My friend, Jen, leading a yoga class.
The other day, I showed up for yoga.
I discovered yoga about a decade ago and loved it from the start. It wasn’t that I was “good” at yoga if good at yoga means able to nail Crow and Wheel and Handstand in a single bound. But if being good at yoga means showing up, clearing my mind, focusing on what I am feeling, and just enjoying whatever I can do while giving myself whatever I need when I can’t do what’s being offered, well, then, I’m good at the practice of yoga.
But, as sometimes happens with things that we’re attracted to, I drifted away. I can pinpoint when I drifted– when Happy started preschool and I felt like I couldn’t give up that preschool time for yoga because there was just so much work that I needed to squeeze out of those three hours. Then I felt like I couldn’t go to yoga in the afternoon because, well, I’d already been separated from Happy all morning, what kind of mom ditches her kid in the afternoon for yoga? And, sure enough, one week without yoga turned into a month, then a season, then a year.
Then my friend, Jen, let me know she was teaching a special class at the Lululemon in the city and, well, I wanted to show up for her. And showing up for her, as it turns out, really meant showing up for me. And, just like that, I was practicing yoga again. Playing with what feels good, what doesn’t, and what I was offered by showing up. It was hard and delightful and ever illuminating about the practice of yoga. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be. And to be, you have to make it possible.
Driving home, I couldn’t help but think about how the practice of yoga is so much like the practice of self-acceptance. We want so much for self-acceptance to be a final destination, a place that if you put the work into arriving at, you can park in it forever. Just like I would have liked to arrive at yoga that first day ten years ago and have it take forever. But each week, I had to decide to return. And it got easier after a while, I wanted to go to yoga; I wanted what it offered me. I got better at it, too, in those years of regular yoga. My Tree pose wasn’t quite so easily whipped around by the wind (read: my balance). I could push myself into Wheel. I longed for pigeon so much that I often took myself there on my own. Yoga, its peacefulness and positivity, became a home for me. I still had to choose to show up, but because I had practiced yoga enough, showing up was easier; I knew what showing up offered me; I wanted that for myself– not just in yoga but in all of my life.
That is the truth for self-acceptance, too. You make a choice that you will begin to show up. At first, you try it out and it feels a little unnatural, like you are trying on something that will take a minute to figure out how to wear it. And then, quickly, you see the benefits. Things shift in your mind. You think, well, I pulled off that one series of downward dog, mountain pose, plank, upward dog, etc., maybe I can pull off two series. Oh, I mean, you think, “well, I supported myself through that decision. I didn’t self-sabotage or negative self-talk. And, look at that, I was fully capable of doing what I was hoping I could do. Now, let me string together another series of self-support, awareness and acceptance.” And as you string together more and more moments of self-acceptance, it becomes easier to show up, to practice it, to live in it.
But like yoga, you can’t just park there. You have to make the choice everyday to show up. And it gets easier. Pretty quickly, you see the benefits. You think, “how have I not been practicing this all along?” You feel like it is introducing you to your best self more and more every single day. You think, “how did I ever live without self-acceptance before now.” You, in fact, realize that maybe you weren’t living all that much. Maybe you were just going through the motions, not all that kindly. And so you string together days and weeks and months of self-acceptance, of loving kindness towards yourself, of the best kind of stuff.
And then because life is what it is, because it is not stagnant, because it is organic and things change all the time, there will be a hard moment. And your self-accepting muscle might strain a bit, it might fail you for a moment. But here’s the thing. It doesn’t have to fail you. You don’t have to give it up- like I did yoga- unless you string together a bunch of false premises that really just sell you out. You can return to a self-accepting stance. You can decide again to embrace yourself. You can show up. And you should. No, it’s not just that you should. You must. You must stretch back into the posture that supports you and your passion and purpose and continue to be who and how you were meant to be.