I came up with the idea of this post this morning while I was getting ready for my day checking myself out in the mirror. Now I am not sure if I am like most women, girls, humans out there, but I like to think I am not alone in my self-doubt and self-criticism. I know in the past I have spoken about my journey (Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3) to health and fitness, and my struggles with self and success in the past, but I really feel that this topic is something that should be discussed. I think discussing these topics helps to deconstruct the myth of the straight line to success, success is often ends up looking more like a ball of knotted yarn than an arrow. Often times we brush off our hard work and automatically think “well it could be this” or worse “it should be this”. Instead of being happy and grateful for all that we have done and how far we have come, we stand in front of the mirror and criticize the pocket of fat here and the lack of muscle definition there. It seems that we (maybe I should just say I) are too willing to criticize over praising or celebrating and it isn’t until very recently that I actually realized this.
I would often tell myself that my inner criticism was what made me better, it helped to motivate me and kept me focused. Unfortunately for me this wasn’t really how this negative inner dialogue actually panned out. I am not saying that it isn’t important to strive to be your best you, I am just saying I have realized that it can be done in a much more loving way and that that best you has absolutely nothing to do with your thigh gap, number on a scale or flatness of your stomach.
But how did yoga rescue me from this negative internal dialogue? Great question! As many of you know, if you have been reading this blog for some time, I have practiced yoga for years and am now a certified Yoga instructor. Yoga has long been a part of my life, first being about fitness, rehabilitation and stretching. Then turning into a moment of relaxation for myself, and eventually morphing into one of the happy places I would escape to after particularly grueling days in the office.
Through my own experience in practicing yoga I have found that yoga means something very different to every single person that practices. It could be about exercise for you, or stretching, or part of your physical or emotional rehabilitation. This is one of the great thing about yoga, it is what you need it to be when you need it to be “that”. It is the fluidity of yoga that opened my mind up the opportunity of self-exploration.
Over the past year I have worked and I have worked hard to slim down, get healthy, get strong, get flexible and to really like and appreciate myself. What I found was that although I had become stronger and had given away all of my larger sized clothing my perception of self didn’t make the same strides. I mean I knew I was stronger and was proud of that and I knew I had slimmed down, but it was as though my brain hadn’t really caught up with my body.
This was most apparently when I went shopping. I still gravitated towards baggier clothing (despite the urging from my trainer to just buy myself a tight fitting shirt, thank you Alannah I finally came around.) I would try pants on for hours and come out with one pair MAYBE and I am going to be really honest here I have yet to replace even a quarter of the clothing I gave away back in April. I keep saying it is because I am trying to save money, but it is really because I was having a hard time not seeing my old body while attempting to put on these new “tight” fitting clothing.
Yoga helped me to slow down and discover myself. Oh my goodness that sounds so cheesy, but yes that is exactly what happened. Yoga gave me the opportunity to allow my brain to check in with my body and to 1) realize there has been significant change; and 2) be grateful, appreciative and loving towards all the work that my body and mind have done not only in the past but also on a regular basis.
Maybe this is what people call self-actualization, all I know is that yoga has helped me to slow down and allow myself the time to appreciate what my body gives me every day. It has helped me to take that extra second to stop and say something nice to myself instead of instinctively going to a negative place. I am sure there will always be things in my life that I will want to better and change and progress in, what I am saying is that the desire and motivation to move forward needs to come from a positive place. A place where instead of saying “I should be better” I stop and say “you are doing great lets try it this way next time“.
Basically what I am saying is yoga has helped give me the space to start understanding the body mind connection. It has also helped me to understand that it is about loving and appreciating your body every step of the way. Always strive for your goals, and push yourself to be successful but using love and encouragement to get you there will likely generate longer lasting more positive results.
So that is how yoga helped to give me the space to create perspective and helped to rescue me from my own self perception.