It took me years and a trip to India to understand that the practice of yoga is to love your self.
Many people believe that you need to be able to turn yourself into a pretzel or sit and meditate with a clear mind for hours each day in order to practice yoga. Although some of the great yogis have moved along this path, this is not a requirement for you to practice yoga.
What is the practice of yoga then?
I am not suggesting that you inflate your opinion of yourself and boast about all the wonderful things you are or do. I am suggesting that you look at yourself through eyes of love and compassion at the whole of your self and love each part of you.
The word “whole” comes from the Old English word meaning “hale,” which means health. Whole implies the totality of all that you are: the good, the bad and the sometimes even the ugly. Duality exists in nature and within our selves. Once we accept the duality within our selves with love and compassion, we can do so with others as well.
The expectations of others, of our parents, teachers, elders, peers and society have slowly but undoubtedly crept into our mental psyche.
It is often difficult for us to love and accept ourselves because most of us would like to achieve perfection or meet others’ expectations. The inner dialogue becomes something like, “I am not good enough,” or “I am not loveable,” or “I am too good,” or “Everybody loves me.”
Either of these thoughts is damaging because they polarize and fragment our inner psyche, causing both mental and physical stress and tension.
It is human nature for society and people to identify our selfworth via titles, labels, careers or roles (or lack thereof). Rarely, is one seen as an individual. Rarely, is one seen holy. We may be a “banker, steward, concierge, doctor, garbage collector, writer, scientist, retired, girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife, parent, grandparent, sister, brother, married, divorced, single, homeless, homosexual, or bi-sexual,” but that should not define who we are or our value.
Most of us have forgotten our voices long ago as we were never given enough freedom to voice our opinions. We were taught early on to obey and respect our elders, political and religious leaders and institutions. We feel judged and “less than” if we do not live up to their expectations. Then we become afraid: of not being enough, not having enough, not being good enough. We fear not being accepted so we project an image of ourselves in order to be good enough or have enough.
When others look and don’t approve of what they see, we often reflect their disapproval upon ourselves; we feel we have gone wrong somehow. It is not our lack, it is theirs—it is their inability to allow us to be who we are. If we stopped seeing ourselves through the eyes of others, we could look inside and find ourselves, know ourselves, see ourselves, be ourselves, love ourselves.
Withdraw the crowd in your mind and rid yourself of others’ voices, thereby ridding yourself of the conflict within.
Eradicate the voices of people who lived in their time, in their culture, in their lives.
They did not know what the future would hold for themselves, nor do they know what it holds for us. People load others with their own experiences. But their experience does not match the unpredictable future.Our parents were loaded with their parents’ experiences and conditionings and their parents were loaded with the previous generation’s fears and conditionings.
The past inevitably becomes the present unless we become more conscious and courageous to be true to ourselves.
When you are free, you are able to experience the natural expression of your being. There should be no shame or guilt in who you are. When you truly love and are open to yourself, you no longer rely on others to provide you with love.
Respect yourself. Hear yourself. Watch yourself. Do not take personally what others do not understand to be your truth. Each individual has to find the truth by him or herself. Forgive your parents, elders or teachers as they were conditioned as well and are loaded with the experiences of their ancestors. Your inner truth is through your own efforts, your experiences, your own path-not your parents, elders, teachers, religious leaders or peers. Your life’s path cannot be forced or learned in a textbook. It will flow of its own accord. Rid yourself of fear, shame and guilt. Sacrifice what you are for what you can become. Duality exists in nature, so remember that the opposite of fear is love. When you find yourself in fear of losing whatever you are afraid to lose, remember the love within you. It is there, it is just covered in darkness.
Know yourself, free yourself, create yourself, teach yourself, believe in yourself, evolve yourself, illuminate your self. First though, love yourself. That is first yoga. That is true wisdom.
Karen Nourizadeh, a “recovering attorney,” is now a yoga instructor with Pure Yoga and New York Sports Clubs as well as a writer and media contributor. Karen freed herself from law and the corporate world to help people heal themselves, mentally and physically, through yoga. Karen is completing her first work, a memoir, detailing her struggle to get out of law, find herself and fulfill her destiny. On a spiritual quest, Karen encounters a mysterious 10 year-old Indian boy, who introduced himself as “Goldie Hawn’s son.” The boy teaches Karen lessons of the heart through his pure, honest, uncalculated actions. He affirms to her what is already in her heart, and helps to free her from her worst enemy, her mind. Follow Karen on Facebook and Twitter.
Editor: ShaMecha Simms
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