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3 Things Yoga Taught Me About Self-Love

My favorite thing about yoga is that it’s more than just exercise for the body, it’s exercise for the mind as well. Yoga is a mental game, as we try to stay focused on the present moment and our breathing, while pushing ourselves to the very edge of discomfort to get the most out of a pose. As a result of this mental aspect, I’ve learned as much about myself as I have about yoga throughout my journey practicing. Yoga has helped me learn to love myself, not only by practicing yoga to take care of my body, but also through the philosophical elements that yoga relies on:

1. It’s okay to take a break. In yoga, we’re encouraged to go into child’s pose for a rest whenever we need one throughout the yoga flow, and that really speaks volumes about how we should treat ourselves. Not only does this teach us that it’s okay to rest when we need to, but also touches on acknowledging and accepting when you need to rest. Of course, the few minutes of quiet rest in savasana at the end of a long hour of yoga is another reminder to let our bodies absorb all of the hard work they’ve put out, and let our minds quiet down. We live in a world where we’re told that we should always be productive, every second of every day, and a ten minute savasana is some time carved out in our day to just be still. Embrace this stillness and see if you can find a few more minutes of stillness throughout your day. Remember that it’s okay to take a break when you need one.

2. Accept yourself for how you are, and who you are, in that moment. This is the hardest one for me, because I always like to push myself to be the best I can be. However, your “best” varies from day to day in most things, and that can cause a lot of stress. In yoga, some days you can nail a pose, and the next day you can be falling over or unable to touch your toes. In real life, we make mistakes on things we do all the time too, and that’s okay! As long as you’re putting in your full effort, that’s good enough - whether you hit the pose or not. Finding that balance between pushing ourselves and accepting how you are is quite the challenge, but when you’re able to master it, you’ll find peace.

3. Do what feels good for you. Most yoga poses can be modified for varying levels of strength or flexibility, and we’re encouraged to do whatever we can to make a pose more accessible or more challenging to us. Do what you can, without judgement. In yoga, this can mean using a block for support or balance. However, sometimes we get caught up in what others are doing or we’re afraid others will judge us, so we make it harder on ourselves - like choosing to not use a block, because no one else in the class is using one and you don’t want to be the only one. As a result, you’re uncomfortable and falling over, and you don’t get any of the benefits of the pose. In life, we make our lives more difficult and uncomfortable, too. For example, if you choose to go out with friends even when you don’t want to, you’re spending your time doing things you don’t want to do, when you’d rather be in your pajamas at home. If you want to stay in, stay in - do what makes you comfortable! Similarly, If you want to use a block or bolster, use one, and if you want to modify a pose, modify it!

These three lessons are excellent reminders of how we should treat ourselves with the love and respect we deserve. Resting, accepting yourself, and taking care of your needs are all things that yoga has taught me about loving myself - what did yoga teach you?

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