Believe it or not, we all find our way to yoga out of a desire to fix something. It might be to heal an injury or loosen those tight hamstrings; to lose weight or to ease the stress of a job you are not so enamoured with; or it might be to heal a broken heart. We each have our own reason or reasons, some of which we may have been harbouring for most of our lives. The bottom line though is that we seek change, we seek transformation, a way to rise above whatever is holding us back, preventing us from a "perfect life" or from being truly happy. The most amazing part of this is that you and me, we actually listened to that inner call to heal ourselves, maybe physically, maybe emotionally, but nonetheless it was a call to heal… and we listened. And here we are. Practicing yoga. Spending time on our mat. Getting better. Healing.
Yet it sometimes seems like my yoga practice is not enough. For me, my need to fix myself seemed as of late, to be constant and incessant- and with that need to fix, comes disappointment and self-judgement. Yes - yoga has served me well during those times when I needed it most; it healed and strengthened my body after years of marathon running. And yes - later it healed my broken heart after I decided to leave a marriage that felt empty and broken. But there is at times a gnawing, a nagging, deep in my soul telling me that something is wrong or deficient - because surely otherwise, I would not need to fix and everything would be perfect.
Recently though I stumbled across this reminder that hit me hard: “Love is not what we become but who we already are” (Stephen Levine). It would seem in our quest to fix, to improve ourselves, we can lose sight of a core principle: self-acceptance. In other words, we can lose the ability to “behold” the Self, to honor and embrace it -- and not fix or judge it, but instead to love the Self completely, to include the dark and the light. According to yoga philosophy, the absence of self-love is most commonly related blockage of the heart chakra (anahata)*. Since the heart chakra is associated with unconditional love, (that is to both love and be loved as well as self-acceptance and the acceptance of others) an imbalance may manifest in possessiveness, codependency, or isolation due to fear of rejection. Does my incessant need to fix actually stem from a fear of rejection? Certainly, but perhaps what is more alarming is that my lack of self-acceptance is affecting my relationships, all of them. So now I need to fix my need to fix? No.
To restore balance in the heart chakra and nurture self-acceptance (and in turn, heal our relationships), it is clear that we need to change. But rather than fix, we must accept and love ourselves as we are right now in this moment. It is time to treat ourselves the way we would treat anyone else we love - with respect, honesty, compassion, and understanding. It is time to acknowledge that we are worth making ourselves a priority.
Not in that space yet? Me neither. This is for sure a work in progress. It is a daily struggle. Here are some concrete steps to take - some new habits to create - that will empower you to change the conversation from fixing to accepting:
1. Start your morning with the ritual of journaling or meditating. It is often said that an unexamined life is not worth living. To enter the heart space requires self-reflection, self-examination. It requires attention and intention to create something new, to evolve. To launch this new habit, make a list of all the things that make you happy.
2. Move your body! Physical activity is the prime way to bring balance in the heart chakra. The key though is learning to decipher the body’s messages. This involves listening without judgement to the body’s subtle communications. Specific to restoring balance in the heart chakra, try breath work (pranayama) and backbends!
3. Eat healthy meals. The power of unprocessed, whole foods as a means to healing is astounding. When we eat healthy, we feel better, we have more energy to live more fully and that means we have the ability to give love and attention to the priorities in our life.
4. Play more. Make time for the most meaningful people in your life; who doesn’t need to do this more often?! If you need to, schedule a standing date!
Here’s the thing: you only have one life to live. This is your chance. Take precious time out for you. You are worth the investment.
-Jennifer Raczka Heinsheimer