The most important relationship you’ll ever have in your life is the one you have with yourself. Yet many of us spend most of our lives pleasing others and pay little attention to this relationship. Thoughts of doubt and fear creep in and kick our self confidence down, and feelings of anxiety and depression are not far behind. Yoga reverses this negative pattern by building inner strength, confidence and promoting a positive body image.
I spent a lot of my youth not knowing who I was and consequently fell into patterns of self-loathing because the little I knew about myself I didn’t like. This is fear. I thought I wasn’t good enough, smart enough or pretty enough, so I searched for someone to love me that would make me feel enough. The problem with that theory is that it is always fleeting. It was never long before I felt lonely and empty inside once again. No matter how much the other person tried, it was not enough because I didn’t know how to love myself. Loving ourselves is the greatest gift we give ourselves in our life experience. I truly believe that.
All of those feelings I experienced was my soul calling out for love. Searching for love outside of myself was never going to measure up, it never did. It wasn’t until I discovered yoga and slowly began to take the journey inward and got to know myself, discovered my talents and developed pride for who I was and what I stood for that I was ready to love someone else fully.
This is the practice of self-love and it happens naturally with yoga. Take a moment to evaluate your relationship with yourself. Are you unkind to yourself? Is your self-talk negative? What is it saying to you? Do your make yourself feel guilty about decisions you’ve made? If you answered yes, there’s no shame in it. We’ve all been there and experienced the difficulty in putting ourselves first. Self-love is about developing a healthier relationship with yourself and recognizing your worth.
How do we get there? With all the poses we do in yoga, it all comes down to one thing. The breath. The breath is the foundation in a yoga class. It allows us to connect with our body and feel where the discomforts lie, what emotional imbalances are lurking and what thoughts are causing us to feel that way. It is the practice of awareness and self-love that gives us the freedom from our negative mind and connection to our own divinity.
Yoga is a practice and although it starts on the mat you take the teachings with you everywhere you go. Becoming your own best friend won’t happen overnight. It takes practice and comes with time, but it will happen. These yoga tools helped me develop a positive relationship with myself and I hope you can benefit from them too.
Self-Love Yoga Techniques
Sitting in meditation can be hard at first, but start with just 3 minutes and work your way up. Find a comfortable and quiet place to meditate and sit in easy sitting pose. Arms are relaxed and hands resting on your knees or in your lap. Close your eyes and focus on pushing the navel away from your spine as you inhale and moving it toward your spine as you exhale. Set a timer on your phone for 3 minutes. When you are done, write down in a journal any thoughts that came up. Don’t over think it just write the first thing that comes to mind and if nothing comes up just write a sentence or two about how you feel. Over time you will begin to notice more of the negative self-talk patterns going on in the background of your mind and be able to let them go.
This technique seems silly at first but works like a charm. Go with it and you’ll see. Stand in front of a mirror and say “I Love You [Your Name]” look at your eyes in the mirror and tell yourself this 3-5 times in one session and anytime thereafter that you see yourself in the mirror. It will help you begin to see yourself as a friend and work on rebuilding your connection to yourself. This technique is like taking the expressway to self-love.
There is a powerful kundalini mantra by Yogi Bhajan for self love that I sing often and it fills my heart with love and harmony. It makes me feel inspired with awe of my soul in the same way I am in awe of life itself. Chant this mantra aloud in your meditation and if you are inclined give it a melody and make it your own. This mantra reminds us that it is not only the divine guiding us along our journey but that divine source is present within us. The I AM presence is our recognition of higher selves. This mantra creates a subtle shift in how you start to see yourself.
“I am the light of my soul; I am beautiful I am bountiful I am bliss; I am, I am.”
The warrior of self-love brings about strength, groundedness in the root chakra, and helps to dispel fear. Practice a short sequence of Warrior I and Warrior II. Activate your sacral chakra (center for emotional balance) in these poses by drawing the navel in. In Warrior I, lean slightly back while opening the chest to activate the solar plexus (center for personal power) and heart chakra (center for love). Imagine your feet as roots of a tree firmly holding you in place as your upper body is light and balanced. Channel your strength and courage to face any obstacle with love.
Try integrating all four of these practices into your daily routine for the next 40 days and reevaluate how you feel. Practicing these yoga techniques will help you develop a deeper and more meaningful relationship with yourself. By doing them you are opening up a part of you that has been waiting to express the beauty that is you for all the years you’ve been alive.