“Love is a living, breathing thing. There is no need to force it to grow in a particular direction. If we start by being easy and gentle with ourselves, we will find it is just there inside of us, solid and healing.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
There is an emphasis on love this time of year because of Valentine’s Day. I thought about the many expressions of love, and realized that one of the most important loving relationships we can cultivate is that with ourselves.
In my work as a trauma informed yoga instructor, I emphasize responding to ourselves with love and compassion. This is important for our minds, emotions, and bodies.
How often do you notice your body reacting when you go through an intense experience? How often do you purposefully cut yourself off from the feelings in your body when having an intense experience.
A client of mine was going through a rough time last week and had to make some hard choices. She told me that “her stomach was in knots.” Haven’t you felt that way, too?
Just this morning, my son was working through some difficult feelings and I helped to guide him through. It was a very intense morning. When I returned home from dropping him at school, I felt the residue of the experience still holding onto me. This is the point where I used to cut myself off from my feelings and move onto whatever needed to be done.
Now, I make it a point to address those feelings because I know they will get locked in my body and my whole day will be impacted if I don’t.
How do you address these feelings? How do you prevent them from being locked inside your body?
This is where we come back to love. We listen to our bodies with love. We pay attention to what our bodies are trying to tell us. Here is what I did.
- First, I stopped my busy work.
- I decided to be “easy and gentle” with myself and show myself love.
- I sat down and watched my breath flow in and out of my body.
- As I breathed, my heartbeat started to regulate and I could begin to tune into my body.
- I started to scan my body to see what I could notice.
- I noticed that my stomach was uneasy. I was holding the muscles behind my stomach.
- So, I sent my breath to my stomach for a few minutes.
- I started to feel sadness. I didn’t judge the sadness. I just acknowledged that it was there. Sometimes there is sadness.
- I continued to pay attention to the feelings in my body.
- I noticed that my throat felt like there was a “lump” in it.
- I breathed into my throat, trying to consciously create an open pathway.
- I noticed that tears came into my eyes. I cried, remembering that I wished that I could have said more to comfort my son this morning. I acknowledged this feeling without judgement, and I allowed the tears to flow.
- I kept breathing into my throat for a few minutes.
- I noticed that my whole body felt tired. It was morning and I felt like I had already been through an exhausting day.
- I breathed into my whole body.
- I started to feel a lifting of the fatigue and the weight of the experience of the morning.
- I kept breathing for a few more moments.
- Then I sent a message of love and gratitude to myself. Knowing that by loving myself without judgement, I can then show others love more easily, too.
I am grateful for this practice, as it prevents those intense experiences from becoming locked in my body for moments, days, weeks, and years to come.
It didn’t take long, but made all the difference in the world.
So, next time you have an intense or traumatic experience, take a few minutes for yourself, breathe, and listen to your body with love. See if it helps you, too.
May you have peace within,