Yoga for Everybody: 5 ways Yoga Teaches me to Love and Accept Myself

         

Most of us know what Yoga is these days, and many of us have at least tried one class. Some of us may have been put off by a challenging class or posed images on social media of ‘yoga’. I would however argue that yoga really is for everybody and every body.

Personally, the practice of physical yoga has taught me a lot about how to love and accept myself more on and off the mat. The Yoga philosophy is also full of lessons that apply to everyone in all walks of life.  It’s all very well to come to the yoga mat every day and repeat the same movements, but for me it is important to tune in deeper to what yoga is teaching us. How do you approach your yoga practice each day? How can you take responsibility to move from a place of self-love and acceptance? 


Yoga has been Life Changing

For me yoga has been life changing. I began yoga, like many of us, doing the movements and simply feeling physically better. I never turned up to my first yoga class thinking that this was going to help me accept and love myself. If I’m honest, I don’t think I even realised that there was a need to love and accept myself more. The truth is I was naively unaware that the lessons I was about to learn on the mat would soon start to ripple out to different areas in my life. 

Little by little I saw the effects of my yoga practice. I began to see how what I was learning on the mat had an impact on other areas of my life too. For example, practising handstands and going upside down was something I never imagined I was capable of. There was so much fear there! Learning to be more confident and try new things gave me more faith and trust in my body. I also realised it was all about taking baby steps and not getting overwhelmed by an outcome. This was a huge lesson as I realised I could also do this off the mat, allow myself to try new things, have more faith in my ability to learn, to adapt and to build physical and mental strength. 

My journey with yoga has evolved from pushing myself into pretzel shapes and using yoga as a tool to workout, to simply showing up and asking myself what I need. This can be on or off the mat. I do it throughout my day by checking in and listening to what I need. This awareness was initiated from my practice, but now there is not one without the other. Yoga and the yoga philosophy have become intricately intertwined in my life. 



The Journey is where the Magic Happens

Often we can get stuck on the end goal, and when we focus only on that it can be really overwhelming. This is enhanced by social media post of flexible, slim and super experienced yogis, in positions that feel totally out of our capability. These images and messaging can put too much importance on the physical yoga practice and poses.

Whilst the poses are of course important they are not the essence of yoga. Too much importance on a physical goal can put so many of us off before even taking the first step. Another thing I have learnt from yoga is that these steps on the journey is where the magic happens, not at the ‘end’!



The 10 Commandments of Yoga

Of course yoga does make us stronger and more flexible but when you dig deeper into yoga you find the philosophy that lies at the root of yoga – the Yamas and Niyamas. The Yamas and Niyamas come from ‘The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’ and are basically the yogi manual as to how to live a happy, peaceful, and loving life. These are like the 10 commandments of yoga. They don’t talk about holding a freestanding handstand or opening your hips in lotus pose. They are life principles to incorporate along the way and serve as a guide to HOW to approach our yoga practice (and life). This is what makes yoga for every body. 

When we practice with these principles as guides, yoga begins to slowly and subtly teach us how to love and accept ourselves more. So here are five ways yoga and the philosophy of yoga teaches me to love and accept myself more.


Five ways Yoga Teaches me to Love and Accept Myself

  1. Non-Violence – Ahimsa 

Sounds simple right? Thou shall not kill. But how about thou shall not force thyself into yoga poses that cause pain? Do you know how many people end up with yoga injuries?! This practice of non-violence started on my yoga mat. I learnt to be gentler with my body and ways to make my yoga practice something I can do for life and to ease my pain (rather than create more). 

This lesson now branches out into so many areas of my life. After my first yoga training I began to become more conscious of what I was putting into my body. I realised binge drinking 2-3 nights of a week is a pretty violent way to treat myself! I began to be aware of what I was eating, drinking, when I was sleeping, and my inner dialogue too.

This new awareness of ways I had been a bit hard on myself gave me the opportunity to begin to be more loving, kind, and less violent in my actions. This has spread out to how I walk through the world, how non-violent I can make my footprint on nature, animals and other humans. Yes it started with learning to back out of pigeon pose but it has taught me a lot more than I bargained for!



  1. Truthfulness – Satya

Thou shall not lie. But truthfulness is not only about not lying. It is about honesty and authenticity. This is a big one when it comes to practising yoga. What does it mean to show up and move authentically? For me it means being there. Not just physically there but really being there present and feeling the yoga. Sometimes I catch myself making shopping lists or to-do lists in my head? In those moments I realise I am lost, I am following the teacher’s voice but I’m not moving authentically. When I notice this I take a breath, let out a sigh, and begin again. We are not perfect, we are all learning, we don’t need to get it right all the time. But being honest about that is also part of the journey. 

