Doubt slithers in. It coils around your heart, nestles beneath your fingernails and rests just there behind your thoughts. It works its way slowly, with stealth, until it is intricately entwined with the core of your being.
By the time we’re adults, doubt is just a natural part of life, whether it is doubt that we can get the job, doubt that our blind date will find us attractive or doubt that our body can partake in new activities.
It is also the time, as young adults, when self-love becomes a concept. It has become the ultimate goal to attain—the path to a life of true happiness, peaceful thinking and freedom from constraint.
Growing up as a severely self-conscious and shy child, I found peace and acceptance from within begin to emerge when I began my yoga practice. It began organically, a spontaneous side effect of yoga, and by the age of 18 I had made a conscious decision to steer myself towards a path of self-acceptance.
Self-love is a never-ending journey, and one that can be enhanced with a regular yoga practice:
Yoga is Forgiveness.
With modifications for every level, the practice is for everyone. Beginners can go to a class feeling confident that they will be able to fully take part, and advanced yogis never have to feel that they can go no further, as there is always room to grow.
Yoga does not tolerate belittlement of oneself by oneself; we don’t shame our bodies for what they can’t do. Instead, we forgive ourselves for our treatment of our bodies and praise them for what they can do for us today.
Yoga is for everybody, and, more importantly, yoga is for every body.
Yoga is Individual but Collective.
Yoga can be practiced alone in the home or in a large group at a studio, but either way there is no competition amongst practitioners. We let go of comparisons before we enter the room and push only to improve ourselves, based on our abilities.
Just as yoga is an individual journey, so is the path of self-love.
Self-love must be practiced daily. Just as our flexibility and strength can weaken without regular stretching and exercise, so too can our sense of self-love. We will take strides forward and steps back, but through daily perseverance our attitude will begin to shift towards one that is more nurturing, encouraging and accepting.
But, with every individual journey, support is always welcome. The collective community of yogis can help to foster the loving feelings we’re developing about ourselves whenever we feel off balance. They will push and encourage us to keep going.
Yoga is Empowering.
We began with learning the basics, being comfortable with the sequences and building a relationship between us and our mat. We discovered that we can come here to this safe space whether we are at our best or our worst. This empowerment stems from the fact that everyone in that room with us is similar. We are all there to grow, to learn and to improve.
For every milestone we make, we feel empowered. For every class we take, we walk further on our path to self-love.
Yoga is Strength.
Not just physical strength, but emotional and spiritual as well. We can feel our strength building from the heat in our belly as our body hovers in chaturanga. We can feel our inner power as we hold our warrior pose, and we feel our connection to the earth deepen as we root through the ground in tree pose. Our strength builds from the moment we step on our mat and radiates like a glow from within for the rest of our day.
We are powerful. We are strong. We are able.
Yoga is Acceptance.
Acceptance and yoga are like two sisters, but in the same body. They can contradict one another and pull in opposite directions, but ultimately they are the best of friends and help one another flourish. It can be confusing when we have a yoga teacher telling us to accept our body for what it can do and then, in the same breath, encouraging us to go deeper.
In yoga and in life, our abilities change on a daily basis. One day we might pop up into a headstand with ease and the next, half of our class might be spent in child’s pose. We cannot force progress; we have to nurture it and love all the little steps along the way. Accepting our body in that moment is one of the greatest services to ourself. In doing so, we can begin to go deeper in our practice and in our self-gratitude.
Loving ourselves is the same. It’s a journey of highs and lows, compliments and put-downs. Self-love doesn’t come easy, nor is it straight-forward, but we can get there—or get closer to it.
We can respond to our negative thoughts with love, acknowledging them but not letting them linger. We can replace them with kindness and start to agree with our bodies, and go back to forgiveness if it isn’t doing for us what we wish it would.
We can treat ourselves—our mind and our body—with tenderness, and we can allow that tenderness to replace the home of doubt.
Author: Michelle Belair
Editor: Toby Israel