As Valentine’s Day approaches I wanted to focus on a different kind of love. The love we can give ourselves. No, it isn’t narcissistic to share love and time with yourself. It’s essential for a happy you. And we all know that when you’re happy those around you will feel happier too!
It really is important to take time out for ourselves each and every day. But sometimes I find myself in a rut and realize I’m not being mindful of what I need at that particular moment. We all go through the motions or go on “auto pilot”. Have you ever reached your destination and discovered you don’t remember the points between A and B? Or maybe you’ve stubbed your toe or knocked your leg and know it’s because you weren’t paying attention?
When we take the time to show up for ourselves it creates an awareness that can help us be more in tune with those around us, realize what is truly important and feel gratitude for the seemingly small things that we encounter as we go through this journey we call life.
For me, showing up for myself includes meditation and yoga. One of the most important instruments of yoga is prana or breath. Pranayama is something we cultivate as we practice through meditation and asanas or poses. As we focus on our breath we also clear our minds of distractions, thoughts about other people or issues that we are dealing with.
Settling into this state of being through our breath, we come to accept the here and now. We become present. Our bodies begin to relax. Tension is released. We let go of the ego. Our minds and bodies become one and our true sense of purpose is allowed to surface. This is the art of yoga. It is a practice that can be developed with time, consistency and patience. A beautiful benefit is that we can take what we learn on the mat into our lives. When stressful situations arise we can take a deep breath, engage our pranayama and work through it just as we work through challenging poses on our mat.
Why do I want to practice everyday? Because it feels good. When I don’t do it, I don’t feel good and I don’t like not feeling good! There are days when I cannot physically show up on the mat. I can still take a moment to be still and focus on my breathing, go within and acknowledge the blessings in my life. The key to a successful practice is love. It has to be romantic to you, something you crave. It will become stale and boring without that spark. Honoring what is important to you, whether it’s God, special people in your life, etc., will bring that love into your practice and keep it exciting. Start small and see where it takes you. Make it doable. Make it a part of your day; at home, at the park, wherever; the point is to just start.
If you’re not sure how to start, I highly recommend this yoga camp. I’m doing it right now and am loving the series. She starts out slowly with an emphasis on the basics of yoga. So whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned yogi you can appreciate her attention to alignment, as she gradually builds throughout the camp. Give it a try!
We all know yoga does our minds and bodies good. It helps us feel more peace and centered in a crazy, turbulent world. But recently, I have learned that it is so much more. A group of medical researchers have discovered how yoga improves conditions such as depression, anxiety, diabetes, chronic pain and even epilepsy (see article here). The study shows that yoga regulates the nervous system by increasing vagal tone – the body’s ability to successfully respond to stress. I wondered what is vagal tone? I didn’t even know I had a vagus that needed toning. Well, the vagus nerve is the largest cranial nerve in our bodies. It runs from the base of the skull through the whole body. It influences our respiratory, digestive and nervous systems.
The researchers found that practicing resistance breathing, such as ujjayi pranayama, increased relaxation and heart rate. This in turn, aided in our body’s response to stress, digestive disorders and mood stabilization.
So show up for yourself. Be mindful of your breath when you find you are stressed. Take a deep breath and find love for yourself and the beautiful world around you! Your mind, body and spirit will thank you! And so will your loved ones.