Have you ever put yourself down, or called yourself fat, ugly, or stupid? Do you deflect compliments? Do you get angry at yourself for your weight, size, hair color, or a million other physical features? Well, we all do at some time in our lives. However, you don’t have to do that anymore. You can stop this habitual negative storyline, and begin to truly love yourself with compassion and kindness.
There have been many times in my life when I was self-critical of my body or how I looked. However, it seems to have hit critical mass as I head into my 52nd year on Mother Earth. I’ve gained some weight, my skin is changing, and my body feels different. Even though I’m still running, and I feel very fortunate that I am, I find myself in a nasty battle with my body shaming. Recently, I joined a high-intensity fitness class. This space has mirrors! I don’t even look in the mirror at home!
Somewhere between my mirror-gazing, cursing, and self-loathing, I decided that this was just bullshit. Furthermore, I have the tools through yoga to truly start loving my body and stop obsessing over every inch. So pull on your sexy shorts ladies, and lets talk about turning negative self-talk and body shaming into more love and kindness.
“The longest and most intimate relationship you will ever have is the one you have with yourself. And yet, if you are like most, it can feel downright impossible to fully and truly love and accept your body.” Emily Bears
The practice of yoga helps to promote self-love and self-care by helping you to realize that you already have everything you need inside of you. The deeper you delve into the traditional practice of yoga the more you are directed to accept and love who you are on an essence level, rather than a superficial level. Yoga shows you how to honor your uniqueness, and let go of the struggle that comes when you compare yourself to others.
Your yoga mat is the perfect place where you can mindfully start the practice of letting go of comparison with others. For example, the next time you find yourself judging your body, say to yourself “I am complete”. You can make this your mantra. With each inhale say “I am complete”. Just like in life, your yoga class can be a place where it’s easy to become distracted by externals in what others are doing and the mind can try to wander away from any uncomfortable sensations and emotions that arise in the session.
Shift Your Focus
As yogis, we have the ultimate toolbox to make a profound shift happen. First, we have to get out of our rose-colored glasses and begin to shift our perspective from self-criticism to self-love. Treat yourself as if you were talking to your child or loved one, or even your 10-year-old self. For example, while my leg was propped up on the bar in class like a ton of bricks, I saw all the things wrong with my waistline and my hips. So I started to shift my focus to my daughters. What would I tell them if they were saying how ugly and fat they were? Well, I certainly would not talk to them like I was talking to myself that day!
The Power of Positive Self Talk
We know that because of neuroplasticity, we can reword our brains. The thoughts that we constantly focus on become part of our reality and habitual ruminations. Science has shown that there are power and change in positive thinking. The next time you are in Warrior pose, instead of betraying yourself for shaking legs, or looking at someone else, take a deep breath in and say “Thank you legs, you are so powerful”. Focus on the increasing strength and power in your legs.
Self-love is not about being perfect. It is about finding acceptance for where you are in life and your yoga practice. Where there are acceptance and compassion, there is love. Within that acceptance, you will see growth and change and it will be born from love rather than shame.
Your greatest job in life is to realize how very special YOU are. Life is so much richer when you live from love and it all starts by loving yourself. Next time you get onto your yoga mat, bring in the intention of self-love and see how much freedom that brings into your practice. None of this happens overnight, but over time with consistency and effort, you will begin to see a change.