As women, we have a tendency to take an experience (an event, thought or emotion) and add a layer of self-imposed expectation – that we ‘should’ feel or react a certain way. Then, if we deviate from that self-imposed standard, we often label our thoughts or feelings as ‘bad’ and judge ourselves for our reaction. New moms navigating through the unfamiliar territory of motherhood may be particularly affected by these judgements.
But I wonder, who decides which thoughts or emotions qualify as the ‘appropriate response’ to our situation? What if we decided to grant legitimacy to our feelings, to make our own rules?
I’ve found that yoga and meditation provide a space that allows me to work toward that very goal – setting my own rules. My experiences on the mat have benefits that follow me off the mat. I may take away a heightened sense of self-awareness, an ability to hear my body and listen to what it’s telling me, to breathe in the face of difficulty and strain, to recognize that I choose how I react to my situation. As a result of this consistent practice, I can now ask myself, “Where is this thought coming from? Is it my intuition or am I responding to social norms?” I now have more authentic experiences – experiences not distorted by head noise.
Try this: The next time you catch yourself labeling an emotion or ‘shoulding’ yourself, stop. Take a breath. Remind yourself that you are making your own rules; rule number one is that it’s okay to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling. Once you start hitting the pause button, breathing, and questioning your habitual inner drama, you can literally change the way you feel and the way your body biologically responds. Like any habit, it definitely takes time for the change to trickle down from your head to your heart, but once it does – and you WILL feel it – it’s really eye-opening.
I leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Dr. Mehmet Oz – “Children don’t grow up and love themselves as much as you love them; they grow up and love themselves the way they see you love yourself.”
*Photo compliments of Samantha Jo, Facebook.com/yogawithsamanthajo