Yoga Encourages Self-Love and Benefits Us All
Most of us could use more self-love. Why is it so hard to think positively about oneself? Why do we constantly criticize, judge, and denigrate ourselves? If you watch your thoughts and the things you say closely, you may see this behavior, if you aren’t already aware of it. Some of us tend to think we don’t look good enough, aren’t smart enough, aren’t successful enough, aren’t worthy of love or happiness, and the list goes on and on. We compare ourselves to others and wonder why we can’t be more like them. Sometimes we pity ourselves, and sometimes we blame ourselves, but not loving ourselves is a trend we must reverse! Practicing yoga regularly helps.
With more and more mass shootings, suicides, eating disorders, substance abuse, and insidious negative talk, we should think about the root of these problems and learn how to fix them starting with ourselves. They are all caused by pain, fear, and lack of self-love. Unfortunately, these things are nurtured by unrealistic societal expectations. These expectations, and feeling a need to meet them, seem almost impossible to escape. Young people are especially susceptible, and once the trend is set, it can be difficult to reverse. As more people become conscious, however, together we can make a difference.
There is endless pressure to be perfect – to fit some ridiculous idea of what is good. Having more and more material things is looked upon as success. People walk all over others trying to “achieve.” When we are not achieving this “success,” we become despondent and compare ourselves to others, envying their supposed perfect lives. The media is constantly judging people’s bodies and telling us what looks good or not. At the same time, we are encouraged to eat huge portions of unhealthy foods, and many people think drinking alcohol is the only way to have fun or de-stress. There is an obesity epidemic in the US. Many people struggle with eating disorders and substance abuse. We spend so much time worrying about what others think, feeling sorry for ourselves, or blaming ourselves for not being perfect. This time wasted on counterproductive musings could be used in positive ways to help others or even just enjoy life – imagine that! Just enjoying life, doing the things we love, we are showing ourselves love and raising our collective vibration. This has a ripple effect – others feel it, too!
How can we begin to learn to love ourselves? To truly love ourselves means to be OK with where we are now – not who we were when we were younger, thinner, or prettier – not who we could be – but right NOW! This can start with positive self-talk, even if it is forced (“I am beautiful”; “I am intelligent”; “I am creative” – write a list and refer back to it daily!). Focus on the positive – the things you do like about yourself. Make a list of the things you enjoy doing, and do them! Try to have fun every day – even if just for a few minutes! Sing in the shower, play a sport, take a hike. Focus on others. What can you do to help someone else? Even if it’s just a smile at a stranger or a sincere compliment to your coworker or friend, that other person will appreciate it and you will feel good about yourself. Be grateful. Take a few minutes every day, at least once, to remember all of the blessings in your life. Really let that feeling of gratitude resonate inside of you before moving on. This can be done at any time, but setting an intention (like developing gratitude, compassion, etc.) before a yoga practice or meditation is a great way to develop self-love and the qualities of mind that lead to it.
Practicing yoga is a great way of developing self-love. Many people, myself included, start a yoga practice for the physical benefits. They are many and they have a domino effect (for example, when you get more in touch with your body, you tend to eat healthier foods and stop habits such as drinking a lot of alcohol or smoking). Despite this initial focus on the physical, the mental and emotional benefits become obvious over time. Consistently practicing yoga allows you to become more focused, think more about your reactions to situations, and feel calmer. It allows you to become more at peace with who you are, now and always, and this self-love emanates from you positively affecting all areas of your life. The more people who practice yoga, the better this world will be. In this small way, we can try to heal the problems that begin with a lack of self-love.