by Laura Gilmore

We Begin to find and Become ourselves when we notice
How we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly,
Messily, marvellously who we were born to be

Anne Lamont


One grandiose claim often made is that “Yoga” leads to self acceptance. As if by going to an asana (posture work) class suddenly years of self negativity will drop away. Most of us probably realise from personal experience, that while there is a seed of truth in this, in reality it is not quite this straightforward.

The process of moving from a self-critical mind frame to one filled with self-acceptance, takes a certain re-wiring of thought processes.

This may come about during asana practice, as we focus on the body and the breath, and allow a sense of ease to come to the body, and stillness to the mind. But if we are so embedded in negative thought, this sense of ease and space may not arise.

The asana practice might be another way to punish ourselves, to think ourselves not good enough.

The fundamental question then is this- how do we create a transformative practice? One which can transform habits of body and mind? A certain degree of transformation is inherent in the asana practice. As the body becomes more malleable, so the habits and thoughts that have tended to rigidify the body can start to break-up and to drop away from us.

But to support this process, we need to dare to be kind to ourselves through the practice and to carry this with us off of the mat.


Here are some simple techniques you could practice:


Setting an intention of acceptance: at the beginning of class/ home practice, take a moment to reflect and to cultivate an attitude of acceptance for how you are now.


Breathing- as you breathe imagine breathing a quality of acceptance into yourself. You can imagine you are breathing directly into the heart-region and from there and breath spreads through the body carrying a deep acceptance with it.


As you become able to grasp the nature of your thoughts in your yoga practice of during daily life, use this opportunity to offer yourself positive thoughts. This can be done at any time, but also when you notice yourself saying to yourself “I’m so stupid” then take the opportunity to correct yourself. ”No I’m not stupid, I just didn’t see that this time.”

Recognising Patterns

At this continues you might start to recall and unpick where some of the negativity comes from. Perhaps you felt put down as a child and can work with acceptance and forgiveness towards others.


Taking time to practice asana (postures) will help us to become more accepting of ourselves to some degree as the body is able to release so will the mind become more adaptable. However this process will be multiplied if we combine it with an attitude of self- acceptance, and acceptance of others.

This can simply start with accepting where we are in the posture that day. Perhaps closing your eyes instead of comparing yourself to your yoga-neighbour. And feeling into the body with kindness. And taking some time each day to re-enforce a sense of self- acceptance. Perhaps while sitting quietly, or while travelling to work, or during daily life when we get frustrated in any scenario and move into self blame.


Take a deep breath. Try a little smile and say “I am fine just as I am.”


Laura Gilmore is the Director of Bristol City Yoga.  She shares insight into yoga and meditation in the classes and retreats she teaches in Bristol, the UK and abroad.