Learning to Celebrate Yourself: How Yoga Can Teach Self-Acceptance
When was the last time you were in awe of your body? That may be an uncomfortable question to ask. Unfortunately, many of us think of our bodies like dilapidated houses; we tell ourselves that our bodies are in constant need of remodeling and renovation before they’re “valuable.”
Something similar is true even for our own minds. Often, we resist sitting quietly because it becomes uncomfortable. Our thoughts drift toward long to-do lists, we get distracted by the sounds around us, or we simply feel that our time is wasted by not multitasking or doing something stimulating.
In many ways, we’ve become culturally conditioned to accept discomfort with one’s self– either in body or mind, or both– as being the norm, and sincere self-acceptance is an outlier.
Yoga teaches us a lot about what self-acceptance looks like, and how it can be cultivated. In our most recent post, we touched on yoga’s ability to teach self-acceptance and self-care to children, and this post will take that idea a little deeper. Self-acceptance is a skill from which we can all benefit, regardless of age.
What Does Self-Acceptance Look Like?
When defining self-acceptance for yourself, it’s important not to confuse it with self-esteem. Self-esteem is great, and something that is healthy to possess, but self-esteem often refers to holding a positive view of oneself in relation to esteemable attributes. For example, if someone is a naturally inclined runner, they may have a high self-esteem rooted in their ability to run quickly or for far distances.
Self-acceptance, on the other hand, involves having a positive view of oneself for where you are holistically. Going back to the running example, let’s say that you’re just beginning to integrate running into your life and it does not come naturally to you. Perhaps you can only run for a minute before needing to walk or stop completely. With self-acceptance, you don’t have to have esteemable attributes or skills to feel good about what you’ve done. Self-acceptance looks at where you’re at and says, “where I am is good, because I know this is good for me. There is the potential for me to grow and improve, and I am proud of my body.”
With self-acceptance, you are able to understand that your entire being is deserving of care. This goes beyond running or any other fitness example because self-care takes on many forms. People who nurture a sense of self-acceptance in all things are able to feel a greater sense of general peace, and are less likely to experience intense feelings of loneliness. Self-acceptance also contributes to an overall healthier lifestyle because those who unconditionally accept themselves are more likely to make positive adjustments to their daily habits, such as getting more sleep, drinking more water, or wearing sunscreen more frequently.
How Does Yoga Help?
Yoga is an excellent tool for developing or growing a sense of self-acceptance because of the ways it stimulates your body and mind. The term yoga can be translated from Sanskrit as “union,” and as a practice, it lives up to its name. Through practicing yoga consistently, you are able to cultivate a union between your body and mind. As you perform pranayamas (controlled breathing exercises) and move through asanas (yoga postures), you learn to focus your attention on your body’s abilities in the present moment.
By being in the moment, you start to develop a sense of inner awareness. You may learn that there are some movements your body resists, which can then show you where you are storing stress or negative energy. At the same time, as you focus on your breathing and moving with your breath, you learn to quiet your mind and be present with yourself as you are. That means that your mind has an opportunity to distance itself from stress, busy thoughts, and negativity.
Developing this kind of self-awareness can then flow into other realms of your life as well. For example, if you know how to listen to your body, you’re better able to tell when you’ve eaten until you’re full, and stop before you overeat. Similarly, being able to recognize and positively respond to negative emotions can prevent stress-eating, can help people with depressive or mood disorders cope with their symptoms, and can help you prevent feeling emotional burnout in your work or home life.
On top of that, the more you practice yoga, the more you experience the physical benefits of yoga (such as strengthening your cardiovascular system, improving mobility, and even sleeping better) and the stronger your sense of self-awareness and self-acceptance grows.
Self-awareness, self-care, and self-acceptance all feed off each other, and only grow stronger as you encourage those behaviors. This is true regardless of age, shape, or size.
If you are interested in trying out yoga for yourself and beginning to cultivate these virtues in your own life, don’t forget about our special 30-day Introductory Offer. It’s a great way to give yoga a try and learn how you can incorporate it into your daily life.
Also, keep in mind that we have a Youth Yoga and Mindfulness Summer Camp coming up from June 14 to July 5, and another one from July 12 to August 2, which will be a great way to introduce concepts of self-acceptance and yoga to your kids!