Guest post by Maggie Franz – Black Dog Asana
February is generally the time of year when we start getting worked up about having/not having a girlfriend or boyfriend, no one to go out to dinner with or buy us roses/chocolates/you name it on Valentine’s Day. Blame it on society, blame it on Hallmark, blame it on Saint Valentine himself (Valentine’s Day is after all, his feast day and the ways in which we celebrate, or maybe some of us despise this day, all started with him). Just don’t blame yourself. Love yourself!
This Valentine’s Day whether you are single or in a relationship, take some time to look inside, to explore whether we truly know ourselves. For if we do not know ourselves, how can we love ourselves. And if we do not love ourselves, how can we love someone else. Each of us is complex, beautiful and unique. It is very hard to hear and take this in over society’s numerous messages of inadequacy and conformity. When we practice yoga we start a journey, a journey to the center of our self. We strive to come to know and love every aspect of who we truly are. This process is commonly known as enlightenment. Yoga means union. This Valentine’s Day let us practice a type of yoga new to many of us in the West – through uniting our personality, our outer self with our Atman or true self.
Let’s practice the Yoga of Love. We are not talking about pride, vanity or becoming conceited. Rather the tools in the Yoga of Love, much like the eight limbs of yoga are the tools of Hatha Yoga, are acceptance, nurturing, growth and contentment. Let us accept ourselves, nurture ourselves, grow and become content with all aspects of ourselves. Then we can become emotionally happy and healthy – we can become whole. Unless we are whole or can find happiness within our lives, we cannot possibly have healthy relationships with others. When we are unable to love ourselves, to become happy, we seek affection or love from our partners. I can speak from experience when I talk about striving to find your happiness in a relationship. It becomes one sided. You want to spend as much time as you can with them, because that is when you are happy. Eventually you begin to suffocate your partner. The relationship eventually implodes.
This year, single or not, let’s take time during this month to make a date with our soul or true self. No fancy restaurants, no gifts, just spend some time getting to know yourself. Find a quiet place, maybe seated or supine on your yoga mat, floor pillow, bed or even your favorite chair (especially if seated on the floor is uncomfortable or painful for you). Take some time to pay attention to your breathing, not changing it at first and then when you feel comfortable start to deepen the breath. If you can, draw the breath in and out through the nose. You will notice the air filling the lower lobes of the lungs. This is where a larger amount of blood returns to receive fresh oxygen. Breathing deeply through your nose, you may begin to feel the body becoming re-energized, yet calmed. Anxiety will begin to melt away. If you are lying down, the body may begin to feel heavier as it relaxes and sinks towards the floor. The breath can be drawn to parts of our body where stress continues to linger, exhaling will release the tension away. Through focusing on your breath, your thoughts will begin to slow down and may even cease to flow.
When the mind is quiet we are able to sit with our true self and listen to what it wants, what it needs. It reveals what it is and what is no longer serving it. Now we are able to experience peace with ourselves, to love ourselves. This is not an easy process and will probably take time. But you have started building a relationship with yourself and have all of the potential to grow from here.