So it’s Valentine’s Day again.
Maybe you love the chocolates and roses and romantic meals. Maybe you’re single and find this time of year poignant or painful and wish it would go away. Or maybe you prefer to ignore it completely whether you’re single or in a relationship (I fall into this camp for the record, rather viewing it as yet another cynical exercise in manipulating human emotion to make money… so there!).
But whatever you feel about Valentine’s Day, there’s no escaping the messages telling us to express our love for another by buying things of a rosy-shaded hue…
Which leaves me pondering; why are we so rarely encouraged to express love for ourselves? Can we truly love another if we don’t love ourselves first?
And if we’re not used to, or even comfortable with, loving ourselves, how do we even begin to go about doing it?
Phew, that’s a big topic!
So, I’ll approach it from a yogic point of view (naturally!)…
Feel the love
Yoga teaches us that we are whole and perfect as we are. We are eternal love, bliss and peace – it’s our minds which distort this truth and tell us otherwise.
So, the first step in learning to love ourselves is to realize that the story our mind is telling us about ourselves, our past, present and future is just that: a story. A viewpoint made up of preconceptions and judgments all distorted through the lens of our life experience so far.
In realizing our mind is so often telling us stories, we can then step back, give ourselves a little space and begin to notice where and how distortions are entering our viewpoint.
So, next time you’re practising yoga in class or at home, notice if you find you’re judging yourself in any way.
Perhaps you’re telling yourself you’ve got a “bad” back / knee / hip or you can’t do a pose “properly”. Maybe you wish your mind was quieter or you could breathe more deeply.
Notice that those are all negative judgements. Your back isn’t inherently “bad”! Your knee doesn’t have malicious intent! Your body is experiencing discomfort in those areas and needs compassion, not judgment.
What’s a “proper” yoga pose anyway? Nobody’s scoring you – it’s not a competition! If you’re moving your body as it moves today, if you’re noticing how it feels, if you’re in the here and now and breathing with it, you’re practising yoga. Beyond safe alignment, there’s no right and wrong.
So your mind is loud and busy? Then smile and congratulate yourself for noticing. In noticing your busy mind, you’ve created a pause in the maelstrom – a moment of peace. So breathe and relax for that moment. And know you can find that peace again.
Take yoga off the mat and into your heart
Learn to take yoga off the mat and bring it into your life every day. The essence of yoga is understanding, kindness, and compassion.
But here are hundreds of ways we are unkind to ourselves every day. Whether it’s through the choices we make in low-nutrition foods and drink, or not listening to our body when we’re hurting, or forcing ourselves on when we need to rest, or watching /reading things which aren’t good for our peace of mind; or our minds run away telling us we’re not good enough or can’t do something.
But we can learn to love ourselves by tuning in to our heart; our intuition; our inner wise voice.
So move your body to release tensions. Stretch your arms out; breathe deeply to expand your rib cage; place the heels of your hands in the small of your back and lift your breast bone.
Open up the front of your body – release restriction from the centre of your chest.
Open your heart.
Then sit quietly, with a long spine and once again, gently lift from your breast bone…
Ask yourself the question…
Take your awareness to the centre of your chest, to your heart centre – your Anahata chakra – and ask yourself, “What do I need to show myself love and compassion?” and let your heart answer…
What does it say?
What could you do today to show yourself love? To value yourself? To be kind and compassionate to YOU?
Sit with it. Then today, do just one thing that shows you that you love yourself.
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha