Making the Most of the Month of Love

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February is the month of love. And while that may sound trite, we often overlook the heart as a source of emotional energy as well as a vital physical organ. And regardless of the state of your romantic life, stoking this radiant energy center is a great way to uplift your spirits, no candy hearts required.

Personally I’ve had some ups and downs these past weeks as I continue to adjust to empty nesting. It’s turned out to be harder than I thought with the combination of missing and worrying. I’m using my practices and giving myself as much grace as possible, but some days I need an extra boost.

While I know the techniques for tapping into heart energy, from a lens of depletion it’s easy to forget. Luckily I have Yoga Therapy training to remind me that even simple practices like heart-centered breathing can help promote relaxation, reduce stress, and increase overall well-being.

Holidays can be hard, especially with commercial and social media showing everyone living the dream, except you. While rationally we know that’s so not true, emotionally.. not so much, as our scarcity brain starts telling us we’re not enough so better to shut down and give up.

Right now I feel so grateful to have the support of the yoga therapy and coaching community and practices for moving from scarcity to expanding into possibility, starting with a simple heart opening practice.

Here are three of my favorites:

Metta Meditation: Also known as loving-kindness meditation, this practice involves silently repeating phrases of well-wishes and compassion for oneself and others, gradually expanding the circle of goodwill to include all beings.

Choose your own phrases or use a simple and well-known version; “May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be safe, may I live with ease.” As the meditation progresses, the focus extends outward in 4 layers to include loved ones, acquaintances, strangers, and eventually all beings. The goal is to cultivate a sense of universal love and interconnectedness, fostering empathy, forgiveness, and positive emotions. Research shows this meditation increases a sense of social connectedness, and positive emotions. To make it a habit, start small, even 3 minutes a day is a great way to acclimate it into self-care your routine.

Heart-opening breathing practice helps to expand and nurture a sense of self-love through intentional breathing techniques. Here’s a simple one you can try:

  • Find a Comfortable Position: Sit or lie down with a tall but relaxed spine, with shoulders low and open. You can also place one hand on your heart center and the other on your abdomen to connect with your breath.
  • Close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths, allowing your body to relax further with each exhale. Bring your awareness to the present moment, letting go of any tension or distractions.
  • Focus on the heart center by directing your attention to the center of your chest, placing both hands over heart, gently and subtly massaging that area. Visualize a warm, golden energy glowing in the space in and around your heart
  • Inhale Deeply: As you inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, imagine that you are expanding this loving energy your heart with each breath in as you feel your chest and heart space expanding and filling with light and warmth.
  • Exhale Slowly: As you exhale gently and fully through your mouth, release any tension or negativity stored in your heart space. Let go of any emotions or thoughts that no longer serve you, allowing them to dissolve with each breath out. Extend the length of each exhale as you allow this space to release and soften.

Continue this rhythmic breathing pattern, inhaling love and exhaling tension, for several minutes or as long as feels comfortable. With each breath cycle, feel your heart opening further, becoming lighter, and more expansive. Even a few minutes a day of this powerful practice builds a sense of compassion for self and others.

Engage in random acts of kindness can evoke feelings of compassion and connection, opening the heart to shared experience with others. We all appreciate being allowed to go ahead at the checkout line when we only have one item and an anxious partner or teenager in the car. Or an understanding smile when we’ve done something embarrassing, like not noticing the line of hungry people who were waiting to order before us.. Sometimes the nicest things take very little time or expense!

When it comes to building active self-compassion, these practices are both preventative and curative. Use them to stay self-aware, drop the self-judgment and celebrate yourself, and/or to pick yourself back up after a fall.

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