The Practice of Honoring Yourself

This morning was day 2 of this year’s 31 days of yoga practice, and the planks and downward-facing dog poses reminded me that I wanted to also share this: I enjoy experiencing these videos AND I don’t do them exactly as they are led. I can’t…or rather, I could for a few days, and then I would injure myself. In fact, the first year that I participated, that’s what happened. I tried to follow along exactly as instructed, and ended up with very sore shoulders that kept me from doing any yoga for weeks afterward.
Now I use this as a practice not just of the body, but of the mind and heart. Can I listen to my own body? Can I honor my own strengths, needs, and limitations? With back, shoulder, and knee tenderness, I am always modifying the poses, shortening them, sometimes doing a totally different pose that feels right at the moment.
This can feel difficult– I would love to have the level of fitness and strength to do even the challenging poses with ease. But I have been getting to know myself better, becoming ever more authentic and vulnerable, and I know that this practice is good for me– to listen inward, to know more and more when NOT to go with the flow of what is in front of me.
And what’s more, for me this is a practice of living what I teach. In my courses of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, I lead gentle yoga and movement. My oft-repeated instruction to participants is to err on the side of caution and self-care, to seek what is nourishing over what is challenging, to find the edge of what is possible for your body right now, and stay on the close side of that edge. I see my own yoga practice as a chance for me to live this teaching– to not let it be just something that I tell other people. I believe it, and I practice it. 
May you honor yourself– your strengths, your needs, and your limitations– today.

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