Love is in the air!
Every Valentine's day comes round with the flurry of cards, gifts and more stuff! This makes us feel good for a moment, but real love is found elsewhere - and I believe Yoga can help us all get there.
Yoga is an act of self-love. We’re learning about our edges, ironing out the creases and accepting ourselves wholly - recognising both the light and shade in us and deciding to understand and see them.
One thing I learnt about recently from the Buddhist tradition is Shenpa - which means ‘the hook’. Bhavani Maki (my wonderful yoga teacher) said, ’Beware the hook!’. To summarise it means be careful about being so quick to label things and the temptation to categorise them into ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. I see this kind of reactivity a lot these days. The problem is that it ultimately locks us down and stops us being able to see things from another’s point of view.
The essence of love is in acceptance, understanding of ALL.
In yoga there are always poses that we gravitate towards…”ooh I like this one!” Then there are those we avoid…”I can’t do, it so I’m not going to try”. Isn’t that interesting? What could we potentially learn about ourselves if we stay open minded, accepting and interested in exploring…even when it pushes us out of our comfort zone.
I think kids are wonderfully naturally curious - they are ripe with love. Like sponges, soaking up all the juicy goodness of trying things, playing, moving their bodies - so I’ve lined up a few nourishing yoga poses here to encourage love of others and for self-love.
If you're interested in learning more about any of these poses - and about another 200 or so - take a look at our Big Book of Kids Yoga Postures. It's a great resource.
1) Butterfly (with optional butterfly wings)
Lengthen your spine and draw the soles of your feet together. Letting your knees drop to the sides. If they don’t drop very far, that’s ok! Upgrade yourself and sit on a cushion…get your pelvis higher than your knees…however much height you need. Scoop the tissue under your behind and thighs out, so you can sit properly. Hook your hands round your feet or your fingers round your big toes, and open the soles of your feet like a book. Sit up tall and if you like, keeping your back straight, hinge from the waist to fold forwards.
Optional Butterfly wings - if you want to open up your butterfly and play with your balance, try extending one leg out - holding it wherever feels comfortable - behind the thigh, calf, ankle or foot. Then try extending both! Sit tall, long back, and think about what beautiful colours your butterfly wings are!
2. Happy Baby
Roll onto your back and bend your knees in. Keeping your forearms inside your calves, wrap your hands round the outside of the soles of your feet, drawing your knees into your armpits. As much as you can, keep your tailbone flat on the floor, so your whole back is lengthened and your head is on the floor too - chin down, rather than jutting upwards. Enjoy rocking around - side to side, forwards and backwards - regressing to that happy place of being a baby…we’ve all been there!
Show some love to your beautiful spine! Come to all fours, toes untucked - flat on the floor, fingers spread wide. Starting with your back nice and flat in a neutral position, inhale as you round your back and look into your tummy then exhale as you lift your chest, your collarbones and your tailbone. Continue alternating this movement of your spine to really oil the vertebrae and wake up your spine.
4. Silly Dancing
This is true freestyle! Nobody is watching…wriggle, jiggle, swing around (obviously be careful you don’t crash into anything!) and just move! Shake your legs, your arms, jump, crawl…you don’t need to move in rhythm or to any timing - just be free! After you’ve danced for 2 maybe 3 minutes…stop and feel your divine heart beat…you’re ALIVE!
5. Cow Face
Noodly, gnarly shoulders and hips get a real going over with this pose. I find my body really talks to me in this pose…and I’m quite happy to sit with it, breathe with it and slowly the noise reduces. Sit with one knee crossed over the top of the other, so your feet are by your sides. Push your knees so they stack one on top of the other. Now your hips maybe having a word…take a breath and tell them it’s ok. Now take one arm up and bending at the elbow, drop your hand to your back, between your shoulder blades. Take your other arm out to the side then bend at the elbow to scoop it up towards your top hand. See if your fingertips can find one another and grip. If not, hold your top, a scarf or a yoga belt if you have one. Now your shoulders will have joined in on the conversation. If you want to get even more intimate with them - fold forwards so your forehead touches your top knee. BREATHE! After a minute or two, switch sides and notice the difference. Just keep breathing…those sensations are neither good or bad remember!
6. Wild Thing
Start sitting with your legs out long. Bend one knee up so the sole of you foot is on the floor. Place the same side arm to the extended leg behind you, planting your palm on the ground. Now sweep your other arm (same side as the bent leg) forward, round across your body as you lift your hips, pressing into the sole of your planted foot and take your arm out back behind you. Your chest lifting. Your heart skywards…your head back…sometimes this is called Rockstar pose…That’s you!
7. Candle Pose
Lie with your arms wide and legs up. You can use a wall if you like or just have them up, floating. Keep your hips and back down on the ground. Hang out here, close your eyes - let the pose work on you. Let your mind clear.
8. Back to back butterfly - a partner pose
This is so so soothing and just lovely to do with someone else. It’s like two kittens curled up together, sleeping. Sit back to back with someone else with the soles of your own feet together. If that’s not comfortable, just try crossed legs. Or sit on height. Get comfortable. Now close your eyes and just breath. Noticing the expansion and contraction of your partner’s back. Feeling the warmth of their body. Maybe you can even feel your heartbeat. Spend 5 minutes or so here. You will feel so amazingly relaxed afterwards. And - yes - that is Martin (wearing a onesie)!
9. Eye Cupping
A delicious treat for your brain and your beautiful eyes. Sit comfortably and begin rubbing the palms of your hands together. Keep rubbing, building the heat with the friction more and more. When they feel nice and hot, cup your hands over your eyes (so your fingers point up) at first with your eyes closed. Then gently open your eyes to the warm air cups and allow the heat to soothe and nourish your eyes. Bliss.
Lie back and let your body go. Heavy arms and legs…let them drop and drop again into the earth. Close your eyes. Forget about deep breathing, doing, trying. Now you let go. Let your thoughts come and go. Just be.