A friend recently sent me a text that said, “I’m having an off week, confidence-wise. Do you ever have a week where you feel, for lack of a better word, ugly? And how do you combat this feeling?”
In responding to my friend, I off-handedly listed a few of my own coping mechanisms for when I’m feeling down. Number one on the list: I lean in to my yoga practice.
Yoga affects every practitioner differently.
For some people, it’s purely a physical practice (and that’s okay). For others, it’s a practice of syncing body and breath (and that’s okay, too). For others yet, it’s a spiritual practice (and again, that’s okay). There is no right or proper way to experience yoga.
When we simply come to our mat and meet our practice where we are on any given day, we will take from it what we need. Some days, that’s a good stretch. Other days, it’s an hour of deep breathing. And still other days, it’s a sense of connection that is elusive in other domains of our lives.
Throughout my own yoga practice, I’ve become familiar with these effects and how they manifest both on my mat and in my life. To date, my favorite effect of yoga is the mental state that it helps me achieve.
Let me explain:
Yoga makes me feel deeply beautiful.
I’m talking about an innate, soul-satisfying, cosmos-understanding sense of beauty that resides within all of us. It’s the voice that is the most natural, most endearing whisper in the world that says, “I am beautiful. I am perfect. I am enough. I am home.”
This voice becomes most clear when I flow through my yoga practice. When I sync my physical body to my energetic body and my movements to my breath, my mind begins to slow, focus, quiet, and clarify. Miscellaneous thoughts and objectives slowly begin to fall away and this voice becomes clearer, louder, and more confident.
And my practice evolves from:
Virabhadrasana II or Warrior II: I am beautiful
Viparita Virabhadrasana or Exalted Warrior: I am perfect
Utthita Parsvakonasana or Extended Side Angle: I am enough
Trikonasana or Triangle: I am home
Over the years, I have developed (and am still developing) an honest practice of becoming intimately familiar with the poses and the transposition of the poses to my body.
Throughout this practice, I have found that sometimes, these loving whispers make their way home with me instead of getting rolled up with my mat. And then on a day where I’m feeling down, instead of thinking, “Ugh,” I might exhale and think “Ahh.” And eventually “Ahh,” turns into “Okay,” and “Okay,” turns into “Yes,” and “Yes,” turns into unwavering acceptance and adoration. (This is still a work in progress.)
And so, when I’m having a particularly hairy day, week, or month, I consciously choose to lean in to my practice. I make the decision to go to a few extra yoga classes, purposely seeking out that mental state of calmly situated, deeply rooted beauty.
Let me be clear, this isn’t foolproof.
Sometimes I’ll roll those sweet little whispers right up in my mat and leave them there until the next class. But the more frequently I unroll my mat, and the more frequently I find my practice and my flow, the more I am exposed to the sweet little whispers, and the more opportunity I am giving myself to take them home with me.
In order to get to this place, we have to show up.
Show up to the practice. Show up to the body, to the breath, to this moment. We have to take a bold leap off the cliff of miscellaneous thoughts that keep our minds occupied and actually listen to the whispers that are gently persuading us to come home to ourselves.
When we begin to listen, we invite these sweet tunes to tiptoe off the mat and into our lives. When we begin to listen, we have the opportunity to believe.
Listen for the whispers that naturally arise from your soul and believe you are perfect. Believe you are enough. Believe you are home.
Author: Hannah Palmateer
Image: Author’s Own; Aral Tasher/Unsplash
Editor: Catherine Monkman