Your yoga practice is a great teacher because it presents this lesson: how to accept what our bodies are able to do (and how they look!) while simultaneously challenging our bodies to move beyond their perceived limits to find more freedom of movement and mobility. In the process, we learn to be gentle with our self-judgments and with our lower backs. We learn to love our bodies and love the simple fact of being able to move. And we do the best we can.
The Yoga asanas are just one way we learn, through trial and error, through sweat and success, how to stop striving to find love outside of ourselves, and instead, find love inside.
This can only be done by practicing loving-kindness. World-renowned author and Buddhist monk Pema Chödrön presents the talk “The Freedom to Love”, where she elucidates her modern-day interpretation of the ancient practice of loving-kindness. This is also called metta meditation.
It’s worth the watch.
In this short video, she explains how learning to practice loving-kindness changes your perspective on life. Loving-kindness makes “a big difference in terms of your ability to be able to relax with yourself… It’s sort of like connecting with the best of ourselves,” Chödrön explains.
Yoga is the same way: it offers us a chance to connect with the best of ourselves.
I’ve found, personally, that when I connect with and appreciate ‘the best in myself’ I’m more appreciative and accepting of ‘the worst of myself.’ When I’m practicing loving-kindness toward myself I’m more accepting of my own flaws. When my anxiety is high, or my self-esteem low, or when I’m feeling guilty and overwhelmed trying to meet the impossibly high expectations of others, I take a big yoga breath and remind myself: I’m doing the best I can. This is the same thing I learned to say when I repeatedly fell on my face trying to learning pincha mayurasana (forearm stand) for three years. I’m doing the best I can, I’d say.
When I learned to say this, to love myself despite my biggest anxieties, I also learned to accept (with more ease) people in my life who triggered my anxieties. This was not easy. But, the more I practiced loving-kindness towards myself, the easier it was for me to realize:
“That person is probably doing the very best he can… even if it’s not what I would want him to do.”
Then I could relax (a little bit more). And love (a little bit more). Want to be able to relax into yourself? (Even it it’s just for a few blessed minutes?) Well. Here’s your chance.
Finish February, the month of LOVE, by learning this metta meditation.
Say it every day. With sincerity. Start loving yourself a little more. Let me know how it goes.
*Note: parts of this blog post and this image can be found on Westport Yoga’s blog accessed here.