Six Things I Love About the Pelvic Floor.

In preparing for my upcoming workshop, “Yoga and the Pelvic Floor: Anatomy, Asana, and Energetics,” I am once again in a place of digging deeper, and becoming amazed at our incredible, vital, tender, strong pelvic floors… how without certain care, our bodies do become problematic in numerous ways as a result of collapse, aging, repetitive stress, and the nature of temporal existence… but that with small, committed, simple practices, with understanding, compassion, and appreciation of our bodies, we can maintain a foundation of vibrant health. Not only do we want healthy enduring function, but we want to be able to sense, enjoy, and explore all the possibilities of this special area. What is your relationship to your pelvic floor? What comes up when you think about it? How might getting in touch and loving your body help you be more in touch and loving with others aspects of your life and world?

Here are 6 things I love about the pelvic floor, in no particular order. (What would you put on your list?)

1.  The perineum! It’s so especially soft to touch, yet SO STRONG! The center of the perineum, or central tendon, is an anchoring point for all the surrounding musculature. It is a powerful epicenter of connective tissue where the following muscles insert: the deep transverse muscles of the perineum, the bulbospongiosus muscle, the levator ani, and  the anal sphincter. perineum

2.  GOOD SEX. The more awareness, ability to relax, and ability to contract our pelvic floor muscles we have, the more we can control, feel, and enjoy when we reach orgasm during sex. In healthy women, as this study shows, the stronger the PC muscles are, the more powerful orgasms are. In 1952, Dr. Kegel published a report in which he claimed that the women doing his exercises were becoming more easily, more frequently and more intensely orgasmic. However, it is key to not just practice”kegeling” but having a healthy relationship to your pelvic floor, again that important mind-body piece. The combination of healthy tone, flexibility, AND hormonal release (read: ability to relax, feel safe, dip into the parasympathetic nervous system…) is what I come up with when I saw this study that shows PC muscle exercises alone don’t improve satisfaction. In the instance of pelvic pain, for men and women, releasing and relaxing is key. For folks with male genitals, more tone can lead to avoiding premature ejaculation, and delaying and building more orgasmic power. Yoga practices that are carried out with mindfulness, and include toning and releasing pelvic floor muscles are a very good way to care for your pelvic floor and your healthy sexual expression.

3. Psoas support. A healthy pelvic floor helps enable the psoas to be long and lush, which helps to enable grounded femurs, reduce lower lumber compression, release the kidney area, inhibit habituated fear response, allow healthy space for breath and the vital irrigation and function of the vital organs.psoas

4. Avoiding/ Diminishing Prolapse and Incontinence. In both men and women, especially mamas who have given birth, toning the pelvic floor muscles is key for avoiding prolapse and incontinence. If you’ve ever jumped on a trampoline and peed your pants, you know what this story is about.  It is very important that the median muscles of the levator ani (the puborectalis bundle) have good tone in order to actively support the bladder, and in ladies, the uterus. Weakness of this muscle is almost always the cause of prolapse or incontinence. As our bodies age, this becomes much more a potential issue. Rather than going down the road of shame and frustration, what if we practice appreciating the amazing job our pelvic floor is doing? After all, it is relatively new in our evolutionary history that we have been walking around with the spine in a vertical axis, and all the weight of our inner organs resting on the pelvic floor. This clever drawing from Eric Frankin’s book Pelvic Power illustrates this major shift. With care, we can strengthen this foundation, our true core, and support our vital organs, inner body length, radiant movement, and energetic resonance. pelvisevolutionMuladhara_Chakra_by_JewelOfSong

5. Muladhara Chakra. The pelvic floor energetically relates to our base chakra, Muladhara, the ROOT chakra. Symbolized by the four petals, it makes a square shape which corresponds to the anatomy of the perineum. Energetically: earth, survival, stability/ freedom organization, boundaries, safety, being grounded.  When there is balance and vitality here, we feel safe to take up space in the world, we feel at home in ourselves, able to know what our boundaries are, in relationships, in how much energy we can give… in how much we can receive.

