Wednesday, 2 July 2014

How yoga has taught me to love myself

I grew up in an abusive home. Most people who know me know this. It’s not a secret anymore. I’m not ashamed of the family I was born into or the home I was raised in. It’s a part of who I am, and I am the person I am today because of it.

But it wasn’t always this way for me. I’ve lived most of my life in utter embarrassment, shame or denial about my upbringing. About the toxic home environment I was raised in, the way my parents treated themselves, one another, and others. And it wasn’t until I found yoga that I learned I could embrace my upbringing, break this unhealthy cycle and truly love all of me.

This is how practicing yoga has taught me to love myself:

Live in the present moment

For many years, I lived in the past or dreamt of the future. I dwelled over what-ifs, never forgave myself for mistakes I made, and daydreamed about what my life would be like in the years ahead. It wasn’t until I found yoga that I truly realized all we have is today, and while it takes effort you have to learn how to live in the present moment, and just be.

Shavasana is one of my favorite poses for this. During Shavasana, there are no distractions – no smart phones, computers, or others to chat with. It’s a time to practice quieting the mind and connecting with your authentic self. Accepting who you are at that moment and loving that person. It takes time to do this and feel comfortable in your skin, but it’s helped me, for the first time in my life, feel settled.

Accept yourself the way you are

Yoga is not a competition. Everybody is different. You don’t have to be as good your neighbor at Chaturanga-ing down onto your mat. It’s your practice, it’s your time, and it doesn’t matter what your neighbor looks like or what you look like to your neighbor.

When I take this practice off the mat I remember that, like yoga, life is not a competition. It doesn’t matter what your house, clothes or hair looks like. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or where you’ve been. All that matters is that you are following your heart, honouring your body, and are happy with yourself. If others want to compete – let them. Where you are today is great, and exactly where you should be.

Let go of anger

My life, for the most part, has been hectic. I never felt good enough and was often rushing around, trying to get more done or work harder. And I never knew how to properly deal with the stress that came with such a lifestyle, or express my emotions in a healthy way. So I did it the only way I knew how: Through anger. I didn’t know how to deal with roadblocks, hurt, disappointment, and other emotions. My go-to expression was rage. It was all I knew.

The slow movement and breath work in yoga has helped me learn how to better process my emotions. It has taught me how to learn patience through finding stillness in poses and connecting with my inner self. I know now that getting angry is not going to make my pose any better, or my core stronger.

Just like learning yoga poses, life takes practice and patience.

Set boundaries

When practicing yoga, you have to find your edge. Honour your body and know what your limits are so you don't get injured.

Like in life, what’s healthy for others may not be healthy for you. And like a pose, life should not be painful.

You have to set boundaries for what you’re willing to do and accept from others in life.

Keep Learning

There’s always more to learn, new things to try, and things to screw up! Remember that if you don’t fall, you are not challenging yourself.

There's always surprises around every corner and opportunities to learn. It’s ok to be in transition and try something new.

Read more books, think outside the box, and interact with new people. Look at challenges as opportunities that will enrich your life. Try a different style of yoga that you've never tried before. Go to a class that you hate. Challenge yourself.

Everyone's life path is different, and this is just a little chapter of mine. But I will be forever grateful to the practice of yoga for helping me learn to love myself.

It’s taking me 30 years to get here, but I’m closer than I ever have been before.

Thanks for reading,