Reclaiming Joy and Pleasure: Healing Deep Self-Loathing

Reclaiming Joy and Pleasure: Healing Deep, Inner Self-Loathing
Image by Ulrike Mai

Accept yourself absolutely and unconditionally.
It’s one of the most radical acts
you can do in an insane culture
that actually profits from your self-loathing.
Outrageous Openness: Letting the Divine Take the Lead

How we truly feel about ourselves must be considered when we talk about healing. Many of us have what Pema Chödrön calls a “subtle aggression” against ourselves. Unfortunately, our desire for change or transformation often comes from there. But that never works.

Transformation begins on its own from deep inside us, when we love ourselves now, just as we are. This may seem paradoxi­cal, that in order to change, we have to accept what is. This is an example of both-and. We can change, but first we must accept what is, embrace what is, and allow ourselves to be okay in this moment now.

Part of being able to love yourself is being able to forgive yourself. It is one of the hardest parts of self-reflection — to see yourself truly, to see the things you’ve done or the times that you have acted less than stellar, less than kind, the times when you’ve been brusque, dismissive, or worse, cruel to others or yourself. Often, if you do realize it, you’ll beat yourself up for being a bad person.

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Instead, you must turn to the place of forgiveness — forgiving yourself for your behaviors, forgiving others for their behaviors. This doesn’t mean con­tinuing your bad behaviors. It means seeing them, vowing to stop them, and then forgiving yourself. And it doesn’t mean allowing people to continue their bad behavior toward you.

Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to befriend them. It simply means you are releasing your anger toward that behavior so you can be free from the anger. It brings you to a very deep place of compassion and can be a turning point on the road to healing.

Healing Deep Self-Loathing

How you think about yourself broadcasts an energetic frequency. Your thoughts have frequencies. The frequency of your thoughts entrains the fre­quency of your body to its level. If you’ve ever stood in front of a mirror and said to yourself, “I hate my body,” “I hate my double chin,” “I hate my eye sag,” “I hate my tits, my big fat gut, my jiggly thighs,” “I hate my knobby knees,” you are literally entraining your body to disgust and hatred. This affects you more than I could possibly write about in several volumes!

Healing this deep, inner self-loathing ingrained in so many of us is the only way we’re going to be able to truly heal the disconnect and divides within ourselves that cause disease. These divides are reflected in the divides in our world that cause a disease of our culture. The racism, hatred, fear, and lack of respect that we project onto others starts within ourselves. We must go there first to unify what is divided.

When we truly love and accept ourselves just as we are, not only accepting our flaws but accepting our essential selves, we are on the path to healing. We draw back to our original, innocent spirit. That place of pure and trusting love and perfection that exists within each of us.

In yoga it is called the purusha—the untouchable, unbreakable soul. That place is the wellspring of all healing and transformation, because in that place, we are already whole. From there, disease can cease to exist. Also, from the place of the soul is the understanding that sometimes the body is not going to continue on the journey. Then we are freer to release the body and let the soul free.

Paying Attention To Your Own Body And Mind

In all my years of teaching yoga I would say that 90 percent or more of the women in my classes were unhappy with their bodies in some way. Whether a woman is thin or plump doesn’t seem to matter. Most women are unsatis­fied and can pick apart in detail all of their flaws. Their relationship with food is often a battle, and the overwhelming desire to be bone-thin has led some to embrace a vegan or raw food lifestyle as both a means and, just as often, a punishment.

In a New York Times op-ed, I read a quote by the late French philosopher Simone Weil: “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” Out of context of what the author was writing about, I believe that attention to your own body and mind is the most generous and life-changing thing you can do for yourself.

One of the most profound things we can do is to listen. In our current age, which is smitten by our attachment to i-devices, listening is in short supply. We pay less and less attention to each other or ourselves. And yet, it is the thing we crave the most. We post to Facebook, craving the “likes” of people who take the time to pay attention to us. Our obsession with reality TV is our obsession with being seen, heard, paid attention to.

Instead of fighting for your fifteen minutes of fame, I offer you the idea of paying attention to yourself. Spend a little bit, or a lot, of time in which you are deeply and profoundly aware of yourself. When you give yourself this level of attention, you start to learn things about yourself. From knowledge comes awareness, and from awareness comes the ability to transform. So much negative, sarcastic joking has been heaped on “navel gazing” in the New Age world. In fact, this act of deeply looking inward and empowering yourself with true awareness is a revolutionary act.

It It Hurts, That’s Your Body Talking

Nothing in your body should hurt. If it does, that is your body trying to send you a signal. Once you start to massage your body, all over your body, and all parts of your body, you begin to see and experience yourself as a whole being. Everything has a story to tell, and everything contains information. Your job is to gather and process that information so you stay healthy. This is a daily practice.

