2 Steps to Reclaiming Your Self-Love

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Self-love. It’s an allusive thing. Some days we think we have it, confident we’ll never turn back. We wake up feeling great, throw on our favorite jeans or sundress and just know that we are amazing. Other days, it doesn’t matter what we do, that feeling of joy and confidence in ourselves slips straight through our fingers.

This time of year, those moments of self-love can feel especially allusive as we watch the couples everywhere snuggle up for Valentine’s Day dates and dinners. It feels like everyone and everything around us is saying, “You aren’t part of a pair. You aren’t worthy of love.”

That makes this the perfect time of year to call B.S. on the idea that we need to be part of a couple to be truly loved. Why? Because you can’t give away what you can’t give yourself. It doesn’t take a life partner to teach you how to give unconditional love. It doesn’t take forgiving your parents for their mistakes to know forgiveness. You have to start with your own complicated, damaged, unapologetically beautiful self.

1. Start practicing unconditional love for your Self (and yes, that includes your cellulite, your social awkwardness, your terrible form in warrior III, all of it), and suddenly it will become easier to accept other people as they are.

2. Look back at your own life mistakes, your own moments of weakness and realize that you were only doing the best that you could, just like the rest of us. Soften towards yourself, and you’ll realize that you don’t feel such a hard grudge towards others that have hurt you or done you wrong.

These are the first steps back to reclaiming our self-love. Practice this and you’ll find that the mornings you wake up feeling wonderful and confident will start to outweigh the mornings of doubt and self-criticism.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that with this practice we’ll never have moments of doubt and fear. The point is to see those moments and realize they’re temporary and necessary.  Those moments of doubt are critical. They keep us balanced. They give us the space to step back and say: “What can I be doing better here?” “What am I allowing to affect me more than it should?” “Where can I show up more fully?” Or, “Am I really living with as much compassion as possible?”

My challenge to you this Valentine’s Day is to accept the challenge the world is giving you. Shift the perspective back to yourself. Keep these two practices in your pocket and ask yourself out on a date. Treat yourself to a spa day without waiting for someone else to gift it to you. Allow yourself the space the take the day off and do that one thing you love, that makes you feel so immensely alive, but that you’re always too busy to do.

Don’t wait for permission to love yourself as well as you would love that dream guy. Start now. Do it today. Permission given.

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Finding Truth and Releasing Fear

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I was sitting in a tepee, a strangely new tepee made with cream canvas and PVC joints. My floor was foam pads and a faux bearskin. I was supposed to be meditating, but all I could think of was how this felt nothing like I had dreamed in my childhood.

In my head, words passed through: “Find your seat, find your breath.” I took one more look at the brand-new canvas in front of me and vowed to release my judgment and open my mind. I could hear my teacher and teachers past reminding me that the things we hold in our life are nothing more than the intention brought to them. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and intended: Mother Earth’s womb.

It is a funny thing, walking into our own self-awareness. In theory, it is something we all want—to be more connected, to know more about our selves and why we are the way we are. When we have a moment of coming into our selves, of seeing a piece of our true nature, it can be a magical and rejuvenating experience.

The space within a tepee is powerful. It is perfectly balanced, leaving no room for extremes or lies. Whatever you feel will bounce around in the space until you’ve felt all sides of it and come to the center of that truth. But truth can be difficult. For me, it brought fears and regrets, memories of moments, and people I didn’t even know I had forgotten.

I felt myself swing from giddy elation to sobbing in a matter of seconds.

Eventually, my teacher came out and joined me. I felt numb and overwhelmed. Something had been tapped. All I could do was sit in my numbness and listen.

That night, as I arrived home, I couldn’t go in. Instead, I walked out to the riverbank and stood under the stars. The light of the stars glistened on the mud. I pulled my scarf closer and sobbed a hysterical, breath-stealing sob that is usually reserved only for moments in childhood or mourning. The fear and sadness came pouring out and seemed to melt down into the sand.

They say that if you meditate inside a tepee, anything is possible. The lack of corners brings new energies to light, taking away all the darkness within which they would usually hide.

It was days later, as I sat on my apartment floor, staring at the brick wall, that I realized the change. A deep sorrow and fear were gone. In that tepee, I had found them, stared them in the face, and, by doing so, let them go. I found my truth and my fear. That fear I had carried for so long was suddenly in my hands. Under that clear winter sky, it was released. I walked away lighter and ready for more.

– This piece originally appeared in Mantra Yoga + Health Magazine. See more at: http://mantramag.com/renee-lamb-finding-truth-and-releasing-fear/

5 Ways Yoga Turns a Woman into a Goddess

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Deep down, we all know that we are goddesses in our own right.

