“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
Historically, yoga was defined as a mental exercise and not as a physical practice. In 200 BC, the sage Patanjali wrote, “Yoga chitta vritti nirodha” which translates as, “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” I look forward to settling my mind when I practice yoga. It give me a break from constant planning and worrying as well as mitigates negative self-talk.
Many of us judge ourselves harshly. We tell ourselves that we are not in shape, smart, worthy, or capable. This list goes on. We can be very critical of ourselves, and this can lead to self-loathing. The practice of yoga, however, can help turn self-hatred into self-love. How? It takes a great deal of mental focus to perform yoga postures as they challenge your strength, flexibility, and balance. Yoga requires you to be fully immersed in what you are doing and therefore truly present in the moment. When you direct all your attention to the task at hand, there is no space for planning, worrying, or negative self-talk. During this time of heightened focus, you are fully experiencing the physical sensations in your body without judging yourself. You are truly in the moment. The practice of being present in the moment, stops the cycle of self-criticism and opens the door to change your self-image from disapproval to self-acceptance.
Once you truly accept yourself, there is space to eventually find self-love. The more you practice yoga, the more you come to appreciate how strong you are, all the ways you can stretch, and the poses you can perform. Inevitably you become grateful for all that your body can do. Being appreciative and grateful for your body fosters self-love. For this reason, I always end my yoga classes by taking a moment to not only give thanks for the ancient practice of yoga, but for our bodies for allowing us to practice.
When you genuinely love yourself, you will begin to treat your body with respect. You may find that you are making healthier choices not because you dislike or want to change yourself, but because you want to care for the person you love. I suggest you start this process by setting an intention before your next yoga class to appreciate all the amazing things your body can do. And please remember these words from Buddha, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”