Our society is obsessed with Love. The Valentine’s Day Machine gets moving on Jan. 1st, and soon after heart paraphernalia fills supermarket specialty aisles, pharmacies and television commercials. It’s a time where everyone becomes acutely aware of Love. Admittedly all the attention during Valentine’s day is placed on romantic love which assumes that we already experience Self Love.
We have all heard the old adage “In order to love someone else you must first love your self.” There are thousands of books, websites and seminars that purport to teach you how to love yourself more, but ultimately the question is “how can I cultivate sustainable Self-Love organically?” The answer lies in being present in each moment with an open heart, which the practice of Yoga can help anyone develop.
Yoga teaches us that we are each our own Guru, and empowers us to be present and open our hearts to the possibility of each moment. Meditation, Backbends and Sama Vata Pranayama are some ways that yoga helps us cultivate Self Love.
Looking within is essential to uncovering the truth of what we feel. Taking a moment to sit or lay with an inward gaze focusing on the internal, on your self, can have powerful results. We are generally so attached to what just happened or is about to happen that we are not present in moment.
Presence of mind in the moment creates a greater awareness of one’s self, this type of internal focus opens the mind up for new perspective. Flexibility in perspective is essential for unconditional Self Love. Allowing yourself the space to change your point of view, while learning more about your needs & wants promotes a more compassionate inward attitude. Meditation provides both a neutral platform for you to assess where your outlook could benefit from shifting, and a safe place from which to begin to make those shifts.
For many, meditation can be a daunting task fraught with more questions then answers. Thankfully the practice of quieting the mind at the beginning and end of each Yoga Asana practice provides an opportunity for us all to strengthen our meditation muscles. Use that time to focus on one word, sentence, phrase, or a feeling – let it be something simple and easy for you to hold in your minds eye. You can do this in your home practice or at the studio. Notice if it becomes easier to hold your focus after doing this 5 times, you may find that it becomes more accessible the more your do it.
BackBends/ Heart Openers:
Your physical heart & your heart chakra are the your energetic love centers. Most humans spend their waking hours sitting - at a desk, behind steering wheel, on the couch or doing a combination thereof. Our sedentary lifestyles cause us to hunch forward, curl our shoulders forward, and drop our head which has the effect of closing our hearts.
Backbends offer us a way to open our hearts through Yoga Asana. When you incorporate backbends into your practice you are engaging in heart opening activity that in turn cultivates a foundation for sustainable Self Love. Your Heart must be open to Love. You must be open to loving yourself. A prescription of: 3 Baby Cobras per vinyasa, followed by 3 Cobras per vinyasa and then 1 Up Dog per vinyasa would help anyone begin to physically open their heart; as the movement in backbends originates from between the shoulder blades. Foundational backbends such as the ones I just listed work as well as more advanced backbends, like Camel or Cosmic Dancer. Remember Yoga is negotiation with the body, finding a happy medium between effort and ease is paramount. If try to muscle yourself into a more challenging backbend injury is almost certain, so go slow and always consult a teacher if you have any questions.
Sama Vata Pranayama, is equal length breathing out of the nostrils which is key to being present with an open heart.
When we breathe using our nostrils, exclusively, we are activating the Parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic system controls our bodies: rest, relax & heal response. Conversely, mouth breathing activates our fight or flight response. As you can imagine, when one is in a mental state of fight or flight it is virtually impossible to be present in the moment because one’s survival is at stake. However, when you are nostril breathing the body can find a calm homeostasis and take in your surroundings in a relaxed fashion.
Practicing Equal length nostril breathing is a wonderful way to create sacred space for your self in any situation. All you need to do is focus on your breath. Let your inhales and exhales be the same length, speed, and pressure. You can begin by counting how long you inhale is and counting down for the exhale. Over a few rounds let your self organically find an even flow. Do this for several cycles. When our finish notice if you feel more present and open to your surroundings.
I invite you to use the practices detailed above to support your Self Love cultivation. Cultivating Self Love is a process, it can be elusive and slippery. Thankfully as long as we return to the timeless truth that “in order to love someone you must first love yourself” we will never forget the importance of Self Love. Namaste!
Welcome! I am so glad you found this area of my site! It is my intention to share a tone of awesome free content with you all here. Feel free to comment, email or share posts that you enjoy! Thanks for visiting!
**All blogs written by Awilda Rivera, unless otherwise indicated therein.