A Practice for Growing Love and Appreciation

Several years ago, I traveled to South Africa to train adults about children’s yoga, and as part of my time there, I was invited to share my work with caregivers in an orphanage. It was a bit overwhelming to see how many children there were, and to realize the potential they had for living healthy, happy lives, if only there was the vision for it.

At one point, I needed a baby for a yoga demonstration. Most were napping, and I was beginning to wonder if I needed a new teaching plan. At that moment, I found myself eye to eye with a petite five-month-old girl solemnly staring up at me from her crib. I lovingly picked her up and told her that we were going to show everyone how to connect with babies. Once in the demonstration room, with 30 pairs of eyes on us, I gently laid her down on the yoga mat and began gently massaging and stroking her legs and arms, feeling loving-kindness toward her with every touch.

I spent some time engaging her with smiling, singing, touch, and movement. For the first few minutes, she turned her head away from me in fearful distrust. Her signal was clear, but I continued to draw her in with my vision of her as a precious soul here on earth for her own great purpose. I trusted my touch and my energetic vibration to soothe her fears and help awaken her to herself. And, as I always try to do, I remembered that the hand of the universe always co-creates with me.

Within a couple of minutes, she went from being stiff and fearful to allowing her body to relax. And from there, she became actively engaged with the process. She looked straight at me with curiosity and seemed to be thinking, “What strange and lovely things are you doing with me?”

A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth while I gently crossed her little arms, moving up, down, and side to side in rhythm with the yoga sounds of “Sa Ta Na Ma!” Finishing up, I massaged her feet, showing the caregivers how the pressure points on the feet connect to every part of the body. The entire demonstration lasted no more than eight minutes. By the end, she felt relaxed enough to fall into a peaceful sleep. I placed her in her crib, my hands and my heart warm with healing energy and appreciation for her and for all the dear children there. Spontaneously, I felt a prayerful intention release from my heart to the heavens on their behalf.

How do we come to find ourselves in our high heart, our authentic Self, our energetic space of connection? There is no one way, but there are helpful tools and ideas.  Moving from one state of mind to another requires a little help from your friends. When it comes to inner transformation, you have two loyal partners—your breath and your imagination—who are always ready and willing to help you move into a better space. When you feel that you are not where you’d like to be, whether it is in relation to your child, your partner, or a situation, you can call on your internal friends—breath and imagination.

Waves of Appreciation: A Practice

A powerful example of using breath and images, this next practice can be done anytime and anywhere—alone or in a crowd, while sitting in meditation or when you are in a challenging situation. It is a perfect practice to share with those you love because it grows the love between you.

  1. The waves of breath flow up to the shore of your body on the in-breath. They flow out to the sea of energy surrounding you on the out-breath.
  2. As the breath rolls inland, let it fill every corner and every pocket of your body and mind. Then let head thoughts drop down into the body on the first out-breath.
  3. Breathe in again. Draw in fresh life, also called prana or qi. On the exhalation, let the head surrender to the heart as the waves surrender themselves back to the ocean.
  4. Inhale. Allow thoughts of someone or something you love to enter your body and mind. As the breath rolls out again, feel your appreciation warming the heart.
  5. Inhale again. Drop down into the heart, and grow the sense of appreciation. Let other thoughts and feelings of appreciation gather in the heart. Exhale and send your appreciation out to the world, to the universe.
  6. Begin to breathe in and out through the heart center. Circulate waves of love up to the shore of your body-mind and send currents of appreciation back out to the vast sea of life.
  7. Continue for as long as you like, and return to the experience as needed throughout the day.

Excerpted from The Yoga Way to Radiance by Shakta Khalsa. © 2016. Used by permission from Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.