Are you ready for summer to end? I’m definitely not! I’ve had the absolute best summer of cycling, open water swimming, and hanging out with friends! But ready or not, the fall is coming.
Autumn is a time to fall in love with yourself again. It’s a time of change. The seasons change. Colder weather starts to move in. Summer comes to an end and school starts up again. The energy of September is something like, “get back to work,” “get focused,” “start new projects.” Fall opens a window of opportunity to
make a shift in your life, to reconnect with yourself, create new intentions, and set yourself up for a successful end of year.
What is the yoga of self-love? Isn’t doing yoga a form of loving ourselves already? Well, yes, it is. And there’s much more to it.
How can we make self-love work? How can we love ourselves more? What prevents us from loving ourselves? What gets in the way? What is the result of self-love?
Webster's dictionary says that love is “an appreciation of one’s own worth or virtue, proper regard for and attention to one's own happiness or well-being.”
Another way to say it is, “Self-love begins when we observe our actions and words with compassion as if we were our own best friend.” – Sara M Bosworth.
Or this, “Often we are reluctant to promote self-love mostly because we confuse it with selfishness. Since we are humans, we ought to have a healthy love for ourselves; it is from this fount that love flows out to others.” – Mason Olds.
Doing yoga or meditating is a wonderful way to love ourselves. Any time we take care of ourselves, like cooking and eating a healthy meal, exercising, or becoming more educated by reading or taking a course, we are loving ourselves, bettering ourselves.
We can even love ourselves by watching Netflix, going to a movie, a concert, a play, anything that entertains us.
Having fun is a way to love ourselves.
There’s self-love that relates to appreciating others, like offering support, kindness, taking care of a loved one, doing or saying something encouraging to someone. Even smiling at others is a way of loving ourselves because all of those acts of kindness make others happy, which in turn makes us happy. When others feel taken care of by our words or actions, we feel good about ourselves. Loving others is a way of loving ourselves.
I think the result of self-love boils down to this – inner peace. When we love ourselves, we enter into a state of non-judgment, non-resistance, non-complaint. Our mind clears and we see the vastness of the sky. We open to the essence of life that always pulses with radiant goodness. In this state we are okay just as we are. We
are perfect. Or as we say in Tantra, we are perfectly imperfect just as we are. We dwell in the state of equilibrium, harmony, and love.
But often we stop the love from flowing. We get in our own way. We can’t love ourselves because we have habits of self-sabotage, self-hate, or being self-critical. In fact, we can be so hard on ourselves that we lose sight of our value and self-worth. Seeing ourselves in this light causes self-harm and keeps us longing for love
outside of ourselves.
The yoga of self-love begins with you.
It’s the recognition that you are hard-wired for love. Although love from the outside feels good, it is unreliable. Love relationships can go awry. People change. Life changes. You change.
Yoga is the practice of self-love that takes the form of kindness to self and deep self-acceptance. Without acceptance, we don’t stand a chance of loving ourselves because the habit of having a critical mind overpowers self-acceptance every time.
Yoga is the recognition that the love we seek is closer to us than our very own breath. It’s already here inside of us. We just can’t see it. We can’t tap into it.
I first came to yoga in 1980. I’ll never forget my first yoga class because at the end of the class in Savasana, as I relaxed deeper than I ever had before, tears streamed from my eyes. My tears were the recognition of self-love. It was the first time I accepted myself completely. I let go of my inner critic that was pushing me to achieve.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of the inner drive to succeed and go for the gusto! But there’s a balance to the energy of becoming. That balance is “being.”
How can we add moments of being in our day-to-day experience where we unplug from striving, where we release the need to get something done, prove something, accomplish something? This is the power of yoga.
Ashaya Yoga offers a wonderful structure for exploring self-love through The Four Essentials™ – Open. Engage. Align. Expand.
The first step to self-love is to Open to a bigger energy. We need to let go of our striving ego and remember that we are interwoven with threads of universal consciousness and bliss. We are part of something bigger and this path of the heart is a co-participation with grace. Everything in life is for our awakening. Life has our back. There are no mistakes in life, only learning. When we open to the vastness of the sky, we come home to our heart where we can truly rest and be who we are.
The next step is Engage. You want to engage with acceptance. Engage means that you draw into yourself, you turn toward yourself with an open heart, curiosity, kindness, and compassion. You look at yourself with acceptance which contains no judgment or criticism. The very nature of acceptance is the recognition that everything in this moment is okay just as it is. And you are okay just as you are.
Next, we Align. This is the part of the process where we need to discern more deeply what’s happening. How am I not loving myself? What am I missing? What are the causes of that lack of love? What value do I get from not loving myself? And what type of lack of love is it? Is it judgment or being highly self-critical? Is it self-hatred? Am I comparing myself to others then putting myself down? Am I jealous? When have I experienced this feeling before? When did I leave my heart? What’s the source of my self-rejection? Is there a deeper belief or behavior from my past that’s driving this? Is it unworthiness? Shame? Abandonment?
When we align, we choose to take a closer look at all aspects of the lack of self-love in order to find our way back to the heart, which is the place in the middle.
Once you’ve examined the imbalances and causes of your brand of self-hatred and you have a little more understanding, now you’re ready to Expand. In Expand, you set out to reframe or change your behavior. You seek to change how you talk to yourself and begin to shift from self-rejection to acceptance, judgment to compassion, being hard on yourself to being kind to yourself.
The end result will always lead to more self-knowledge and the reasons why you are the way you are.
This then leads to more acceptance of who you are, and more compassion for your struggles. When you can get to self-compassion, self-empathy, and self-honor, you are really seeing and valuing your worth. Now the healing can begin.
Todd and the Ashaya Yoga Team
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