As any committed practitioner will tell you, yoga is more than a set of postures that increase flexibility and physical fitness. True yogis know that yoga — which translates as union in Sanskrit — is really a way of life that integrates the mind, body and spirit. One of yoga’s most important tenets is the cultivation of loving kindness. Yogis strive to practice loving kindness in regard to all beings in the world. But sometimes, we forget to extend loving kindness toward ourselves. For this month’s “Love Issue,” Jmore spoke with veteran local yoga instructor Robyn Katz, a teacher at LifeBridge Health, Susquehanna Yoga and Meditation Center and The Soul Center at Beth El Congregation, to find out what yoga has to say about self-love.

  1. How does yoga define self-love?

Self-love means taking care of yourself, physically and emotionally. You should show friendliness and compassion toward yourself. Don’t judge yourself.

  1. Is self-love selfish or narcissistic?

No. Self-love is selfless. It may feel selfish but if you act friendly toward yourself, it will reverberate in the greater picture.

  1. Does self-love contradict yogic principals of universal love?

[Some examples of] universal love are “Love thy neighbor,” trying to see the best in everyone, walking in another’s shoes before you judge … showing friendliness, compassion and joy to all beings from the smallest ant to the biggest tree. Why would you treat yourself badly? Women especially can be critical of ourselves. “I’m too fat,” “I’m ugly,” “My hair isn’t straight.” Why can’t we instead say, “I don’t have straight hair; I have curly hair” or “I’m not my ideal weight, but that doesn’t make me a bad person.”

Robyn Katz

Yoga instructor Robyn Katz performs an inversion in an area designated for yoga at her Pikesville home. (Photo by Steve Ruark)

  1. How can we love ourselves better?

Find the goodness in yourself. Think about what’s best about you. It’s not about being pretty, but about what’s in your heart. Help a neighbor, say “Hi.” That happiness and loving kindness fills you up and makes you happier. It’s a cycle. Those things will come back to you.

  1. What are some yoga poses that increase love?

Back bends open the chest area, where the heart is. And inversions. They turn you upside down letting all the organs soften which quiets the mind and heart. In that state, we’re able to find our greater selves.