6. Mula Bandha. Bandhas are techniques used in yoga to guide the flow of prana, vital life energy, through our being. There are 3 bandhas, and this Mula Bandha, meaning “Root Lock” can be felt as an energetic seal, valve, or lock, that allows the energy pouring down, “apana vaya,” to be contained and sent upwards. This feeds inner body length, an important element for the 2nd bandha, Uddiyana bandha, to be practiced. The multidimensional physical-energetic action of mula bandha is key to creating subtler relationships of freedom and equilibrium in our asana practice.  This work can then radiate into our life, nurturing an ability to be deliberate with the way we use our creative energy, with how we live and connectP1020497.

Centeredness can be a deep form of self love, acceptance, protection. This work can foster a sense of knowing your own center, your own power.

 

If you are interested in experiencing some of these yogic explorations in embodied awareness, and you are in or near Albuquerque NM, join me this Sunday May 4th 2-5 pm for the workshop at High Desert Yoga. Be sure to preregister online, on the phone, or in person. Or, let me know what you think, here, or on my facebook page. I love to learn about this topic and am curious what insights you have.

Femur Grounding: Understanding More About This Key to Stability.

Organizing the femur in the hip socket is foundational to nearly every other action we explore in our yoga practice. Similar to “quieting the mind,” femur grounding is not an action we do, and then it is done, rather it is like a search for a holy grail in that it is a

normal_hipmoment to moment awareness, a sense that develops over time, and that is key to shifting other patterns in the body, nervous system, and mind. The term and concept of “grounding the femur” was taught to me by my primary teacher, Kim Schwartz, who learned it from Ramanand Patel, a student of BKS Iyengar.

I hope you develop awareness of this experiment in hip stability and take it into you day, when you drive, stand in line at the bank, and sit at your workspace.  As you play with getting grounded as you move through your life, you will shift away from the habitual/ familiar and into a more free, deliberate, healthy and capable way of being in your body. The ability to experience the following list of actions and releases depend on the femur being grounded.  Finding this action alone will not create all the results on this list, such as inner body length, but it is an essential component for these experiences to be successfully explored.

Some Benefits of “Grounding the Femur”

-Ability to relax the inner organs. When the inner organs hold habitual tension, the breath is inhibited and circulation through the vital systems decrease. As the visceral body relaxes both circulation and breath become more full, healthy, and effective. 

-The illio psoas can lengthen, which is key to releasing the kidney area and finding balance in the nervous system. If the psoas is tight, this can “pull” on the kidney area, creating restriction and over-stimulating the adrenal glands. 

-The neutral curves of the spine are supported. 

-The angle of the pelvis allows sacrum to sit in a stable position.

-The ligaments in the groin area are protected from being over stretched. 

-The femoral artery, which delivers blood to the lower body, has space; this artery is compressed when the femurs push forward, hardening the groins. Because of this, restless leg syndrome, and issues with numbness and circulation can be assisted by femur grounding.

 -The sciatic nerve has healthy support and is not compressed. If the femurs are pushed forward, the sacrum is often destabilized,  so the periformis tends to grip up in compensation, compressing the sciatic nerve, (one cause of sciatica) which can be painful. 

 –The knees are protected from hyperextension, if the knees tend towards this pattern which is damaging for the knee joint over time. 

-The bones of the legs transfer weight to the earth effectively, minimizing strain on the joints of the lower body. Femur grounding also helps allow the bones, which are constantly regenerating and reforming themselves, to develop in a healthy, thick, strong form.

-Healthy weight distribution in the feet become possible, allowing the heels to bear the weight of the body so that the metatarsals in the feet can broaden and the toes can spread wide, helping avoid or diminish bunions and other issues in the feet. 

-The lower body is stable so that the spine, shoulders, and neck, and head position can also become grounded, spacious, and at ease. 

-Inner body length is possible, which creates groin length, decompresses the intervertebral discs, and allows for subtler yogic techniques to be performed effectively, such as the 3 bandhas (energy locks, or valves) and pranayama (regulation of the breath)

-Access to good organization, pelvic floor strength, and the lift out of gravity required for active inversions like sarvangasnana (“no limbs pose,” or shoulder stand) and sirasasana (headstand) and more complex asanas, such as large backbends like urdva danurasansa (upward bow pose).

