Love is in the air! Greeting card companies are cranking out the sappy cards, florists are putting in orders for dozens of roses, and the holiday section at supermarkets are full of stuffed animals and chocolate heart boxes. February seems to be a time where the bulk of society feels the need to remind each other how in love they are through gifts, dinners, and actions of kindness. It’s nice to have holidays to remind us of how we should be all the time, so I’m hoping to give you a few tools to help integrate this idea of showing love into your life with more frequency than once a year.
Love is one of the easiests gifts to give and receive, yet somehow it can also be quite the challenge. Especially when the love you need to give is to yourself. When’s the last time you treated yourself to a nice meal? A bouquet of flowers? Or even an hour of uninterrupted “me time”? When you think of “self love” what does that look like to you? For me, any type of wellness practice feels like I’m filling myself up with love. That can be anything from movement through yoga, dance, or weight lifting – to massage, fresh foods, and a good night’s sleep. I don’t think these things should be held on reserve for the perfect day or time when we have REALLY earned it. We earn it just by living our daily lives. So this month, I’d like to take you through a slow flow to give yourself the love and time you deserve.
Self Love Slow Flow
Let’s start lying on our backs with our arms by our sides and our feet & legs relaxed. Take a few moments here to arrive on your mat, becoming fully aware of your surroundings. You can close your eyes as you begin to feel your body in contact with the ground beneath you. Feel yourself being supported through all the areas where your body meets your mat. Let the breath begin to deepen as you start to scan your body from head to toe, becoming aware of any areas that may feel a little tight or tense. See if you can consciously relax those spaces just by bringing your attention to them. Stay here for five rounds of breath, imagining you can draw your inhales through the soles of your feet and up through your spine to the crown of your head, and then pushing your exhales back down the opposite way
With your next inhale, draw both knees into the chest as you wrap your arms around your shins or place your palms on your knees, giving yourself a hug. Begin to find movement here if it feels good to the body, maybe rocking a bit from side to side – slowly even rocking up and down the length of your spine. Eventually come to a place of stillness. Keeping your right knee hugged in, go ahead and extend your opposite leg all the way down onto your mat. Draw the bent knee towards your armpit, maybe even taking it to the side of your rib cage. Keep extending through your straightened leg as you feel your left hip flexor release while your right hip is being compressed. Breathe in here, and then draw your right leg across the body until you find yourself in a nice twist. You can extend your right arm out to the side here, seeing if you can keep both shoulders on your mat. If it feels okay for your neck, turn the head to gaze out over your right fingertips. Come back to your breath, and notice how each inhalation and exhalation affects this shape. After 5 breaths, unwind the body and come back to center – once again hugging both knees into the chest. Repeat on the opposite side, starting by extending the right leg down towards your mat as you keep the left knee hugged in, then coming into your twist after a few breaths.
From center, begin to rock and roll up the length of your spine until you find yourself upright. Cross at the ankles and make your way onto hands and knees in tabletop position. If your knees are a bit sensitive, feel free to pad them here with a blanket. Here we will begin to move through some cat/cow motions to awaken the spine. Feel free to find organic movement here as you inhale and exhale, maybe circling out the torso or taking the hips from left to right. Listen to what it is your body needs, and move with it. Eventually find your way to a place of stillness in tabletop.
With an inhale, sweep your right arm open and into the sky, spinning your heart open to the right side of the room. You can circle out the wrist here in one direction, and then the other. Then with an exhale, thread the right arm behind the left as you come down onto your right shoulder. Really reach through here with the right arm and lean back into the left shoulder to find more depth in your twist. You can keep the left hand where it is, or play with extending the left arm towards the top of your mat. You can also wrap the left arm around the torso as you begin to reach for the right thigh. Try to find something that feels loving and supportive to the body instead of strenuous. Again noticing your breath and how it changes the way this shape feels. After a few breaths here, exhale to take the left hand back to your mat underneath your left shoulder and with an inhale slowly draw the right arm back through and into the sky for a counter stretch before placing your right hand down. Repeat on the opposite side.
From tabletop, tilt the pelvis forward like in cow pose. The tops of your feet are flat on the ground here as you take the knees as wide as your mat. Put pressure into your hands as you begin to sit the buns back towards the heels, keeping the forward pelvic tilt, and letting your chest descend between your arms as you find child’s pose. Take 5-10 deep belly breaths as you connect with your breath and come back gratitude and love for yourself.
Once you’ve completed 5-10 breaths, begin to walk the hands in towards the body, bringing the knees together and the torso upright until you find yourself in a kneeling position. Interlace the fingers and spin the palms up towards the sky as you straighten the arms. Draw the belly in towards the navel, reach through the crown of your head, and knit the low ribs in as you engage the abdominal muscles. Take an inhale with the arms extended overhead, and as you exhale begin to push the palms forward and round through the spine tucking your chin towards your chest. Inhale to come back up right, and exhale to round through the spine. Do this 2-3 more times extending upwards with the inhale, and pushing forward with your exhale.
The next time you find yourself upright, you can unclasp the hands. Take your right fingertips to the ground beside your right hip, pick your buns up and over to the left side, and reach up and over with your right hand getting a nice side body stretch. Breathe into the space between the rib cage and stay for a couple rounds of breath. With an inhale, let the left hand guide you back to center as you restack your seat. Repeat this on the opposite side.
From kneeling, take your knees hip width distance apart and come up onto your shins so that your hips are stacked directly over your knees. Take the palms to the low back with fingers pointing down. Roll the shoulders up towards your ears and back down the spine as you draw the shoulder blades together and reach forward with the chest. Keep pressing the hips forward, and let your head move back in space while keeping your chin slightly tucked. You may choose to stay here, or if it feels sustainable, begin to reach one or both hands back towards your heels. Keep the integrity of this posture by making sure your hips stay above the knees. If they aren’t, ease out of the posture and bring the hands back to your low back, then slowly stack the spine as you come upright, releasing the glutes down onto your heels. Close your eyes here and take a moment to come back to yourself, feeling the benefits of this heart opening pose.
For your final shape, find some space against a wall. Bring your left hip up next to the wall and begin to recline as you come onto your back for legs up the wall. For a little added back support you can put a cushion under the sacrum. Feel your low back release, a gentle stretch in the hamstrings, and an increase in circulation. You can relax into this shape for several minutes before lowering the legs to one side and coming flat onto your back for savasana to close out your practice. If you’re enjoying legs up the wall, feel free to finish in this shape – remember, this is about self love. ❤
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