A perennial favorite lesson of mine is the Valentine’s Day class. As you’d expect, it’s filled with love, compassion, empathy, and gratitude. But, not as it pertains to our loved ones. I teach that as practicing yogis, one of the highest forms of yoga is self-love.
The heart chakra is the home to self-love. By aiming the class focus on the physical practice of opening the heart, as well as the awareness of judgments, insecurities and self-deprecation, ask your students one potent question, “Can you name 3 things you love about yourself?” The answers–or lack thereof– can quickly access one’s own barometer of Self. Sometimes distain for ourselves is so thick, we’re not even aware it exists.
Uncovering the Obstacles To Self-Love
The heart chakra is guided by sensation, feeling and emotion. Focusing feelings on positive, loving emotions, our heart rhythms immediately shift. This change creates a series of physiological events that transform the whole body: blood pressure normalizes, stress hormones drop, and our immune systems gets a boost. Even anti-aging hormones increase, suggesting that negative thinking has an influence on how we age.
When we live with fear, depression or worry, the body contracts in an effort to defend itself. Our physical practice for the heart involves working its supporting anatomy to give the chest some literal breathing room. Teach your students to activate their layers of physical heart consciousness by helping them uncover the obstacles to self-love while releasing blocked or over flooded emotions with the following meditation.
Opening Heart Breathing Meditation
Place the right hand over the heart center and left hand below your navel. Relax the jaw and forehead.
Feel the vibrations inside your body, and outside your body. Visualize your breathing going in and out through the heart. Inhale through the heart center, exhale through the back of the heart center, through the shoulder blades. Now focus on someone you love–a spouse, your children, friends, siblings, parents–as well as the many blessings in your life –your home, your job, food, clothing. Send them admiration, wisdom and compassion as your continue to breathe in and out through the heart. Explore, sense and accept the emotion of love arising within. Feel your love for these people and the blessings in your life. Now send the same quality of compassion, admiration and love to yourself . Be aware of any obstacle in your way and allow the heart to melt that obstacle until you feel the emotion of self-love. Hold the feeling of self-love deep within as you begin your asana practice.
Opening To Self-Love Vinyasa
As you practice this vinyasa, remind your students to expand around the physical heart by broadening the shoulders, opening the chest, and lifting the sternum using the following silent affirmation: “ I love myself exactly where I am, right here, right now “.
4. Downward dog to Upward dog . Repeat movement with breath 3-5 times.
The Valentine’s Day classes are frequently charged with emotional curve balls and deep spiritual cleansing. Don’t be surprised if students contribute in the most significant ways by crying, laughing or deep sighing. The heart chakra is a sacred, yet always accessible place. All it asks is for respect, gratitude and for heaven sakes, a little love.
Special thanks to yogis Megan Clark, Myleen Signorini, and Marlo Leaman.
What are your Valentines Class plans?