Self-love — it’s easier said than done. Instead criticism, neglect and self-doubt are things that we tend to practice more often.
Often self-love easily falls through the cracks of our daily routine. Not only do we let go of our physical maintenance — eating well and exercising — but our mental health care, too. Thoughts about ourselves can be harsh, toxic and negative. Or maybe we try to love ourselves, we might even feel guilty.
Practice these poses to help you learn how to love yourself for all that you are, and all that you aren’t:
What better way to start loving yourself, than by giving yourself a big hug?
This pose is available to almost everyone and can help you begin to relax into your mat, while bringing awareness to how you’re feeling in the moment.
Lying on your mat with a flat back, bring both knees into your chest. You can wrap your arms around your calves, place them gently on your knees, or tuck them behind your knees onto the back of the thighs. Leave the calves, ankles, and toes resting down. Soften the shoulders and close the eyes.
While you’re here, enjoy being held. Your body responds to physical touch, and it’s totally OK to embrace yourself. While companionship is nice, it’s important to enjoy your own company, too.
Hugging the knees in closer to the chest helps to awaken the Svadhisthana, or Sacral chakra. Svashithana is located at the base of the sexual organs, just below the navel in the genital area, behind the pubis in the spinal cord. Breathe deep from the belly as you let go of guilt and acknowledge your passions. Take a few moments to enjoy yourself. Maybe rub your hands up and down your calves, or gently rock and roll the lower body in a circular motion.
Other benefits of this pose include releasing lower back tension and easing digestive problems.
Half Lord of the Fishes (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
Out with the old and in with the new! Welcome your true self and learn to let go of anything that doesn’t serve you, with this pose.
Warm up the spine with several rounds of Cat and Cow and seated forward folds, before entering into your variation of Half Lord of the Fishes.
Sitting tall with both legs straight in Staff pose (Dandasana), cross your right foot over your left thigh and place the sole of the foot on the ground, close to the outside of your knee.
Fold your left leg in, with your foot outside your right hip and place your right hand on the floor behind you.
Lift your left arm high and twist the torso from the navel, as you draw your elbow down on the outside of your right thigh. Keep length in the spine and hug the right thigh in closer to your body. If you can, bring your gaze over your right shoulder. This pose actives the Manipura or Solar-Plexus chakra, located above the naval and below the rib cage. This is where you should think about twisting from as you deepen in to the pose.
The simultaneous hugging and twisting sensation you get from this pose is your body squeezing itself from the inside out. The Manipura chakra is related to self-esteem, self-discipline and intuition. Compare this deep twist to you wringing out your life like you would a wet towel – letting the excess fall and trust that only what you need will remain. You have everything in life that you need, and the rest will take care of itself.
This pose also helps to squeeze the stomach, intestines and kidneys, improving digestion, while also stretching the shoulders, hips and neck.
Lord of the Dance (Natarajasana)
It’s time to celebrate you! This expansive, standing backbend will help increase your ability to balance, concentrate and soar, both on and off the mat.
Enter this pose near the end of your sequence, when the muscles are warm and the mind is clear.
From Tadasana, step your right foot back. Bend at the knee and pick up the right foot with your right hand. Spin the palm away from you so that the thumb is aligned with the big toe.
Lift the left arm up, and slowly tilt your chest forward while kicking out the right leg behind you with your gaze straight ahead and soft.
Open your chest here and let the Anahata or heart chakra, flow. Anhata is associated with feeling calm and serene, similar to a dancer in many ways and devoid of violence. Have fun here! Expand at the chest and stand tall and proud on your standing leg.
This pose strengthens the back body and the standing leg, and stretches the chest and the hips.
While it’s important to have goals and work on bettering yourself, yoga can help you find a balance of learning how to be happy and accepting who you are, while setting higher standards for yourself and loving each and every step of your own unique journey. You are perfect just the way you are.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the author