On Tuesday I am starting my first in-person weekly yoga class in Athens since the pandemic – woohoo! The class is yoga for women’s health and the class theme for May is loving your body. Our first session tomorrow will be focusing on thinking with kindness. It’s so common for women to be critical of self, whether it’s unkind thoughts about our physical appearance, personality or abilities. Yoga has helped me so much to overcome excessive self-criticism and so I want to share these tools with other women.
What does it mean to be critical of self?
Self-criticism is when we evaluate ourselves in a negative way. We analyse our appearance and the things that we do and focus on the things that we believe are not good enough. This can be a good thing as it helps us to better ourselves and learn from our mistakes. But it can also get in the way of progress as being critical of self is associated with low self-esteem and perfectionism which can hold us back. I want every woman to feel good so that she can express herself and share her gifts with the world!
There are times in our lives when you might be more susceptible to self-criticism. Maybe starting a new job, becoming a mother, experiencing illness or changes in your physical appearance. Any time when we set expectations for ourselves or go through a learning process we can be critical of self. It is human nature to criticise ourselves and is one of the things that helps us to evolve and grow. However, when self-criticism becomes excessive it can be a problem.
Signs you are too critical of self
Signs that you are too critical of self include that you:
- Tend to focus on small flaws than seeing things holistically
- Make sweeping statements such as “I’m a failure”, “I’m ugly”, “I’m not good at anything”
- Compare yourself to others and feel like you don’t measure up
- Rarely take the time to celebrate your achievements
- Always feel like you should do more/better
- Regularly feel bad about your physical appearance
- Struggle to accept compliments and hold onto criticism from others
Yogic understanding of self-criticism
The practice of yoga is all about turning our attention inwards and witnessing the self. In yoga philosophy, we see the human being as made up of five layers or pancha kosha:
In my opinion, negative self-criticism resides in the mental body. It is part of that daily chitter chatter that occupies our mind whether we are aware of it or not. Our mind constantly evaluates our self based on values and beliefs that we have absorbed from the world around us and taken to be true. If we have held onto past criticisms from our childhood, these can resurface again and again. We call these mental scars samskara. Through yoga practice and self enquiry we can identify and break free of these emotional patterns.
On the other hand, positive self-criticism belongs to the intelligence. It is the power of discernment where we can evaluate our actions and decide whether they are aligned with who we want to be or not. The difference between this and negative self criticism is that we don’t attack or blame ourselves. The judgement becomes objective and impersonal. Adopting this mindset we are able to make changes without feeling inadequate as we are.
Yoga tools to overcome criticism of self
Regular yoga practice helps to increase your self awareness including how you speak to yourself. Often we aren’t present with our thoughts. Once we start to pay attention we can be shocked by the mean things we say. Yoga encourages us to let go of distractions so that we can listen and observe. We can then use our intelligence to transform our thoughts and intentions to those of love. Here are three yoga tools to reduce criticism of self.
1.Power poses to boost confidence
When you practice yoga postures, you don’t just make shapes with your body. In fact, you affect the energy flow throughout your whole being and your state of mind. Practicing standing poses such as the warrior sequence helps you to stand tall, feel confident and radiate positive energy. Compared with rounded shoulders and a curved spine which can make you feel small and lacking in confidence which can lead to self-critical thoughts. Posture matters!
2.Meditation to overcome criticism of self
Through meditation we connect to the innermost part of our being, the soul or the spirit which cannot be judged as bad. It just is what it is – pure conscious awareness. Through yoga practice, we reach the point of meditation where our body is still and our mind is quiet and we feel inner peace. We know intuitively that we are perfect exactly as we are. Experiencing this on a daily basis, even for 10 minutes, can help to overcome criticism of self.
3.Mantra and affirmation
A mantra or affirmation is a short word or phrase that you repeat to yourself again and again. It helps you to focus and set an intention for your thoughts and actions. Adopting a mantra relating to self-acceptance and empowerment can help in moments when you are feeling critical of self. A few examples:
“I am perfect and whole just as I am”
“Nothing more to do. Nothing more to be. I am enough”
“I am a divine being having a human experience”
“Om Shanti Shanti Shanti” (“Om peace peace peace)
These mantras can be repeated in your mind or out loud. Mantra practice works well at the beginning and end of the day. It is also great to try mantra at the end of a yoga practice when your mind is in a receptive and relaxed state.
Come practice yoga with me!
Why not join me for a yoga class? My current schedule is:
Hatha Yoga for Beginners (Online) – Thursdays 8.30pm GMT+3
Yoga for Women’s Health (Cholargos, Athens) – Tuesdays 7.30pm GMT+3
For more information and booking click HERE
Over to you…
I hope you enjoyed today’s post and found it helpful. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach and we work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs. To work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, set up a free 15 minute discovery call.
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