What is self-love?

First, how do we show others that we love them? Accept them exactly as they are, listen, protect, show affection, and so much more. Self-love is applying this same level of love to ourselves. My journey towards deeper self-love has taken years of making tiny changes, lots of mistakes, and many shifts in mindset shifts. When I made yoga a part of my daily life two years ago, it cultivated my loving body awareness.

I accept myself.

You are enough, I am enough. There will always be a more challenging pose to master. My practice began with trying to attain the next pose in the Ashtanga Yoga sequence and putting it into my “Bank of Poses.” Being able to do a perfect handstand doesn't make someone a better person. Although working towards a goal and improving are wonderful things, it can stir a great amount of discontent when our minds are only goal oriented, forward looking. I'll be happy when... I can do a handstand. I'll be happy when... I get that raise. I'll be happy when… There is an implication that you are not good enough and you need to be better. YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH. You are enough, I am enough. Right now, at this very moment. Acceptance and improvement are not mutually exclusive. We can love and accept ourselves and improve. I learned to accept by cultivating gratitude. I have big strong legs to hold me in Warrior I. My strong core protects my organs and my willpower. I have a soft heart that is capable of giving and receiving love. I have arms that help lift others up! By acknowledging the gifts in my life and my body, I am able to create space to invite bountiful positivity and growth.

I listen to my body.

How do we listen to our bodies? They change from day to day. A pose that I could do yesterday may not happen today, but might happen tomorrow! Some days I can do a split, other days, no way! By cultivating awareness in my body through my yoga practice, I became more attune to the subtle changes that food would have on my digestion and my state mind. Some days, I just want some soup and salad. Other days, I need a big juicy burger with a side of mashed potatoes and I enjoy every bite of it without guilt. Our bodies are affected by the changing of the seasons, and I adjust my food and my exercise to accommodate. Beyond my body, I learned how to listen by distinguishing what aligned with my authentic self and let go of what didn't without guilt. I act with intention and purpose. MY purpose. Not my mom's, best friend's or boyfriend's. My own. I act with my values of peace, joy, love, abundance and authenticity. When it doesn't align, I am able to say "no" with ease. Loving ourselves is being true to ourselves, and this begins with listening.

I protect my body and show it affection.

For 2 years, I set the intention to wake up early for yoga every day. Some days it happened, some it didn't. It was inconsistent. I had an expectation for how the practice should look: 1.5 hours of sweaty Ashtanga yoga. That's extremely challenging for me to do every single day, work a full time job and have a social life. Eventually, I let go of the expectations and decided that some movement was better than no movement. I created a flexible morning routine that means waking up at the same time and doing yoga but the style and length of time that I practice fluctuates with how I'm feeling that day. Slowly and over time, I added meditation to this morning routine by shortening my practice just 5 or 10 minutes. My flexible morning routine protects my body, and shows it affection. 

Thank you, yoga.

Yoga has helped me find acceptance, listen and protect my body, and show myself loving affection. By cultivating body awareness, I was able to translate the metaphors that were occurring in my physical practice to bring them off the mat and into my life. Yoga inspires me every day. If you are searching for a more loving connection with your body, try stepping onto the yoga mat and find a style that works for your lifestyle, body and mind. Love shows up in different forms for everyone. Other ways of showing ourselves love could be lifting weights, reading a book, taking a walk around the block, going fishing, taking a bath, or taking pleasure in the food that we eat and not feeling guilty about it. All with purpose and intention.