March 11, 2014

How Yoga Helped Me Become My Own Best Friend. ~ Diane Sherman


My New Year’s resolution was to become my own best friend.

Since January I’ve been chewing on what that means. I now understand in order to find inner peace and contentment I need to love myself completely. As I’ve been digesting my discoveries, I realize the yogic path, which I took up 18 years ago, has been prepping me for full self-acceptance.

I am a recovering people pleaser.

For most of my life I have twisted myself into knots to make sure people liked me. I have been the chameleon par excellence shape shifting myself into any form I felt was most acceptable to the audience at hand, just so I would feel loved and accepted.

Part of this patterning developed because I was always the new girl in school. I changed schools seven times as a kid. Other parts of the patterning developed because my father died when I was seven and I wanted to make sure my mother didn’t follow suit. So, I became the good little girl that never rocked the boat. Until my 30s!

For years I told people what they wanted to hear—little “harmless” lies that added up and eroded my sense of self because they disconnected me from my center. I lost track of what I liked or even wanted. And people did love me because I was a great mirror of themselves.

I discovered yoga 18 years ago, searching for a cure for lower back pain. What I didn’t realize is that the practice would take deep root within me and change my life forever. Through the first two limbs of yoga (Yamas and Niyamas) the pattern of self-betrayal began to dissolve and I began to establish a strong sense of self.

There are ten Yamas and Niyamas. I’ve chosen the four that have had the most profound effect on my transformation of becoming my own best friend, but they are all worthy of attention.

ahimsa1. Compassion or Non Violence (Ahimsa)

A best friend is someone who acts kindly and compassionately, and is supportive and loving.

This first Yama is the basis of compassionate action. Through years of reflection I saw the ways my inner critic sabotaged me by telling me I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t worthy, and didn’t deserve things.

I spent a number of years just witnessing the inner critic and slowly worked with her to change the inner dialogue to one of kindness and compassion. The practice of Ahimsa was a foundational piece of learning to become my own best friend, and to be supportive and nurturing with myself.

2. Commitment to Truth (Satya)

This has been a big one for me. It has taken me years to know what my truth is, much less “speak my truth.” Learning to say “no” has been a part of this practice for me. Saying no has been a difficult practice for this former people pleaser, because I’m faced with the feeling that I may disappoint someone, or they might be angry with me for “not doing what they want me to do.”

I’ve had to face my own deep discomfort and realize that if someone is angry or disappointed, they can have their feelings and t’s not my fault.

I’m still working on this one.

A best friend is truthful with you, she/he doesn’t lie and she wants you to live as authentically as possible. Satya has taught me to stay true to myself and if someone is disappointed in my choices I know I have not abandoned myself to please another. I still have myself.

3. The practice of Self Study: Swadhyaya

For the past four years I have delved more deeply into looking at the places within myself that keep me from being free. And by free I mean to be able to be my fullest self without reservation and owning all aspects of who I am.

What I’ve noticed in these four years of deep self-study is all of the ways I hide parts of myself, either frommyself or from others. I have essentially “managed perception” of who I am. Now I feel I am as fully myself as I’ve ever been.

Case in point: I am a meat eating, wine drinking, occasional pot smoking yoga teacher who loves to sit and do mantra as well as dance in the bar until closing time.

I am gritty, I swear, I’ll get down with the best of you and stand my ground. I’m no longer afraid of strong, loud, opinionated smart people because I can hold my ground with the best of them.

I have let go of fear and if you don’t like who I am that’s okay, because I do.

4. Burning Enthusiasm or Discipline: Tapas

This road towards inner liberation requires the ability to show up—again and again. It has not been an easy road, but I find it profoundly satisfying because each year I reap rewards from the hard work of going inward and committing to freeing myself from ways I have been psychologically bound. No one else can do my work for me, so I am committed to this path until my last days.

It is the discipline to show up for myself that helped me make my New Year’s resolution of becoming my own best friend. It is time.

I am ready to be the one I trust to truly take care of myself from the inside out.

I am here for my inner little girl who gets scared or has tantrums. I am here for my raging teenager who doesn’t want life to be the way it is in the moment. I am here as the witness of this being I continue to evolve into.

So, as I celebrate my 52nd birthday this week I am planning to get a massage, send myself a card with a loving note, and take myself out on my birthday to something I want to do.

Love elephant and want to go steady?

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Editorial Assistant: Travis May / Editor: Renee Picard

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


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