Updated: Feb 10, 2019
We invite you to reinvent Cupid’s time-honored Valentine's Day traditions this month. Rather than celebrate unconditional love with chocolates, roses and Hallmark cards, we’re encouraging parents to model self-love for your family; something that we parents all too often overlook.
We get it. The idea of putting your own oxygen mask on first can go against parental instincts which are fiercely bound in selflessness and a desire to give and provide for our children. But consider this simple truth: if we continuously deplete ourselves emotionally and physically giving to our children, our spouses, our parents, our friends, our jobs, our homes, eventually we will have nothing left to give.
Many of us remember The Giving Tree, the story from our childhoods about the tree who selflessly gave all it had to give to a boy it loved throughout it's life, until the tree was simply a stump. Modeling the importance of taking time for ourselves as parents is not only vital to our own health and happiness but critical for our continued ability to provide for our families with warmth, compassion and patience. We want to continue to have fruit to offer, limbs to climb, shade to give - and not simply become a stump to sit on.
With this in mind, we offer you three simple mindfulness practices to ground and recharge you with moments of self-love. Of course you may include your kids in these practices. But we challenge you to first make the time and space to simply give to yourself.
Mindful Self-Love Tip #1. Focus on opening your heart center with upward facing dog pose.
No one knows the power of unconditional love like a parent. Tap into this superpower by practicing upward facing dog. Feel and breathe into your heart. Consider, without judgement, how your heart feels in that moment. Reflect on what has recently touched your heart. What has recently made you feel happy? Sad? Hopeful? Sit with those feelings before transitioning to child’s pose to give your back a rest.
Slow your breathing and transition between upward facing dog and child’s pose several times. Or you can invite awareness to your heart center without being in a yoga posture and simply sit comfortably without distraction for a few moments.
After giving yourself a few moments of reflection, set an intention to cultivate love, kindness and compassion while holding these postures. Notice if you feel any sensations in your heart as you open this area of the body. As always with yoga, there is no right or wrong answer. Just notice.
If you engage your kids in this activity, invite them to feel into their heart like a little antenna. Experiment together and see if you can perceive the sensations of unconditional love in this asana. Of course, when stretching with your child, approach this with a light heart.
Tips to arrive safely into upward facing dog pose:
Lay flat on your belly with your feet together or slightly apart.
Place your hands flat on the earth, underneath your shoulders, palms facing down.
Press down into your hands to gently lift your chest, shoulders and upper body.
Roll your shoulders back and keep your chin slightly tucked to protect your neck.
Hug your elbows towards your body.
Be aware of any sensations in the low back and move slowly.
Focus your awareness on your heart center and take a few deep breaths into the heart.
To come out of the posture gently release and lower you body to the ground.
Take child’s pose as a counter pose.
Mindful Self-Love Tip #2. Give yourself a foot massage.
Self-massage is a very healthy self-care practice. You can read more about the benefits of self-massage in this Yoga International article. Take a moment to setup a tranquil space with a clean towel, coconut oil or other lotion you have easily on hand, dim lights, and essential oils, if you have them. Add a touch of rose oil to the mix to activate the heart center.
Take a moment to express gratitude for your tired feet and all they allow you to do in a day. Find tender spots and gently massage them. Remember, if you take the time to rejuvenate yourself, you’ll have more to give to your family.
Once you’ve taken time for yourself, your family may enjoy exchanging massage treatments as a way to say, “I love you.”
Mindful Self-Love Tip #3. Throw yourself a self-love dance party.
Movement is vital to our health and well-being. Dancing like nobody's watching is a great way to up the self-love meter! Schedule this fun, frolicking play date with yourself to explore freestyle movement and listen to music with empowering lyrics that activate your heart. We have some suggestions for you here, here and here.
These songs were chosen to activate unconditional love, kindness and compassion within you. They are intentionally emotionally complex, just like we humans are, with stories of struggle buried in them. Try not to judge the music but rather feel the sensations the sounds and lyrics activate in your body. Or, choose your own songs and share your ideas with others in the comments.
Once you’ve taken a moment to throw yourself your very own dance party, throw one for the whole family!
Valentine’s Day can give kids of all ages confusing messages about love. We invite you to model making self-love a priority for them and use these strategies to throw a family love fest grounded in the true meaning of love. Whether it's through upward facing dog, self-massage with rose oil or exploring creative self-expression, make time to spread love this month. But start with YOU!
Self-love is a skill that takes time to develop, especially in parents. So we invite you to share how you creatively model healthy self-care for your little loves in the comments. Your feedback will support other families trying to cultivate their own self-love practice. We will spread the love and share some of your favorite ideas on our Instagram!