Yoga classes traditionally begin with a few moments focused on a message that sets the theme for the practice. As I teach, it is one of my favorite parts of class, a chance to set direction and tone for the time we are together.
This week, during chair yoga with our elders (the highlight of my week!), we talked about santosha, one of the ethical principles on which yoga is based. Santosha means contentment and when I spoke about it I was not talking about contentment as accepting that all is okay but rather seeking contentment, seeking acceptance, for ourselves.
We spend a lot of time judging ourselves and, by and large, that judgment is a harsh one. We focus on our flaws and we think “If only I was . . .” or “If only I had . . .” Many of our elders nodded their heads in agreement and recognition when I talked about that and others shared afterwards that they are always, even now in the later stages of their life, self-critical.
I suggested to them to just try something, that throughout our practice rather than feel frustrated or inadequate because they couldn’t do something fully, or couldn’t do it the same way others could, that they try to shift their internal messaging. That those negative thoughts, like a cartoon bubble over our heads, should be replaced by one simple phrase “I am enough.”
Those three words are deceptively simple yet incredibly powerful. If we each believe that we are enough, if we each accept ourselves and check our negative self-talk at the door, it changes our sense of our own identity. Knowing that we are enough also enables us to see others through that same lens, rather than through a magnifying glass trained on flaws and imperfections.
This is, by no means, an easy feat. And yet if we make the effort to tell ourselves that we are enough and repeat that message until we believe it, we grow in our self-worth as well as our ability to care for ourselves and, by meaningful extension, others.