-We feel supported and centered in the body, which allows us to be more focused, aware, calm, grounded, and available, emotionally and psychologically. 

(This list reflects my personal experience and learning, and is not intended as medical advice or treatment. Yoga can be a wonderful compliment to allopathic treatment but if you suffer from a medical condition please consult your doctor.)

   Helpful Definitions &Terms:

 Femur: The thigh bone. Femur Grounding: The action of drawing the inner head of the femur into the center back of the hip socket. To find an example of this feeling in your own body, stand in tadasana, and hold a yoga block between the upper thighs. Make sure the joints of the legs are parallel. Pull the block back between the thighs, like you are trying to push it back towards the wall behind you. Notice if the knees are trying to do this action,

BKS Iyengar's tadasana

BKS Iyengar’s tadasana

and resist the calves forward into the shins as you move the inner head of the femur back. This will deepen the groins, align the leg bones over the center of the heels, and increase lumbar lordosis. Now for the other half of the equation: without pushing the block forward, SQUEEZE the block, like you are trying to crush it. This action should engage the upper thighs, bottom buttocks, and the space between the sitting bones, the lateral pelvic floor. Notice how these combined actions create a strong base from which the spine can rise up out of, particularly in the kidney area. Use this as a reference point for the action in the legs in tadasana, as well as many other poses. 

Ligaments: Strong, fibrous connective tissues that connect bone to bone. Unlike muscles that engage and release, ligaments should not be stretched out, since they will not “go back.”  The ligaments that connect to the head of the femur include the iliofemoral ligaments, which limit hyperextension and lateral/ external rotation, the pubofemoral Joints-and-Ligaments5ligament which limits extension and abduction, and the ischiofemoral ligament which limits extension and medial/ internal rotation. The deeper we can organize the femur on the socket, the more these ligaments can do their job of holding this deeply stable joint in place while supporting healthy range of motion. If the organization is compromised, for instance when flexibility without alignment is forced upon the body, these ligaments become over-lengthened, which strains them and makes their job harder, resulting in various individualized patterns of muscular tightening throughout the hips, including sometimes, in the muscles of the pelvic floor, which can alter the symmetry and stability of the pelvic girdle. We want to protect the ligaments from getting stretched so that they can do their job of binding the inner head of the femur into that perfectly formed acetabulum, or, inner surface of the hip socket. When they are safe, healthy muscular and joint mobility will increase in a more healthy, effective manner.

Groin Depth: Occurs from the femur moving back in the hip socket. Untucking the sitting bones or bringing the pelvis into an anterior tilt doesn’t on it’s own create groin depth, but it is the first step in creating space for groin depth to happen.

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Emily assisting me in a very grounding version of supta hasta padangustasana. Notice how the femur is becoming more grounded in 2 dimensions, both from the belt creating groin length, and our combined work (her pressing down and my leg bones extending up) is creating groin depth.

Groin Length: Occurs because of inner body length. Whereas groin depth is more in the plane of front-to-back, groin length refers to length along the vertical axis. We want both groin length and groin depth, though depth precedes length. Sometimes this action can be sensed as vertical “spaciousness” in the hip joint, where the head of the femur is no longer grinding against the top of the acetabulum. This action is important, when we consider that often when a hip replacement takes place the head of the femur as well as the top frontal region of the acetabulum have to be rebuilt. This inner body length includes length in the kidney area and the lift of the inner walls of the rib cage and sternum. Groin length relates to udyiana, or the 2nd bandha, which translates as “flying up.”

Lateral Femur Grounding: Once groin depth and length have been established, then containing the outer head of the femur, or greater trochanter, in medially (towards the midline) is an important dimension to explore. Especially if you stand with one hip pushed out the the side, possibly with a toddler sitting on top, you may be able to get a sense of the strain this can put on the hip joint. In standing poses, watch for the front leg, does the hip want to “lean out” beyond where the ankle and knee are? Strong thighs and bottom buttocks help to create containment here, so that the tension of compensating muscles groups can release, supporting healthy range of motion and stability.

Adduction: Moves the leg medially, in towards the midline of the body.

Abduction: Moves the leg away from the body. The leg can abduct or adduct either in neutral, external, or internal rotation.

