By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Yoga is a science of balanced, mental and physical living. Self-love and self-criticism are polar opposites, but most people are quick to punish themselves when they make mistakes. It seems that many of us are looking too deeply into our own flaws.
While it is true that none of us is perfect, it will not be helpful to one’s self-esteem to constantly be reminded of this fact. Looking at one’s self can invite merciless self-criticism. We may be able to tell a friend to stop criticizing us, but the mind can chatter while you sleep or at any time of the day. How can Yoga meditation help us train our minds to stop finding faults within us?
The Yogic Solution to Self- Criticism
Swami Kripalu, a 20th century spiritual teacher and well known Yoga Guru, once said, “The highest form of spiritual practice is self-observation without self-criticism.” Few disciplines encourage practitioners to examine themselves, inwardly and outwardly, like the ancient art of meditation. The eternal question of “Who am I?” leads to self-observation, but the process of truly accepting oneself is far more difficult.
Wise decisions require critical thinking skills, and awareness calls for objectivity and clarity. Unrealistic expectations and perfectionism, however, block creativity, destroy self-esteem, and result in anger and frustration. Trying to live up to other people’s standards, judging success by external rewards, and demanding flawless performance set the scene for destructive self-talk.
While the goal of Yogic meditation is the creation of harmony between the internal and external mind, sometimes, a few practical solutions are able to stop the critical inner voice before it gets out of control. First, though, it is vital to recognize the process in its early stages. Warning signs may be a lump in the throat, tense muscles, clenched teeth, or other physical and emotional signals. Meditation is the tool that makes it possible to witness and alter these unhealthy patterns of thinking.
Six Ways to Stop Self-Criticism in Its Early Stages
1. Listen to the automatic tapes playing in your head. If your mind is full of negative thoughts, stop and ask yourself if they are true. Awareness is the first step in making changes.
2. When you catch yourself listening to critical thoughts, replace the false statements with positive ones.
3. Do Yoga poses (asana) to release pent-up energy and clear your mind.
5. Practice controlled breathing techniques (pranayama).
6. Write about your feelings. Studies have shown that students, who have performance anxiety, do better on tests when they write about their anxiety beforehand.
A regular Yoga meditation practice increases sensitivity to emotional and physical sensations, making it easier to stop the cycle of self-criticism, before the body responds with symptoms like the release of adrenaline or an increase in blood pressure. The key to success is becoming familiar with the negative thoughts and realizing that they are just that – thoughts.
© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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