With the start of the fresh year, the trend of self-optimization has kicked into high gear. Social media is abuzz with seemingly endless varieties of dietary and lifestyle suggestions: detoxes, cleanses, juice fasts, militant routines...you name it! The underlying message rings loud: ‘you are flawed and must be changed.’ We’ve thought about how to respond to this call for forced metamorphosis, which, particularly in the Yoga community, seems out of place and distorted.
Let’s start by stating the obvious: you/ we are not flawed! We don’t necessarily need to twiddle the knobs of our diet and lifestyle to find happiness. In fact, the Yoga practice promises us something totally different: happiness that arises from a deep rooting in understanding our own, perfect and true nature that exists on a plane separate from concerns about body-image or achievement.
Still, with the message in the media ringing so loudly, it can become difficult to stay focused on the essentials: on our own connection to ourselves, our gratitude for our functioning body, our desire to look deeper and understand our true nature. Here are some tools that we feel work well to keep the inner eye seeing clearly amidst the din of self-optimization.
Rooting in our own center does not mean that we are not subjected to the turmoil of everyday life. However, Yoga teaches us that we can connect to a place of stillness and ease even when our boat is seriously rocking. Confronting our fears, bearing in mind that we can remain the captain of our ship, no matter how unsafe the waters, we can cultivate an inner resource of peace and calm, like an eye in the storm at sea. We can CHOOSE to fear less and trust more, dropping into a place of ease and transforming hardship into tools for inner growth.
Instead of focusing on what we don’t have and how we need to improve/ change/ upgrade ourselves and our situation, let’s focus instead on what IS working. A very simple gratitude practice is to write down three things at the end of every day that you were grateful for that day. If this is too regimented, then perhaps just creating a wiring in your brain that when you catch yourself complaining or dissatisfied, to immediately think of something that you can feel thankful for. This doesn’t only feel good in the moment and raise your vibe, positive thinking has been shown to physically forge new pathways in our neural network, actually altering the structure of the brain through training - neuroplasticity - to steer away from depression and towards equilibrium.
Surround yourself with people who nourish your soul. Good friends, your Yoga sangha, family…whoever supports you most in understanding that you are ENOUGH and perfectly lovable, just the way you are.
Men’s or women’s circles are a wonderful, nurturing way to connect with the deep, archetypal energies that can shape our thinking patterns and to find acknowledgement and support. If you have the opportunity to retreat, consider a men’s or women’s retreat for a week of deep immersion in self-healing and self-love.
Connect to yourself
Gift yourself moments in the day to perform small acts of kindness and love for yourself!
Our beloved Sophie Sôfrēē shares one of her rituals in a recent Forbes article on her path from Silicon Valley to Bali: "the first thing she does when she wakes up in the morning is what she calls her “self-love hotline.” “This is when you place your hands anywhere on your body, whether it’s your throat or your heart or your belly, and you take three minutes or more to drop in and see what you intuitively need,” she explains. Find your own way of connecting to yourself, your body and listening for what you need.
Most of all, be patient and kind to you. Treat yourself the way you would treat the person closest to your heart. This will bear the greatest fruit, bring the warmest glow and lead you straight to the most perfect YOU.
Photos by Jodie_DS and Sanjin Kastelan