Self love from the yoga mat

As I lay on my yoga mat this morning, I thought back to one month ago today, when I was striking poses at Santa Teresa beach in Costa Rica on the penultimate day of my yoga teacher training. As I gazed out of the window, watching the beautiful clouds float across a bright blue sky, it felt like that month never happened – like I simply dreamt it. And yet I have a certificate, a LOT of photos and some huge life lessons to prove this is definitely not the case! My month of training to be a yoga teacher was life-changing. It really did open my eyes to my own capabilities. However, it seems like this past month since being back, has opened my eyes up even more. It is now that the bigger mindset shifts are occurring. It is now that I am seeing my own growth. It is now that I can look back at the tough times during my training and understand the reason they were handed to me to deal with.

Before I went away I had an article published on Elephant Journal. It was about self love and the battle I was having in order to simply like myself – let alone LOVE myself. It feels like a lifetime ago – but yet it was only a few months ago. I wondered at the time what I could do to learn how to love myself – I wondered if it would even be possible at all.

I, like many others, thought that self love was something you achieved. You reached a point and then it is just there, all the time. Suddenly something happens, you reach an age, you achieve something you have been aiming for, you earn a certain amount of money, you look a certain way… and boom… hello self love.

Striving for this will only cause pain suffering. Striving for this is like saying ‘when I grow a unicorn horn and fairy wings… then I will love myself’. It is NEVER going to happen (yes of course unicorns and fairies exist… but I am not silly enough to believe I will turn into one!!!) because we are creatures that constantly evolve and our situations change. We are a moving target for love! And for this reason – there is never an ‘end point’ when everything is as we imagined it would be. There will always be something else to strive for.

And striving for more is by no means a bad thing, unless, as I have discovered, you are pinning your happiness, self respect, self worth and self love on that thing. Then it is potentially catastrophic.

People talk about living your yoga, and I truly believe I do. I don’t mean downward dogging my way through each and every day – I mean living my truth. And that truth, I have come to realise, is that my own self love is an ever evolving practice – just as my asana (the physical movement we do in a yoga class) is.

I have to make a committment to training myself and working at it, each and every day! I can’t just expect to wake up and be able to do an arm balance – I have to work at it. In the same way, we have to train in the skill of loving ourselves!

And that daily training looks different. Just as my yoga practice does. Some days I need to repeat a sequence over and over again, other days I can simply spend a few breaths in a pose, and on some days taking a rest and simply being still is just as beneficial as moving my body. Ebbs and flows, twists and turns.

The truth is, we have to choose self love, we have to choose it every single second of every single day. We don’t just magically ‘get it’, we have to practice choosing love over criticism, loathing and dislike. At each moment, in every breathe, for every second, we make a conscious choice to choose love. And the more we practice this, the easier it will come.

And we slip up. We allow things to cloud our judgement of ourselves and of others. Sh*t happens each and every day and we might lose our temper, start to feel negative about ourslves or come up against some doubt or fears and wonder if we can really do this. This isn’t a sign of failure. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t capable of loving ourselves. It doesn’t suggest you have to go back to sqaure one on the self love stakes.

It means you are human. It means you are real.

You simply dust yourself off, acknowledge where you are at, remove judgement, accept your beautiful imperfections and…

get back to the mat for your next practice.