Why Yoga Is a Radical Act of Self-Love

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I think there’s a misconception that yoga is about flexibility, fitness, or spirituality. You can become flexible, sure. You can improve your fitness, yes. And, you can make it a spiritual practice, if you wish. But to me, Yoga is truly about power—personal power. And that’s what makes it a radical act of self-love and empowerment.

I know what it’s like to feel embarrassed in your body or as if you don’t fit in. It can be a wild ride for the inner critic. As a size 12-14 woman, I am often the largest person in the yoga studio when practicing in New York City. This is concerning. Women of all sizes can benefit and enjoy yoga, and yet it’s often a practice oriented to a select population. I am grateful to know amazing humans in the yoga, social change, and body positivity world who are working hard at changing this norm. But beyond size, I know that my discomfort is not always a societal complaint, it’s also personal. I have suffered from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and an auto-immune disease that has painted my skin like poison ivy since I was a child. Somedays are fine while other days are extremely frustrating. Feeling unwelcome or uncomfortable, from the inside or the outside, can take a great toll on your sense of self. But, the most radical thing any of us can do to change the world is to become responsible for our own health and to embody our power in a way that allows us to enjoy life while supporting positive change. All of this work starts on the inside.

I used to hide from myself and others—I lacked inner power. But nothing great comes from shrinking away from your potential. And potential becomes power when you put in the actions needed to employ it skillfully. This is exactly what yoga can do for us. It allows us to embody our power. Yoga and meditation have helped me flip the script on my inner critic and fall in love with myself. Feeling well has everything to do with how you talk to and care for yourself. These practices provide an opportunity where the challenge is different enough from your patterns that you’ll have an opportunity to choose another way. In the pause or in the flow, you’ll be able to step beyond your normalcy and catch a glimpse at your miraculous nature. This spark of inner brilliance and power will curate a kinder and brighter inner world that will help you shine in the outer world.

The inner workings of yoga drive the physical practice of yoga. And that physical practice will continually remind you of your strength. No matter what level of physical fitness you bring to the mat, you’ll see it improve every time you return. The more often and consistent, the more surprising. You’ll see that the movements are truly metaphors for skills you already possess. During practice you’ll see that you can hold yourself up. You’re capable of standing on your feet. It will show you that you’re designed to fit yourself—you fit “in.” You’ll practice reminding yourself that you’re okay, or that you will be. You’ll learn to self-soothe your physiology. You’re likely to catch your breath and find your voice. This improvement in physical function will empower you to do more in your life. It will put you in your body and liberate you from your doubts. It will inspire you to be more. It won’t be without work, but it will allow you to find joy within yourself. You’ll fall in love with you.

Through yoga, one can find inner strength, which breeds outer power. The best part is that you’re destined to enjoy yourself along the way!

About the Author

Steph Winsor

Steph is a yoga and meditation teacher based in New York City. You can practice with her on Yoga Anytime in the Enjoy Yourself: 7-Day Summer Challenge.


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