Flexion: In the spine, flexion means the back of the spine is longer than the front, as in a forward bend. In hip flexion, imagine a tiny spine in the front of your hip joint: the front of the hip joint is very deeply folded. During poses with deep hip flexion, inner body length/ groin length is important.

Extension: In the spine, this means the front spine is longer or more open than the back spine, like in a backbend. When we say hip extension, the groin area is lengthening and opening wide. In poses which require this action femur grounding is very important to support the length of the spine.

Neutral Spine: The spine is healthiest and has the most length when it has a curvaceous shape. There are 4 parts of the spine: The cervical (neck), thoracic (where the ribs connect), lumbar (lower spine) and the sacral (5 or so fused vertebrae which comprise the sacrum, and the coccyx at the very bottom). The cervical and lumbar regions curvespine_anatomy inward, in extension, and the thoracic and sacral areas curve outwards, or in flexion. So, the intervertebral discs have the most space when they are in their curved shape. The amount of curve depends on everyones unique spine. Ideally, we want to cultivate the deepest lumber extension at the base of the L4 L5, (NOT the kidney area which is more common for most folks) and the deepest thoracic flexion at the mid thoracic region, around T6. The curve of the lumbar echos the curve of the cervical: we want T1 deep, and L5 deep. When one is out, the other most likely is compromised. For many bodies, checking to see if L4/L5 area is in is a good sign that the femurs are back in the hip sockets.

2608_Kidney_Position_in_AbdomenKidney Area: Describes the physical and energetic area around the T12-L1 juncture, where the fist-sized kidneys are located, tucked up under the back of the lower ribs. Energetically, this area corresponds to manipura chakra, which mean “city of jewels,” and relates to fire, passion, and willpower, and when tight, can create feelings of force, anger, or aggression, leading to fatigue. Kidney gripping relates to over stimulated adrenal glands, as the adrenals are located as thought “sitting” on top of the kidneys.

Asana: A stable, comfortable posture.

Ayurvedic terms: Dosha: in Ayurvedic medicine, one of the three biological humors or energies (kapha, pitta, vata) which combine in various proportions to determine individual constitution and mental and physical disorders. We can look at many things in terms of the 3 doshas: Body types, weather, areas on the planet, foods, types of yoga practice. In sanskrit: “fault, disease.” Vata: Relates to air/ ether, movement, change. People with high vata are irregular and erratic, with appetite and sexual desire varying between extremes. They sleep lightly, are easily disturbed and prone to insomnia. Their speech and movement is usually fast, and they are talkative and enjoy all forms of communication. Their pulse is fast, weak and irregular. They dislike cold, windy or dry environments and feel chilled quickly or shiver easily. Extremities (hands and feet) are often cold, or become cold easily.  Mentally and emotionally they are rapid. They gather information or display emotions quickly, or determine swiftly whether they like or dislike something. While they learn quickly and are usually intellectual, their retention is poor. Money is spent quickly and impulsively. They demonstrate high creativity, innovation and sensitivity. In excess, vata can show up as anxiety, feeling scattered, overwhelmed, spread too thin, indecision, rushing around while exhausted, accidents due to multitasking, exhaustion, constipation… ultimately feeling ungrounded. Poses and practices which ground the femur are very effective for quieting vata, physically, emotionally, and psychologically. I regularly teach an afternoon worlshop on femur grounding. Please see my current listings under the classes and workshops section to view my upcoming classes.

Koshas, Pratyahara, and Restorative Yoga for Detoxicification

In preparation for my upcoming workshop, “Body-Mind Detox with Restorative Yoga,” I am having a fun time exploring how to make some of the more traditional cleansing poses, such as marichayasana II, (pictured below) accessible to folks who don’t have the hip organization that would allow these deep forward bends and twists, which utilize tonifying pressure to release the vital organs. I am excited to explore these adaptions with my students: creative uses of props and self massage to mimic what my heel is doing here to bring deep release, and circulation to visceral body.

