With Valentine's Day falling in the month of February, we've definitely had the idea of "love" on the brain — especially self-love. One of the ways I've been practicing self-love lately is through a regular usually daily yoga practice. Stepping onto the mat frequently has helped me in a variety of ways, and if you've never thought of this as one of the many ways of expressing self-care, you should really consider giving it a try.
I recently completed (and HIGHLY RECOMMEND) the Dedicate 30-Day Yoga Series from the Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel. This will help ease you in to establishing a regular practice, and at the very least will give you a concrete amount of time that you can reflect on when evaluating the ways (if any!) yoga has helped you grow as a person and when deciding if maintaining a regular yoga practice is right for you. To each their own!
Here are just a few of the little gems the Dedicate Series, and yoga, in general, has taught me along the way.
The Importance Of Showing Up For Yourself
Committing to 30 consecutive days of yoga is no easy task, but doing so proves that you can dedicate (get it?!) time to yourself. You can strengthen your muscles without "hitting the gym," you can meet your wellness goals without green juice and most importantly — you can put yourself first. If you have the discipline to take this on head-first and show up for yourself time and time again, in yoga and in life, there won't be much you can't tackle. As Adriene will remind you throughout the series, "you already have all of the tools you need," and sometimes we all need a reminder of that. I know I do!
The Breath Always Comes First
Oh my gosh was this my biggest takeaway from the Dedicate series or what? Powerful stuff man. Adriene managed to prove that even though your thighs are burning or you're feeling wobbly, breathing can help you stay focused and calm and provide exactly what you need to get through it. This little reminder has come in handy in my everyday life SO many times. Instead of just reacting or spinning out of control with the "what ifs" and other thoughts in your head, just take a moment to breathe. Remember: the breathe always comes first. And if you remember that — you can get through the hard stuff, one breathe at a time. NAMASTE, man. Namaste.
Wowowow. This is the one I struggle with the most. I spend so much time thinking about the future or dwelling in the past (hindsight can be rough) that I tend to have a difficult time being happy with the now. Loving the state I'm currently in. But, yoga gives me the opportunity, even if only for those few minutes, to just focus on what's happening. Oh, my muscles are tight. Remember to breathe. Envision your navel touching your spine. All of the little things I focus on in yoga help me to be more present in my body. And thanks to yoga and my active gratitude journaling process, I'm able to try to incorporate this into my day to day more. It's a process, but I'm working on it. In the photo above, you can see my yoga setup and my gratitude journal in the background. On this particular day, it happened to be lightly snowing just outside of the window. It was a great moment.
The Body As Expression
Yoga has given me a whole new perspective on working out and on using my body to express myself. I'm no dancer, can't draw for anything, but I sure do feel like a creative, free version of myself when I'm putting myself into new pretzel-y poses. This is why yoga can be a great activity to turn to when you're in a creative rut or just need to take a second to be a little less rigid and serious. Move in a way that feels graceful, artful and expresses who you are in that moment — flexibility or lack there of, shaking in a plank pose — and just go with the flow. Literally and figuratively.
You're In Control
You may notice a similar theme with the whole "the breath comes first," but the biggest reminders I get while practicing yoga are that I'm in control. OK, so maybe I can't control many of the outside forces I deal with on the day to day, but I can control my reaction to them. I can control how they make me feel. Just like I can make a modification if a pose is too difficult or lift my knee up if I want to make a pose a bit more challenging. I'm in control on and off the mat. Excuse me while I repeat that to myself a few dozen times now.
Of course, much like yoga, these ideas are something that have to be practiced before they can be mastered. So, doing one yoga session or even 30 days of it certainly hasn't made me an expert, so don't expect immediate results, per se. But, I have a feeling you'll walk away from your yoga trial with more mindfulness, even if only a tiny amount. And some more mindfulness is all any of us can really hope for, if you ask me.
So, I'll just be here practicing and getting better, day by day, or at least — trying my best. Will you be practicing along with me? I sincerely hope so!
—Labels and Lacquer girls
Images: L & L Originals (2); Photo by Fabian Møller on Unsplash (1); Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash (1); Photo by JD Mason on Unsplash (1)