Self-judgment and yoga are arch enemies. In my experience, they are also neighbors.
I used to be a victim of self-judgment in my yoga practice. It was a severe affliction. Any time I would catch a glimpse of my body in the mirror, I would criticize the way it looked. Start adjusting my clothing to look “better”. It took me completely out of the pose. It was as if I was no longer even practicing yoga. Suddenly, my mind knew nothing of breath or mindfulness or peace. It was as it I had subconsciously reentered middle school and I was worried about what the “cool kids” would think of me.
But there are no “cool kids” in yoga! And that affirmation was all it took to begin my journey away from self-judgment (I’m still working on it… it’s hard for a girl to most past her body insecurity!).
I have learned that I am not really judgmental of myself. At my home yoga studio, there are no mirrors. I believe this has it’s pros and cons, but is truly something special to experience. So, I “grew up “- with respect to my yoga practice – having no idea what my body looked like while practicing yoga. I thought I was the most beautiful yogini in the world (and I am… And you are… We all are)!
In reality, my “self-judgment” is just a fear of what others will think of me. I take on their hypothetical criticisms. And here lies the beauty of yoga: practitioners of yoga are not going to criticize your yoga practice. They are generally caring, compassionate and kind. They are supportive of your physical and spiritual growth. They are excited to be sharing the magic of yoga with you.
I know this is true because this is the way I feel towards others who are practicing yoga with me. I want to befriend each and every one of them. To hear what brings them to the mat every day and how yoga has affected their lives. To learn from them and to grow with them. I have never once thought a judgmental thought about the way my neighbor practices yoga. Really. This is why I love the yoga community. We are all there for each other, even if only for an hour or ninety minutes a day.
SO – whenever I am feeling my insecurities creep up on me, I will remember the words I just wrote. I will close my eyes, breathe deeply and feel the love around me. And maybe some day soon this compassionate aura will infiltrate the rest of my life. Hey, everyone has to start somewhere.
I’ve been having a really hard time getting myself to yoga lately. I am so sad to admit this, but unfortunately, it’s true. Maybe it’s the added stress of finishing up my internship and getting ready to go back to school. Maybe its the recent increase in social events I’ve been experiencing. But whatever it is, I have to make sure it does not hold me back any longer. Because things are only going to get more hectic when I return to Ithaca next week.
My yoga practice has given me so much this summer. It has toned my body and relaxed my mind. It has given me focus when so much of my life has been uncertain. It has served as a stress reliever and therapy session. And here I am, abandoning it.
The effects of this brief hiatus have been all too evident. I have been more tired and less motivated. I have been in less control of my mind and my emotions. I haven’t taken the time to take care of myself. I have let others take advantage of me.
These are bad things! These are the things I am trying to escape as I search for what is meaningful to my life. These are the things I created this blog to deal with.
This is not okay, and I write this blog post today to recommit to my practice and to help hold myself accountable. Today, when I step on my mat, I will set a special intention: rejuvenation. To remember why yoga is important me to and experience the amazing effects it has on my life. To breath and flow and rejoice.
Apparently I’m on a blogging roll today, because my latest article was just posted at doyouyoga.com! Check it out here: http://www.doyouyoga.com/3-ways-yoga-will-surprise-you/.
I’m also very excited to announce that I will be writing a weekly column for DYY! Lessons from a Yoga Rookie! Stay tuned 🙂
Breath is yoga. It allows us to unite the movements of our bodies with the intentions of our minds. It allows us to control ourselves. It helps us to push boundaries both physically and mentally throughout our practice. It is more powerful than any muscle, bone or organ. It is our lifeline, figuratively and literally. Without it, not only would we be lost, we would be dead.
Today I learned an important lesson: our breath can serve us when we are off of our mats, as well. I suppose, in theory, I already knew this, but I had never relied on my breath quite like I did this morning.
Last night, I had a horrible fight with a loved one. We both said some very hurtful things. It hurt that he would say such things to me. It hurt that I would say such things to him. I am holding back tears just thinking about it.
When I woke up this morning, I had a short moment of peace before remembering the pain of last night. I think that may be the worst part of going to bed in an unhappy place. It makes the pain even worse when you remember it. I was devastated. It was all I could do to get myself out of bed.
But I had to pull it together. I had a busy day at work to get to and I was already running late. So I grit my teeth and got ready to go. This was not exactly the best strategy. I snapped at my mother during breakfast. I was short with my father on my way out the door. But I did manage to hold back my tears until I made it to the privacy of my car.
