In our Yoga practice, we cultivate not only the body, but also the mind.  Our ability to offer and receive unconditional love only becomes possible when we understand ourselves better, because that is the first step towards accepting ourselves and loving ourselves just as we are.  It is not selfish, on the contrary, if we are unable to love ourselves, we cannot truly, freely love another. To give someone the gift of unconditional love is one of the best gifts.  Few people can say they have experienced receiving this kind of love, and yet one way to be a recipient is to give to yourself first.

In our Yoga practice we are encouraged to practice the attitudes of lovingkindness (maitri), compassion (karuna), joy (mudita) and equanimity (upeksha).  These are the four mind states known as the Brahmaviharas.  Bring these attitudes to your Yoga mat next time you practice.

Treat yourself lovingly in every pose.  Don't push your body, invite it to open gently, as you would a child.  When you encounter a limit, bring compassion to yourself, and find joy in your ability to rise to the challenge as well as your ability to back away from one.  Do not judge yourself for not being able to do something, and do not gloat when you can do something better than the teacher.  Practice a sense of equanimity, for we are all the same deep down inside.

Our Yoga practice begins to bear fruit when all of the sudden we are enjoying relationships with people that we never did before.  When we are comfortable outside of what used to be our comfort zone.  When we can equally enjoy people of all walks of life, but even more importantly, people closest to us, the ones who are there day in and day out - our husbands, wives, children, parents, and close friends.  Suddenly, they seem happier, less argumentative, more accepting.  Maybe they were always that way and we just didn't notice it, or maybe we ourselves have changed, and they have followed us to this better place.

Practicing shoulder and chest-openers and strengtheners creates a sense of physical freedom and strength around your heart, which can translate to a more balanced emotional body.  We can learn to love and to receive love more freely, without strings attached, and the rewards are great.  Read my blog entry Open Your Heart to learn how to create a spacious, generous, steady heart center for yourself.

A Chakra 4 balancing practice may be a good way to tap into the heart center, on that - next time.