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Self-Acceptance in the Face of Injuries

Self-Acceptance in the Face of Injuries

We are constantly changing. In any given moment, our bodies and brains are adapting to our internal and external environments. Every time we come to our mat, we are a little different. Mentally, we are in a different headspace. Physically, our capabilities are different. Some days, our bodies are so open, we’re able to float into poses almost effortlessly. Other days, we are so tight that every pose is a bit of a struggle. And that’s just with everyday micro-changes. Add in an injury or an illness and all of a sudden it’s like we’re dealing with a completely different person. Our favourite poses are no longer accessible and instead of cultivating inner stillness and connection, all we’re feeling is anger and frustration. How do we foster self-acceptance in the face of everyday impermanence? How can we maintain our practice with integrity when dealing with injuries and setbacks?

Focus on the present

Focusing on what you were able to do yesterday or last year is completely irrelevant and only serves to feed your ego. Unless you have a time machine, there is nothing you can do to undo what happened. The sooner you’re able to accept your body as it is, right here and right now, the easier it will be to manage your recovery. Under stress, the body naturally tenses up as a protective mechanism and so trying to force your body into a shape it is not ready for will only delay your progress and is likely what caused the injury in the first place. Make peace with your current capabilities and find the work where you are now.

Change your physical goals into sensation goals

Whether it’s in a mixed-level class or while scrolling through Instagram, we’re often exposed to yogis getting into advanced poses seemingly effortlessly, so it’s only natural that we feel compelled to compete with them. However, focusing on the sensations you experience in a given pose will take you so much farther than forcing yourself into a generic mold of the pose because you saw someone else do it. Yoga isn’t about aesthetic shapes, it’s about the union of your body, mind and soul. From this lens, the way the pose looks is not important. If you’re feeling your muscles open or stabilize you, then you’re exactly where you should be.

Go slow

Give yourself the time and space to ease yourself into a pose. Rushing negates not only the mindfulness aspect of yoga but also the opportunity to find your sweet spot in a pose. Your sweet spot is about 70% of your full range of motion, where you’re still able to feel a stretch but your supporting muscles have enough strength to support you in that stretch. Too often we move so fast into a pose that we blow right past our sweet spot into a zone dangerously close to hyperextension and run the risk of injury. Instead, take a few pauses during transitions to assess how you’re feeling and how close you are to your sweet spot, then adjust accordingly.

Of course these are more general guidelines to dealing with injuries, and the specific tactics required will vary on a case by case basis. This week on Instagram I will be featuring some common yoga injuries and how to deal with them, so make sure you’re following me @yogaunleished.

Do you have (or have you had) any injuries? How does it impact your yoga practice? Let us know in the comments!

But How Do You Feel?

But How Do You Feel?

We’ve all been there. We’re in a yoga class and the girl beside us is significantly more flexible than we are. We push ourselves deeper into the pose than we should, to prove to ourselves that we are just as good as she is. And when we can’t match her, we begin feeling inadequate, decide she’s a show-off and resolve to place our mats on the other side of the room next week. Or maybe we’re at a birthday party and we notice our friend’s amazing outfit, suddenly feel underdressed and decide not to stand next to her in any photos.

Whatever the situation, We’re constantly comparing ourselves to others and when we feel we don’t measure up, our self-esteem takes a hit. But what if we focused on how we feel, rather than what we look like?

If, in the yoga class, we instead closed our eyes and noticed how we felt in the pose, we’d feel our bodies working, opening, stretching and stabilizing. We’d realize that where we are in the pose is exactly where we should be and that how we look in the pose is actually irrelevant.

What if we applied this mentality to all areas of our lives? What if we stopped seeing others as our competition and instead chose to befriend them and learn from them? Can you imagine all the positive changes that would occur both in our own lives and in society as a whole?

A great way to get into this habit is meditation. If, like me, you struggle with mediation, try an active meditation: Next time you’re doing any sort of activity, whether it’s yoga, dancing in your underwear, walking to work or hitting it hard at the gym, close your eyes and see if you can experience all the sensations going on in your body. Notice how those sensations change as you go from stillness to movement. Notice the various changes as you slow down your breathing. Check in with your mental and emotional body too, and see where they are at today.

Take a few moments everyday to become intimately connected with yourself. Next time you notice yourself mentally competing with someone else, ask yourself: “But how do I feel?” The first step of appreciation is being aware. So take some time to get to know yourself, and I can guarantee you’ll feel better.

It’s Thanksgiving and I’m Thankful for Myself

It’s Thanksgiving and I’m Thankful for Myself

As I was spending a lovely Thanksgiving weekend with family, I had a sudden realization: this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for myself.

I know what you’re thinking: either I’m extremely selfish and self-obsessed or my life is so sad that I don’t have anything better to be thankful for but the truth is neither is the case. I thought about writing about how thankful I am to be surrounded by so many wonderful people, to be blessed with the cutest new nephew and to have so many exciting opportunities in my career, but I realized I was neglecting the biggest part of my life: me. And even worse, I realized I wasn’t alone, so today I am asking you to be thankful for yourself, too. Why? Because you’re the one person you’re most critical and unappreciative of. Think about it: when was the last time you really and truly appreciated yourself? When was the last time you actually felt happy in your own

If you’re anything like the majority of other women, chances are the answer is pretty much never. But truth be told, we have enough people judging us, comparing us and making us feel like we aren’t good enough. Don’t you think you deserve someone to champion you along? And who better to do that than the one person who has been by your side since day one?

Real change comes from a place of love, not of hate. If you hate your body, self-care will always seem like a chore. But what if we chose to love our bodies instead? Wouldn’t that motivate us to want to nourish ourselves and make healthier choices?

A great way to get started is to practice being grateful for yourself. Try it now: schedule some non-negotiable time for yourself this week, ideally 30 minutes to an hour but even 10 minutes is enough if that’s all you have. During this time, you will indulge in a solo feel-good activity, whether that’s going for a walk, taking a bath, playing your favourite music while sipping on a glass of wine or your favourite tea. Any activity in which you can be alone with your thoughts and feel good works here. Use this time to pick three things you love about yourself: one should be appearance-related, one should be personality- or mind-related, and one should be related to your physical abilities. Mine would be my eyes, my sense of humour and my strong & resilient digestive system. Yours could be your strong will & determination, your cute nose and your rock-solid immune system. Or maybe it’s your your thick and lustrous hair,  your seemingly endless supply of endurance when running and your ability to do math on the fly without a calculator. Whatever your three are, memorize them. Write them down. Post it on your mirror. Take a few moments everyday to be thankful for these qualities in yourself. Every time a negative thought about yourself creeps in, look at your list and remind yourself of some of the reasons why you’re awesome. Take a moment to appreciate yourself everyday. You deserve it.