The Words From My Yoga Instructor That Completely Changed How I View Self-Care

When I attended my first yoga class, I was expecting to leave feeling relaxed and especially “stretchy.” While I did leave with a new spring in my step, I also left with a lesson that would come to benefit me for years to come.

In came in the middle of a sun salutation. I’m following along, trying to slow my brain, control any flatulence and be the good, diligent student in class: “Not everyone will be able to [insert weird way to contort your body here], but that’s OK. Just meet your body where you are right now. It’s OK to modify. It’s not a weakness, it’s just acknowledging you aren’t there yet. That’s why yoga is called a practice.”

This comment was likely said millions of times over the instructor’s career, however it was news to me. News that would stay with me for years to come and would give yoga millions of brownie points in my book. Meet yourself where you are now. Acknowledge you aren’t there yet and that’s OK.

This seemingly simple advice applies to so much more in life than just yoga. Mental illnesses can be all-consuming and it can be frustrating to not be able to do what we need to. Get out of bed. Get dressed. Brush teeth. Clean room. Go to work. Calm down. These minute tasks can feel like finding a needle in an ocean when you’re going through a panic attack or in the depths of depression. And when easy tasks like those listed above feel hard to do, it can be ridiculously frustrating and just add more stress.

Meet yourself where you are now. Acknowledge you aren’t there yet and that’s OK.

Maybe getting out of bed sounds like the worst thing ever. Perhaps just looking out the window while lying in bed is a good first step. Meet yourself where you are now.

Maybe getting dressed takes a lot of effort. How about getting out of bed first? That’s a step in the right direction. Meet yourself where you are now.

Clean room. Ha! Cleaning, yeah, right. Have you had a glass of water? Water is so good for you and might just motivate you more. Meet yourself where you are now.

I first realized the benefit and impact of these statement one dark February day. It was perfectly light out, but it sure didn’t feel like it. Staring at a wall sounded more interesting than looking at the cute puppy pictures my friend had sent me to try to cheer me up. On this particular February day, I was reminded of one self-care option: journaling. I wrote in a journal a lot as a depressed kid, but as a depressed adult I found the notion overwhelming. You really want me to write in complete sentences when I can’t even figure out what color the sky is right now?

I gave it a shot. And after just one sentence, I was already stressed. But then, I realized something profound. My brain was running a million miles a minute even though it wasn’t functioning (the joys of depression and anxiety simultaneously, am I right?) and full sentences weren’t working. But words. Words I could do. I started writing words. Big, small, fat, plain, decorated, sideways. Words all over the page. Words that weren’t sentences and weren’t fully formed thoughts, but were words that came to the forefront of my mind. What I found was writing these words helped them calm down in my head. And as my thoughts swirled less, my brain calmed down. And as my brain calmed, my mood lifted. I felt relief in journaling the way that worked for me. Meet yourself where you are now. Acknowledge you aren’t there yet and that’s OK.

Yoga is a practice. Life is a practice, too. Practice isn’t just for musical instruments and sports teams. Practice is all around us. When we meet ourselves where we are in the present, we can easily set a goal for ourselves.

I can’t journal right now, but I can write words. Maybe as I practice writing words, I’ll be able to work up to writing sentences. Meet yourself where you are now. Acknowledge you aren’t there yet and that’s OK. Life is a practice.

I’m too stressed to color inside the lines of my new coloring book, but coloring outside the lines feels better right now. Meet yourself where you are now. Acknowledge you aren’t there yet and that’s OK. Life is a practice.

Self-care is hard. Not all self-care ideas will work for all people. And not all ideas will be right in the moment. But don’t be afraid to meet yourself where you are now. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Modify, modify, modify. It’s not a weakness, it’s doing what you’re able to in the moment. And that’s OK. Meet yourself where you are now. Acknowledge you aren’t there yet and that’s OK. Life is a practice.

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