How Yoga can encourage self-love

Yoga is a toolbox with the power to connect yourself with your body, mind, and emotions. In this process yoga let you face inner problems to give you acceptance by showing you the
uniqueness of yourself. The philosophy with its 8 limbs of yoga has basic ideas of a
meaningful and selfless life with yourself and others. You learn to change the focus from
yourself to the life in general with a universal consciousness. Love is one result of this
journey. By being a loving person you become a lovely self and the seeds of self love are
springing up.
In this assignment i will explain what yoga in general means and how it can help you to
encourage your self love through it’s philosophy, physical practice, breathing techniques and
meditation. Furthermore how Ayurveda can help you treat your body healthy.

What is Yoga?
“Yoga is the control over body, mind, and emotions.” – Patanjali in Yoga Sutras
Since thousands of years this science of right living is practiced to be integrated in daily life.
Yoga influences all aspects of yourself: the physical, vital, mental, emotional, psychic, and
The meaning of “Yoga” is “unity” or “oneness” and means the union of the individual with the
universal consciousness. For archiving this unity you need to be balanced and calm in body,
mind and emotions.
In the Yoga Sutras, the philosophical foundation of yoga, Patanjali described the 8 limbs of
yoga (Ashtanga) as guidelines of behaving with others and yourself for a meaningful and
purposeful life:
– Yama: social life
– Niyama: self-discipline
– Asana: physical practice
– Pranayama: breathing control
– Pratyahara: disconnection of senses
– Dharma: concentration
– Dhyana: meditation
– Samadhi: connection to the divine

As the Yamas describe the integrity with yourself in a respectful and true behavior with other
people, the Niyamas encourage you to accept yourself and also do your best by studying
mantras and yourself and staying humble to surrender.

These two limbs of yoga build a base to find freedom within and without yourself. For
archiving this mental freedom the following two limbs Asana and Pranayama are helping to
find control over and calmness with your body through physical practice with body and
This control over yourself is the foundation for the further process of connecting with yourself
through meditation (dhyana) which is a process through the limbs pratyahara and dharma.
The original idea of the Asana practice is to become flexible to hold posture for a long time
which is needed for deeper meditation. In this asana practice you are facing the boundaries
of your body concerning flexibility, strength and of your natural body type, which is different
for every person. Here you have to learn to be patient with yourself to discover your body
and accept the state. By the power of your breath and a continuous practice you will gain
trust into you body and be rewarded by continuous process in flexibility and strength.
Furthermore you should not compete with others, instead you should accept yourself and
find the uniqueness in yourself. Listen to your body and honor yourself.
Many mental blockades are also present in a physical blockade in your body. It’s your chance
to face them with patience, love, and trust. Is the body flexible will the mind follow?
By not focusing on our ego and our own suffering we are able to see others. In Karma Yoga,
you are acting selfless and kind towards others without expecting anything in exchange. This
makes us better humans inspiring others. Seeing love in others you become a lovely human

As Ayurveda is closely connected to yoga it also helps you to find a deeper understanding of
your body type. Ayurveda means “life science” and divides the human body into three typos
(doshas) which are connected to the five elements.
– Vata (air) is sensitive and cold in body and behavior
– Pitta (fire) is bright, attractive, and also manipulating
– Kapha (water + earth) is calm, energetic, cannot be influenced
When you know your dosha you can increase your health and well being in your body by the
right food. I. e. should Vata people prioritize warm food. Pitta people have a strong digestive
fire so they can have warm and cold food but should not eat to much. In contrast to that have
Kapha people slow digestion and should prefer light food.
Knowing your body structure and ayurvedic body type helps you to understand how you can
your treat your body best to improve your well-being.
Asana example
The asana practice give you the option to treat your body well and be healthy. The following
asanas are encouraging self-love in different ways.

