Loving yourself is very important. It is beneficial for your relationship with yourself and your relationships with others. For some reason, taking care of yourself is seen as selfishness in our current social culture. Perhaps it comes from the idea that if you are able to spend time on yourself, you are “rich” enough to be able to afford not to work 24/7. But loving you is more important than you may think. When we have a good relationship with our self, we are able to have better relationships with others. When you aren’t constantly berating yourself for the way you look or how you act, the next time someone makes a comment that isn’t very pleasant, perhaps you can handle it with poise, instead of overreacting and taking it personally. Your yoga practice not only helps you to improve your body and mind, but also helps you to improve your relationship with you, which may be the most important of all, because it’s the only one that you can never get rid of! So here is how yoga helps you love yourself:

1.     Yoga helps to calm the chatter in your mind. 99.9% of us have a nonstop committee in our head that provides us with feedback 24/7. Sometimes, this feedback is more negative than positive, and you may feel inclined to believe what you are hearing. For everyone, this committee likes to nag and won’t ever hesitate to tell you when you’ve done something wrong. It is hard not to listen and agree! But as you practice yoga, you bring your focus to your breath and body, and with all of your energy focused into that moment, there is no room for the committee to voice its opinion. Even if its just 5 seconds of your total practice – that is 5 seconds that you are not critical of yourself. And that 5 seconds can turn into 10 with practice.

2.     Yoga teaches you to let go of your ego. During class, it is challenging not to look over at the mat next to you and compare your practice, abilities, and flexibility to your neighbor’s. But as you become more comfortable with your practice and discover the fun that it can be, maybe you begin to check out your neighbor less. Hopefully, your instructor encourages you to be content with where you are in that moment. I know for myself, my practice changes daily. Some days my hamstrings are as open as can be and splits (hanumanasana) feels like a breeze. And other days I can barely come into forward fold with out a deep stretch. But that just is the way it will be, and it isn’t logical to compare myself to someone else who has experienced a different day than me. We all are unique and bring our differences to our mats and our practices. Instead of comparing ourselves, we should be celebrating our uniqueness, because it is our individuality that makes the world a lot more interesting. So the next time you are tempted to look over at the mat next to you, do yourself a favor and DON’T!

3.     Though not the goal, yoga may make you stronger. If you’ve never tried Downward Facing dog, use my tutorial and give it a shot. While it looks pretty easy, it is a pose that demands lots of upper body strength and core stability to maintain. If you dedicate yourself to a weekly yoga practice (maybe 1-2 times a week) chances are your muscles will build up endurance and become stronger. While the external physicality of the practice isn’t the focus, as you become a more seasoned yogi, you may find that your shoulders become slightly more defined, your abdominals tone up (even if they are insulated slightly), and your legs are stronger. It is inevitable, and yet definitely helps build confidence about your physical appearance.

So although seemingly insignificant in the big picture, these three affects of yoga can help us to learn to love our selves better. Feeling comfortable with your body and self is the first step towards helping others. How can you truly love another when you don’t love yourself first? And if your committee is currently telling you that you’re not worth it, L’Oreal has been telling us for years that we are. So maybe its time we start listening…