November 1, 2014

How to Learn Self-Love through Yoga.

Photo:  Molly T/flickr

My body has been through many changes the last several months.

Nearly a year ago I was so sick with sinus infections, I had trouble maintaining a weight that, frankly, was not too thin. And then only a couple of months after my successful surgery, I became pregnant.

Now, two weeks post-partum, I’m watching my body transition through different physical phases all over again.

My tummy is nearly flat, but my linea nigra (the dark abdominal line some women get during pregnancy) is still going strong. The skin is still not taut. My breasts are much larger, making my first series of prone yoga postures feel odd.

I went to my physician for my two week check-up and got weighed. Of course, my weight isn’t back to pre-birth numbers yet. Initially, I’ll admit, it bothered me.

Then I went directly from my doctor appointment to my now oldest daughter’s Halloween party at her pre-school—the other mothers told me how fabulous I looked. And “like I didn’t even have a baby.” I’d heard similarly welcome comments at another Halloween event the week before.

I wonder, how can I be upset by mere numbers one minute and then feel pretty darn good the next moment based on, honestly, unimportant feedback? My body has not changed and, more, the me inside my body is even steadier and constant?

What kind of life do we live when we base our moods around how we think we look?

So, I dedicated my yoga practice the next day to my strong body that gave birth—in such a short amount of time that my doctor didn’t make it to the hospital. I flowed through my asanas and I felt grateful to inhabit this form that can feed another human being.

I felt sweat collect in the crease above my upper lip, my hair fall just slightly into my unmoving drishti and I felt an intense, almost overwhelming, love for my practice fill my entire being. Thanks to this basic sticky mat and a few rather simple postures, my whole life and self have changed for the better.

I change for the better every time I step on my mat.

So, I came up with a few ways that we can turn our yoga practices into a judgment-free, love-filled zone of self-expansion and nurturing.

1. Curiosity.

My entire life changed the moment I decided to approach my poses and my yoga practice with curiosity. Trust me, this is a choice and one that I personally recommit to each time I get on my mat.

A great first step is to notice how the hamstrings feel in a forward fold, for example. Focus on breath and the sensation of the backs of the legs rather than focusing on how close to the thighs your chest is or how bent your knees are.

It really is this easy, but this type of practice also means that we need to recognize when we are judging our bodies instead of listening to them speak—and then we recommit to being a better listener.

2. Opportunity for sensation.

From there, my practice became an opportunity to feel the sensations of my body. Each pose became a hidden spot within my day to really hear and feel where I’m at physically, mentally and emotionally.

There are times when I’ve come to my mat angry and left with wet eyes because I became attuned to the underlying hurt I was feeling.

There are also instances when I’ve arrived on my mat feeling powerful and I adjust my practice to it, just like I readjust when I realize that I’m truly exhausted after being up with the new baby for most of the night.

In short, my yoga practice is my time to connect with myself. This formed and nurtured connection positively affects the entire rest of my day, when my yoga practice is really challenging because I’m not on a mat.

3. Look within.

For me, the numbers on the scale remain generally the same. For years this wasn’t true though.

For one, learning to listen to my body on my yoga mat helped me also listen to my body at the dinner table. More importantly, being okay with where I’m at emotionally and physically fosters self-love in a way that helps me make positive choices when I’m out in the real world.

And “look within” is so cheesy, expected and complicated too, but I’ll tell you what it’s not—practiced enough.

Many of us spend way too much time comparing ourselves to images of other people or false internal and external representations of who or what we think we should be.

But when I slow down and just close my eyes and breathe, I’m reminded of the power, grace and joy that are already present inside of myself, along with the rest of the crap that occasionally covers it up.

So, yes, I stepped off of that scale at the doctor’s office feeling slightly deflated but when I reconnected with myself through yoga, I understood that the most important things are.

I feel wonderful.

I have a beautiful baby and my body is experiencing changes that I need to respect and admire.

And life isn’t stationary. We are all moving through one point and traveling to the next one, all the time.

Our bodies age and our hearts and minds hopefully do too.

We would enjoy our lives and ourselves, if we woke up one day, unrolled a yoga mat and sat—simply inhaled and exhaled, all the while contemplating how amazing we are right here, right now, as is.



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Author: Jennifer White

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: flickr

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