If you have someone special with whom you’re planning to celebrate St Valentine’s Day this week, I hope you enjoy your celebrations. There are many – some by choice, others because of the way life is – who may not have that special someone or perhaps choose not to participate in what, some may say, has become an over-commercialised day in the calendar! However we feel, we can perhaps take a little time in February to be kinder, more compassionate to ourselves.
Yoga helps us to do that: to embrace the positive and release the negative and all those things we don’t want or need in our lives. If we’re prone to being self-critical, judging ourselves in tougher terms than we would perhaps judge others, perhaps now is a good time to re-assess our life, open our heart and look at how we can help ourselves by offering ourselves a little love to improve our life!
Allow ourselves to be in the moment, listening to our body and mind. Let go of all those “shoulds” and “musts“: those words we often hear in the mind that dictate how we think we should be or feel. After all, who put those words there? Actually we did, perhaps after years of conditioning and doing the same thing. What if we allow ourselves to acknowledge how we are feeling now (that there is no right or wrong)? We can then start to make new choices. We all fail sometimes or don’t meet our own expectations and, if we think about it, harsh self-criticism is not a teacher and often ends up lowering our confidence. It’s just important to soften our approach to ourselves!
I’m not suggesting that we turn our worlds upside down (although you may want and choose to), but we can consider what we do and why we do it and, if it’s not working for us, we can let certain things go, especially if they no longer serve us. Research in The Telegraph last year (4 July 2016) shows learning to be more self-compassionate is not enough. If we are prone to self-criticism, it’s helpful to become aware of the difference between what we’re realistically capable of achieving and what we expect to achieve. In other words, to decrease the gap between our “self” (who we are) and that “ideal self” (how we wish to be).
My Valentine’s gift to you all this month is to urge you to be your own “best friend”: to treat yourself as you would treat your friends differently – with more love, kindness and generosity. Open your heart to yourself. In yogic terms, focus on Anahata chakra, the energy centre at the centre of the chest. Find a yoga class and give yourself that time that you need to focus on the body and the mind. At the very least, if that’s not for you, cut yourself some slack and take a bit of time out of your busy life, stop and focus on your breath and allow yourself to be for a few moments.
© Sarah Swan (13 February 2017)