Self Acceptance

Second installment of our curriculum:

When I teach yoga at the jail, I ask my students to write down their thoughts or feelings about our theme of the week. Many times I am blown away by what I hear – and even more importantly, the shift I get to see within them as the weeks go by.  Once I had a student who was so broken that she could not write down 5 positive emotions. She literally could not name 5 good things that she believed in after what she had been through. The theme that day was self-acceptance and when I asked the class what that means to them I received this answer:

“Self- Acceptance: What does that even mean? I accept this body? I am okay with who I am? This life – this choice? NO! I am not okay with this. I want better, I just don’t know how to be better.” – Blair, Female: 22, Montgomery Correctional Institute.

This student’s feelings resonated with me because I have had these feelings in my own life before. I am here to tell you that it is ok to NOT be ok. Real life is sometimes messy, disappointing, heart wrenching, raw and beautiful. Some days it seems like everything is a struggle and other times weeks fly by effortlessly. We are all perfectly imperfect, just as we are. If you are hurting and yearning to accept yourself – maybe you have to approach finding this differently. Maybe you have to truly hate yourself in order to truly love yourself.

Our students are able to experience these feelings through their yoga practice.  Yoga gives our students the ability to accept that we may not be good or perfect. Yoga helps us see the truth about ourselves, and allows us to accept how we may have done wrong in our past.  Things that we regret and feel shame and guilt for: we could be mean, maybe violent, selfish, jealous and we may have hurt others deeply – even if on accident. We were NOT the best versions of ourselves. The teachings of yoga suggest we look within ourselves, it brings our students to a new place: a place of hope, and serenity; of less judgment and more gratitude. The possibility that we can actually forgive (maybe even ourselves!) and become the person we want to be is scary and exciting. The first step in making transformative change in our lives is accepting who we were, and taking ownership of all of the choices we have made along our journey. Self acceptance means that once we face the truth about who we are, we can still look in the mirror and believe that we are worthy of love and happiness, in spite of our shortcomings.

I have had many addicts come to me and say “I know that I am going to use again, I know I am going to hurt people – and at least when I am high I don’t have to FEEL these feelings”. I tell them the same thing I would tell anyone who was coming to terms with a roadblock in their lives:  just because you admit you are not perfect, doesn’t mean you are a bad person.  You have unlimited possibilities for your future – in this moment right now. You can choose to change your life today. You make the choice to feel grateful, to do better, to push through the discomfort, to fight for what you know is right. And You deserve to be happy and loved just as much as anyone else.

I believe the more we grow and expand, the better we are for others.

I believe in scars – because without them I would not have reached my bottom, I would not have been able to accept my own skin.

Yoga showed me how to truly accept and love myself. No matter what I’ve done in the past, or what people say or think about me. I love myself and that’s good enough. It’s great in fact.

I give that gift to my students – and they too are learning to accept themselves through yoga.

How can you help more students find this kind of truth and hope for their future?

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