“Allow that personal time to connect with yourself, to give some love to yourself, to apprectiate yourself, to give some space, time and energy to yourself. So that once you’ve given to yourself and you know what gentle loving care feels like, then you can share it with the others.” – Simon Borg-Oliver
Yoga and meditation are practices which have been interwoven with the threads of my life since I was a teenager. I would in no way describe myself as an advanced practicioner of either of the two, despite the many years they have been with me. For most of my adult life, I considered myself too busy to truly pay attention to a regular yoga & meditation practice. Despite this, the (yoga) mat and (mediation) cushion have been my reminders to come back to myself and take care of my mind and body in those moments, when I was ready to listen.
Twice in my life thus far I have come very close to what is these days known as a “burn-out”. Both times, it was through my old friends of yoga and meditation that I slowly began to heal the wounds that stress and anxiety had left in my body and mind. To this day, I still struggle with establishing a regular practice, often opting to skip my date with the mat in favor of staying an hour longer at work or lounging on the couch at home.
Especially since yoga has become this global trend which is increasingly shaped by notions of competitiveness (The world record for holding a plank pose was just set! Can you believe it?) and normative beauty standards (having the newest, “sexy” yoga bra… and goodness forbid you show up at a class with unshaven legs!), I’m struggling to stay on this path of mindful movement.
In those moments, however, when I am sitting on my mat, concentrated on nothing but my breath and the sensation of my breath in my body, I am happy to know such a tool for mindful body work. When my uterus is cramping the days before I bleed, I am grateful for the muscle memory in the interstitial muscles of my ribcage and lower abdomen, expanding as I inhale and taking some of the pain away as I exhale.
Yes, there are those who are choosing yoga as a tool for self-optimization and competition and even body shaming. But ultimately, that remains a choice. You can also choose, to look more deeply at all of the eight limbs of yoga – only one of which is asana (postures), and perhaps through this perspective find a connection to yourself. In this regard, I am thankful to the amazing Simon Borg Oliver, for his beautiful words on the yamas and niyamas.
If you’d like more information on yoga for self-empowerment, I recommend this article.