by Cait Lawson, ERYT-200
Like yoga, self-love is a practice. It’s something that we must first commit to and then remain dedicated to, especially during the moments that we slip. Similar to yoga, it requires that we show up honestly and authentically, that we place our trust in the process of the practice, and that we always hold within our hearts the fact that self-love is something that must come from within - because self-love is always available to us - sometimes we just have to peel back a few layers of the onion to rediscover it.
As someone that has dealt with crippling self-doubt and a horribly skewed self-image throughout the majority of my grade school years, I’ve spent that last 10 years on an up-and-down journey of self-discovery that has led me to a place of finally feeling comfortable in my skin: who I am, what’s important to me, and what I want out of life. Without any doubt, I will tell you that I love myself, and this love is not coming from the narcissistic voice of my ego, but rather the from the truest voice of my spirit. I’ve come to understand that I am worthy, and maybe more importantly, I finally feel that I am worthy. And that’s a good feeling to have.
Below I have outlined five practices that I find to be really beneficial to me on this life-long journey of self-love. You can think of them as a little checklist to make sure you are taking care of yourself throughout the day and that you aren’t allowing the limiting layers of the outside world (the news, social media, friends, teachers, parents, etc.) pile up on you and dim your shine. Try one, or all five, and if you find something that resonates with you more, then I encourage you to create your own personal checklist for self-love!
1. Wake Up + Affirm
What you say to yourself upon waking up will most likely set the tone for the rest of your day, so when you open up your eyes, and before your feet hit the floor, lie there for a moment and affirm, “Today is going to be a good day.” As you brush your teeth, look into the mirror and tell yourself, “I love you. Whatever today holds in store, you got this.” When you're drinking your coffee or eating breakfast make a gratitude list - mentally or jot it down in your journal. Look at all the blessings in your life, then set an intention to stay in the practice of self-love throughout your day.
2. Nourish Yourself from the Inside Out
Tip: Our own inner voice has the most power over us. Be mindful and listen to how you’re speaking to yourself… Would you say that to your best friend or partner? If you find that you’re speaking negatively to yourself, take a moment to pause and to breathe, and please don’t be so hard on yourself. Relax knowing that you are doing the best you can and return to the practice of speaking to yourself with kindness and compassion. Make it a consistent practice then watch how your inner language transforms into a language of self-love.
We all know that it’s important to drink enough water and eat healthy foods, but a radical shift happens when you approach the things you eat and drink as more than just a means of survival, but as an act of self love and healing. If you think about it, your body is just an incredible machine, like a car, that works hard to provide you with this human experience of life. And just as we need to show our cars some love to keep them running,(like checking the fluids, getting tune ups, rotating the tires, etc.), we also need to show our bodies that same kind of love in order to keep them going and to really experience the fullness of life.
The food we consume plays a major role in our bodies receiving adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals and nutrients as well as enough energy to sustain us and support us. What we eat literally becomes a part of us as it acts like the building blocks to repair and regenerate our cells. So to keep your inner and outer body healthy, keep it simple and aim to eat more local, whole foods - organic whenever possible - that are grown and harvested straight from Mother Earth.
Water is also crucial for staying healthy as it helps to maintain every system of the body, from the brain to the heart to all of your muscles. Staying hydrated keeps your cells nourished and supports your body as it works hard to support you. It’s recommended that you drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of water per day, but even better, and especially if you’re active or living in a hot, humid climate it’s suggested to drink your body weight in ounces of water per day.
3. Stretch + Move Your Body
Tip: Aim to get at least 20-24 oz of water in the morning before drinking coffee or eating a big meal. If you find that you have a hard time drinking enough water daily make it fun by adding lemon, lime, mint or cucumber for a natural, refreshing flavor! You can also get hydrated by eating fruits and vegetables with a high water content, like watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, celery and green peppers. Also, remind yourself that you are human and life is all about balance. Have that piece of cake, enjoy that glass or 3 of wine, by all means eat the damn cheeseburger if that’s what you really want! But everything in moderation, and keep your focus on the self-love and whole-body nourishment - it’s a powerful reminder.
It doesn’t have to be long, but I recommend it daily. Because I find that it’s the days when I’m not active that I feel the most “bleh,” the most disconnected with myself, and the most uncomfortable in my skin. So even if you only have 5, 10, 15 minutes, get your body up and moving! If you have 30 or 60 minutes, that’s awesome too, and you can always break your workouts down into shorter intervals throughout the day.
Science has proven that regular exercise helps to lower the body’s stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, and helps to produce endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are responsible for elevating the mood, like the “runner’s high” or that feeling of bliss after leaving a yoga class. And since the mind and body are connected, as you make your physical body stronger and more flexible, your mental and emotional bodies are soon to follow.
4. Find Moments of Meditation
Tip: Similar to eating and drinking, I like to approach exercise with the mindset of self love and whole-body nourishment. If you find exercise boring or dreadful keep trying new things until you find something that works for you! It should be fun and enjoyable, not torture. I like to get moving first thing in the morning to get my body warm and awake for my day, and tend to turn to a more passive, restorative practice at night to promote slowing down and a good night’s sleep.
Meditation is one of the greatest practices for cultivating mindfulness and remembering your self worth. Give yourself space to just be. Allow yourself a moment where you don’t have to be thinking or planning or working or doing or worrying about other people and what they think. Begin your day with it and sprinkle little bits of it throughout your day and watch the magic that happens. You don’t have to sit in meditation for hours upon end for it to be profound, just find time to be still, to get present and connected to your body, and know deeply that by just being, you are already perfect, you are already enough.
5. Get Outdoors
Tip: When you wake up maybe you sit in stillness for a few minutes just noticing the subtle sensations within your body. Observe your breath and let yourself feel each inhale and each exhale. Some other techniques are counting each breath, reciting a mantra or intention, or just simply slowing down and really tasting your morning coffee or tea.
Similar to meditation, spending time outdoors grounds us and inspires us. It, in an empowering way, reminds us of how small we are, how small our problems are, and that the point of life is not to rush around with our heads down trying to get to some imaginary finish line, but to really live life, with your eyes and heart and head wide open. It reminds us of our roots, of our connection to the planet and all living things, and that everything placed on this Earth, yourself included, was placed here for a reason and serves a purpose.
Tip: Talk a walk around your neighborhood our local park. Even better, bring your exercise or meditation practice outdoors. You can bring some grounding to your home or apartment by starting a small garden or growing a few flowers, and if the weather is bad just spend a few moments observing the rhythms of the outside world through a window.
One last reminder to be gentle with yourself as you begin to incorporate more self-love practices into your daily life. Remind yourself of your humanity - that no one is perfect and that everyone experiences struggle, challenge and self doubt at some point. But it’s through these circumstances that we grow stronger and become more connected to ourselves. And I truly believe that self-love has the power to uplift the world, because by learning to fully love and embrace ourselves just as we are, we also begin to understand what it means to truly love and accept others as they are. Namaste!
BIO: Cait Lawson is an ERYT-200 living, learning and teaching yoga in Rincon, Puerto Rico. When she’s not teaching she can usually be found in the ocean surfing, paddling, or snorkeling. It’s Cait’s mission as a teacher, and as a human being, to inspire others to tap into their own strength, uncover their self-confidence, and allow their inner light to shine bright into the world. You can find more information about Cait, her yoga classes, and retreats over at her website www.sunburntandsalty.com or give her a follow on Instagram @sunburntandsalty.