your guides (or angels, or the universe, whatever you believe) to assist you with reflecting any negativity that may have come your way back to its original source, with love. Another way to create an energetic shield around your body is through wearing or holding protective crystals. Most black crystals or darker stones tend to have a highly protective energy.
Empath Rule No. 5: I.D. What Fuels You—and What Drains You
Start to notice the way you feel—energetically and emotionally—after your interactions with people. Did you feel uplifted and positive after getting coffee with that friend, or drained and depleted? This is a good test for the company you keep. As an energetically-sensitive person, it is so important to be extremely selective with your time and your company. Outside of relationships, notice the situations or places that leave you feeling uplifted or drained, and set your schedule accordingly.
Empath Rule No. 6: Watch Your Consumption
Along with noticing how you feel after leaving a person, event, or place, notice what you are consciously choosing to consume—and I don’t just mean food. In the same way that our diet and nutrition effects our physiology, the things we bring into our minds and spaces have the same effect. As an empath, this is twofold: Do you feel better or worse after watching that genre of movie, listening to that artist, reading that blog, or browsing that Instagram account? I always ask the question, “Do I feel better or worse?” as my litmus test for what I’ll be consuming in the future. In the beginning of this process, it’s a learning experience. As you refine your palate, you become very clear on your preferences, which in turn helps truly fortify your boundaries (see Rule No. 1).
Empath Rule No. 7: Ask Yourself, Is This Mine?
As an empath, we have the ability to absorb the energy of others. A great way to start sorting out and identifying which are your emotions and which are not is to get very familiar with what your typical daily energy signature is (a.k.a., your baseline). You will have fluctuations from this baseline throughout each day, of course, which is why it’s a good idea to meditate in the morning, using that as a time to become very aware of how you’re feeling that day. Then, when you’re out in a social situation or at an event and out of nowhere start feeling a very different emotion, you’ll know that it is most likely not your own. This takes practice, because we are reflexive beings, constantly interfacing with an ever-changing reality. But through steady meditation and an inquisitive and aware mind, you’ll be able to start discerning what emotions are yours and which ones are not.
See also Yoga for Energy
Empath Rule No. 8: Know When to Take Responsibility
As empaths, we have very big hearts and tend to naturally take on or share the suffering or pain of others, which doesn’t actually help anyone. It is important to take responsibility for the emotions and energy that you are emitting, but know that you are not responsible for emotions that are not yours. Even if we can feel the negative emotions of others, it doesn’t mean we have to try to mend or heal them. There is a lesson in each person’s personal pain or journey. If we jump in and intervene just because we can sense it, we could be depriving someone else of valuable learning.
See also Reduce Suffering: How Yoga Heals
Empath Rule No. 9: Cleanse Yourself of Others’ Energy
So, what do you do after you’ve realized that you’ve taken on emotional energy that isn’t yours? Cleanse! There are many ways to cleanse your energy, but smudging with sage or burning incense is a great place to start. Water also has a powerful healing energy, which means drinking lots of water and taking salt baths are also personal favorites. For yoga teachers specifically, after teaching and adjusting other students, wash your hands after each class with the intention of letting any excess energy you’ve picked up from others wash down the drain. Finally, a good night’s sleep can do more for cleansing your energy than all of the above!
See also Cleanse from the Inside Out
Empath Rule No. 10: Spend Time Alone to Recharge
Regardless if you identify as an introvert or extrovert, it is imperative to take some time alone to rest, recharge, and restore if you’re an empath. This can mean spending an evening alone at home just relaxing, taking a walk in nature, or heading out for a weekend trip on your own. Whatever it is, the whole point is to do it on your own, with as little social interaction as possible. This can be vital after big events or long work weeks where you don’t get much downtime. Whatever length of time it takes you to recharge, trust that it’s exactly what your energy needs at the moment. Think of this rule as a form of radical self-care.
Empath Rule No. 11: Heal Yourself First
The best healers are those who have gone into the fire, done the hard work, and come out the other side even stronger. It’s through this process that you become a vessel to help heal others; you become a clear channel for their healing, because you have removed your own pain and trauma. It can be tempting to get involved with “helping” others, but most of the time, we do this subconsciously to avoid looking at our own inner pain and to vicariously heal through their healing. The most important thing an empath can do is to work with and heal themselves first. It can be a long, messy process, so have patience with yourself and gratitude for the bravery it takes to start and continue on your healing journey.
About the Author
Kat Fowler is a leading international teacher, speaker and writer based in New York City. Kat specializes in yoga, meditation, spirituality, and holistic healing. She has been featured on the cover of Yoga Journal, Om Yoga magazine, Natural Awakenings Magazine and featured in interviews on ABC News and the New York Times. For more information, visit: katfowler.com