There’s always a lot of talk about love in February. And whether or not Valentine’s Day was an important day for you, love really is worth talking about.
Because you deserve love. Yes, you:
- No matter what you look like
- No matter how you spend your days
- No matter how old you are
- No matter how opinionated you are
- No matter what you want from life
- No matter how stressed you are
You do. However, I know that saying “you deserve love, honest!” doesn’t make much difference when you’re just not feeling it.
So, I want to explore a practical way to start welcoming more love into your life — through yoga.
The Frustrating Thing About Self-Love
People talk a lot about this idea that in order to be loved by someone else, we have to love ourselves first. I don’t think this is always true. It’s perfectly possible for someone to recognize your brilliance even when you can’t see it for yourself.
Even so, I do think that working on loving ourselves more is a really positive, healthy thing to do.
The problem with all the ‘you’ve got to love yourself first’ noise out there is that it rarely comes with any ideas for how to actually work on your relationship with yourself. I see self-love as a practice, not as something to be achieved.
Self-love comes and goes, brightens and fades, and we have to keep working on accepting ourselves in all our states of being.
Even the steadiest person will probably beat themselves up about something again at some point in the future, or have a day when they feel useless or unworthy of love and respect from anyone, let alone themselves.
This doesn’t mean they’re failing at loving themselves.
In her book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown shares what she’s learnt through years of research into emotional vulnerability and shame. She writes that the difference between people who are readily vulnerable and accept love in return, and the people who hide their true selves and feel as though they won’t be loved if they open up, is a sense of worthiness.
The people who experience deep love and connection have a strong sense that they’re worthy of love. No matter what.
Which is good — because that’s something we can work on. We can learn to feel more worthy, starting with our self-love practice.
By actively seeking to give ourselves love we can slowly teach ourselves that we deserve that love.
Use Your Yoga Practice to Build Self-Love
I mentioned that self-love platitudes frustrate me because they rarely come with practical instructions. So my suggestion is this: start with your yoga practice.
Your usual yoga practice has all the components you need to start building a more solid sense of love:
If you’re anything like me, moving your body is the surest and most immediate way to change your state of mind and start feeling better about yourself.
Not only does it help you appreciate your body, but it shifts any emotions or energy that are stuck, and stopping you from seeing yourself from a brighter perspective.
The key to using asana practice to warm up the love is not to overthink it. You don’t need to go into your practice with an outcome in mind; you don’t have to experience any great rush of adoration. No epiphany needed.
Instead, simply allow yourself to move. Allow whatever feelings come. Even when it doesn’t feel like it, the work is happening.
As you practice yoga you become aware of your breath, body, and thoughts. You notice patterns, unravel mysteries, and acknowledge the power of the work that your lungs do all the time.
You notice things.
Noticing is the perfect way to start building more confidence in who you are, and to let go of the things that get in the way of you appreciating yourself. Again, you don’t have to force this. It happens.
At some point in your practice you will find stillness. You’ll sink into balasana (child’s pose) to reconnect with your breath, or settle into savasana for the final relaxation when you’ve finished moving.
Usually, we don’t spend much time in real stillness. Those moments of being, breathing, and allowing yourself to experience the sensations you feel, give you a little extra time and space to remember who you are when all the noise quietens down.
Choosing to practice yoga is, in itself, an act of self-love. It’s not for anyone else — only for you.
By making that choice you are telling yourself you’re worthy of love. You’re making it clear that you deserve to feel good, to care for your body and mind, and to mark out time in your day when the pressure can lift off your shoulders.
More love isn’t a benefit of yoga that’s easy to measure. A number of studies have suggested that yoga improves self-esteem, which is certainly connected to self-love, but it’s hard to define what it is to love yourself, and how that love shows up in your behavior and your life.
In addition, self-love is easier for some people than for others. We’ve all had different experiences and we’re starting from different baselines. If you practice yoga every day and you never feel warmth towards yourself, that’s OK.
But I’m tentatively willing to suggest that regular practice does spark a little glow; the flame will roar some days, and barely flicker on others.
Gradually, as time goes on, the part of you that knows you deserve love will hold its ground a little more confidently when the going gets tough.