I began the new year with the post “Grace” in which I challenged each of you to open your heart to your own bountiful life. Last month’s post, as well as this month’s challenge, was inspired in part by Derek Walcott’s wonderful poem “Love After Love”:

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

So often it takes some giant, momentous thing happening–like surviving a shark attack–for us to fall in love with our life and take up the task of trusting in all of the adventures of the heart that arise for us. I believe, though, that falling in love with our life begins by staying open to all that arises and staying open to the adventures both big and small that present themselves daily. What does this mean? For me, it means making space to say “yes” to taking care of myself; to saying “yes” to honestly acknowledging what brings me joy; to trusting that I can weather both joy and heartbreak, and to never shy away from investigating my life for personal growth.

I begin each day with a yoga practice, be it 30 minutes or 90, so that I can investigate who I am each new day on my mat first–in terms of my physical body and what it has to offer as well as what is cropping up mentally and emotionally so that I can meditate or use my breath practice to cultivate some awareness of these things. In doing this, I give myself some time and space. I don’t always love what comes up, but I try to stay open to whatever “it” might be. “It” is sometimes a physical issue that impedes something I really want to do, or is sometimes a negative thought that just won’t give. The skills I cultivate in my yoga practice allow me be open to this–and in staying open this way, I am given the opportunity to fall in love with my life, my self, each and every day.

I considered calling this the “Love Your Body” yoga challenge, but I was afraid that might be misconstrued as some kind of weight loss thing, which this isn’t. Often, in practicing daily, we do lighten up physically, emotionally and mentally, which for some might reveal itself in outward physical ways. But the challenge of practicing every day from now until the end of February is not for what others see when they look at you (though it’s likely any positive inner change will glow without too); rather, it’s meant to awaken you, open you up to being comfortable and joyous in how you feel when you greet yourself each day. The second you decide to allow yourself to love completely your own life, the more love becomes available to you all around.

So set the intention to practice every day with me from now until February 28th (who knows, this might become one of those wonderful things that sticks around for longer). We will post poses, thoughts, and practices to inspire you in your home practice, and join us at the studio for classes. Begin right now by setting the intention to make these next days about noticing–using this practice to align yourself to a new awareness about how you feel in certain poses, how you feel eating some foods over others, how you feel when you meditate, breathe, and how you can use these techniques to notice fear, anxiety, anger–all the things that hold us back from loving our own beautiful self.

Somewhere along the line, maybe you, too, forgot to love yourself completely and so now doing so really is a challenge. How little we value our own precious life shows up in how little time we make to take care of our own needs, or the guilt we feel when we do allot this time; it shows up in the ways we sabotage our health in numerous ways; it shows up in the feelings of anger and regret we carry in our bodies and hearts; it shows up in the blocked hearts we carry around that keep us from trusting and adventuring fully. It shows up again and again. Intend to give yourself this brief period of days–it’s a small chunk of time to give yourself and endeavor to notice what you bear forth in your own life.