Guest Contributor - Stephanie Ermel
As I go through this pregnancy, I’m constantly seeing how yogalosophy has taught me everything that I need to handle this period of growth and life in general. Today the importance of child’s pose was my lesson. In five years of being a yogi, I can count on one hand the number of times that I’ve taken child’s pose. I’ve never allowed myself to go there because it meant that I was tired, and tired was a sign of weakness and for quitters. How could I practice yoga and not honor my body – what yoga is 100% about?
Just because I can push harder, doesn’t always mean that I should. Throughout these early stages of pregnancy I find myself thinking about the mom who finished a marathon just hours before giving birth. “Comparison is the thief of joy” and I, all too often, allow myself to be robbed blind. Keep your eyes on your own mat – that’s one of the hardest lessons in both yoga and life and the reason why I often practice without contacts or glasses. If I can’t see others then I can focus on myself, the only person that really matters.
Not in a selfish way but in a self-loving way, I have to accept and love myself before I can honestly do the same for others and model that spirit for my future children. During exercise when I get tired, I push myself through it and as I grow this life in my belly, I find it challenging to listen to what my body is telling me. Yoga taught me that life’s not a competition, but then I channeled that competitive nature into making it a competition against myself. Now, I have to know that the person that I am today cannot be compared to the non-pregnant me nor the younger me. I will go back to who I was: strong, athletic, and competitive, after my babies are born - or maybe not. And if I never do, that’s okay.
I must learn to accept that maybe I won’t, maybe things won’t be the same ever again and ask myself, what will I think of myself then? Will I still love me, even if I “disappoint” myself? As much as life rewards aging with experience and wisdom, it also forces you to trade a few things in. I’ve watched some older women, who scrutinize every wrinkle and age spot, but fail to acknowledge the many wonderful attributes that they have gained in becoming older.
Competing with yourself may seem like a better alternative than competing with others but it’s really not that different because it too, can often lead to criticism. Criticizing and judging yourself leads to self-loathing and saying things to yourself that you would never say to others. There’s just not enough room or time in life to do that, and I must constantly remind myself that where I am and who I am right now is exactly right.
Setting higher goals and raising the bar are wonderful qualities to have but it is often a slippery slope to the misconception that perfection exists. It does not and if that’s your measuring stick, you will never be satisfied in life.
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When is the last time you hugged yourself?
In all our hard work: out running our daily workouts, logging the miles, training for the next race, when was the last time you were kind to yourself?
So many days, I find myself saying mean things about how I look or how I am running. Things I would never think, much less say, about anyone else. Have you found yourself in the same place, too?
I stumbled upon a good write up in Scientific American Mind magazine titled, Be Your Own Best Friend. It was light and easy and just what I needed to read at the moment.
Self compassion. It is treating yourself as you would treat a friend. When your girlfriend is having a rough time, would you take time out of your day to send her a kind email? Or take a moment to call her? Or even offer to go on a walk or run with her so that she can vent?
As we know, just a few words, a kind smile or a loving hug can make the difference in our day. So instead of beating yourself up, give yourself a hug, literally. That small gesture of compassion and support in a nonjudgmental way, will turn your heart around to be kind and help you achieve your goals.
Being compassionate to others is another way to promote it within yourself. When we help others, we get a jolt of feeling better about ourselves. Pretty amazing how that works, isn't it?
Contrary to what most of us believe, self criticism may give you the opposite from motivation. Think of you as a child; did you thrive on someone yelling at you and putting you down? It's more likely that when you were hugged and praised for trying, you would be willing to go out and try again.