It’s easy to find Valentine’s Day annoying.
It’s just another excuse for shops to sell us stuff we don’t need. For single people it’s a sick-making reminder of just how single they are. Then there’s the clichéd gifts of flowers and chocolates, the over-priced meals with lots of other couples desperately trying to look happier than everyone else, and the sheer pressure of having to be romantic (talking to you guys).
But I would like to suggest that the premise of romantic love being celebrated is a joyful one! Without love, most of us wouldn’t be here, the world wouldn’t go round and crooners would have nothing to sing about.
So why not make this Valentine’s Day special, not by buying a ‘tacky’ card, but by using the ancient art of yoga.
Here are 5 ways yoga can enhance your Valentine’s Day.
Start with Loving Yourself
This one’s for singletons and smug marrieds alike, because if we don’t love ourselves, it’s very hard to love someone else. So many of us are carrying around an internal burden of self-criticism. That mean voice that peppers our thoughts with negativity, seeing the smaller picture, the glass half full, that is never satisfied or content.
When we really practise yoga – and I mean really practise – that voice is banished. Because true yoga is, according to Patajanli, ‘the stilling of the movements of the mind.’
In Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar says that the practice of yoga includes the love of yourself and your body:
‘You have to create love and affection for your body, for what it can do for you.’ Once you learn to love your brilliant body, you can then learn to love the person within it.
So this Valentine’s Day, give yourself the gift of a yoga practice with the sole purpose of loving your body and yourself.
Strength and Bendiness
Science and intuition tell us that yoga is good for your body. These ancient poses are designed to strengthen and stretch every inch of our bodies, making them fitter, stronger and bendier. Just ask the oldest yoga teacher in the world, 98-year-old Tao Porchon-Lynch what the benefits are, and she’ll touch her toes which is proof enough for me.
But as well as being able to tie your own shoelaces well into old age, the bendy aspect is also good for your love life.
It’s a fact that the fitter and healthier you are, the better your ‘exercise’ between the sheets will be. Which will definitely help to make this Valentine’s Day a good one.
Bringing the Mind Into the Body
Another goal of yoga is to bring the mind into the body. The advanced yoga masters can alter their internal organs and bring awareness to each cell of the body.
In terms of romantic love, being aware of your body is crucial for your love life. We’ve all had those moments of being mid-act and suddenly finding that your mind has drifted to the fact that you’ve run out of cream cleaner…
During intense yoga sessions, when your body is ‘in the zone’, you feel that your mind is simply there, in the pressing down of your feet, the stretching and opening of the body, the movement of the breath.
By bringing your attention into the body you amplify your awareness of your body, which in turn helps to heighten the physical sensations.
If the mind is brought into the body during sex or, just when you’re being affectionate, you are actually being present in the moment, making it much more satisfying – and arousing!
Opening the Heart
Yoga opens and lifts our heart.
Firstly in a physical sense. In every inverted pose we are lifting the heart above the head. In backbends and supported reclining poses, the heart cavity is being opened, lifted and supported by the back body.
Secondly, this links through to our emotional self. Without an open heart, we cannot truly listen or open ourselves up to our loved ones. So the physical practice is a way of teaching our emotional selves to be open – to love and to others.
So this Valentine’s Day open your heart to the possibilities of love arriving in your life if you’re single, and if you’re not, practising a few inversions and chest-opening backbends will help to open your heart to your other half.
Yoga with your Partner
If you’re lucky enough to share the love of yoga with your other half, you don’t need telling twice that sharing an interest helps on many levels with relationships.
As well as being something that you have in common, it is also a way to spend more quality time together.
If your other half claims that yoga just isn’t their thing (usually because they’re scared you’ll be better than them), then this Valentine’s Day could be your chance to convince them of the benefits.
Why not suggest that instead of the usual meal for two, you could share a partner yoga session. If that’s not enticing enough for him, remind him that you’ll be wearing (insert article of clothing he’ll appreciate) and see what happens…
If your other half is already into yoga, then a partner yoga workshop, or partner sequence is a way of connecting, both physically and emotionally. Most of all, make sure it is a yoga practice focused on love, because, let’s face it, ‘what the world needs now, is love sweet love, that’s the only thing that there’s just too little of’…