The more authentically I have been able to show up in my yoga practice the more I learn to accept myself. Sometimes I am very distracted, other days very grumpy or agitated, and sometimes strong and able. I see all sides of myself and make some form of peace with them. Ideally I then take this out into the world! I am less afraid to show the grumpy side of me to my friends. I am more able to be honest and truthful about how I am feeling. This is an act of self love as I love myself enough to be me in all different moments. 



  1. Contentment – Santosha

This ties into what I was saying before about not striving for a goal but being content with where we are at on the journey. My yoga practice has taught me to see where I honestly am and what I can or can’t do with my body. From this place I work on being content and at peace with my own ability. I accept that it’s ok if I can’t touch my toes and find ways to adapt and modify my practice so that I can get the most out of my forward fold. Now I am content with where I’m at on my yoga journey. 

I see this ripple out into how I feel towards my life, what I have, where I have been, and the life path I am on. Rather than comparing my life to what I see in the lives of others, I practise gratitude. I open my eyes to all the gifts I have around me and find more contentment in what I have. I find this takes me out of the ‘lack’ mentality and into abundance, and the law of attraction deems I then attract more abundance! But this all begins with contentment. 


  1. Self Study and awareness of self – Svadhyaya

When I am on my mat it is my therapy, a chance to become more aware of myself and who I am. It’s a moment of my day when I slow down, take a breath, and I check what do I need? How does my body feel today? How can I best serve myself? 

Every day I wake up and I feel different. Rather than trying to tick a box and complete the same yoga practice as the day before, my daily practice is accepting myself exactly as I feel each day. That might mean that one day I need to accept that I am exhausted and instead of a strong vinyasa practice I want to meditate and do a restorative pose. Another day I might feel resistance to doing a led-practice and instead I put on music and dance. The thing is this wasn’t a dialogue I ever had with myself before beginning to practice yoga. 

It is through this dialogue I am learning and listening to myself and what I need. Through that I am discovering more self love and acceptance. Whilst society has taught us to fit in and follow the rules, it is an act of rebellion to get to know ourselves better and then move from an empowered place of self knowledge and awareness. So slow down, take a breath and do what feels good. Every time we show up for ourselves in this way we are reinforcing the message that we are worthy, we are loveable and we are perfect as we are. 


  1. Surrendering to something greater than you – Isvara Pranidhana

Through my yoga practice, and the philosophy, I have connected to an energy that is greater than me. Something that is hard to write down and put into words. It’s that thing that kept pulling me back to yoga classes even though they were so exhausting! I tasted a glimmer of it in savasana, the blissful feeling of surrender. I didn’t realise what it was for many years, but the awareness grew gradually into the realisation that there is something greater than just me. 

This gives me a sense of peace that I am not wholly responsible and not doing this alone. There is a purpose and a point and a big old picture that I am just a tiny part of. This has helped me accept myself, and be kinder to myself as I take my steps on the journey. This act of surrender is like taking off a very tight bra, it is such a relief, a weight off my shoulders. If i’m honest it is something I forget over and over again. Thankfully my yoga practice is the nudge I need to remind me. 



Embodied Acceptance and Love

You can see the power these philosophy principles can have when you come to your mat every single day.

The lessons of love and acceptance start with how we practice yoga and then can ripple out into all corners of our life. It becomes more than just thinking ‘I must love and accept myself more’, and more of an embodied truth.

An embodied acceptance. 

It might sound like a small and menial act, but we can start this journey to embodied acceptance and self love by simply showing up every day on our yoga mat. Just take a breath and listen. 

Yoga really can be for every body.



Written by Joanna Gilbert – Joanna originally trained in Frog Lotus Vinyasa Flow with Vidya Heisel in 2015 and since then has been discovering new ways to connect to her body. Joanna is passionate about combining mindful-movement, with play, and self exploration.

When not playing she can be found working behind the scenes with MFML as the chief Happiness Maven!


 

2 thoughts on “Yoga for Everybody: 5 ways Yoga Teaches me to Love and Accept Myself

  1. Jane Balderstone

    This blog has come to me at a time when I am struggling with self love, acceptance and the way forward for me in my some areas of my life. Reading five ways that yoga can help you is so wonderful.
    Thank you and i will consider signing up for the trial to learn more.

    Reply
    1. Kat

      Thank you Jane, it is so wonderful to know that the blog has been supportive for you. Please sign up for the trial and let us know how you get on?

      Reply

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