By Sadie Nardini
This Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to start having a sizzling affair. Not the way you think, though — I want you to choose your closest soul mate, the one who’s been there for you during all the ups and downs of your life and the person who has never, ever left you, and never will.
No, I’m not talking about Johnny Depp. I’m talking about you.
Make the shift from looking only externally for love, and begin treating yourself like the king or queen that you are, you’ll find your heart more open, feel more forgiving with yourself, and become more available to love others. True love starts from within — and when you do the following yoga sequence, you’ll directly practice giving your body, mind and heart some good loving.
This is also an inspired invitation for more of the same to come to you from the outside, too. You’ll notice that as you cultivate the same kind of relationship with yourself that you expect from other people, you will become stronger, more independent, and more able to attract and accept healthy, genuine love. Plus, other people’s choices won’t knock you off-center as easily when you already have what you need. Their love will become a beautiful gift…not a lifeline.
Let Valentine’s Day remind you to take yourself out, whether you have a romantic partner or not. Buy yourself flowers, run yourself a rose-petal bath, get on the yoga mat and do what you must each day to spark your lifelong affair from the inside out.
Please warm up first with 3-5 of my Core Sun Salutations, or insert the following sequence into your regular routine. Remember to breathe deeply through the nose for the duration of the poses.
1. “The Love List” Meditation
Come to sit at the front of your mat. Cross the ankles or place one foot in front of the other. Engage mula bandha by gently lifting the pelvic floor muscles and sit tall. Place the palms together at your chest, and gently bow your head towards the heart. Turn your thoughts to all the ways that love does surround you now. Make a list of five ways love and happiness exists in your life, and dwell on the goodness of each one for a few moments. Whether it’s a child you know, or Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream…there’s always something.
Breathe here for as long as it takes to count five items on your Love List.
2. Heart-Opening Wall Stretch
Move to the wall and come to sit on your heels. Place one forearm and hand on the wall. Roll the shoulder back, slightly lengthen and arch your back, and begin to rotate your body away from the wall until you feel a stretch around the chest and heart.
Breathe into this opening space for one minute, then switch sides.
3. Side Spin
Come to sit, right leg extended, left knee bent. The left foot comes to your right inner thigh. Place your right forearm on or inside the right thigh, elbow bent, palm facing up. Plant both sitting bones equally, and begin to open your heart and reach the left arm behind you.
Keep this, and add a side bend, with a long top and bottom ribcage, like Triangle Pose over that long front leg. Sweep your left arm over your ear and if you like, bring your bottom fingertips into the back of your head to rest it, even as you press the head back into the hand, revealing your heart. Over time, scoot your forearm farther forward, and open your heart even more.
Breathe into the opening of your top side body for one minute, then switch sides.
4. Proud Pigeon
From your last Side Spin, keep the right knee forward, and swing the left leg around behind you. Front knee is a little wider than the right hip with the foot towards the left hip. Your back leg should be in line with your back hip.
Bring your left forearm onto a block or the floor. Horseshoe your index finger and thumb on top of your front hip crease, and press the right hip wider, and down. From this foundation, spin your heart and right shoulder towards the ceiling.
Press both legs into the floor for support as you bend your back knee. Take the inner ankle with the right hand or use a strap, keep both hips level, and twist.
Breathe here, sliding the head back to open your heart for one minute, then switch sides.
5. Bound Bridge
Come onto your back, knees bent, feet hip distance with heels under the knees. Curl your tailbone up as you draw navel to spine. Lift your stable hips high and press your palms down by your waist. Begin to reach for or take your heels in your hand, thumbs facing up, and touching your inner ankles. Lift your chin to maintain the spine’s natural curve, and hold to stretch the top shoulders and neck.
Breathe here for one minute, do 1-3 rounds of the pose.
6. Wall Wheel
Here we’ll use the wall to open your heart a lot, but in optimal alignment. Press up only as far as you’ll go to build strength; never push farther. You’ll go higher in time!
Place your head close to the wall and plant your palms so they’re flat on the floor, fingers facing your body but the wrists nearly touch the wall. Point your elbows straight up, and draw the shoulder blades onto your back. Keep your forearms parallel and as you lift your hips and press up into the backbend, expand your heart towards the wall but back your face and shoulders away from it for best alignment.
Breathe here for as long as you’re able to hold it, then tuck your chin to come down with strong, parallel forearms onto your upper back. Repeat Wall Wheel 1-3 rounds.
Close this sequence by drawing your knees gently over your hips, hands over your knees. Roll circles into the lower back one way, and then the other, for two minutes, then rest on your back for a few more minutes to reset and restore.