With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s a nice reminder to spread the love – to others and maybe, if not more importantly, to yourself. Practicing self-love is so important and crucial to our well-being.
Until I discovered yoga in the early ’90s, I wasn’t too in love with myself, to be honest. I would nitpick everything on me and never felt “good” enough or “perfect” enough. I discovered yoga when I was studying acting at NYU Tisch School, and I fell in love with the practice; with yoga, I learned to fall in love with myself.
Yoga starts by connecting us to our breath; when we breathe fully, we allow space for the universal energy to enter through us, which oxygenates every one of our cells; we begin to feel alive and happy – this signals a chain reaction. When we move in a way that opens us up and releases negative energy, we can let go of the self-doubt that we cling to for false security. We tap into our internal strength and build confidence through balance and movement.
I’ve returned to my mat time and time again through different phases of my life when I’ve wavered or felt insecure or self-loathing. It can be easy to get disconnected when we have so many things going on in our lives, careers, and home life. ‘Yoga’ means to ‘unite’ and helps us reconnect and find our center – when we connect with ourselves, we can’t help but feel the love.
There are certain yoga postures that specifically help to open up the heart center and allow us to be open and receptive to giving and receiving love. Try the following poses any time you need to infuse a little more self-love into your life. Remember to practice breathing deeply in each pose and incorporate the mantra if you feel comfortable.
Upward-Facing Dog: “I relax into the flow.”
Upward dog is a wonderful backbend often down in sun salutations. Learning to give ourselves some slack and go easy on ourselves plays a big part in bringing in the love. When we are rigid, we become guarded and critical. Up-dog is a playful, wonderful heart-opening pose that helps us chill out a bit more and go with the flow.
Crescent Lunge: “I am calm awareness.”
Crescent lunge helps us open up the entire front body and bring awareness to our breath. When we breathe fully, we feel so much better. When we feel better, we love ourselves more!
Camel: “I am vulnerable.”
Being vulnerable is a sign of strength, not weakness, and practicing vulnerability fosters self-love. When we open our hearts and accept everything in our lives and allow our emotions to be felt by ourselves and shared with others, we feel so free.
King Pigeon: “I let love lead the way.”
King pigeon is a big heart-opening pose and also a great release for our hips. Grounding ourselves in our seat while lifting our heart center is a great reminder to let love inform our every act.
Wheel: “I am strong and free.”
One of the most intense backbends in the practice and a huge heart opener, this pose fosters self-love and playfulness. Full wheels bring us back to childhood, when we were free in our expression and love.
Dancer: “I am rooted in my power.”
Dancer helps us open our hearts while standing strong. When we feel that connection to the earth that supports and opens us up to the heavens that rain down from up above, we feel loved and strong.
Fish: “I am calm and confident.”
Fish is a more restorative backbend that can be done over a block. I love to hang out in fish and watch my breath and concentrate on being open and fostering self-love. Once I come out of fish and lie on my back, it feels amazing. It’s like giving yourself a mini massage.
When we remember our mind and body are connected, and once we move in a loving way, our thoughts follow suit. We tap into our internal beauty, and our feelings and attitude toward ourselves and others are filled with love. We build our own personal universe and fill up with universal breath and become full of self-love and joy.