The beautiful and intimidating thing about yoga is that it’s a time to stop and be still. It’s a time to be quiet with ourselves. Which many of us don’t do very often.
The other types of exercises I do are mostly high intensity (which I also love). Go. Go. Go. We sprint from one exercise to another, from running the stairs to doing push-ups to doing burpees.
And even though I work from home, my thoughts are usually focused on articles and ideas and errands and to-dos.
Even when I’m relaxing, it’s not the same as whatever happens when I’m practicing yoga.
Many days I feel disappointed in myself. I’m disappointed I didn’t wake up early. I’m disappointed I missed the morning yoga class. I’m disappointed I didn’t work hard enough. I’m disappointed I’m easily distracted. I’m disappointed I didn’t do the laundry or make the bed or organize that thing I was going to organize but haven’t. In months. I’m disappointed I wasn’t brave.
I feel this disappointment in the pit of my stomach. Churning. It’s a guilt that turns into regret that stays there all day. Almost like a mass. Eventually, it shrinks.
I’ve noticed that lately, my picture-taking has been sparse, even though there’s a camera (a great camera) in my smartphone, even though images make me happy.
Part of the problem is that I feel like I can’t live up to the stream of pretty, put-together pictures on sites like Instagram. (Why does it even matter? I’m not sure.)
But I’m going to change that.
I recently wrote this article on how to practice self-compassion when it’s the last thing you want to do. Because when we’re upset, so many of us revert back to what we know: berating ourselves.
We might do this in the moment. For days. Maybe even weeks.
We might do this after bathing suit shopping. After not running as fast or walking as long as someone else, or ourselves the time before. After an awkward interaction with our boss. After making a mistake. After doing, saying or experiencing anything we deem inadequate.
So often, as we sprint through the day, the last thing we think about is our body.
The last thing we think about is the inner machinery that’s involved in the seemingly simplest of movements: opening our eyes in the morning; glancing about the room, hitting the snooze button (a few times); shifting our feet from the bed to the floor; walking (or running) into the bathroom; splashing water onto our faces; picking up a toothbrush; turning on the faucet for a hot shower.
In those few minutes, our bodies perform great feats.
Recently, I read two pieces about respecting our natural tendencies and needs.
In one Therese talks about being a highly sensitive person (which I totally am) and avoiding the things that only heighten this sensitivity (like the mall!).
In another Jen talks about honoring her current desire to slow down.
These articles are reminding me about the pivotal parts of self-care: listening to ourselves, acknowledging what we’re going through, understanding our needs and responding to them.
In Thursday’s post I mentioned that sometimes self-care involves asking hard questions. I shared these examples:
“What am I afraid of? What is important to me? What am I doing that I really don’t want to be doing? What do I really need? What do I need to let go of? Who doesn’t actually support me? How can I stop spending time with them?”
Here are additional tough questions, which you might reflect on in your journal:
Many of us leap into conclusions when it comes to our bodies. For instance, we assume that if a piece of clothing doesn’t fit us, it’s clearly our fault. It must be because we’re too curvy, our shoulders are too broad, our thighs are too big, our waist is too wide.
We do this with other things, activities and even people. Some of us play this blame game regularly. In the excellent book Yoga and Body Image, co-editor Anna Guest-Jelley shares the different ways she blamed her body.
Last Sunday I wrote about a surprising realization I’ve had about self-care: Sometimes, self-care doesn’t look or feel very much like self-care. Sometimes, it’s not blissful. It’s not serene. It might not even be enjoyable in the moment. It might not even be something you want to do.
Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like an hour-long massage. It doesn’t look like a stroll along the shore.
That’s because self-care, I’m realizing, is multilayered.
Even though I feel much better about my body than I did years ago, even though I am taking much better care of myself than I did years ago, I still feel the pricks of comparison.
When I’m in an exercise class, some days I find myself looking around. What is everyone else doing? Why am I not keeping up? Why is this so much harder for me?
I find myself feeling disappointed. Like Alex writes in her powerful post, I find myself spinning all sorts of stories. Old stories about not being an athlete or being clumsy or being too slow. New stories about how I need to work out harder and be stronger and do more.