5 Reasons to Hug Yourself
When you can't hug your family or friends in the age of coronavirus
I am missing a hug in these corona virus times, and as I find ways of touching others through words and eye contact when masks hide other facial expression, I remember that I can hug myself in a loving way...or can I?
When was the last time you squeezed someone really tight?
Do you remember the feeling of holding someone in your arms, a precious connection, a way to let them to know that you are here, that you love them, that you feel their pain/joy/happiness. A visceral powerful message of unconditional love, more than words can say.
In this fissure between us and others, I know many of you have used this time for inner reflection and self-care. Touch is such an important basic physical human need, here is an opportunity to connect with who you really are. You can use the practice of hugging as an expression to befriend yourself.
As T.K.V. Desikachar says in the Heart of Yoga, we use yoga practice to develop a deeper understanding of ourselves. Some poses use gestures or body mudras to create a closed circuit to draw awareness inwards. When you cross legs and arms in Eagle pose (garudasana), when you draw the palms together to say namaste, you bring your attention into the 'mid-line', you draw your attention away from the outside world, from “out there” to “in here”. Draw your attention closer, gather your energy inwards to the beliefs and values you hold closest.
When I hug myself, it feels tender, caring and healing. I communicate with my body, all the parts of myself and how I am with myself. After a practice of hugging to the mid-line in a yoga practice, I notice what I call the 'off-the-mat effect'. When I have turned loving kindness to the core of my own being, I want to go out and hug everyone close to me, squeezing them tight because love is flowing...obviously there are boundaries in general, and restrictions in these covid days!
Here are 5 poses to practice hugging - from easy to challenging.
A note – move into and out of each posture 5 times, and after the 5th squeeze of the posture, make sure you transition to a relaxed state where you can soak in the after ripple effect.
1 Lie on your back with knees bent up, soles of the feet on the floor. Take your arms to the vertical fingertips towards the ceiling, hands facing each other. Relax your shoulder blades like feet in the ground, and gaze up into the column between the sky above and your heart. What would you like to draw in, how would you like to be with yourself? Breathe it in now. Cross your arms so the hands come to the opposite shoulders and give yourself a squeeze. Breathe into the space between your shoulder blades. Then allow your arms to unfold and release them back to the floor, palms up. Why? Creates space at the back door of the heart where loving energy originates in the anahata chakra, initiates loving energy to flow from your heart into your hands.
2 Cross your right leg over the left. From here, drop the knees across to the floor to the right and turn the head to the left. Keep your right arm out to the side, and left thumb into your hip crease and gently draw down to create space along the spine. Squeeze your legs together, soften your right shoulder blade with each exhale. Why? Opens shoulders and hips, releases the spine with gravity, creates space for the spinal chord deep inside the spine itself, focusing on cables of nerves and mind which aids letting go of tension.
3 Twisted Lunge (Parivrtta Anjaneyasana) - Lunge with your right leg forward, left leg back . Lift your knee away from floor and reach back through the left heel. As you inhale, draw the thigh bones up into the pelvis to even out your hips, on the next exhale draw your palms together in front of your heart centre, then twist to the right, bringing your left elbow to the outside of your right knee with left hand facing up, and your right hand pressing firmly down onto the other hand, elbow up to the ceiling. This may need adjusting and modifying – be kind, squeeze into your centre, and soften a little to allow loving kindness to flow. Close your eyes. Give yourself a little time to unravel and let go of tension in a down-dog or lie on your back. Why? Creates strength in the legs, increases concentration and focus for a scattered mind. Draws your attention into the molten core, the heart of the matter, focusing on what is close to your heart and what you’re drawing in. Use your breath to draw in deeper self-acceptance.
4 Eagle pose (garudasana). Let your arms become wings, spread them out and lift them up into a v-shape like a flying bird, lighten more as you lift the right foot away from the floor. Cross the right knee over a bent left knee, press your right toes to the shin. Sit down as if you are landing in readiness, cross your left elbow over the right and wrap the arms around each other like ropes to bring the palms together-ish. You will need to focus your eyes like a hawk, your mind like a laser, and your energy in a state of readiness. Squeeze into the mid-line, hugging closer to your Self. Then lift and spread your wings out wide and return both feet to the ground. If your balance is not good, you can do this with a wall or on the floor Why? Rope your limbs together, align your physical and energetic body. The challenge brings your attention to the present moment, away from your troubles and day to day worries. Attention and alertness create intense presence. Can you feel a sense of belonging to yourself?
5 Cobra (Bhujangasana) Lie on your front and spread out for a few minutes with your forehead on the backs of your hands. Take your attention into the front of the brain and your jaw – relax and feel where the breath moves in your body. Begin to squeeze your thighs together, and move the tailbone back and down. From the base of the spine, feel as if you are rising up through your spine, lift the chest and head. Reach your arms back behind you with your hands pressing to your thighs or interlock them behind you if you can reach. Come down when the breath tells you - rest to feel the after effect. Why? Opens the front of the chest, lungs & heart, lengthens the spine from the inside. Energetically draws the two sides together.
Transition to daily life - Lie on your back in relaxation pose (savasana) or go back to 1. Is it possible to allow the divine molten core of your being to ripple out towards the surface? Embody the hugged effect, the juicy squeezy energy running through every cell of your body.
Take your time to move from your mat and back to daily life. Notice the off-the-mat-effect - see what happens over the next day or two but be warned - stop, look, listen - be mindful of who you’re squeezing or how you can ‘touch’ someone without physical contact!
Judy Hirsh Sampath runs specialist yoga therapy classes, workshops, courses and yoga therapy diploma to spread the virus of love like a pandemic starting one person at a time. See www.yogaunited.com/education for more details.