July 16, 2012

Acceptance Begins With You. ~ Anna Bjärkvik

Photo credit: Jasmine Kaloudis

From an early age, we learn how to adapt and how to be accepted by others in our surroundings.

To make our lives as smooth and easy as possible, we navigate in the same direction as most of the people around us and imitate the behavior that is considered “good.”

This is a deep-rooted samskara (impression) that follows us throughout our lives, but we don’t learn enough about how to fully accept and love ourselves, or how to follow our own inner guide.

The first thought we have about starting a self-discovering practice like yoga is a huge step toward starting to listen to our inner voice.

The longing for this kind of practice often comes from a deep-rooted feeling, a longing to fully understand our own needs.

And sadly, a longing to adapt and feel accepted many times leads us to our practice of yoga, too.

Instead of starting an inner journey toward a better understanding of our own needs, we often begin our yoga journey with finding out how other people wish for us to be and behave.

We want to be accepted by our fellow practitioners and figure out the social codes at the studio we are at, but above all we want to get the teachers full approval.

This often charismatic, good looking and seemingly peaceful being gives us a promise of all this and more if we just follow his or her guidelines carefully. The yoga teacher often leaves a huge impression on us and it is easy to let his/her words become law.

This is a perfectly natural process and makes the base of a large part of our learning process.

It’s called “dedicated learning” and it is the same way we learn from our parents when we are kids. We learn directly from a person we trust fully, who becomes an authority for us.

It’s just that as adults, we have a lot larger of a responsibility to choose the authorities in our lives.

We have a responsibility to make a conscious choice whose voice we want to listen to and we need to understand that we don’t need acceptance from every authority we meet.

It’s easy to forget that no teacher is a perfect person and no teacher can do the work for you.

Every teacher we learn from throughout our lives is simply a guide that has walked a similar path before you do.

But you are another person, with probably different obstacles along your way.

The only person that can truly understand you and your obstacles is you, and the only way you can feel truly loved and accepted is to learn to fully accept yourself as you are.

A true teacher knows this and that is also the lesson you learn from this kind of teacher. He/she will support you with his/her knowledge and inspire you with what he/she has achieved, but won’t demand anything from you.

On the other hand, the worst kind of teachers are those who make you believe that they have found the ultimate truth about everything, and if you don’t follow their guidelines and listen carefully to their advice you will never be fixed.

They use methods where you have to really struggle to be accepted and they often use a few chosen students to be the role models.

I’ve sadly seen this in yoga communities.

Last time I met my teacher, Manju Pattabhi Jois, he answered the question of why these kinds of teachers often have a lot of students. He explained he thought it was because of our obsession to feel accepted by these demanding people instead of simply accepting ourselves first.

I guess this type of authority also demands a lot from themselves and have a hard time to love and accept themselves as well as others.

But it’s sad when their strong tendency to control has devastating consequences on their students’ growth.

What if their long-term students of yoga only learned how to be accepted and missed the real lesson, which is how to truly, wholeheartedly discover and accept their own being?

Learn from people that smile often and laugh wholeheartedly because you can be sure these people have learned what love and acceptance are all about.


Anna was born in the USA and raised in Sweden. She used to be a fashion designer with dreams to commit fulltime to yoga and because dreams do come true that’s now what she is doing with her whole heart. She teaches Ashtanga yoga under the guidance of her teacher, Manju Pattabhi Jois, and owns two yoga schools in Sweden. You can find her on Facebook and her studio’s website.



Editor: Jamie Morgan

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