I barely controlled my tears on the way to work. But the closer I got to my office, the more tears slipped through my eyelids (good thing I vetoed the mascara this morning). I parked my car and paused, staring into space, tears dripping down my face. How was I going to get through this day? Face my coworkers? Hold my meetings? Meet my deadlines? With this emotional breakdown written all over my face?
Well, I didn’t come up with an answer, but I couldn’t really afford to sit in my car any longer. So I began to make my way into the building. As I was walking, I felt the tell-tale tightness in my throat and I could see it all falling apart. I took a deep breath.
Aha! There it was. My old friend. I began to harness my ujjayi breath as I walked. I moved rhythmically with my deepened breathing. I instantly felt a bit stronger. Like I would be able to handle the next nine hours.
In that moment, breath had saved me. I was reminded of its power. It is a source of strength. It allows us to control our emotions. Fosters a mental toughness. Helps us to focus on the present moment. This morning, my breath patted me on the back, held my hand and walked me into work. And I am not exaggerating when I say I literally could not have done it otherwise.
If we let it, our breath can help us handle the daily difficulties of life. It is a tool. A friend. A doctor. A spiritual guide. Breath is power. With it, we all can have power, too.
I’m going to take a bit of a break from my focus on the more intangible benefits of my yoga practice to ramble a bit about how much fun I had on my mat yesterday!
So to back up a bit, I’ve spent most of the summer getting about nine hours of sleep per night. I didn’t realize how much this was contributing to my overall well-being until this past week or so. Lately, I’ve taken on a sort of ‘carpe diem’ attitude in a subconscious effort to enjoy these last three weeks of summer (I go back to school exactly three weeks from today! Ahh!). I have not been giving my body the care it deserves and it is taking a serious effect. This week, for the first time all summer, I found myself shying away from my mat. I did not want to practice yoga.
But, for whatever reason – maybe out of habit – I went anyway. On Thursdays, I take class with one of my favorite yoga teachers of all time. Her classes are challenging and creative. Her aura is joyful and caring and exudes pure love for yoga. She creates a beautiful environment for yoga. I could suck it up for that, couldn’t I?
Well, when I got to the studio, not only were the skies threatening tornadoes, but my beloved teacher was no where to be seen. Maybe she’s running late, I thought.
There was a substitute.
Never in my life have I cared so much about the external conditions of my yoga practice. I actually contemplated rolling up my mat and going home. Looking back, I actually feel guilty for the energy I was giving off to my fellow practitioners. It was that bad.
And then came the breath. As I began to flow through the poses being instructed, I felt my tiredness falling out of my body with my sweat (this was pretty surprising, as I was seriously contemplating remaining in child’s pose for the entire hour and fifteen minutes). I felt strong and energetic again.
And this substitute teacher I had shunned just moments before began leading me through flows that were pure fun! Yogis were smiling and laughing. My anger melted into true happiness. I was jumping around on my mat like a kid with an ice cream cone! I tried new things, I fell, I laughed, and then I did it all again! This new teacher was quickly becoming one of my new favorites! And then when this renewed vigor she had instilled in me nurtured my body into ‘Bird of Paradise’ after months of trying to no avail, the deal was sealed. I was so grateful to this woman for getting me out of the horrible funk I had spent the day in. So grateful that she brought me back to the practice I love and the state of being I strive for. I am still on a yoga-high from more than eighteen hours ago! And it feels pretty great.
Last night also brought about an important revelation. Sometimes, when you least want your yoga practice is the time when you need it the most. I truly believe that it is not possible to feel bad after a yoga class. Without fail, every time I step onto my mat, I leave it feeling better than just moments before. That is why I think yoga is such an amazing practice. Because it transforms you into a better human being. I am so happy that my university’s physical education policy brought me to a yoga mat three years ago and that I am one of the lucky few who has truly latched onto the yogic lifestyle. It is truly a gift.
First of all, I want to thank everyone who has been reading and commenting on my blog! As a new blogger, it is so exciting to know that I am reaching people.
And now for the big news: I am so excited to have my most recent post, ‘5 Ways Yoga Makes You Love Your Body,’ published at doyouyoga.com!!! Check it out 🙂
I almost missed this as I left my house this morning. Almost rushed right by it in my over-focused determination to “get this day over with”. Somehow, when Thursdays come around, I lose consciousness. I ignore the present in my all-consuming longing for the weekend. And I miss beautiful moments like this. My home. The beautiful garden my mother has cultivated. The early morning, rejuvenating sun.
Yoga teaches us to be in the present moment. To let go of the past and present to be truly in touch with ourselves and our surroundings. So often, however, we lose this the moment we step off our mats. This morning, I am grateful that the universe sent me this moment, and reminded me to check in. I am going to carry this with me today. Allow it to shape my actions and my attitude. Today is going to be a good day.