Take your practice outside and let the sun invigorate you as you focus on these seated and energizing breath practices.Read more
Love has everything to do with you.
Self-love, that is.
I believe this is one of the most important subjects to write about, art about, talk about, and live about. The subject of self-love was something I never thought about or heard of or learned until my late twenties. I knew of love by way of others; often by norms or traditioned complexes by design. Sometimes love was achieved by mimicking screens or driven by hormonal chaos that pulse-checked my guts through nonsensical meanings and immature angst. When I think back to love, I think of it only to be found in another or by another. I hadn't recognized love for myself as true and deserving. It was never discussed, announced, or cultivated as something I could have and it took quite some time and life bombs to create such love and hold close to this deep relationship within myself.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons that this yoga practice means so much to me. There is something about showing up on your mat for you, only you. Moving your body, breathing, steady with integrity for self. I grew up playing competitive sports and nearly every match or game that I competed in required a team effort, if you will. Even that of a match on the tennis courts; playing against one opponent was not necessarily a singular effort but that of a team collection of scoring heeds the final count. As in, if I lost a match, the hopes would be that my other mates would win, taking the overall. With my yoga practice, it felt strange, at first, to practice by myself (even in a room full of people). Sometimes I'd look around the room or on to the instructor and "better myself" only when the eyes darted my way or whenever someone walked by. Sometimes I'd emulate my neighbor or wish myself flexibility. Such "bettering" and "wishing" didn't feed like the competition adrenaline boost the way playing sports once did. There were many times I distanced myself from the yoga practice simply because there was "no one else to play with" on the mat. Like the old days when the neighbor kids were away and you had no one else to play kick-the-can or climb trees (aging myself now as a child of the 80s). Such summertime boredom took hold to loner hobbies like kicking rocks, painting and reading books (a personal favorite).
I think the yoga practice is like setting yourself up with a loner hobby. Sometimes showing up for yourself, on any given day, through high and lows and in-betweens, with the many faces we make. It can very well be the greatest work of all: show up and do it anyway. It was a yoga class when I heard this concept of self-love. I consider it one of the first times simply because I was ready to hear it and remember it. This concept. The teacher was guiding us through a seated meditation, at the time when I loathed this part of class but pretended to be in it anyway. You know, for the teacher, not for myself (to be a good student). I don't remember exactly what was said during the meditation but I remember putting a hand to my heart and pondering this love for myself. Did I have it? I thought I knew what it meant to love but in all the years I had growing up with lovers, relationships, and friendships I sort of questioned what the hell was all of that in the past stuff if I didn't know or feel it for myself. I questioned, not by way of shame but of search. Not like a ravenous hunt but more like a poke to pique my inquiry. I became curious of my actions, life choices, and outcomes. What made me happy or sad or angry. I asked a few whys and left them to a forwarding fervor for what and now and how. Doing into being.
I questioned and kept living. The yoga practice kept on and occasionally it would turn off. The cycle of fair-weather commitment. I had love for the practice but my pocketbook had other plans.
Years later, I had my son. And everything changed. This was, in fact, love. Without question. Bringing him into the world was everything and nothing else seem to matter. I was on a high from adrenaline to lack of sleep and in-joy with every eye-locking gaze, tickled-giggle, crazy blow-outs, on-the-clock feedings, hooray milestones, and endless play. And then I crashed. Somewhere on the timeline of my son's infancy, I crashed right into a pole with the letter D. I have written about my depression and how the practice of yoga led the path of healing and self-discovery.
That loner hobby (yoga) was like reconnecting with an old friend. Only that old friend was me and that me had changed since the years passed from early mentions of self-love in a yoga class. Only now, I was a mom. A human responsible for another human. I was 29 when I vowed to love myself. To say those words to myself. Write those words and mean it. It's like writing a lover for the first time, shaky, mildly lit with uncertainty, as in, "is this really happening and are we really doing this?" Yes and yes. And this "we" is only "me." This means that I am my greatest love. I am worthy, capable, strong, and will always show up for myself. Even when it's hard and messy. Especially then. I move to be moved. It has been like a switch bulb to my purpose. I've turned great pain into passion. Love into life. It is one of the biggest reasons I teach yoga; to hold space for others as they show up for themselves on their mats each day.
We must use ourselves to know ourselves.
This is an inside job like no other. Love for yourself is love for all.