I know Valentine’s Day is all about the one you love: your spouse, your significant other. But I want to talk about self-love. Not that creepy self-love, but rather the love and caring you show yourself.
I have been reading about the first yama, or “restraint” in The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice by Deborah Adele. The very first one is ahimsa or nonviolence. First do no harm. Yet how many of us actually do harm to ourselves? Probably most. I know I struggle with this. Particularly when it comes to negative self-talk.
You know, that voice in your head that says you’re not good enough. You’re not talented enough. Or the one that says your decision to take action is scary and it’s safer to just stay where you are.
All those comments do harm. They are actually violence against yourself.
And it can be worse: how many times I remember how I have said “I don’t like my body” “I don’t like this belly.” Or how often has that voice said to me “I can’t because I’m not [fill in the blank]”? It finally dawned on me one day that I would never, ever say such things to any of my friends, so why was I saying these things to myself? Why was it acceptable to keep pushing myself down this spiral of self-loathing?
And one day I decided it wasn’t.
This attitude was helped along by an experience I had one day that, perhaps, you’ve had too. I was browsing through some photos of myself when I was in my teens and early twenties. I remember vividly how I viewed myself back then: I saw myself as less than. But looking at those photos and seeing my younger self, I thought “Why did I think that? I looked perfectly normal, healthy and happy.”
I made a decision: I will look at myself in the mirror as though seeing myself twenty years from now and remembering how healthy I am, how happy I am and really, truly seeing my Self. That happiness that shines through is the true beauty and I will not be ashamed and angry with myself. Because, as Deborah Adele says,
Only when we find this love for all the parts of ourselves, can we begin to express fully the love that wells up inside of us for others. Finding this love for all the parts of ourselves means we have to forgive ourselves.
On the Mat
To help with maintaining self-love, my yoga practice helps. And when I’m feeling low on self-love and gratitude, I throw in some heart-opening asanas. I find Vribhasana I and II a great place to start. I switch out my Upward Dog with Cobra, perhaps add Sphinx and finally, try my hand at Camel—which I always find challenging.
For gratitude—because essentially, opening one’s heart means offering gratitude—I like to add a wide-legged forward fold.
And to finish, to keep my “high” I always love legs up the wall. I’m not at handstand or headstand ability yet, so this pose is great to just make my endorphins run through my veins and leaves me happy. And who can say mean things if they’re happy?