We all know that relationships are what make life worthwhile. Relationships have been shown to increase health, self-esteem, even longevity. The practice of hot yoga is the amazing opportunity to notice that at the core of every relationship with someone else is the one you have with yourself.
Often we feel guilty about taking time from our busy lives to tend to our own needs. The truth is though, that nurturing our internal relationship makes us happy and whole, creating deeper, stronger external relationships.
When we first start doing yoga, it’s usually the physical changes that are most apparent and easiest to tell our friends about. The release of tension, increased strength and increased flexibility make us feel good. As we continue the practice, we discover that yoga also develops mental strength and flexibility. A consistent yoga practice heals the body, soothes the mind and fortifies character. There’s more. Maybe the most important part of engaging with yourself in the mirror and in your body on the mat every time you come is the nurturing of self-love. That giddy feeling you sometimes get as you return from a backward bend sure feels like falling in love!
A healthy love of self expands our capacity to extend love, compassion and understanding to others. Here are three ways yoga deepens self-love, and by extension, improves our relationships.
Yoga Makes Us More Self-Aware
Did you know that our success in relationships is determined in large part by our capacity for self-awareness? The same self-awareness that we develop through the practice of yoga. Each hot yoga practice provides opportunities for self-exploration. By balancing on one foot, and sometimes failing, we begin to develop physical and psychological self-awareness. As we reach further, stretch deeper and hold longer, we stay alert to what’s occurring within our minds and bodies. Being willing to fail, acknowledging the perfection isn’t available, liking the parts of ourselves that we don’t like. One definition of yoga: Learning to tolerate the consequences of being yourself. No wonder it’s a lifetime journey!
Yoga teaches us to pay attention to sensations we might otherwise ignore. We detect areas of tightness or fussiness in the body. This higher level of consciousness guides us to back off when necessary. Prompts us to go deeper when our muscles and joints demand it.
We learn to process any emotions we encounter as we move through our asanas. As we do this, practice after practice, we strengthen self-awareness and learn to take better care of ourselves physically and emotionally. The self-insight developed on the yoga mat translates to our daily lives as we connect with others.
In order to be deep listeners who communicate well with others, we must first cultivate the ability to listen deep within. When we understand how our feelings, experiences and beliefs impact our interactions with and perceptions of others, we become stronger more effective communicators.
Yoga Increases Self-Acceptance (and acceptance of others)
It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of “perfection.” We want to create the perfect asana shape. Hold the pose for the allotted amount of time. Perhaps we consider anything less as failure. It isn’t. Each practice simply takes us further along the road in our constant journey.
Yoga teaches us to be patient with our minds and bodies as we grow in the practice. We learn to accept where we are today. We learn to be compassionate with ourselves, despite our failings. As our love for self and sense of self-compassion deepens, extending that same level of compassion to our partners, family members and co-workers becomes second nature.
Yoga Leads to Physical and Emotional Healing
The physical work we do in yoga eases the aches and pains that disrupt our ability to be truly present with the people who are important to us. For instance, when your back hurts, you don’t notice other people’s pain because you’re completely enveloped in your own.
A consistent yoga practice improves how our bodies feel. This enhances our outlook and ability to connect with the people around us in a deeper, more meaningful way.
As our yoga practice makes us more self-aware and teaches us to accept ourselves and others, we inevitably experience emotional healing. We develop emotional fitness—the ability to manage our perspective. We understand that when there is a dark moment, it isn’t the end of the world. It’s just a setback, and we will come out on the other side.
When we are emotionally fit, we choose our perspective wisely. For instance, in yoga class we discover that the hot room isn’t the problem. How we choose to view the heat creates the problem. Do we view the heated room as a torture chamber, or do we recognize that the heat creates a soothing environment that loosens muscles and gives us a deeper stretch? It’s a matter of perspective.
Yoga increases self-love and changes how we speak to ourselves internally. We become more self-aware, more patient with and accepting of ourselves. Extending this kindness to the people we care about becomes more effortless. It begins to feel natural.
Yoga provides a multitude of physical benefits which increase our energy and wellbeing. It has an even greater impact on our lives when we take our practice off the mat. Yoga equips us with the mental and emotional tools required to work through challenging situations: the heat of the room, shaking limbs, a complex asana or a personal disagreement.
Yoga nourishes the soul and renews our spirit in a way that makes us better and improves our relationships.