post and photo by Melinda Parrish
Yoga isn’t about pushing, forcing, exerting, or trying to achieve the posture.
In fact, these are the very things that get in the way of you and your practice. A good instructor will tell you that monitoring your breathing is the way to tell if you’re pushing too hard. If your breath is strained, forced, or constricted, you’re not realizing the full benefits of your practice. Yoga is about allowing your body to go as far as it can on a given day, as a way to show your body love through movement.
We spend the majority of our days hunched over, compacted, tensed, pressing, pushing and exerting. Yoga is our way to expand, release, and feel a sense of lightness and freedom in our bodies.
Why does this matter? Practicing the art of assuming a posture, getting to where your body will go that day, and then releasing it and moving on to the next pose while keeping command of your body and your thoughts is just that: practice.
The more experienced you get, the more you’ll be able to move through your life that way. And the possible applications are endless-—more patience with your children, and with yourself as a parent, keeping your cool during a work crisis, not engaging in arguments with your spouse or significant other, being more tolerant of your irritating relatives—the list goes on.
But this idea of self-love is especially relevant to how your treat your body both on and off the mat. If you can let go of not getting into Crow, move on, and still do a good shoulder stand, then you can shake off the seven pounds you gain on vacation, or be more patient with yourself if you sprain an ankle and have to rest for a few weeks.
What you DON’T want to do is beat yourself up every time you lunge for the pastry tray at a morning meeting, or decide that spending time with your kids (or Netflix) is more important than getting your Bikram class in that day. #namastayinbed!
You also don’t want to stand in front of the mirror mentally using a scalpel to shave off unwanted mounds of flesh. Or to lay in bed at night figuring out how you’re going to lose 25 pounds in two days so you can impress people at a dressy event.
You—and your body—are good enough, just as you are. And you are where you are, so you might as well accept that, and allow yourself to embrace your body and whatever “limitations” you might perceive, rather than struggling to be something you think others will find more acceptable.
When we allow ourselves to shift out of forcing and into allowing, and out of desiring to change our bodies into embracing them, we can come at fitness (and life) from a place of wanting to show our bodies love, rather than a form of punishment or self-mutilation.
Self-acceptance is the magic, and the mat is one of the places that it can happen! Let it happen today.