Self love is always a good place to start. Like the well-known airplane line about putting on your own oxygen mask first tells us, we can't really take care of others if we don't care for ourselves. And since we are in the dead of winter, a time for introspection, the next few weeks are an especially good time to put these words into action. While I already listed some tips on how to bring self-love into your everyday life via my newsletter, here are some ways in which you can bring loving kindness towards yourself into your yoga practice.
1. Set the intention. In those first few moments on your mat, while you are starting to tune inwards and deepen your breathing, set an intention that you will choose to be kind to yourself for the duration of the session.
2. Be honest about where you are physically. If you are tired, then take that child’s pose or svasana. Or maybe even take that yin or restorative class! Go for the arm balance only if you have a lot of energy and are properly prepared (you ate a good meal beforehand and have had enough time to digest, you got enough sleep, etc).
3. Be careful with your thoughts. If you can’t do a pose or stay in it “long enough” or are otherwise frustrated with yourself in some way, be sure the narrative in your mind hasn’t turned into a self-defeating, self-deprecating or otherwise negative one. Let yourself have a deep breath and consciously take control the narrative to be one of kindness or positivity towards yourself.
4. Listen to your body first and foremost. If your teacher instructs you to do something you are simply not comfortable with, then don’t do it. Her instructions are guidelines and suggestions, not gospel. Which also brings us to..
5. Use props. Sure maybe you don't need the blocks or props, but ask yourself this: "why not?" Do you have a really good reason? If not, then go for the props.
6. Stop comparing. The easiest way to be unkind to your self is to compare yourself to other people in the room. Everyone has their own struggles and problems so comparing is a fruitless activity. Close your eyes if you need to or just refocus your attention on your breath.
7. Check in with yourself at the end. Take the last few moments before final savasana to really evaluate your mind/body and take any last pose you need, regardless of the teacher’s instructions. Or maybe you sit in meditation instead. Do whatever you need in order to feel you've completed your practice.
8. Take a really long savasana. Savasana is where your body calms down so you can leave the class feeling relaxed. Sometimes being in savasana feels great and sometimes our minds can't be still. If you are having trouble stilling your mind, then do an active savasana where you scan your body part by part and actively try to let go of any tension you are holding on to. For example: Wiggle out your toes and then relax them completely. Shake out your ankles and then relax your feet. Release any holding in your calves, soften the backs of your knees, relax your thighs...etc., etc.