“Come to the mat. Come back to the mat, because you love yourself. Use your practice to fall in love with yourself. Not the ego based kind of love, but the kind of love that allows you to flourish to your full potential so that you can help others do the same.” ~ Feyhan Levine, Yoga Teacher

Yoga. Not pretzel poses and stretchy pants. Not super-models on the covers of fitness magazines.

Yoga. The simple practice of bringing together the WHOLE SELF with attention to body, mind and spirit.

It’s not an occult practice. (I can’t help giggle when I remember a judge in a rural county of Georgia asking me when I was on the stand testifying as an expert in a court case, “Isn’t yoga some of that voo doo thing?” Oh my. No…)

No, Yoga is about love. It’s about focus. It’s about being awake to our lives. It’s about service. It’s about respect. It’s about love.

It’s not about ego-based, self-centered narcissism.

It’s about choosing to believe that beneath your ego-centric behavior and your stinking-thinking, you are a pure being of goodness.

And so is everyone else beneath their undesirable behavior and stinking-thinking.

“Coming to the mat” in Yoga is much more than rolling out that 6×2 piece of jute or rubber.  It’s about approaching yourself, your body, your breath, your thoughts, your inner-being with acceptance and willingness to work with where you are.

But Yoga is not just on the mat.

Yoga is a dedicated practice all day every day if you want to allow it to be a part of your life and see the transformation.

Yoga of thought is choosing what your mind will focus on rather than allowing thoughts to jump in and drag you down the road.

Today, practice this…. As corny as it may sound to some of you who have been conditioned to believe that “self love” is indulgent mamby-pamby stuff I hope you will open your mind – and more importantly your heart.

Set a timer on your phone/device for 10 minutes and turn off all distractions.

Come to the mat of your mind.

Visualize rolling out a yoga mat that feels like home to you.

In your mind take a seat and sit tall. Allow your body to settle into a comfortable seat in your mind and in your body wherever you are.

Close your eyes.

Imagine a time in your life when you felt the warmth and comfort of feeling loved. It could be your grandma’s smile greeting you. It could be your little dog that is there wagging his tail glad to see you. It could be the day your child was born.

Remember and feel that sense of love in your body and breathe it in. Feel it.

Now, holding on to that feeling begin this practice:

Breathe in as you silently say, “I choose to love myself today.”

Exhale out whatever reaction you may feel in your body or whatever objecting thoughts emerge.

Repeat. Breathe in and silently say, “I choose to love myself.”

Exhale out reaction, discomfort – anything opposite of what feels like love.

Continue this practice until the timer alerts you.

Throughout your day continue to repeat these words.

You see, when we consciously choose to practice coming to ourselves, loving ourselves and acting in a way that is loving toward ourselves, the whole self comes together.

That is Yoga.  And if you actually go to yoga classes or practice asana at home, incorporate this mind practice into your time on the physical mat.

Your life will change for the better if you do. Guaranteed.