“I was looking for someone to inspire me, motivate me, support me, keep me focused… Someone who would love me, cherish me, make me happy, and I realized all along that I was looking for myself.” – Unknown
As I prepared to attend a Wanderlust event recently, I started thinking about how practicing yoga has helped me finally love my body’s shape and ability. In all of my years practicing and most recently after going through Teacher Training, the common theme has been the union of loving mind, body, and soul. Every time I step onto my mat whether in a studio, at home, or at a festival, I know I’m entering a loving and safe zone. My goal for each practice is to be present, show up with whatever I have that day and to give my best. My body shape and ability have changed many times over the course of the last 17 years, yet the practice of yoga accepts me however I am. Yoga has been there through career changes, times of pain and of growth, and most recently, to help me cope with infertility.
What the Eight Limbs Teach About Self-Love
The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali are considered to be the basic text on yoga. There are eight limbs or sutras, and when practiced help us cultivate our path to the final limb, Samadhi, a blissful state of oneness with the divine.
- Yama is the limb of moral discipline. I have learned to not harm my body through my actions or words, to be truthful, and to practice restraint.
- Niyama is the limb of positive observance. Through it I am content, and have pure devotion to a higher being greater than myself.
- Asana refers to the postures of yoga. I sit still in each posture and learn discipline through meditation. My body is a temple and I vow to treat it as such.
- Pranayama is the breath of life. I have the ultimate control over it, whether it is hot fire fueling my soul or deep, slow, soulful reflections into my greater being.
- Pratyahara is the withdrawal of the senses. I have learned to limit my screen time, find quiet moments in a sea of noise, embrace others without fear or judgment, and gain strength by rooting my feet in the ground.
- Dharana is concentration on not just the tasks at hand but on life’s greater purpose. Every action and sacrifice is helping me achieve a bigger goal.
- Dhyana is meditation and complete surrender to divine love. Through it, I am able to quiet the mind and surrender my body and my breath to love.
- Samadhi the final limb is a state of pure joy and connection to the divine. I am able to let go of fear, judgment, and worry. I am completely aware of the present, have let go of the past, and am not worried about the future. I do not search in paranoia for love or happiness as I already have everything I desire.
Poses to Foster Connection
The Sutras do not mention specific asanas, yet these five postures are the ones where I feel the deepest connection to the divine and to myself.
Child’s Pose allows me to surrender completely to my breath and my thoughts. It allows me to breathe and recharge during a difficult practice or simply just be still.
Mountain Pose allows me to not only stand on top of a mountain but to be the mountain. I stand tall, proud and am in touch with every muscle in my body.
Humble Warrior allows me to stand as equal parts strong, fierce and humble. I rise up by first laying a foundation of humility.
Pigeon is a stretch I crave as I often have tightness in my hips. Some days I stand proud with my heart opened and chest out, other times I bow in surrender breathing into and releasing pain.
Camel is my most uncomfortable pose, as it stirs up emotions I am often unaware of or have chosen subconsciously to suppress. I am at my most vulnerable, with my heart open and although not easy, it is one I have learned to love.
Self Love Yoga Flow
Hold each asana for 3–4 breaths.
- Cat Pose and Cow Pose
- Downward Facing Dog
- Inhale Down Dog
- Exhale Forward Fold
- Inhale Half Lift
- Exhale Forward Fold
- Inhale Mountain Pose
- Exhale Forward Fold
- Inhale Chaturanga
- Exhale Upward Facing Dog
- Inhale Downward Facing Dog
- Right Warrior 1, Humble Warrior, Flow, Left Warrior 1, Humble Warrior, Flow
- Right High Lunge, Flow, Left High Lunge, Flow
- Right Warrior 2, Reverse Warrior, Flow, Left Warrior 2, Reverse Warrior, Flow
- Right Proud Pigeon, Flow, Left Proud Pigeon, Flow
- Child’s pose
- Savasana (3–5 minutes)
Yoga does not require us to prove ourselves worthy, there is no winning and every practice is a new opportunity to tap deeper into our mind-body connection. I started yoga to find a path to a higher being, yet I found the strength and love I needed within myself. Through yoga, I have learned the power of breath, flexibility, focus and most all love for my body and its ever-changing ability. When I start to doubt myself or pick apart my body, I now catch myself and pause. I vow to continue showing up to my mat, giving my best self to the practice and taking what I have learned into everything I do.
Yoga is a constant, evolving, practice of love.
Briana Ottinger is an online body positive personal trainer in the San Francisco Area that helps women of any age, weight or ability to take control of their health. It is her passion to make fitness accessible to all and most of all fun. Briana is a two-time Ironman finisher, a marathoner, and aspiring yogi. When not working Briana loves cooking and traveling with her husband and two dogs. You can find Briana on her Instagram or her website, www.brianaottinger.com.