Find Lasting Self-Love With These Breathwork Exercises
For years, the concept of self-love eluded me. I thought it was all about saying affirmations in the mirror each morning, buying myself flowers, and taking a lavender bath at the end of a long day. While these are great self-care practices, they always felt like Band-Aid solutions. They didn’t address my deeper issues surrounding love or carry the necessary weight to change my life.
We’ve all heard that it’s impossible to love someone until you can learn to love yourself. But how?
In order to make self-love a practice, you have to get out of your head and into your body. So many of the self-love suggestions out there focus on cognitive approaches that keep you stuck in the thinking mind. Trying to work with the mind is often like trying to tame a wild animal—exhausting. Simply telling yourself "I am lovable" over and over is not enough; you have to practice feeling lovable.
Science is now catching up to what ancient healers and mystics have known all along: True healing happens on an energetic level. Tapping into your energy isn’t an intellectual process. In order to truly love yourself and others, you have to access your feelings through your body.
Here are four of my favorite tools to help you clear limiting beliefs, access your intuition, and develop a lasting relationship to self-love.
Breath of Fire
Lack of self-love often boils down to a false belief that you are unworthy of love—one that likely began when you were growing up. Breath of Fire is a potent self-healing technique that will strengthen your nervous system, reduce your stress, and shift this negative emotional state.
Take a comfortable seat.
Sit up straight, making sure your shoulders are over your hips.
Close your eyes.
Soften your belly.
Take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale out of your mouth.
Begin to breathe quickly in and out through your nose with an equal emphasis on inhalation and exhalation. Focus on your belly expanding on the inhale and contracting on the exhale.
Take care to find your rhythm and continue for one full minute. Work up to three minutes.
Rest afterward for several minutes and enjoy the clarity.
Listen to Your Body
If you’ve ever felt unlovable, chances are you looked outside of yourself for a way to fix it. Seeking attention and approval from others weakens your inner wisdom. The number one reason people don’t honor their intuition is because they don't want to rock the boat. But it’s important to listen to your body and honor its messages, even if that means making changes you are afraid to make.
Take a comfortable seat and think about something you have to do tomorrow—work, run an errand, visit a doctor. Pick one activity and meditate on it.
Simply breathe in and out through your nose and notice what energy or feelings come up.
Without overthinking, bring awareness to your body and pay attention to any sensations that arise.
Try to meditate for five minutes and then jot down some notes about what you experienced. Regular practice will strengthen your intuition and give you access to the profound wisdom within.
Meditate With Rose Quartz
Rose quartz is the ultimate self-love crystal. It activates and balances the heart chakra and represents the vibration of calming, soothing love. Meditating with rose quartz can heal emotions that keep you stuck in the past, soothe heartache, and call in universal love.
Lie down and place a small piece of rose quartz on your heart.
Breathe gently in and out through your nose.
With each exhale, allow your body to soften and relax. After a few minutes repeat this mantra on your exhale: "I am here for you. I am here for you. I am here for you."
Continue the mantra for five minutes. Remove the rose quartz and rest until you are ready to get up. Practice daily for seven days and make note of any changes.
Love doesn’t happen in a vacuum. If you want to love yourself, you have to let love in. This means sharing the places in your life where you feel afraid, confused, insecure, or tender.
Taking risks by sharing your true self with another is the fertile ground in which lasting intimacy can take root. In order to build intimacy, you have to choose friends and partners who can hold space for you to be honest and vulnerable. The only way to take a step toward your deepest self is to share the truth about how you feel.
Take one step for vulnerability today. Speak up. Walk through a fear. Ask for what you need. Say how you feel.
Ashley Neese is a Los Angeles-based breathwork teacher and the author of How to Breathe: 25 Simple Practices for Calm, Joy, and Resilience. She has studied with some of the world’s leading masters in yoga, meditation, medical intuition and somatic therapy, and also has a bachelor's and master's in printmaking from the Atlanta College of Art and California College of the Arts, respectively. She is also a 200-hour registered yoga teacher (E-RYT). Neese draws from her diver background to guide people back into their bodies, where they learn how to cultivate resilience and develop relational intelligence beyond the cognitive mind. She is in currently practices in Los Angeles and the Bay Area.