How to cultivate loving-kindness with Yin & Restorative Yoga
Yin and Restorative Yoga styles are known for its gentle and compassionate approach to the body. They teach practitioners how to slow down, soften, melt, to let go of physical and mental tension, and surrender. They also create space for cultivating positive emotions, such as gratitude, compassion, and metta, or loving-kindness.
Below, you will find three Yoga poses that are often used for cultivation of metta, together with a beautiful practice of self-hug.
Supine Heart-Opener: Lie down on your back with a pillow or a bolster under your heart. Position your legs in a way that is pleasant and effortless (legs can be stretched, bent, or open to the sides with knees bent and soles of the feet connected). Feel free to use more pillows and blankets to support your feet and knees. Close your eyes and draw your full attention to your chest zone. Feel how your chest rises and falls with every breath you take, expanding and creating more space and freedom for your heart. Let your whole body relax in this position for ten-fifteen minutes or longer. To release, gently remove your prop and turn on your side. Then take the support of your hands and slowly come to a sitting position.
Yoga Mudra: Sit comfortably on your mat, right leg in front of the left. Upon inhaling, reach both arms up overhead, lengthening your spine. Create space between each vertebra, but try to keep your shoulders down. Then, exhaling, slowly bow forward with your arms still extended. Rest your hands, arms and forehead on your mat. If your head does not touch the mat, use a pillow or a folded blanket for support. You can hold this position from two to fifteen minutes, then release and repeat with your left leg in front of your right.
Note: if you feel you need some extra support, you can use towels, pillows, blankets or blocks to support your knees or your head. If you experience pain or discomfort in your knees, do not perform this position.
Ananda Balasana: Start by lying down on your back and bend your knees into your belly. Position your ankles directly over the knee, so your shins are perpendicular to the floor, and grab your feet with your hands. Open your knees to the sides as much as is comfortable and relax.
Note: Happy Baby is a nice restorative position, which you can hold for five-ten minutes or longer. It gently releases tension from the lower back, opens the inner thighs and relaxes the hips. It also helps to improve blood circulation in the lower body and soothe tired legs and feet.
Self-Hug: To practice, find your safe and quiet place. Sit down and get comfortable. Give yourself a hug by putting your palms on your opposite shoulders or shoulder blades. Take a deep inhale, and while exhaling, relax your neck by bringing your chin towards your chest. Round your spine and make your breathing slow and soft. Close your eyes. Feel your firm yet gentle embrace.
Embrace yourself fully—with all the things you like about yourself, and all the things you don’t.
Embrace yourself with all the things you would share with the world, and all the secrets you prefer to hide.
Allow yourself to feel kindness and compassion for yourself, even if it is not easy.
Allow yourself to love yourself.
Stay in your embrace for as long as it is pleasant. Enjoy the sense of safety and trust.