In yoga one of the very first principles of practice is ahimsa or non-violence. That might seem like a pretty simple, straight-forward idea, don’t be violent towards other living beings. But what about violence towards the self? Are you violent to yourself? And does this violence even occur during your yoga practice?
It can seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes yoga can be quite harmful to us if it is not done correctly. The principle of ahimsa not only includes being non-violent towards others, it also means being non-violent towards yourself. In a modern sense it is self-love and self-acceptance.
When practicing yoga, show yourself some self-love by not pushing your body beyond its limits. Just because the person beside you has taken the most advanced option in a pose, doesn’t mean you have to as well. Just because you could do that pose in its fullest expression yesterday, doesn’t mean you will today. Just because your body won’t contort itself the way you want it to, doesn’t mean you should berate yourself. Just stop and listen. If you are sore or tired, rest. If it is ‘that time of the month’, take it easy. Nourish and nurture yourself and your body, and it will love you back. When you feel strong, try something new, go upside down. When you are feeling weak, rest in Child’s pose as much as you need. Spend some time with your legs up the wall instead of in headstand. And sometimes, God forbid, skip yoga.
Self-love is the action of respecting exactly where you are today and accepting that where you are in this moment is perfect. Self-love is taking a break when you need it. Take for example the other day I got really, really sick. I was the sickest I have been in a long, long time, with a flu-like viral infection. My temperature was very high, my whole body was aching, I had a headache and a bad cough. The best I could do all day was sleep and sip tea. And so that is exactly what I did. I was so sick that I couldn’t bear the thought of any asana practice, so I didn’t do any… for five days in fact. And that’s okay because at that time, in that space, my body simply needed the kind of rest that involves sleeping and remaining in a mostly horizontal position on the couch.
So next time you are sick, don’t push through the sickness or power on. Just take a day (or two) to stop and let your body catch up. You don’t get sick for no reason, you get sick when your body needs a break. It needs some nourishment and some real rest. If you give it that, it will get better and you will feel great again. If you try to push through like nothing is wrong your body will drag behind you like a ball and chain. Be kind, love your body and give it the rest it is crying out for.
Similarly, when you’ve had a hectic week and you make it to Friday afternoon, don’t feel bad saying no to the other of drinks with your friends or a wild night out if what you really want, what you are craving is an early night and a nourishing, homemade meal. Your true friends will understand your need for ‘self-love’ time, and heck, they will probably have to take their own too. Self-love is remembering to take care of yourself first so that you can be the best version of yourself each and every day. And when you do this, you will have an abundance of energy, light and love to give to all of the people around you, so it will be well worth missing the occasional social event.
Self-love is thinking kind thoughts about yourself, which seems to be for most people one of the most difficult things to do. Instead of focussing all of your energy and attention on your perceived flaws and imperfections, embrace them and then give lots of attention to the parts of you that you love, both physically and in your personality. Make a list of all the things you love about yourself. Be grateful for the gifts that you were bestowed with. When you see something in another person that causes feelings of jealousy, switch that around – admire what is wonderful and beautiful about that person, and acknowledge that they are probably looking at you and admiring one of your many wonderful features.
Self-love is living in harmony with yourself. It is being your own best friend.
Self-love is a deep, unconditional and eternal acceptance of who you are.
Self-love is a life-changer.
Keep healthy and happy,