Complete liberation in life. That’s Sanaa’s goal. It’s not a certain lifestyle or a certain status. She seeks to be free of all attachment—not just from material items, but from self-judgement, self-criticism and from self-image in its entirety. Her goal is to obtain a complete and full level of self-love. On one hand, it’s so beautifully simple. On the other hand, where does one even start on a journey to 100% self-love?
As I listened to Sanaa (known on Instagram as @ladydork) proclaim her goal of liberation, a feeling of glee came over me. It was like she had finally identified exactly what I wanted but had never had the right words to say. Our half-hour interview was so dense that I took several pages of notes. Here are the six key takeaways I want to share about finding your true self, why it’s important, and how yoga could play a role.
1. Life is hard.
As a teenage victim of abuse, dealing with emotional baggage has been a big part of Sanaa’s journey. As she pointed out, we’re not usually taught how to deal with life’s difficulties. We all want to believe that nothing bad will happen, but when something inevitably goes wrong, we don’t know what to do. Pain is a part of life and you have to learn how to react and adjust to it. For Sanaa, yoga helped her understand how to deal with pain and move forward instead of ignoring it.
2. The physical practice is the easy part.
Sanaa is known for her beautiful practice. She strikes incredible poses with strength and grace. But to her the physical practice is the easy part. For most of us, it’s a max of a couple of hours a day (or one hour a week!). The mental part of the practice, however, is all day, every day. The mind wanders and emotions creep in sporadically as you go. And although the physical practice is tied to the emotional and mental side, it’s not like you can throw your mat in the middle of the street every time an emotional issue pops up to deal with it. Emotions come randomly and many of us are programed to shut them out. We don’t want to be harmed so the quick fix is to ignore them. Yoga teaches the opposite. The practice is about intentionally feeling all of the feels and figuring out how to optimally react to them so that you can remain present and get on with your life.
3. We aren’t flawless.
To know how to react, we must first understand. But how do we understand seemingly random emotions? Sanaa’s biggest piece of advice for understanding emotions is to accept who you are. We think we shouldn’t be flawed. But we know there is no such thing as perfection. So we’re immediately setting ourselves up for failure by desiring an impractical standard. Embracing everything about yourself, the good and the bad, is the only way to move toward self-love. You are the sum of ALL of your parts and they aren’t going anywhere. You have to live with yourself everyday. The more you love yourself, the more you’ll enjoy life.
4. Self-improvement takes some digging.
This isn’t surface-level work, you really have to dive down to start moving forward. It’s the ugly stuff that we don’t want to admit about ourselves that is the most helpful to know. We just need the courage to look. If you’re experiencing insecurity, jealousy, or even hatred, there is a source for those somewhere in your past. The answer is within you, you just have to find it. Once you find the source, you accept it. It’s not about changing what happened. You can’t do that. But you can change how you react to those triggers. Understand to accept. Accept to let go and move forward.
5. Accept to let go.
When you understand yourself you can be less harsh on yourself. Since a lot of our deep-rooted emotional baggage comes from a previous chapter of our lives, you can look at the situation more objectively. You can say, okay, now that I’m an adult and I understand emotions a little bit better, maybe I don’t need to feel this way. Maybe these feelings aren’t necessary. Ask yourself if it’s worth continuing to carry that emotion.
Sanaa copes with her challenges by allowing the thoughts to come, feeling the emotions that come with them, and then by letting them go. If it keeps coming back she sets an intention to reset and she consciously breathes through it. Keep actively letting go until you can shift your thoughts into something positive. This positive thought could be anything! Like a burger or pizza or some healthy snack that really excites you. :)
Learning to let go is a continuing journey. Maybe certain emotions will never stop showing up in your life. The issue is how long the stay after they show up. Make sure you don’t hold onto an emotion every time it comes back. Keep letting it go.
6. You need healing - and good news - we’re all healers.
Cry it out, but breathe. Become your own healer, your own psychiatrist. We seek answers from someone else because it’s easier to hand our problems to someone else. “Just fix it for me.” We don’t want to think. We don’t want to deal with it. There’s no easy fix. Sometimes we carry stuff for years and don’t even realize we have it until something happens that reminds us what we’re carrying. And then all of a sudden it’s overwhelming and you have to deal with it.
Sanaa chose to teach yoga because through the practice she has grown toward self-love and she wants to share that with others. She believes the biggest gift you can give anyone is helping them deal with and adjust their emotions. And while she doesn’t consider herself a healer of others (only of herself) she aims to provide guidance where and when she can.
“I’m stronger than I thought I was - physically and mentally. Whatever you set your mind to you can do it. The mind sends vibrations to the body. You have to make up your mind and keep telling yourself until you actually believe it.”
Follow Sanaa on Instagram. You won’t regret it!