One of my teacher trainees said that the biggest difference she noticed since practicing EMYoga was her relationship with her body. “I’ve never touched my body in this way before,” she said, laughing. In our culture, we are not encouraged to have a deep intimacy with our own body. We can touch ourselves or another in a sexual way or in a platonic way. If we’re parents, we touch our children in a loving way. But we rarely touch ourselves. Let alone daily palpate our bodies to see what they have to report.

I have a long-haired dog, and every time we come back from a walk in the woods, I check his whole body for burrs and bugs before I let him back in the house. We need to do the same thing to ourselves. A daily check-in to make sure we don’t have any “burrs or bugs.” This is not only healing and empowering—it feels good.

Reclaiming Pleasure

Part of my mission as a teacher is not only to empower people — to encourage people to think and work outside the box, to reach for their highest potential and become their authentic selves — but to reclaim pleasure.

Imagine if you felt complete, just as you are now. Seriously. Take a moment, close your eyes, and imagine what that would feel like. If there was nothing you desired, nothing you wanted or needed. Everything perfect, just as it is. In our world of constant questing, seeking, building, achieving, consuming, con­suming, consuming, it’s hard to even imagine that. We are often driven by the things we don’t have instead of feeling gratitude for the things we do.

Pleasure is something that can exist in almost everything we do. I don’t simply mean the pleasure of spending time with friends, or enjoying a good movie, or watching a beautiful sunset, though all of those are extremely important. I mean the visceral, physical pleasure of moving energy in the human body.

If we were aware of how easy it is to feel pleasure, and if we accepted that it is not only okay to feel pleasure but that this pleasure can come from doing physical exercise that makes the body healthy, aligns the energy, and promotes healing, we wouldn’t be paying millions of dollars to a “health care” industry predicated on the premise that we don’t know how to be happy or healthy.

Appreciation: Your Body Is A Gift

Your body is a gift and supports everything you do in your life. If you’re in a health crisis as you’re reading this, you can appreciate even more how a healthy body, no matter the size or shape, is something to prize and treasure. If you are suffering from an injury or an illness, you can still focus on aspects of your body that are working well, even as you try to find solutions to bringing those unwell parts back into balance. Many people use health crises as opportunities to learn and grow, to change bad habits into good ones, and to meditate on a deep appreciation for the positive things in life.

I don’t want to in any way diminish the challenges of health crises. There are few things worse than being sick or incapacitated to make you feel miserable. But these challenges also offer us insight into how we’ve previously viewed ourselves.

Hopefully, as you tune and balance your body’s energies, you will come more into alignment with a healthy self-image. Throw out the glossy maga­zines. Look at the celebrity yogi Instagram and Facebook feeds, but make sure you look at a lot of different ones. Look at the skinny yogi and the fleshy yogi, the tall yogi and the short one, men and women of all colors and races and sizes and shapes, and get inspired by the beauty and diversity around you, of which you are a part. Then revel in the strength and individuality of your own body. Affirm all the positive things your body does for you. And tap it in, literally.


When you feel joyful, empowered, strong, and happy, tap your third eye, between your eyebrows, gently. It will help imprint that memory in your energy fields.

Embrace your glorious, unique, beautiful self. Then take all that you’ve learned and share it with someone else. Sister by sister, brother by brother, energy by energy, we can create a healthier, happier world.

©2017 by Lauren Walker.
All Rights Reserved.
Excerpted with permission.
Publisher: Sounds True.

Article Source

The Energy Medicine Yoga Prescription
by Lauren Walker

The Energy Medicine Yoga Prescription by Lauren WalkerWhen you’re dealing with a health issue, what kind of energy practice will help the most? "To bring ourselves back into wellness," teaches Lauren Walker, "we first have to understand what brought our body out of wellness. When we return to balance, the body is best able to heal itself." With The Energy Medicine YogaPrescription, Lauren brings you an invaluable guide to help you uncover the root causes of specific physical, emotional, and psychological health complaints―along with a treasury of potent self-care practices to accelerate your healing. (Also available as a Kindle edition.)

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About the Author

Lauren WalkerLauren Walker is the author of The Energy Medicine Yoga Prescription (Sounds True, 2017) and Energy Medicine Yoga: Amplify the Healing Power of Your Yoga Practice (Sounds True, 2014). She's been teaching yoga and meditation since 1997, and created Energy Medicine Yoga while teaching at Norwich University. She teaches EMYoga across the US and internationally, and has been featured in Yoga Journal, Mantra Yoga + Health, Yoga Digest, and the New York Times. She was recently named one of the top 100 most influential yoga teachers in America by Sonima. For more information, visit

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