Imagine if we told you that yoga was not only great for your mind, body, and soul, but it also is a vehicle for increasing your love for self? Just in time for Valentine’s Day — and, really, when is it not a great time to get better at loving yourself? — yogi Maya Pete is sharing, firsthand, just how she was able to use her practice to find more love, for herself, in her own flow!
I have to come clean; the first time I tried yoga, I vowed to never to go to another class. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why so many people raved about being able to find their zen or happy place because, in my experience, the only thing I felt was awkward and sore. I was sore because I had no idea what a vinyasa was — or how to do one — and felt awkward because I looked around the class and felt so out of place. Everyone around me was this perfect, slim yogi, and they sweat like I imagine Greek goddesses might have...they just glistened. After that experience, I didn’t try yoga again for an entire year. Then, I moved to Los Angeles, and there’s just something about LA that stirs up a need to try out different workout classes; therefore, driving me to break my no-yoga vow.
The class I went to was an R&B Yoga lesson. It was a beautiful experience, due in large part to the fact that I finally saw representation of myself reflected in the instructor and other students. Even though I was probably the least experienced person in the class, I didn’t feel left behind. That day, the instructor said something that has stuck with me ever since: she reminded the class that yoga isn’t about forcing your body to move in ways that are uncomfortable, it’s about molding your practice to your body. Since then, I’ve felt empowered to explore different practices and poses that make me feel alive, thankful, and powerful. In the process, I’ve fallen in love with how strong my body is and how amazing it feels to move in ways that allow me to adore it. Here are a few of the ways that I practice self-love yoga, and you can, too!
Bring the floor to you.
Whether you’re a new yogi or a less flexible yogi, like me, there’s no harm in using chairs, pillows, yoga blocks, or other household items to raise your surface to you. For example, you can take Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon) by resting your hand on a nearby chair or stool, depending on your height preference, instead of touching your fingertips to the ground. If you only need a small lift, you can simply rotate a yoga block and use it vertically.
Find your edge.
Once, an instructor told me that yoga isn’t about finding your breaking point, it’s about pushing your body to its edge, recognizing you’re at your edge, and not pushing your body beyond that. That piece of advice changed the way I view discomfort within the confines of my practice and in everyday life! I find that breathing into movements that may feel arduous, at first, allows me to learn just how amazing and resilient my body is. The first time my flow led me to Garudasana (Eagle Pose), my calves were burning! However, through deep concentration on my breathing and a large dose of willpower, I surprised myself with my newfound level of strength and flexibility. Now, I try to add an Eagle Pose to all of my Sunday morning flows.
In our competitive world, there’s a negative connotation associated with taking the less advanced route. However, within your yoga practice the only person you should be competing with is yourself. Taking modifications is not a sign of weakness, nor does it inhibit you from becoming an advanced yogi. Modifications allow you to develop and mold your practice to fit your body's needs. One of my favorite yoga instructors once told me that, “When it comes to yoga alignment, the first thing to note is that poses don’t have ‘proper’ alignment, bodies have proper alignment. Each body is different, so poses should and do look different, depending on who is doing them.” How beautiful is that?! One of the simplest and most transforming (in my opinion) modifications I can think of is for Adho Mukha Virasana (Child’s Pose). If you’re like me, and you have a bit of a belly, instead of resting your stomach on your thighs for child’s pose, you can open your thighs and allow your tummy to fall between them. This modification makes it much easier to breathe into the stretch and relax.
Yoga is one of the many ways I practice loving myself out loud. It’s become my go-to for stress relief, meditation, and Sunday morning workouts. This past year I learned to fall in love with my body in all of its stages; practicing this self-love-focused yoga was a crucial part of that. I hope that all of this helps you to find your self-love practice, too.
Lightning Round Q&A
Matcha or Coffee
Yoga or Pilates
Fall or Summer
World Traveler or Backyard Explorer
Gilmore Girls or Friends
Early Bird or Night Owl
Tacos & Guac or Burgers & FriesThis glorious, self-love yoga routine was contributed exclusively to Ellie by Maya Pete, the creator of @fat.fit.fly and @maya.esthetic on Instagram, Stanford University alum, and a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. You can find her blogging and taking pictures somewhere between Los Angeles and Texas! Maya strongly believes that beauty doesn’t have a size, and neither should fashion or fitness. For more pieces about self love and body positivity, check out mayaesthetic.com or theeverygirl.com/contributor/maya-g-pete/. Instagram: @fat.fit.fly