Attending a yoga class can be viewed as a form of self-love. The benefits from an asana class are many: improved strength, increased flexibility, better sleep, lighter moods, better balance, more acceptance. There is never any part of yoga that involves physical pain or abuse of any kind. One of the first suggestions a good yoga teacher will say when welcoming a new student to class is, “If it hurts, don’t do it.”
On the mat is where we have the opportunity to be present in the physical body. It’s a chance to focus on where the limbs are positioned, what our breath is doing, what thoughts are clogging the mind. Out in the real world, it’s more difficult to pay attention to these with all the distractions and busyness of modern society. But if we can take a handful of moments while in a yoga class and notice from moment to moment how our body feels (even certain parts of our physical selves), where the breath is, and the thoughts we have about the body and the breath and the class, then we’re more likely to practice the same self-care, self-love, self-appreciation when we’re in traffic or dealing with difficult situations or enjoying an instant where everything is as we want it to be.
Self-love can be difficult to practice. But if we start small and let go of expectations for massive transformation, we can find little windows of time where the breath is deep and easy, the thoughts are slow, we’re free from pain, and we recognize that spark of joy.