Each of us carries the powers of Athena and Lakshmi locked away in all those beautifully strong and feminine parts of ourselves. Yet, we are so quick to forget this as we go through our lives, worrying about groceries and afterschool activities, rushing to work and caring for others.

When we take the time to come to our mats, a lot can happen in those short moments of solitude and practice. Yoga is so much more than just Downward-Facing Dogs and Sun Salutations. It is a powerful and subtle practice that can change our whole perspective on the world.

In Sanskrit the word yoga means “to yoke”, to join the small individual self with the divine Self. The premise being that each of us is already divine in our own right, having forgotten this through our identification with our body and individuality.

The more attached we become to our lives, our “can’s” and our “can’ts”, the easier it is forget that we are actually all divine beings capable of anything. For most of us, it is only in those rare moments when we really watch our breath or move into a pose that we thought we couldn’t do that we catch a glimpse of her, that goddess that resides within.

Over time those rare glimpses will become more frequent. Over time your yoga practice will make you into even more of a goddess than you ever thought possible.

Here are 5 ways that your yoga practice makes you into a goddess:

1. It creates confidence.

We all started out in the same place: a regular old mat, black yoga pants and an old T-shirt, wondering why we have to pose like a dog and why we are the only ones in the class confused when the teacher stopped speaking English.

That is where this journey usually begins, but a few years in and suddenly we find ourselves pulling on our brightly colored pants, looking forward to Adho Mukha Svanasana and hoping that the teacher throws a headstand into the mix.

The practice we do on our mat allows us to tap into that part of ourselves that got boxed away when we graduated from high school. It taps into the little girl that used to love doing cartwheels in the backyard before she got too old for them. It pulls back out that playful element that we all had before we started to worry what other people thought, what’s appropriate and not. We may not have four arms like Lakshmi, but we know we can take on the world, and we’re a little more ready to try.

2. It makes you more beautiful.

All yoga practices, whether they are based in asana (poses), pranayama (breath) or meditation, teach us something about ourselves. The practice is an avenue towards self-awareness, and true self-awareness is one of the most gorgeous things you can drape onto your body.

When we practice, we can tap into our feminine energies, our masculine energies and our divine light. We can listen to ourselves more fully and appreciate that there is beauty in even our most disliked “flaws” and idiosyncrasies. We realize that we are who and how we are for a reason, and that to be any other way would limit us from finding our most truly beautiful self.

3. It allows you to drop your labels.

Society has no shortage of labels to put on us, and we carry the weight of those labels along with us each day. Just think about how many of these labels have been applied to you: sister, mother, wife, daughter, playful, stoic, selfish, caring, fat, skinny, weak, strong, sexy, tired, bitchy, confident, overactive, shy, cute, butch… we could go on for pages.

When we take the time to step on our mats, we allow ourselves to leave those labels at the door. We create a safe space for 30, 60 or 90 minutes, and we tap into that part of ourselves that is divine and unchanging, the part of ourselves that is always beautiful, confident and capable no matter what the world is telling us.

4. It gives you that “glow”.  

Yes, sometimes that glow is most obviously felt as it drips off your chin in your 15th Chaturanga Dandasana, but that is not the glow I mean here. I am talking about that “wow” factor, that energy that precedes you as you walk into a room. It is that unidentifiable element that causes people to turn their heads, to smile at you or to listen more intently to what you have to say.

If you been to a great yoga class or been truly inspired by a great speaker, you know what I mean. It is that moment when you’re perfectly balanced and peaceful, ready for anything the world can throw at you. You are confident and beautifully full. At that moment you are unmovable and the goddess within shines forth a light that is intoxicating.

5. It inspires you to sing. 

It has happened to all of us. You’re walking down the sidewalk, washing dishes or cooking and realize you’re humming. Maybe it was one of those Sanskrit songs from class where you couldn’t understand the words, but the melody was beautiful. Often we’ll assume that the teacher picked the song just because it had a good melody or tempo, but a good teacher will do more than that. She will pick songs with mantras and meanings that reinforce the class’s intention, whether that be healing, strength or playfulness.

Those songs and mantras are even more powerful when coupled with an asana practice. They carry vibrations through the room, vibrations that change you on a very cellular level.  When those songs pass over your body and get stuck in your head (so that you find yourself humming them as you walk down the street), you’ve unknowingly found a new inspiration. Just by carrying that sound and that mantra with you, you’ve already created more joy and bliss in the body.

We all know that joy and bliss are the first steps to being a goddess. Every goddess is joyful. They all find immeasurable moments of bliss. Sure Durga may find her joy in a different way than Aphrodite, but they live fully, embracing those parts of themselves that are the strongest and most awe-inspiring.

Keep up the practice. Trust in yourself and remember that each of those goddesses already resides within you too.