Most likely, I first heard about Anna Guest-Jelley and her Curvy Yoga from Rachel Cole. They are teaching a retreat together this weekend, Wise Body, Wise Hungers: Yoga & Coming Home to Our Desires, which I’m sure is every flavor and shade of fabulous.
Anna is one of the kindest people I know. She is one of the people who — even though she’d never met me in person — reached out to me when my Dexter died, offered comfort, (she has two of the cutest dogs herself, another reason I adore her). She gently guides my yoga practice from afar, with her blog posts and videos and newsletter and emails, reminding me that not only are modifications for my body acceptable, they are absolutely necessary, that yoga is truly for every body and I can trust myself. She is one of the reasons I decided to start yoga teacher training, made me feel it was possible, that I was allowed. She reminds me again and again that I am loveable, that I have the right and even the responsibility to love myself.
Anna’s bio: “Anna Guest-Jelley is the founder of Curvy Yoga – a training and inspiration portal for full-figured yogis and their whole-hearted teachers.
As a writer, teacher and lifelong champion of women’s empowerment and body acceptance, Anna encourages women of every size, age and ability to grab life by the curves. And never let go.”
Self-compassion is synonymous with gentleness for me. It means showing myself the same kindness, care and empathy I show to others. If anything, it means showing myself even more than I show others because if my reserves aren’t filled, it’s challenging to share from a true, not resentful place.
2. How did you learn self-compassion? Did you have a teacher, a guide, a path, a resource, a book, a moment of clarity or specific experience?
I learned self-compassion by walking (and continuing to walk) its path. I have had so many teachers along the way – books I found at the exact right moment, kind words from friends, role models who I both know in person and don’t, support from therapists, dear yoga teachers, and the encouragement of my husband and closest friends.
I never had a lightening bolt moment, although I’ve had lots of ah-has along the way. I haven’t found this to be a path of suddenly “getting it” and being done. Rather, I’ve found fits and starts, two steps forward and ten steps back.
What this has given me is resilience. What I know now about self-compassion that I didn’t at the beginning of my journey is that it’s always unfolding. So now I greet ten steps back as a teacher on the path (even if I do get pissed about it at first!). I have enough experience on the road at this point to know that it’s not linear, and that’s okay.
I become hardest on myself when I’m stressed about other people’s expectations in some way. After years of creating a habit of channeling that stress into a body project of dieting or otherwise deciding to finally become the perfect person I’ve always wanted to be, I now go much more gently.
The first thing I do is notice. Without awareness, I can’t get very far into self-compassion. So once I’ve noticed that I’m having a judgmental thought, such as “You better lose at least 20 pounds before next month,” I can pause.
In that pause, I can ask myself if this is really true. This is something I learned from Byron Katie, whose work has been really helpful for me. Of course, 99.99% of the time, my judgmental thought isn’t true. Of course I don’t have to lose weight before next month, no matter how many reasons my mind can invent why I “should.”
I feel a big relief when I can remind myself (which isn’t always) of this. Because from there, I can say to myself “Oh, right. You often feel this way when you’re stressed. So what need isn’t getting met right now? Or what can you shift off your plate? Or what just needs acknowledging?”
This is my self-compassion: telling myself the truth with love and kindness. It’s not fancy, but it has changed my life. I say that with no exaggeration.
4. What do you still need to learn, to know, to understand? What is missing from your practice of self-compassion, what do you still struggle with?
Oh, so much! I’ve been actively on this journey for about six years (and less actively so for about eight before that), and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. I mean that in the best way possible because what has been true for me so far is that every time I find a new level of ease with self-compassion, something else reveals itself as needing attention.
So much of it still feels challenging to me, though. As much as I know the back-and-forth of self-compassion is part of the package deal, I still sometimes wish I had to go through the process above less often, that it somehow could become more organic and effortless for me. And perhaps it will. But I also know that when part becomes more easeful, another becomes more challenging.
The day-to-day of self-compassion is challenging for me, too. Like many people, I find it difficult to keep up with the practices that most support me – yoga, meditation, writing. I’m just as likely to hop on the computer directly after waking up, lost in a haze of email and social media, than I am to hop on my meditation cushion or yoga mat. But when that happens, I try to remind myself that this, too, is part of the practice.
I’m grateful for the evolutionary nature of this process because I see it as healing. It feels like the work of my lifetime – to care for myself just a bit more with each passing year, and in doing so to perhaps raise the slightest possibility for others that they could do the same.
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Next on Self-Compassion Saturday: Laura Simms.
P.S. If you didn’t see the first post in this series, you might want to read Self-Compassion Saturday: The Beginning.