Aug. 18. 2016
Written By:
McKel (Hill) Kooienga
McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Hill Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

Today I’m teaming up with the lovely Kathryn Budig (pictured above) to share a way to practice self-love through a yoga sequence from her book Aim True. I’ve shared my tips for self-love here and my top 10 ways to practice it through meditation, fun, surrounding yourself with your squad, etc. Exercise and mindfully moving your body is another great way to practice self-love, especially self-love directed towards your body. I’ll let Kathryn take it away from here with her twelves poses to care for yourself and your body!

Self-Love Routine

This sequence is designed to open up your perspective about how your boy performs on the mat by reminding it of how perfect and strong it is in every pose. I encourage you to practice this routine solo in your sacred space. Be completely honest with yourself.

1. Reclining Bound Angle Pose

Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet together. Place your hand on a part of your body that frustrates you that you dislike. This can be a physical trait (“big thighs,” “little arms”) or something that symbolizes a character trait (unable to speak up, shortsighted). Hold this part of your body and tell it that you’re going to be on the same team. Commit to loving this part of your body and your body as a whole.

2. Cat-Cow Pose – 5 rounds

Come onto all fours. Stack your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Inhale as you drop your navel, lift your gaze, and roll your shoulders back. Exhale as you round your upper back, push the ground away, and drop your tailbone.

3. Downward-Facing Dog – 8 breaths

Curl your toes under, lift your hips up and back, and straighten your legs as you press firmly into your hands. Spread your fingers evenly and give you head a good shake. Imagine any unwanted thoughts or negative habits flying out of your mind and splattering on the walls. Breathe and then walk your hands back to meet your feet and stand.

4. Standing Forward Bend – 8 breaths

Keep your feet hip-width apart and grab hold of your forearms as you dangle over your legs. Relax your head completely, but keep your heart extending long toward the ground to avoid rounding in the spine. Take a few deep breaths here, expelling anger or confusion with your exhales. Bend both of your knees slightly and drop your arms to the ground. Slowly stack up your spine, one vertebra at a time, to stand, letting your head and chin be the last to roll up.

5. Mountain Pose

Stand tall at the front of you mat with your feet together. Place both of your palms on top of your heart and bow your gaze down. Set your intention to aim true in your body and the way you view it. Choose to love it. Let go of the constant battle and sign the treaty to be on the same side. You are strong and vibrant.

6. Warrior II – 8 breaths per side

Step your right foot forward in between your hands. Spin your back heel flat so that the heel of you front foot and the arch of your back foot are aligned. Windmill your arms and torso up and open. Keep your front knee over your heel. Front ribs stay in as the lower belly lifts. Arms expand actively while the base of the neck relaxes. Gaze forward over your front fingertips. Breathe. Focus on the incredible power and strength in your thighs. Thank you, legs. Straighten your front leg, parallel your feet, switch sides, and repeat.

7. Humble Horse – 8 breaths

Keep your feet one leg’s distance apart and spin your heels and toes out. Do a few test bends to make sure your knees are pointing in the same direction as your toes. Keep your pelvis neutral and bend your knees, dropping your hips no lower than your knees. Interlace your fingers behind your back and squeeze your arms toward straight. Keep your knees bent as you hinge from your hips and fold your torso forward. Draw your arms up and overhead toward the ground. Hold here. It won’t be easy, but your hips and buns are wicked powerful and they are supporting you even when you don’t support them with your thoughts. Work that strength!

8. Twister Plank

Start in Plank pose with your arms straight, shoulders over the heels of your hands, and feet hip-width apart. Draw your front ribs in to engage your core and protect your lower back. Inhale and place your right elbow where your right hand is. Follow suit by placing your left elbow where your left hand is, so now you’re in Forearm Plank (shoulders directly over the elbows). Reverse this to come back up: right palm where your right elbow is, left palm where your left elbow is. Continue this twister dance from Plank to Forearm Plank and back, keeping your center engaged and your gaze forward for anywhere from 20 seconds to a minute. This is a love dance for your belly. The core is the home of experience and love. It’s the alarm for truth and honesty and the portal for releasing insecurities (think of butterflies in your stomach). It doesn’t need to look a certain way; it just needs to support you and hold you up. Rock that belly.

9. Dolphin Pose – 3 rounds of 8 breaths each

Come onto all fours and place your forearms on the ground parallel to each other and shoulder-width apart. Curl your toes under and lift your knees off the ground to straighten your legs. Lift your hips and walk your feet in as far as they’ll comfortably go without shifting your shoulders past your elbows. Breathe.

10. Camel Pose – 3 rounds of 8 breaths each

Drop onto your knees with your feet and knees hip width apart. Stan on your knees with even weight throughout your shinbones, keeping them hip width apart, hips staying over your knees. Drop your tailbone, lift your lower belly, and curl your chest open. Roll your shoulders back and release your head back as you press your heart to the sky. Reach your hands back to grab your heels (or keep them on your hips).

11. Seated Forward Fold – 8 breaths

Sit down and extend your legs in front of you. Flex your feet and keep the legs together. Inhale as you lengthen your chest, and exhale as you extend forward, reaching for the outer edges of your feet. Avoid any rounding of the upper back, and melt through the base of your neck. Breathe.

12. Thread the Needle – 1 to 2 minutes per side

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Cross your right ankle directly above your left knee an place it on your thigh with your foot flexed. Reach your right arm in between your legs and interlace your fingers behind your hamstring. Gently pull your legs in to stimulate the hip opener. Relax your head on the ground and soften your shoulders. Breathe, switch sides, and repeat.

Come into a comfortable seat and return your hands to the body part you chose at the beginning. Give it a supportive squeeze and the commitment that you’ll continue to nurture the best possible relationship with it. Sit here in gratitude for 1 to 2 minutes. Finish the sequence with Seated Meditation and Savasana (Corpse Pose).

Ready to love yourself?

I hope you guys try this out and that you find some love for yourself and your incredible bodies after this self-love sequence. If you’re looking for more ways to practice self-love, read my posts Self-Love Isn’t Selfish and Self Care and Why You Should Do It. And don’t forget to hydrate and nourish your body after exercising! Read my post on how to Fuel Your Fitness for what to eat before and after a workout.

xx McKel


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