Taking yoga teacher Marianne Elliott’s class at The Creative Joy Retreat this summer wasn’t just a good workout. It was restorative and energizing. It was equal parts gentle and challenging. And, most importantly, it was a lesson in self-love.

That’s because Marianne encourages her students to connect to our bodies — and ourselves — and practice self-compassion. There was no pounding the yoga mat or forcing our bodies into poses. It was about experimenting and having fun.

I love Marianne’s emphasis on tuning into our needs and values, both on and off the mat. I love her emphasis on practicing yoga for all shapes and sizes.

Mara Glatzel, an incredible coach and blogger, and I started the Self-Love Series in September. It’s a monthly interview series centered around the practice of — you guessed it — self-love. Because of her beautiful and empowering work, we knew we had to interview Marianne.

Self-love can seem like an abstract, up-in-the-clouds concept — or something that’s for everyone else but you. Fortunately, that’s not true at all.

Self-love is available to everyone. (Yes, including you.) And Mara and I want to bring it down to earth.

We want to show what self-love looks like for others in hopes of inspiring you to identify what self-love looks like for you.

How do you practice self-love?

By meeting myself and my body – wherever I am – with kindness. By being my own friend, being a friend to my own body. By embracing all of me, including my hungers and my desires. By knowing myself well enough to take care of myself.

What book is a must-read for self-love, body image or a related topic?

Can’t think of one. You’ll learn all you need to know from your own body.

What are your favorite ways to move your body?

Dancing. No doubt about it, nothing feels as good as dancing. Apart from really great sex. Which is harder to find than a good dance 😉

What’s one or two things you wish women knew about appreciating and loving themselves?

That kindness is the cure. That we can meet ourselves and our bodies in kindness, we can do that – it’s allowed and we are capable of it. We can smother ourselves in kindness. That we don’t need tough love. We need love, pure and simple. And lots of kindness.

Who are your heroes?

Pema Chodron. Roshi Joan Halifax. Eve Ensler. Seane Corn.

What do you think is your greatest obstacle in loving yourself?

My monkey mind – the inner critic.

How do you work to overcome it?

I get to know it, so I can recognize the voice of the inner critic and choose to come back to my inner sweetheart instead – over and over again.

Anything else you’d like readers to know?

That yoga has been a powerful tool for me in making friends with my own body. I’m passionate about a ‘kind’ yoga – yoga that is accessible for all kinds of bodies and that puts the power and control back into the hands of each person.

So they can create a yoga practice that meets their body wherever it is – with kindness.

 More about Marianne:

Marianne Elliott is a writer, human rights advocate and yoga teacher. She created 30 Days of Yoga to help people take care of themselves so they can do their good work in the world. She’s the author of Zen Under Fire about her work with the UN in Afghanistan, where she found joy in yoga even in the midst of war. She is RYT 200 with the Yoga Alliance, and Regional Leader for Off the Mat, Into the World.

Thanks so much to Marianne for her beautiful words of wisdom!

Check out our other interviews with amazing ladies Tara Sophia Mohr and Kate Swoboda.

In December, we’ll feature our interview with Anna Guest-Jelley of Curvy Yoga, who actually co-teaches a yoga class with Marianne.

Quick reminder: Don’t forget that Mara and Christie are leading a truly nourishing holiday teleclass on November 26th. They’re offering Weightless readers a $10 discount using the code: bodyimage. Learn more here.