Valentine’s day is approaching, and it can be a time when you feel pressured to buy chocolates, flowers, and cards to express your love for special people in your life. But what about you? How can you take a moment to send some love inwards?
Without cultivating a sense of self love, it can be challenging to give love to others without feeling overwhelmed or experiencing disappointment when that love is not reciprocated in the way you would like.
Self love is something that you must learn to cultivate if you want to live a happier and more fulfilling life. The best part is that you already have everything you need to get started on your self love journey or continue to deepen your relationship with yourself.
Yoga & Self Love
Yoga is the ultimate practice of self love.
It allows you to go on an inward journey as you learn to love and care for your body, and develop a compassionate awareness of what is arising in your minds. Through self love yoga, you can learn new things about yourself and often unravel shadow aspects of who you are – it's not always an easy journey, but it is worth it.
Yoga, which comes from the Sanskrit word yuj is often defined as union. I like to think of it as a “remembering” or “reunion” with who we are and the ultimate acceptance that this person is already whole and complete.
This is the essence of self love – accepting who you are now; in this moment. It’s also the reason why yoga is the perfect practice to enhance your sense of self love.
Here are some ideas to build your perfect self love yoga practice. If you are a yoga teacher, you can combine some of these practices to create self love yoga classes or workshops for your students.
Exploring Self Love Through the Niyamas
Some of the most potent teachings on self love are contained within the foundations of yoga – the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Yoga Sutras. While the Vedas and Bhagavad Gita help us deepen our understanding of the Self, the Yoga Sutras, and more specifically, the niyamas, provide tangible steps we can take to grow our sense of self love.
The second limb of yoga, niyama, outlines a set of inner observances that we can use to better understand, and hence cultivate a more loving relationship with, ourselves.
Saucha invites us to practice purity/cleanliness by honoring our bodies and minds.
Take time to reflect on what would support your body (e.g., getting a massage, taking a warm bath, eating nourishing foods, diffusing essential oils).
Santosha calls us to practice contentment.
In a world where we often look outwards for happiness, find ways to cultivate a sense of appreciation for what you already have. A great practice can be to end each day by reflecting on three things you are grateful for.
Tapas reminds us to live a life of discipline in order to burn away what is not serving us.
Sometimes self love is about doing what is good for you despite challenges or aversions. Consider ways you can adapt your diet, your sleep habits, your schedule, or your yoga practice based on what you need, acknowledging that this may change from day to day.
Svadhyaya summons us to become quiet and contemplative as we engage in self-study/self-inquiry.
One of the ways we can do this is to learn more about ourselves. Journaling can be a great practice to begin to unwind and process your emotions, and meditation is always a beautiful practice to become more aware of your thoughts. You may even feel called to journal about your yoga or meditation experience and reflect on any insights that came to you.
Ishvara pranidhana calls us to the ultimate act of surrender; going with the flow of life rather than meeting it with resistance.
Inner listening, sound baths, setting intentions, chanting, and visualization are ways to practice self love through surrender as part of your self love yoga practice.
Mantras & Meditation to Deepen Self Love
Mantras are often used as an anchor in meditation to help keep you in the present moment and avoid getting distracted by thoughts that may arise. Here are a few simple mantras that you can use as part of your practice to invoke a sense of self love:
The ho’oponopono is a Hawaiian mantra of forgiveness, which can also be used to enhance feelings of self love. It involves sharing the following words with yourself:
“I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I thank you. I love you.”
This mantra can be used in a group setting or as part of an individual meditation practice. This mantra can also be expressed through song. Singing is a great way to connect to your throat chakra, which can often become blocked if we doubt our worth or the value of what we have to share.
Metta/Loving Kindness Meditation
The Pali word metta means loving kindness and unconditional love. During a metta meditation, we send love to ourselves, our loved ones, someone with whom we have a challenging relationship, and all beings.
There are many different versions of the wishes shared during this type of meditation; below is an example of what Jon Kabat Zin, a well-known mindfulness teacher, uses to share this practice.
May I be safe and protected and free from inner and outer harm.
May I be happy and contented.
May I be healthy and whole to whatever degree possible.
May I experience ease of well-being.
Note: As you extend loving kindness to others during this practice, you can change “I” in the statements below to “you” or “all beings.”
You can learn about metta meditation and access a 47-minute guided practice led by Jon Kabat Zin here.
Affirmations are modern-day mantras. They are positive statements shared in the present tense. Over time, affirmations can positively affect your conscious and subconscious mind, allowing you to rewrite negative thought patterns and limiting beliefs.
Here are a few self love affirmations you can try/share with your students:
♥ I love myself exactly the way I am
♥ I am beautiful inside and out
♥ I am worthy of good things
♥ I am proud of myself for all I have achieved
♥ I am doing my best, and that is enough
♥ I deserve to be a priority in my own life
♥ I attract positive experiences and people into my life
♥ I trust my intuition; everything I need is already within me
Check out our Guide to Mindfulness and Manifestation for more tips on practicing positive affirmations.
Expand Your Sense of Self Love through Pranayama
Pranayama (breathing exercises) is the perfect way to become more present, slow down the pace of life, and give your nervous system a much-needed break. It is a perfect way to send love inwards through a calming, blissful practice.
Here are three breathing practices you can try/share with your students:
- Natural Breath Awareness – this is the perfect practice to embrace your current state of wholeness; remember you are already whole and complete. Breathe in and out as you are, and notice each inhale and exhale – the fluidity of the breath, the change in temperature and the sensation of rising and falling.
- Dirga Pranayama (Three-Part Breath) – this breathing practice provides a way to connect to your inner abundance; you already have more than you may realize. It involves gradually increasing the depth of the breath by breathing into the belly (part 1), the area between the ribs (part 2), and the chest (part 3), then releasing it all out.
- Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) – This technique involves alternating your breathing between the right and left nostrils. It can help bring your mind and body into balance, calm your nervous system, increase mental clarity and improve the way you breathe, all of which contribute to your sense of well-being.
Postures to Physically Connect to Your Heart Space
There are so many ways to connect to self love in your physical practice, and it all begins with ahimsa (non-harming).
You can respect this in your practice by modifying postures (even using props as needed), knowing when to rest, and being patient with yourself as you learn new skills (e.g., handstand).
There are also so many postures that promote self love through heart opening and introspection such as: restorative fish, camel pose, dancer’s pose, hero’s pose, cow pose, puppy pose, and seated forward fold. Practices such as restorative yoga are also a wonderful way to give yourself the gift of rest. Guidelines for practicing/teaching these postures can be found in our yoga pose library.
If you are looking for a done-for-you self love yoga practice, check out this amazing self love yoga sequence.
In the same way that yoga is a practice, so is self love. Find ways to integrate self love yoga into your daily life and see how it transforms your relationships, confidence, and sense of well-being.