The strongest relationship you’ll ever have is the one you have with yourself. However, if you’re like most, it can feel almost impossible to fully love and accept yourself.
Most people have spoken unkind words about their body. Maybe you’ve complained about your weight or deflected a compliment and followed it up with a self-appointed dig. Maybe you’ve been angry with how you look or cursed the skin you’re about to pinch around your stomach. If you have, it’s OK. We all do this. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. With time, dedication and a good pair of yoga pants, we can inspire self-love and learn to appreciate our bodies.
As we approach the new year, why not make your resolution one of acceptance and self-love? Instead of trying to drop another dress size, seek to feel comfortable in your own skin and appreciate your body for what it is. Instead of trying to look a certain way, set an intention to live a certain way. Instead of starting the new year with the same old “new year, new me” mantra, start 2020 being comfortable with the unique, amazing and beautiful person that you are.
To inspire self-love, we must shift the current lens through which we see our body from one of criticism to one of love. Think about how you treat others. Would you ever tell another human that they weren’t good enough? Probably not. With that in mind, why would you say it to yourself? It’s time to start treating yourself as you would others. Treat your body as if it is a partner, child or friend.
For many of us, there have been times where we shouted “I hate you” into the mirror even though we wouldn’t dare say that to a person we love. We have compromised our health for the sake of losing weight. We would never put a friend or partner in that kind of danger. To change our relationship with our body, we must learn to love ourselves as much as we love those around us – or, maybe even more.
Thankfully, as yogis, we have the ultimate toolbox to accommodate this shift. We have the necessary tools to get clear on reality, ground us in the present, and help us change from negative self-talk to positive self-love. We have the means to access our true, inner self that is strong, expansive, and perfect.
Below, we explore 5 poses to inspire more self-love, less self smack talk. The sequence is designed to expand your perspective on how your body performs by reminding you of how strong it is in every pose. For best results, this routine should be practised independently in your sacred space.
To practice Bound Angle Pose, begin in a seated position. Bending your knees out to the sides, bring the soles of your feet together and interlace your fingers around the toes. As you inhale, press your pelvis down into the mat and extend your spine. Draw your shoulders down and back and move your chest forward. Finally, press your knees down into the mat to increase the stretch. You are in Bound Angle Pose. Hold the asana for 30 seconds before releasing.
Starting on all fours, ensure that your wrists are aligned with your shoulders and your knees are aligned with your hips. Next, inhale deeply, arching your back toward the ground as you do so. You are now in the Cow position. Hold the position for around 5 breaths, before exhaling. As you exhale, tuck your chin toward your chest, and arch your back toward the ceiling. You are in Cat position. Alternate between the two for a few minutes before returning to a table-top position. The combination of the two stretches is ideal for stretching the neck chest, shoulders and lower back.
In addition to improving blood flow, Downward Dog reminds us of how strong we really are. To practice the asana, stand tall on your mat with your feet shoulder-width apart. Next, hinge at the waist and lower your upper body toward the ground until your hands are securely on the mat. Your body should now form a triangle. Tight hamstrings may prevent beginners from touching the ground; to make the pose a little easier, try bending your knees slightly throughout the asana. Next, move your head between your upper arms and spread your fingers for additional balance. You are in Downward Dog. For best results, breathe deeply whilst practising the pose and hang your head gently between your shoulders.
To practice Standing Forward Fold, stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Next, carefully bend at the waist, lowering your upper body so it hangs all the way forward. Allow your arms to fall to the ground. You are in Standing Forward Fold. If you cannot touch the ground when you first begin, try bending your knees slightly to make the pose a little easier. The more you practice, the more flexible you will become. When you’ve finished the pose, make sure to rise slowly so you don’t feel light-headed.
The final pose in the sequence is Constructive Rest. To practice this posture, lie on your back with your knees bent to about 90 degrees. Place your feet on the mat in line with your hips, around 15 inches from your bottom. If possible, try not to exaggerate or flatten the curves in your neck or lower back. You are in Constructive Rest. Stay in the pose for a few minutes while concentrating on your breathing.
So, there you have it – 5 poses to inspire more self-love, less self smack-talk. If you want to learn to love yourself, put on a cosy yoga hoodie and work through the sequence above. The process will take time, but with patience and dedication, you’ll get there in the end.