Yoga

How I Turn to Yoga for Self-Acceptance and Gratitude

The practice of yoga can be unfamiliar ground for many. Sometimes, poses are instructed in Sanskrit, or the trainer will get into an inversion of some sort—whatever the reason, you’re not alone if you’ve been hesitant to step onto the mat. However for me, my practice is an opportunity to send myself gratitude on days when I really need it, and I turn to yoga for self-acceptance.

The truth is that there is no one way to practice yoga. Whether your goal is to improve your headstand, find more grounding in your downward-facing dog, or to sprinkle in a little body positivity, yoga is truly for everyone. As you strengthen your yoga practice, you may notice yourself feeling more mindful, less stressed, and see an overall improvement in the quality of your life—and how you feel about yourself. Below are four tips to support you as you flow.

1. Remember that yoga is for everybody

Your yoga practice doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. Everybody—and every body—is different and has various abilities. Dianne Bondy, author of Yoga for Everyone says that “yoga benefits all bodies, regardless of their shape, size, age, ethnicity, or ability. It’s important to honor wherever you are in the yoga journey and know that where you are is enough.” Know that being able to touch your toes isn’t a qualifier for being a true yogi—you define what yoga is for your body.

2. Affirmations can enhance your practice

What are the words you say to yourself about yourself when nobody is listening? One of my favorite affirmations I say regularly is: “I am enough and I am worthy simply because I exist.” Affirmations can support you in releasing internal and external messages that prevent you from seeing yourself as a fully expressed human being. Negative thoughts can prevent you from discovering something new about yourself, and yoga allows you to practice mindfulness so that you can observe these thoughts and let them go as you focus on your affirmation. Write out some of your favorite affirmations, take three minutes, and say them to yourself daily, whether you’re on the mat or not.

3. Modifications are your friend

There’s nothing wrong with modifying yoga poses. Your body can change over weeks and years, and it’s so important to be patient with yourself, even when, say, you fall out of your Warrior I. My practice looks a lot different than it did from when I first began yoga 14 years ago. Still, I find myself loving the support of blocks when it comes to deepening my lunge twists. Avoid comparison to your younger self or the person next to you, and just go at your own pace. When you let go of comparison, you get the space to be present.

4. Give yourself the space for self-love

Creating a foundation of self-love is a continual process. When you understand that you are worthy to take up space on the yoga mat by being the full expression of who you are—regardless of your body size, culture, sexuality, religion, gender expression, or income—you create a world that supports others in actualizing self-acceptance in yoga. Author of The Body is Not an Apology Sonya Renee Taylor states: “Our relationships with our own bodies inform our relationships with others.” The power of self-acceptance is that it lives beyond self. When you move in acceptance you inspire others to see the magnificence of their reflection and do the same.

To start moving through some poses with purpose, try this 20-minute calming yoga flow:

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