Are you compassionate with yourself? It is not always easy. We tend to be even harder on ourselves than we are with other people.
I took karate for many years but then stopped because of a knee injury. It ended up being a break of about 10 years. Last year I decided to get back into martial arts.
I was not the same person that I was back then! Physically I didn’t have the same strength or stamina. But the hardest thing was the mental game. I used to feel like the dojo was my second home. I knew everyone, was comfortable in my body and I knew the moves.
When I returned, the people that I used to train with were far advanced. I forgot lots and felt awkward. It was like starting over. Only worse because I knew what I used to be able to do. My self talk was very negative, “I’ll never be able to do this …” I almost gave up.
Then one evening I ran into a young man that I used to partner with. He asked me when I was coming back to karate and then he offered to help me. He told me that when we used to test for belts, he would comment after about how horribly he had done. Then I would counter with something positive and would point out the good things about his test.
Self criticism is the easy way out. This encounter reminded me that now is the time I should have compassion for myself. I should be grateful and proud of what I can do and not dwell on the rest.
Last week we chatted about Ahimsa, the yogic concept of non-violence and kindness. It is important to treat others with compassion but we also need to love ourselves.
Backbends are often described as heart opening. Physically they open the chest and energetically, the heart chakra. This invites compassion.
One of my favourite backbends is Supported Fish. It has all the benefits of the regular (non-supported) version but also feels incredibly nurturing and restorative. This tenderness towards ourselves fosters self-love.
I love Supported Fish so much that I bought a bolster especially to do this pose. But it also works great with a rolled up blanket or a few yoga blocks.
Supported Fish (Salamba Matsyasana)
- Dubbed the “destroyer of all disease”
- Stretches the hip flexors, the muscles between the ribs and the belly
- Improves digestion
- Good for posture (counteracts hunched-over-the-computer-all-day syndrome!)
- Releases the thoracic spine
- Expands lung capacity
- Stimulates heart and throat chakras
- Fosters heart-centred feelings such as, self-acceptance and love
- Start in a seated position with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Place the bolster (or other support) lengthwise with the end touching your low back.
- Slowly lower yourself over the bolster so that it supports your entire spine. I also like to place a small pillow under my head.
- If it’s comfortable, straighten your legs out keeping them hips width apart.
- Allow your arms to open to the sides, palms up for a receptive posture.
- Breathe deeply and smoothly. As you inhale, find opening and expansion. As you exhale, relax deeply.
- You can silently repeat a self-affirming mantra such as, “I am enough.”
- Stay in the pose for 3-5 minutes or as long as is comfortable.
Be kind to yourself.