How Kundalini Yoga taught me what it really means to love myself.
I used to think that self-love was taking time for long baths, getting a massage, going the spa, or some kind of timeout from the world to focus on myself. Yes! These are all wonderful and necessary things to do for yourself. However, if you really think about it. These things are just bodily upkeep, not self-love.
It occurred to me the thought of routine maintenance was sort of radical to me and so it felt like it was self-love. And in some ways, it was, because it showed me that taking time for myself was just not something I put on my list of high priorities.
Like many women I was conditioned to give, give, give until I crashed. I would get to the point where I literally got sick because my body was revolting from the lack of care. Does this sound familiar? The self-love I speak of is the kind that nurtures and heals the mind, body, and spirit in a healthy way.
Maybe some people even think of self-love as selfish or something that comes from the ego. “Oh, I’m so great! I’m the best! I am much better than you!” (Inserting sarcasm here.) There are people like this yes, but this is not the kind of self-love I am referring to. Also, I advise you to keep your distance from those folks for many reasons we can discuss another day.
Over the years my thoughts on self-love have swayed from one extreme to the other. None of them were sustainable. As a massage therapist, yoga studio owner and teacher, wife, mother, volunteer, advocate and so much more… I have finally come to realize from experience and witnessing how others do life, what it really means to love yourself.
Trust me, it took many years of learning what self-love NOT was, to see what it truly was. One of my favorite quotes says. “To be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid.” This is just a funny way to say how we can and do learn from mistakes. It is important to laugh at yourself and show just as much compassion in the way you speak to yourself as you would to a dear friend.
My journey to actualizing self-love is continuous, as I keep learning more about myself and what I truly need to be balanced. What I have come to see is that self-love is more about parenting yourself with kind discipline. Listen… If you know me at all. The word discipline makes my skin crawl.
My body and mind even react to the word discipline with disgust. I am now able to see that I’ve stored previous traumas from experiencing abuse of power in the name of discipline that makes me react this way. Probably this is the reason I rebelled against ‘self-discipline’ for so darn long!
Once I became a young adult, I had allowed myself way too much freedom frequently rocking it till the wheels fell off. The only regular bodily maintenance I did was, so I stayed clean and didn’t die! Sadly, but not uncommon for lots of folks. This was my only self-care back then. Mind, and spirit health were not even on my radar.
Which put me on the path to heal trauma caused by others and now trauma I had inadvertently caused to myself. I know I am not alone here. So, I have done myself a favor and reframed the word discipline in my mind by changing it to self-love. This means doing the things you don’t want to do just because you know it’s good for you.
Like when a parent teaches you brushing your teeth twice a day is important maintenance. I needed to reframe my thoughts on parenting myself to do the same with my lifestyle choices, my time, and my focus.
I have learned self-love looks like getting up early or eating dinner a little later to get some exercise in because it’s great for my entire being. It is proven exercise has a profound positive effect on your entire being. I’ve learned exercising the body makes the internal systems flow better, it produces endorphins and hormones that boost my mental health, which in turn naturally lifts my spirit. Exercise is truly mind, body, spirit self-love.
When I was able to see exercise that I enjoyed like yoga was not a duty or a bad word. It is truly a gift I can give myself when I make self-love a priority. In yoga we use asana/physical exercise to stress the body then we have savasana which is the rest at the end of our practice. Just like children and puppies… It’s much easier as an adult to rest the body and mind after we have exercised!
Some of us have very physical jobs, like me. Occasionally just to get up when the house is quiet and have meditative time to myself with my coffee feels like self-love. Peace, stillness, and rest are just as important as exercise for the mind, body, spirit.
Meditation is really useful if you have an over active mind that likes to chatter. We call that the monkey mind in yoga. Mantra Meditations, Guided meditation or Yoga Nidra are excellent tools to get into the practice of quieting the mind. Being mindful of your inner dialog is also important. Your body hears what you say about it and so does your spirit. Practicing Ahimsa/non-violence and maintaining a kind inner voice can help stabilize your emotional state.
