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Unconditional Self Love: A Journey Home

Updated: Jul 12, 2020

“Love is the great miracle cure. Loving ourselves works miracles in our lives.” - Louise L. Hay

I flourished in many ways as a child growing up in Manhattan. And, to some, it would appear I had everything... well, almost. My father died before I was two. My mother suffered from depression and according to one of my childhood best friends (a psychiatrist), she also had bi-polar tendencies and was a narcissist. When I was twelve she started medication, calmed down and reached out to become friends. My youngest days were fraught with insecurity from never feeling the comfort of unconditional love or a family life I saw depicted in the media. There was paid help to care for us and mostly my mother was not home, rarely shared meals with my brother and I, and led an independent life. Even visiting my very Victorian grandparents every Sunday was not something we did with my mother. The hole created by a lack of positive role models was something I would contend with as I played out one misguided relationship after another in my life. I was lucky both as a young artist to have the freedom to work with amazing dancers who were my models in my early 20's and find work as a Photo Editor in publishing in NYC. And despite having a good job, a couple of longer term relationships and then getting married I still did not love myself, well, not unconditionally.

Sports, art and activities always kept me going. At twelve I began writing poetry to balance my heartache. It was the year my baby nurse disappeared one summer while I was away at camp and my life felt emptier than it had ever been. At 29 I tried talk therapy to help repair a fraying relationship with my mother. You know those people who seem like nothing you do is good enough. From my haircut to my husband, it was never good enough for my mother. Even having two boys and filling in the mothering hole did not create a greater love for myself. Being physical, a competing gymnast through elementary school, on a waterski team in the summers, joining the fencing team in college, and continuing to try many movement fads from Jane Fonda to the early NY Health & Racquet Clubs, and then joining my oldest son to relearn how to ice skate, rollerblade, cross country ski and swim.

My journey to Kaiut Yoga started with my feet. Not just because I tried one class in Telluride out of curiosity about what a biomechanical form of Yoga might be, but because all the physical modalities I began training in as I approached 50 years of age all related to foot pain. I could no longer escape it and it required me to learn how to change my feet versus never walking barefoot or only using accommodations and supports. So, through my 50's I studied modality after modality, anything that offered foot relief. Kaiut Yoga, I learned at my first Toronto training, incorporated all the various knowledge systems I was teaching separately from biomechanical foot exercises to fascial rehydration. And, though I'd arrived at that first teacher training with a torn medial meniscus, I learned to heal it on my own. Kaiut Yoga provided a meditative deep practice helping to return, strengthen and create a balanced biomechanical framework to support my aging process. One by one I let my other certifications go and focused solely on teaching and practicing Kaiut. An experience which has slowed me down, allowed me to heal, not just physically, but become stronger emotionally as well. Now in my 60's, I no longer ruthlessly judge myself and the one thing I do know, the one person I have truly come to love unconditionally without fear in the last three years, has been me.

Louise Hay has a wonderful exercise where you look at yourself in a mirror and say “I love you.” Five years ago I couldn't get the words out before ending in tears, today I'm happy to look in a mirror and say “I love you.”

Kaiut Yoga is much like Louise Hays's suggestions for unconditional self-love:

The goal of unconditional self-love is to live our best life with a sense of wholeness, health, peace, and empowerment. Empowerment enables us to change our lives for the better and to make the world a better place.

© Eli Dagastino

Valerie Sonnenthal Kaiut Yoga Teacher & Owner of Peaked Hill Studio

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