1) Paschimottasana (seated forward bend) 
As at the beginning of most people’s practice the hamstring in the back of the legs
are not very flexible, this asana is a good example to be patient and gentle with your
body but also focused on the intended process.
1. Sit on the floor with stretched legs, feet together. Place your buttocks on the
ground and hands on the knees.
2. Relax your body, inhale and straighten your spine.
3. Bend forward from your hip slowly, sliding the hands down the legs. The back
stays straight all the time.
4. Inhale in a static position and exhale bending more forward, placing your
abdomen on your legs
5. Hold your big toes with the fingers and thumbs, alternative the heels or any
part of the legs.
6. Rotate the thighs in to rotate also the outer part of the feets towards you.
7. Stay in your final position for 10 counts and release slowly.
If the hamstrings are not flexible enough you can bend your legs to focus on the
forward bend in your hip.
This asana stretches the hamstrings and increases flexibility in the hip joints.
Counter poses
Chakrasana (wheel pose), Bhujangasana (cobra pose)

2) Virabhadrasana B (warrior B) 
When you are doubting in yourself and see yourself small it’s important to make space
in life. This asana shows awareness about your surroundings and yourself. You are
present and proud in the here and now. As the warrior in yoga is a reincarnation of
the god Vishnu as Krishna, this asana let you see the divine in yourself.

1. Starting in adho mukha shavasana place one leg between your paws. Rotate
your back feet 45 degrees in and place the heel on the ground.
Front knee is bended to 60 degrees.
2. Inhale and lift torso up.
3. Rotate your thighs out to open your hips and put them aline with your legs.
4. Torso is vertical to the ground and arms are stretched out on shoulders level
parallel to the ground.
5. Rotate shoulders back and put them down (away from your ears)
6. Drishti is set to the middle finger of your front hand

Strengthens and stretches the legs and ankles
Contraindications :
– High blood pressure
– Neck problems: Don’t turn your head to look over the front hand

3) Balasana (child pose) 
Every process is challenging. A safe place is needed to reflect on yourself and calming
your body and mind down.
This asana relaxes your legs and back. The connection to the ground and your body
let you feel protected and safe.

1. Sit on your knees with flat feets
2. Place your abdomen on your knees and your forehead on the ground
3. Arm beside your body to your feets
4. Close eyes and relax body and breath

Calming down body and mind especially after exhausting postures. The body can
rest completely.

Pranayama originally means “life extensions force” because the control over our breathing
will calm your body and mind down and supports a healthy and long life.
The so-called full yogi breath gives you a way to breath in your full capacity by being totally
aware about yourself. It relieves stress, refreshes the mind and activates the
parasympathetic nervous system encouraging a calmer, more balanced state of being
Laying on the back or sitting you put your right hand on your abdomen and your left hand on
your chest. In this breathing, you breathe with three regions of your torso after each other.
After exhaling completely you first inhale by putting your abdomen out, following by lifting
your rib cage up and expanding your lungs. Finally, lift your collarbones to archive the full
capacity of your lungs. This slow and purposeful inhalation is then followed by a long, slow,
gentle exhalation.
For exhaling start in reverse order by lowering your collarbones and upper chest, your rip
cage and pulling your abdomen in. Repeat this breathing 10-20 times.
By placing your hands on chest and abdomen you can feel this life force flowing in yourself,
gaining control over your mind and emotions.

In meditation, the science of resting the mind, you try to disconnect from your senses to
focus on your inner self by calming down your breath.
Yoga asanas prepare you to sit in posture for a long time to go into a deep meditation.
Being present helps you to be aware about your surroundings and to listen to your self.
You sit in a comfortable posture with straight spine, hands relaxed on your legs, chin parallel
to the floor. Mantras help us to calm down the mind. One mantra is the “soham” mantra,
here you breathe in saying in your mind “so” and breath out saying in your mind “ham”. The
meaning is “i am – that”.
To encourage your self love you can use also mantras like ” i’m – grateful” (inhale – exhale).
Also, you can honor a loving mantra to someone else. As mentioned in karma yoga are
loving people also loved people.

Through physical and mental practice you can gain more understanding about your body.
This gives you acceptance and shows you your uniqueness. In combination with the
philosophy and especially the yamas and niyamas you can reflect and improve your daily life
in a spiritual way.

About the author:

Dominic from Germany completed his 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training at Gyan Yog Breath in December 2019.