Updated: Jun 22, 2022
It's all about self-love
© Copyright 2021 Artwork by Cordi Neckermann
Yoga is a funny thing. I’ve been a teacher for 10 years and have been practicing it for 15 years. Looking at my own yoga practice today and back to when I first started, there really isn’t much of a difference at all. The more I moved forward with learning about yoga, the more I came back to practicing the basic yoga poses and meditations. What has changed over the years however, is that I have increasingly become my own teacher. I've learned to listen to myself and study my little habits and tendencies in order to prescribe myself the right practice. Often, what I thought I needed was actually the exact opposite of what I really needed.
The point of yoga is not to complete it and move on. Yoga is a constant practice; it is a tool to observe and learn about yourself, becoming your own best 'yogi' friend or guru if you will. Stepping on the mat every day, even if it’s only for 10 minutes, is an invitation to spend quality time with yourself and being kind and honest about how you feel at that particular moment in time.
Yes, you can master (or not master) a pose, but that is not really the point of yoga. The poses are really just about making shapes with your body. The yoga element in a pose is actually feeling what that pose feels like in the moment, lovingly breathing into every cell of your body and honestly and truly assessing your boundaries. Ask yourself; is today a good day to challenge my boundaries or not?
Honesty is probably the hardest part in a yoga practice. All too quickly, we may find ourselves getting carried away with the notion of having to persevere, or trying to do it just like the person next to us on the mat. The mantra: 'If I just try harder, I will get there' may be surging through our brains. But in yoga, there really is no such thing. In reality, there is only you and your body and letting go of pushing forward. Yoga is surrendering to what you have to work with. I often point out in my classes that there is no prize for sticking your nose to your knees in a forward bend. All you can do is pay attention to the correct technique and create the stretch for the right set of muscles and then lovingly surrender to your very own range of motion.
Yoga really is mostly self-love. Loving your body, loving your thoughts and feelings. Have you ever wondered how best to clear your mind? The answer is that there is no definitive 'correct' way to do it, only you can let it happen and experiment with different techniques to find what works best for you. Thoughts are like little kids, the more you ignore them or tell them to be quiet when they call for you, the louder they get. The best way to quieten them is to embrace them, acknowledge them, hug them and kiss them and let them know they are important. Feeling 'listened to', your thoughts will gently drift away, giving you the precious few minutes of peace that you need and deserve.
When we sit in mediation or rest in Savasana at the end of a yoga practice, all kinds of thoughts and feelings tend to bubble up. The yoga practice is there to free these thoughts, not for them to be cleared away, but to be seen, heard and felt. Unconscious patterns become visible and should be embraced, not neglected. Self-love always has to be at the centre of a yoga practice. We need to allow ourselves to feel the feelings, observe the thoughts, be gentle with ourselves and not judge them in any way. Watch them and let them pass. Surrender to them so they can float through us and fulfil their purpose.
During this process, we may feel as though we have no control, which can be scary, especially when unwelcome thoughts or feelings arise. But this is what the practice of yoga is designed to do; unite our body, mind and heart and bring forth what is hidden deep within. You don’t need to stand on your head or bend backwards until your feet touch your head. The process of listening to yourself with love and acceptance can be achieved by practicing the most basic poses, breathing techniques and meditations. It’s the consistent practice that will make the difference, not how long we can hold a handstand!
The greatest challenges with practicing yoga effectively today, I believe are being able to make the space to slow down, let go of any control for the duration of the practice and simply listen to what the heart is communicating with love and acceptance. The world around us dictates so much from every corner, and having a good grip on what we truly feel at all times, is of utmost importance for both our mental and physical health. The answer to most of the questions in life lies within us already and yoga is a pretty good tool we can use to help them surface.
If you feel like doing a bit of digging to help those answers surface and you've never done a tree pose before in your life, then click here and book a beginner happy morning yoga class with me. I will teach you all the basics and keep you smiling at the same time. Yoga doesn’t have to be solemn and serious. It's about having fun, trusting your space and listening to your heart, body and mind.
Let’s crack a smile and give that tree pose a go!
Hope to see you soon!