Yoga: A Tool for Self Love

Today I got to spend the day with one of my longest standing friends and we wound up in one of our favorite stores. While there, I picked up a random oracle deck that I had never seen before, shuffled it multiple times, and picked a card. So, which card did I choose?

Self love.

I laughed out loud. The Universe was speaking and the message was loud and clear.

THE JOURNEY TO SELF LOVE

Have you ever been working on something in your life–doing the hard work, figuring it out–when suddenly you start to notice repeated messages about what you’re working on from random and unexpected sources?

That’s what this card was for me. A message from the Universe. Confirmation that I’m on the right path and the validation to keep going.

Years of hating my body, trying to change it, seeing it as the enemy, and falling prey to the distorted expectations of diet culture left me in a pretty terrible space when it came to self love. I honestly had no idea what it might be like to love myself. I couldn’t look at my body in the mirror and I once told my therapist that my body was just the thing that carried my head around. For all intents and purposes, that statement summed up our relationship, my body and I.

I alternated between punishing it with diets and exercise and pretending it didn’t exist. I mean, it was just the meat-suit machine that got my head from one place to another. Right?

YOGA AS A TOOL FOR FOSTERING SELF LOVE

A long-term relationship with a trusted therapist, intuitive eating, and reading Health at Every Size got me started. But it wasn’t until I found my way back to my yoga mat after a long hiatus that I started to see the seeds of self love I’d sowed start to grow.

Getting on my yoga mat has always allowed me a few moments of peace at the end of a class while lying in savasana. The trick to enjoying that bliss had always getting myself back to my mat on a regular basis. And that was easier said than done.

This time my yoga experience was different. I found a yoga studio without mirrors whose philosophy that I could get behind. I was still pretty much always the largest bodied yogi in any class, but everyone seemed to be doing their own work on their mat, so my size didn’t matter to them. Everyone got the same props at the beginning of class so there was no walk of shame to get a block or strap mid-sequence because I “couldn’t do the full expression of the pose” and the teachers actually demonstrated how to use them.

Those teachers reminded me over and over that I am my own best teacher and I was encouraged to return to my own authority–both on and off the mat. In the spirit of owning my own practice, I called a meeting with my inner critic and told her that my mat was a cease-fire zone: no self-criticism, no berating, no guilt trips, no commenting on my body. I can’t say that my inner critic has taken a vow of complete silence when I’m on my mat, but she’s definitely much quieter than she used to be. This newly found silence gave me the opportunity to explore and play without fear of being cut down.

In those blessed silent moments on my yoga mat, I learned to consider my body as a part of me and to ask it what it needs. I’ve learned that life isn’t a zero-sum game and that includes yoga. I’m actively working on cultivating gentleness, mindfulness, and intuition in my daily practice. Yes, you heard me right. Now I aim to roll out my mat for at least 10 minutes every day before work. This allows me to spend some quiet time listening to my body as it is in that moment, to understand what is sore or stiff before I get pulled into the undertow of a busy life, and to honor those tender places.

EMBRACE THE LITTLE MIRACLES

Some may see my selecting the self love card from the oracle deck as a coincidence. Others will see it as a nod from the Universe to keep going, to keep doing the work, to keep walking the path in front of me. As my friend Todd says, “Either everything is a miracle or nothing is a miracle.”

I choose to see the miracles.