At the beginning of November 2018, I attended a weekend workshop with Dr. Claudia Welch, a doctor of Ayurveda and oriental medicine. The topic was set as biological sex specific but all my awareness could register over and over again was the message of taking responsibility for our own health by lowering the levels of stress hormones.
Stress, of course, doesn’t care about your sex. The practices presented (pranayama, abhyanga-warm oil self-massage that I haven’t incorporated in my life yet, but use a substitute as you will read) were something humanity would benefit from and if you are a yogic practitioner the basic one will be familiar.
I came home from the seminar with certainty in my gut and a very clear vision that the time has come to start taking more responsibility for my own wellbeing. The word self-love (#samoljubezen) kept echoing in my mind. The feeling was not driven from the idea »I should be doing …« it was something deeper, It was a willingness that didn’t need any additional motivation, it uncovered a natural need, it awakened something dormant, perhaps even suppressed or dissociated due to my past decadent lifestyle.
Next morning I woke up, sat on my mat and started seeking the kind of wisdom that is based in the truth that comes through my body. I started to observe what I am led to, how this new inspiration will unravel itself. After my intuitive session, I sat down and prepared a PDF file for my students, with a presentation, program and an invitation to join me on the path of self-love as a form of healing, something we can all incorporate inside of our morning ritual or if there isn’t one yet, to cultivate it.
And so it began, our collective practice of #selflove.
First only within my community, later I started to share the practice on Facebook and inside my Instagram stories and at the end of the year 2018 at least 50 people received my PDF, many of them writing back to report about their experience and the benefits the practice brought to them. Because I wish health, love, strength, and softness to the world, I am sharing my #selflove practice with you in the hope it reaches the spot inside of you from where you can lovingly touch yourself, move, breathe and heal. I am sharing a program that is meant to be just a suggestion and perhaps a little match with which you light your own fire you can use for cooking a personalized potion of love for yourself.
So back to the birth story of my newly created self-loving, self-healing ritual. As I sat down on my mat, after drinking my morning tea, toilet and washing ups (fully ready for practice without distractions) I just noticed I am in fact breathing – something I was not aware until that moment, as we usually aren’t. Sitting with my breath, following it, listening to it, feeling it opening and closing me. After a couple of minutes step by step, I started to become aware of every part of my body without moving it, from my toes to the top of my head, from the surface of the skin to the inner depths of my bones, completely focused on just bathing every cell of my skin, my meet, my inner organs, my bones with the light of awareness.
Little by little, I traveled through my entire body, feeling the warmth, the subtle motion, the vibrations of each tissue I was visiting, noticing how much movement, vibration, life there is inside of this illusion of stillness. The first discovery was already here, it was showing me I have to pay more attention to the back side of my body since our awareness is often weaker where there are no eyes or arms. When I got the feeling of »owning« myself completely, inhabiting my body fully, I felt the need to say grace, to count my blessings, to give gratitude space, because it was already here in the fullness of experiencing myself in such depths and such completeness.
I could feel my heart growing, I could hear the rhythm of the beat, I could sense the fluid flows inside my body and I was overwhelmed by the beautiness of this magnificent vessel we get to experience life through, love through, embrace through, practice through, unite through. Every soul that is dear to me came smiling before my eyes that baptized them in the holy water of my love. There is an ocean of reasons for being grateful, but sometimes I fall back down into my unconsciousness and stay in my egoistic mind where nothing is quite right. But this practice in the morning felt like initiation and it made it impossible for me to fall. How could I fall, seeing so clear I have this moment, this day to be and to love, to witness and to hold my heart and his and theirs so close to each other?
My own arms embraced me and I showered myself with loveful touches, gently massaging my body in the direction towards my heart. Somewhere soft, other places stronger, a complete dry body massage with gentle petting, butt taping, leg rubbing, face pinching, and especially breast caring. Feeling energized, the natural progression led me to the favorite part of my practice, the intuitive movement a love dance we practice in the first quarter of our Budokon classes.
So with no idea in my mind, I start and observe what unfolds in front of me. The body is a leader, my awareness is a follower. I am not striving for anything, not even symmetry, I trust the process and allow it to unravel. I observe and feel. Where I sense stagnations, tightness, pain or pleasure, I stay there, breath through, discover what I need and when it feels dissolved or when it feels enough, I continue the journey. Sometimes it is a short trip, other times it is a long pilgrimage – this intuitive movement – and I allow it to be what it is then and there, I give space, time and presence.
After it finishes I sit still for a while and continue with the part of the practice that Dr. Welch promoted as the best tool for creating hormonal balance – Nadhi Shodhana pranayama. Every pranayama is more than just a breathing technique, but let’s keep it simple in word and the complexity you get to embody yourself through practice. It is a practice of alternate nostril breathing where the inhalation entrees one nostril (L) and an exhalation exits through the other (R), the next inhalation then comes in through the previous exhaling nostril (R) and the exhale through the other (L) and so on.
Hands help with a mudra that is closing and opening the nostrils, but it can also be practiced with just conscious breathing and focusing on the one nostril that you want to activate, without using the hands. Dr. Welch pointed out that the most important part of the practice is being completely present in every inch of breath travell, so to slow it down and follow it without losing track or going in to »autopilot«, the recomendation was at least 15 minutes of fully conscious Nadhi Shodhana.
After the pranayama I like to just sit with everything that is there at that moment, integrate the effects of the practice and dive into a meditation, focusing just on observation of everything as it arises and as it falls. When I feel it is time, I rub my palms together strongly and firmly to create energy and than I, give some extra love to the part of myself calling. I slowly start to open my eyes from zero to maximum as I can open them and stick my tongue out and open my mouth as wide as I can and I allow any kind of sound to come out, releasing. This is how I finish this lovemaking session.
– Sitting with my breath: »oh here you are, life«
– Bathing in awareness: every part of my body just by noticing, no movement, toe to head, skin to bone
– a complete dry body massage
– intuitive movement
– nadi shodhana pranayama
– palm healing, eye opening, tongue sticking awakening
Every part of this practice is a contribution to the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, the environment in which our bodies can heal, as doctors like D. Chopra, C. Welch, V. Lad and many others teach. The healing, they say, is possible because there is no forced stagnation of energy, no concentration of excess energy in the limbs and no lack of vitality in our inner organs as it is when cortisol levels are high. In this state, the body is at peace and it can do what it is designed to do – heal and strive towards balance in fluidity.
And this part is just one of the many benefits of #selflove as you can imagine. If I lovingly notice every cell in my body, witness my breath, feel gratitude, move the way love makes me move, how can I not feel full of love. The love an compassion I learn to give to myself is the love I can also give to others. So the practitioner is not the only one who gets to enjoy the benefits of this loveful practice and that is how I believe, we get to influence the world. Have a beautiful self-love practice, whatever that may be and If this inspired you, I am grateful.
(Self)love to the world. Namaste.
Autor: Sanja Zalar-Gostimirović