This is probably not the first time you’re reading this, and it definitely won’t be the last, but adopting this attitude towards yourself is never easy. Being kind to yourself, I mean. Most of the time, it’s easier to be kinder to others than to yourself.
I’m writing most of this based off of my own experience and what little I’ve managed to observe whenever I break through the surface of my own little pool of difficulties. I’m not preaching, or trying to tell you what to do. You may relate to it, or you may wonder what the heck I’m talking about. You might nod in understanding, you might scoff and go back to search for something more. But hey, thanks for giving this a shot.
Speaking of which, how about giving yourself one too? It can be tricky. I’ve tried a bunch of different things on the path to a healthy me. It started with dance. It’s a cathartic release and it’ll make me fit, flexible and hopefully less awkward at parties, is what I thought at the time. Fast forward to one year later, and there’s me deciding it’s not for me. Alright, let’s hit the gym. I went for a year, an adventure that started with a lot of positivity and hope and ended in a lot of frustration and resentment, after the novelty of it wore off. I could see the results. There was a lot of progress. But there was no sign of the content feelings that come hand in hand with steps taken to better yourself. Same beginning, same frustrating end. But that’s me. And that might be you. It’s not easy to find things you can stick with. Maybe you get bored too fast, because I know I do. I give up too easily unless it’s something I really like, which is rare.
I was reluctant to try Yoga. My Aunt was the one who suggested it, and I really didn’t want to. I was perfectly happy at home. Finals were over, I’d earned this break. I was listening to my body! Of course, it spiralled out of control pretty quickly. Waking up after noon, getting sucked into the blackhole that is anime, reluctant to get out of bed. My friends were in different parts of the country and the world. I managed to avoid looking too closely at mirrors.
I’ll cut things short. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you, but it changed my life. I won’t lie to you-you’re not going to get abs in a week. But I was fine with that, because I’ve never felt this good about myself. It sounds like I’m trying really hard to sell it to you (is it working?) but honestly, it helped me. All I did before was sleep all day and read all night, but a month into the course and I’m in bed by 10, up by 5. I felt light, I had so much energy all day. It’s a great feeling for someone who, at one point, found it hard to get out of bed in the morning. I feel like I’m getting off track here, but bear with me.
Yoga goes beyond your body. It took a while before I realized and understood that, but it’s more than just being fit. It’s also about mental health. It’s about accepting yourself, including your perceived flaws and your quirks and loving them. You bring yourself to the mat with all your difficulties and that’s where your work with them. Meditation, with all its techniques, is amazing for sorting through the thoughts you’ve never shared with anyone because they might ‘just’ be in your head, but the impact they have on you goes unnoticed. But when you’re on the mat, nothing escapes you. We’re taught to be aware of every movement during asana practice, and to notice every thought during meditation. This isn’t a class, my apologies for ranting a bit there but what I’m trying to tell you is, give it a try. There are so many different branches of Yoga, just reach out for one. It’s closer than you think. You want something that’s gentle on your body, go for Hatha Yoga. If you’re thinking, nah, man I need something that hurts, there are classes that focus on strong Vinyasa practices.You’ll find the good kind of pain there.
No one is here to judge you. It’s one of the first things I realized in class. We’re all shaped by different personalities, experiences and environment, so of course we have different preferences and needs. If you think you have flaws, accept them with a challenging grin and work with them, instead of letting your resentment get the best of you. You can’t do anything about the things or people around you, but your body and mind are things you can always work with.
By Natasha Vasudev, Gurukul Teacher Trainer