Tips for Practicing Kindness Toward Your Body in Yoga

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On my mind today is kindness, and the question of how do we treat our bodies kindly. This is a question that's been coming up quite a bit lately from my yoga therapy clients, and so I thought I would share a little bit about that here.

I can remember a time when I felt so incredibly angry at my body; kindness was the last thing on my mind. Eating disorder thoughts and behaviors are the opposite of kindness, and when we spend days, months, years, or decades living with an eating disorder, practicing kindness toward ourselves is extremely hard and feels unnatural. I totally get it.

AND I also know we don't have to stay stuck in that place of anger or fear or loathing. Treating our bodies with small acts of kindness each day is one powerful way we heal the eating disorder, and yoga practices are a safe place to begin giving it a try.

Here's a few tangible ways to practice kindness toward your body on your yoga mat:

  • In twisting poses, resist the urge to yank or pull yourself deeper into the pose. Instead focus on allowing your body to twist to its natural degree. Yanking and pulling can be forceful. Taking a softer approach is kindness.

  • Give yourself permission to bend your knees in forward folds. Rather then force them straight, find ease. This softer approach is kindness.

  • Breathe at a pace and depth that feels comfortable for you. No need to emphasize big breaths to feel like you are doing it "right." Instead, focus on doing your best to allow your breath to flow in a way that is comfortable for you. This is kindness.

  • Give yourself permission to trust the sensations you feel in your body are wise and real (sensations are not perceptions!). Rather than ignore them, allow these sensations to guide you and help you find the place in the pose that feels right for you. This respectful approach is kindness.

  • Use blocks and other props for support. Your body is worthy of this kindness.

  • Modify poses to align with your energy levels and what feels good in your body. Letting go of competitive or striving thinking is a true act of kindness toward your body.

  • Give yourself permission to value your sense of safety. For example, in resting poses, your eyes can be opened or closed, and if a pose doesn't feel OK for you, empower yourself to find a shape that feels more comfortable (as well as physically and emotionally safe). We are more open to self-kindness when we trust our surroundings.

Do you have other kindnesses toward your body that you practice on your mat? Please feel free to leave a comment or email me. I would love to hear from you. And please share with me how it goes giving some of these acts of kindness a try this week.