We’ve all heard it so many times, and especially us (busy) moms! But what does loving yourself mean? It’s all over social media, magazines, self-help books, yet it remains an empty statement for most of us, including myself.
Looking back and reflecting, trying to see where and when was the turning point, I feel it has been when I finally decided I wanted to learn how to practice freestanding handstand.
It was a pose I perceived to be completely out of my league and reserved for acrobats and the likes. A pose I honestly believed I “could not do”. I was not strong enough, young enough, fit enough, and all sorts of other “not enough “titles that came up with this Asana.
How does that relate to loving yourself you may ask? Well…..
So here I was; determined to stop listening to the voices, I found myself kicking up the wall dozens, hundreds of times maybe. For weeks that heavy bottom of mine just wouldn’t lift off, I felt like a pregnant whale out of the water. Oh, and the internal dialogue: “I’m stupid, I can’t do any of this s$%&t, why do I even bother with this, I’m too old, it’s just showing me all the stuff I’m not good at, I’m just bad at it…” and so on.
So much drama, so much negativity!!
It was annoying, frustrating, and most importantly, it felt horrible and was not helping my self-esteem.
But I didn’t want to just “give up”. So I kept on trying, and little by little, progress was made.
But what I learned was totally unexpected. I thought I was just working towards a handstand. Over a stubbornly dedicated practice of months, I noticed that the self name-calling was dissipating; I was becoming kinder to myself. And it wasn’t just during handstand practice, but in everyday life too. I stopped calling myself an idiot for forgetting to bring my daughter’s afternoon tea or accidentally throwing the keys of the house on the roof (yes, I did that, unintentionally, in a fit of anger; the stuff strong emotions make us do!).
"In these practices, no effort made is lost, nor are there adverse effects. Even a little practice of this dharma protects one from great fear",
-Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, verse 40.
As Sri Swami Satchidananda says,
"Even if you practice Hatha Yoga postures and breathing for one day, at least you'll be relaxed on that day. It's like eating. Even if you just eat on just one day, at least it will take care of that day. It won't go to waste. That's why Sri Krishna says that even a little bit is good. Try it. If you like it, take more. No bad aftereffects.'
I stopped being angry and disappointed in myself for not achieving that handstand. Instead, I observed what was happening in my mind, the emotions that the thoughts triggered, how they felt in my body. I made a point of making neutral observations like ‘mmm… my balance is off today. That’s ok. Tomorrow is another day”. During yoga practice, this new way of dealing with my perceived failures gave me the confidence to keep trying and improve. I no longer felt like impressing anyone, because in the process the path of self-study found me. Off the mat, I became a lot less harsh with myself and became kinder to myself, like a good friend or a nurturing mother would. I started perceiving myself under a different light, giving myself permission to not be perfect, and be fine with it.
I also became much more patient with the children and with the dirty laundry that never seemed to make it to its designated spot. Practicing noticing emotions on the mat helped me become aware of the negative emotions arising in daily life and gave me the chance to choose to act differently. Instead of being enslaved by my emotions and reacting immediately, I gave myself the space to notice, and assess whether reacting to this emotion was fair to the person in front of me. Had the kids really done something that horrendous or am I just tired and cranky? Most of the time the emotion dissolved by itself. As I was becoming more accepting and understanding of myself, I became more understanding and accepting of others, too. I learned to pick my battles. All of my relationships have improved thank to this very simple practice.
In the end I don’t care (that much) if I can, or can’t do a handstand. What I’ve learned –and am still learning- is amazing enough! And that really is what yoga is about.