While in Manila at a yoga class alongside my beautiful cousin, an anxious thought popped into my head as I was practicing the first part of a long pranayama (deep breathing exercise).
“Things are beginning to feel like a struggle again and I’ve been putting way too pressure on myself, ‘to get things done’, ‘to do it the best way’ and ‘always be perfect’?
As fate would have it, just in that split moment, my cousin described to me the technique of breathing in and out ‘just like a rose’, and proceeded to emulate a breathing movement with just a gentle nod of her head. I can’t get that image of her out of my head. Just like a rose. Just like that. Simple, unassuming, gentle…
It suddenly it hit me that even while doing pranayama, I was forcing my movements in and out, and as a result tensing my muscles causing more stress and unintended havoc on my system. Why not just relax and let the body breathe in naturally?
This transformative awareness began to permeate into every aspect of my life – from putting the kids to bed, walking to the taxi, having a friendly conversation, writing a blog, preparing my gym bag, eating a meal. I realized that- tension pervaded almost every area of my life when I was not conscious. I was merely going through the motions of life.
Being gentle with ourselves doesn’t mean that we fail to accomplish tasks or goals entirely. Instead, it means that we honour ourselves on an ongoing basis and take care of the needs of our bodies.
This means different things to different people. For instance, it could mean having a catch-up session over coffee with a good friend, taking a mindful walk; reading in a quiet library; lying under the stars or visiting a spiritual coach. However, if you can’t make the time – it’s important you integrate this gentle being into the core of your behaviour and thinking too.
Through pranayama, I discovered the power of being gentle with yourself and through constant practice this is where I feel it helps me most.
Being Present With Your Body
The usual adage of being present, observing my shoulders, breathing, forehead tension, stomach tension, while doing stuff. It’s a tough cookie, this one, but once you practice being present first by observing your body. Are you relaxed in all areas? Are you paying attention to your tension areas? What can you do to ease discomfort?
Consciously Become Slower with Your Movements
With the intention of just relaxing into a situation, you can then start being aware of what is happening around you, engaging consciously the sounds, sights, feeling, taste, and smell. Do things slowly and with attention. How? Focus on the present moment, feel yourself easing into a situation, let things flow while you are aware of all this is around you. This is great if you’re a multi-tasker and tend to forget things.
Lose that guilt
So what if you mess up? “To err is human; to forgive, divine”. We are not born to be perfect, and it’s important to remember for all us perfectionists out there not to beat ourselves up time and again. Realize you did the best you could at the time and that you were true to yourself at that moment. Think kind thoughts toward yourself and show yourself some compassion. If we can learn to view ourselves as our own ally, to speak to ourselves with love and kindness, and put ourselves as a priority, it confirms that we believe we are worth it, and being gentle will flow naturally.
Quit trying to control everything
If you’re in your 20s or 30s, you might feel uncertain more frequently than you would like. Each time you tell yourself, “I will only be happy IF _______ happens”, you’re allowing your happiness to be dependent on a condition. This sort of thinking also slams the door shut on the possibility of the unexpected. This, in turn, closes the door on other ways that you could possibly be filled with pleasure. There’s only so much planning and brainstorming you humanly can do, so don’t beat yourself up when things don’t go ‘as planned.’ Nobody likes uncertainty, but everyone in the world – even Taylor Swift and yes, even Beyonce – face it.
Remember, taking care of your inner world will be your saving grace in the long-run. Fast, sporadic and harsh movements only serve to create more havoc on your system. Take your time, watch your body, engage your senses, and be gentle… like my cousin said, ‘like a rose’.