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Mat Chat

Self-Love is My Yoga

by Lauren Taus

The foundation for my yoga practice is self-development in radical self-love and acceptance. It’s what I continue to cultivate personally, and it’s what I seek to grow in my students. I focus on this aspect because what we do with ourselves, we will inevitably do with others. If, for example, we harbor self-hatred, or unrelenting self-criticism and judgment, we will see the world around us - and the people in it - with a similar degree of contempt. We can only move forward in a genuine and aligned way when we work with kindness. For me, yoga isn’t just about having a healthy body. It’s about having a healthy heart and mind that works in the collective for good.

Asana affords us the opportunity to examine who we are. We are brought into some shapes that are painful and some shapes that are very quiet, though hard to hold. We encounter ourselves on the mat: our fears, our reactivity, our dreams, and our beliefs. We may see, for example, our inability to sit through difficulty. We may see as well how we doubt ourselves and limit possibility.

Ultimately, we see ourselves on the mat, and it’s through the seeing, that we have the invitation and the opportunity to change. I started yoga 16 years ago as a hungry, angry and depressed teenager. I remember my first class clearly. My brother’s ex-wife took me to a studio in Hermosa Beach, and I had no expectations other than getting some form of a workout. The studio was called “Yoga Fit.” I did feel satisfied with the level of activity and physical engagement, but more important than that was the feeling of connection I had with myself. It was foreign and something I knew I needed to grow. I kept going back.

The first few years were about moving, and literally moving home. I felt that my body was a different continent, and inside of it, I felt warm. I was happy, but the trouble is that I didn’t fully understand the language. I didn’t know how to relax or let go. I didn’t know how to take care of myself, and I had to learn. Asana helped me through my eating disorder, through breakups, and even through the death of family members.

I’ve often said I wish that I could live from the space I occupy on my mat. I’m my best self there, and I’m growing just like anyone who takes up this practice. Currently, I’m working on a deeper dimension that is both physical and emotional. The postures that I’m studying are more advanced. They require more from me in my training, my willingness and my patience. I find that my gains are more meaningful when I cultivate as much time in quiet space.

Classically, the posture practice was performed as preparation for meditation, and I’ve finally found the discipline to maintain a regular meditation practice. I’ve even learned to enjoy sitting in my own company, breathing into the space of awareness and softening. It comes with self-love, which I didn’t have enough of until now – and I still need more.

Training my mind to still allows me to slow down and breathe deeper into the shapes that might make me more reactive in the past. As I settle into myself more, I can settle into the shapes that I want to achieve. But like I said, yoga isn’t just about asana. The shapes that interest me more are the shapes in life – relationships, work endeavors, certain conversations, etc. The physical just allows me a place to know myself better, a place to explore, grow, and fundamentally to practice kindness. Inevitably, the more self-love I have, the more courage and aliveness I bring to my practice – on and off the mat – and brighter things open up everywhere.

The practice is about self-love.

Lauren Taus is a writer, a life coach and a yoga instructor. Based in NYC, she has upcoming retreats in Bali and Costa Rica. laurentaus.com