After several 40-day continuous practices of Kundalini yoga kriyas. This discipline showed me that putting my needs and goals first is self-love! Sometimes self-love/discipline looks like saying no to social functions that sound fun but will throw off my schedule or bump into the priorities that are important. If saying yes, makes me feel guilty about letting myself down by not getting what I desire done. It’s not worth it. My needs are important.
Reframing discipline in this way has really changed my outlook on what self-love truly is.
It looks like boundaries on my time, energy, emotional state in my relationships or work life. It looks like putting off chores to fulfill the needs of my body, mind and spirit. Chores are always going to be there. So what if the house is a bit cluttered! People live here gosh darn it! I learned I was able to tackle it better when I was in a balanced state anyway.
Sometimes we think caring for our spirit only happens on Sunday at church. That is not true at all. Caring for your spirit means you feel peaceful, and content. If the other parts of your life are out of tune, there is no way our soul is serene. You can have feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, or exhaustion just from a neglected spirit!
Maybe self-love means you must take time to heal relationships with your body, people, work, money, time, rest, play or even your creativity. Maybe you need to get your veggies in or subtract something from your diet. The list is endless. Only you know where you are off balance. Your heart and spirit always know.
Taking the time to get quiet and tune into your mind, body and spirit can really scare some people. It doesn’t have to be scary if you reframe the intention behind it into an act of self-love. Going within to ask yourself the introspective questions that matter most is a good place to start when you are feeling uncomfortable inside.
Just ask yourself why am I uncomfortable today? What do I need most to get back into balance? Where can I start? Practicing listening to your intuition connects you to your higher self. The higher self is another way to speak of the inner voice inside of you that knows better. Yet is often overridden by the ego or outside expectations.
When life gets busy or there is just so much going on I must prioritize. I have a few mantras I have given myself that help me give myself permission to take time I need to care for my mind, body, and spirit.
These ones are my favorite.
“I keep the promises I make to myself, because I am worthy of the life I desire.”
“I give myself permission to make time, to create and heal.”
“I get to make the rules for my life!”
“My body is loved, my mind meditated, and life is balanced. I help my soul to smile.”
“I am important. My needs are important. I matter too.”
I have a great friend and kundalini warrior partner. We do the 40-day kriyas together and check in daily with each other to keep track. Even when those kriya challenges are done we often check in almost daily and ask each other. “What have you done today to make yourself feel loved? What are you proud of today?”
It can look like a walk on a nature path with my dog. A long Epsom salt bath and dry brushing to stimulate lymph flow. It can look like taking a nap if that is what I feel I need most that day. It can even look like getting my annoying taxes done so I can move forward and get that off the to-do list! Maybe you need to go out and play with friends, have some tea and connect. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
The point is we make sure to do something for ourselves daily because our health matters to our mental state, and the mental state matters to our spiritual contentment. These habits and rituals did not come naturally to me until I started practicing yoga. Asana yoga was great for my body but finding kundalini yoga changed my life. Encouraging consistency, discipline/self-love, and dedication to my spiritual practice.
It was the yoga that I felt most encompassed a practice that I could do and enjoy doing daily. Kriyas can be extremely challenging or very gentle depending on which kriya you practice. There is so much variety I am never bored. The way it encompassed the mind, body, and spirit part is what got me hooked. If you are interested in finding out more, I welcome you to try it! I offer classes in the studio and online at spiritriveryoga.com.
It felt important to me to share with you how yoga changed my life. It was not all at once, not in one day, or a week. I look forward to seeing how it will continue to transform me from the inside out as I continue down the yoga path. I hope that this article inspires you in some way to see self-love in a different way. May it help propel a positive change of any kind for you.
Much love and many blessings,
CMT – 500RYT
Spirit River Yoga and Massage LLC
BWCA Adventure Sister