Being on poor terms with ourselves makes it impossible to be on good terms with others
Of all the yoga classes that I have taught over the years, perhaps the most meaningful were the after-school classes I taught for girls in middle school. It felt like a healing ministry to share yoga’s message of “you’re OK exactly as you are right now.” I felt as though I were slipping them a protective shield to deflect the debilitating messages of “No, you’re not.” that they were just starting to notice coming from the world around them.
Even if your transition from childhood to adulthood is ancient history, every one of us remains vulnerable to the idea that we don’t measure up in some essential way. We don’t have the right clothes, the right job, the right hair or body, the right house or car. We don’t take the right vacations or know about the right restaurants. We don’t feel as happy or as successful or as in love as “they” do. The crippling litany goes on and on.
And it is crippling. To constantly compare yourself to some illusive and elusive standard is a recipe for dissatisfaction, discontent, and dismay. It makes us ill at ease in our own skin. As if that weren’t bad enough, being on poor terms with oneself makes it almost impossible to be on good terms with others.
Yoga receives us exactly as we are
A regular yoga practice really does help protect us from this way of experiencing life. The way it works is so obvious that it is almost comical.
Almost to a person, our first yoga class leaves us feeling somehow inferior – not strong enough, bendy enough, graceful enough, focused enough. In other words, we are smacked upside the head by our habitual assumptions of being less than. Yet, mysteriously, we roll up out of savasana (the rest at the end of class) feeling great. When this keeps happening class after class, the astounding thought eventually crosses our minds that perhaps we are exactly as strong, bendy, graceful, and focused as we need to be.
As we continue to unroll our yoga mats and notice ourselves becoming stronger, bendier, more graceful, and more focused, we realize an even more astounding truth: the way that yoga receives us and the gifts it offers have not changed at all.
The gifts of a yoga practice are available to all, not just a deserving few
In other words, there are no standards of acceptability or okay-ness in yoga. Inexperienced or seasoned, young or old, well or injured, sad or happy, yoga welcomes us. Yoga allows us the space to be exactly who we are and to feel exactly how we feel. Yoga’s gifts are not reserved to a deserving few. They are there for you, me, and everyone.
Lessons from our mats seep into our lives and everything changes
The fact that yoga is a practice – something that we do frequently – means that we are exposed to our okay-ness again and again. Over time, this assumption of “I’m OK exactly as I am” starts to seep off our mats and into our lives.
This is when the real magic happens. Somehow “I’m OK” morphs into “you’re OK” and we start to welcome people with the same ease and grace with which yoga welcomed us. We give others the same space for growth and development that we have learned to give ourselves. We give others the same generous acceptance and easy forgiveness that we’ve received from our practice.
As we continue to practice, we find that our relationships are changing. Getting deeper. Feeling stronger. Becoming more rewarding. An ease and comfort have developed that allows for authenticity – theirs and our own.
“Nothing is a greater impediment to being on good terms with others than being ill at ease with yourself.” – Honoré de Balzac
These words of wisdom from Balzac are true for all people – for adolescents and for those way-past-adolescence. Yoga is one way to develop a regular practice of self-acceptance that is guaranteed to improve every single one of your relationships.
If you’re looking for support as you develop your yoga practice, check out my free Yoga With Spirit class. There is a new one monthly! You can also become a member to access our growing library of yoga classes for just $10/month.