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In this workshop, however, we will be focusing on more than just physical cleansing. Vedic philosophy discusses 5 koshas, which are sheaths, or “layers”of our subjective being, and our yoga practice can affect all of the koshas. In this afternoon workshop, we will experientially explore, through the lens of the 5 koshas, supported, long held yoga poses combined with guided relaxation, journalling exercises, and breath work as a way to help release toxins, nourish, and heal. We will use guided pratyahara, or “sense withdrawal,” to bring the awareness deep within, honing our ability to sense subtlety. From here we will restore and cleanse. Physically let’s replenish the vital organs, nervous system, hormonal balance, and circulation. Emotionally, energetically, mentally, let’s let go of imbalanced patterns and destructive beliefs.

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Then from a centered space, we can create new reference points for being present, non-reactive, and vibrantly alive. Wonderful on its own, or as a supplement to your New Year’s cleansing/ health program, this workshop will leave you feeling deeply relaxed and freed up from burdens of the past.

This workshop will be appropriate for every body. Please wear warm, non-restrictive clothing, and if possible bring a glass/cup you like and a journal. Purified water with organic lemon, chloroxygen water, and blood purifying herbal tea will be available throughout the workshop.

Experience it! Saturday, Feb.1st 2‐5pm

Cost: $40 pre-registered, $45 at the door. (Plus tax)

Register at our studio in Albuquerque NM, call 505.232.9642, or sign up at highdesertyoga.com

Avery Kalapa relaxing in Setu Bandha Sarvangasnana

Avery Kalapa relaxing in Setu Bandha Sarvangasnana

Favorite Teachers

In the next month or so two of my most beloved teachers are visiting Albuquerque. In my experience it is a rare and profound opportunity to study with truly great teachers, and even if the Iyengar method isn’t your route into this work, I sense you’d get a lot from any amount with Francois, or Ramanand. It’s crazy they are both coming here within a month of eachother! I love studying with both of these teachers, and have done so whenever I can, in the last several years. I invite you, since it’s a great opportunity. It would be fun to share yoga space with you!

Here’s a link to the High Desert Yoga site. You can get info and sign up there, though Ramanand registration is through Wellspring.

Francios Raoult, originally from France, has a ruthless genius way of accessing depth, and has a great sense of humor… he is doing a special session for teachers this Friday afternoon, then Pranayama (lots of asana, too, etc) intensive all weekend.

Ramanand Patel< originally from India, studied from boyhood with BKS Iyengar; he is in his 70s now, a retired engineer. Brilliant.

Both of these teachers are advanced, challenging, profound, wonderful to study with…

I’ve had some of my most deep, life altering yogic experiences with these two. I’m so excited for more… maybe see you there!

http://www.highdesertyoga.com/workshops.html#theAnchor317

High Desert Yoga | Workshops and Class Series

http://www.highdesertyoga.com

Workshops and Class Series

Urdva Hastasana Saves the Day

Delightful, today, to feel the upward rise, like the reach of a candle flame, so deep in my center. I was practicing Urdva Hastasana, or “Upward arms pose.” Tadasana, with arms raised high, heads of the humerus (upper arm bones), outer heads of the femurs, or greater trochanters (top of the thigh bones) and center heels all stacked tall in a line atop the earth’s center of gravity.

The simultaneous rising up of my perineum, the inner heads of the humerus, and the base of my skull created this profound feeling of inner body length – an integrated from of Uddiyana. In this pose, the arms lifted feeds the extension bias to the spine, and this often challenges the length of the kidney area, around the junction of T12, and L1, where the thoracic spine meets the lumber spine. The perineum, that apex of strength at the center of the pelvic floor, which gathers in the core of the figure 8 shaped bands of muscles around the front and back openings, made of connective tissue to which the bands of muscle anchor, can lift here to create the internal physiological and energetic support to lengthen the kidney area. As the kidney area lengthens, the lowest lumbar vertebra actually draw in deeper, while T1, at the base of the neck, also releases in, freeing the neck to lengthen as the inner armpits deepen into the back body.

from http://chestofbooks.com/health/anatomy/Human-Body-Construction/The-Female-Perineum.html#.UWRdX6u4Hyc

(Image taken from this article on The Female Perineum.)

This is just one example of how pelvic floor strength can support the total integrity and alignment in an asana. However the real gift of this experience of alignment was the profound feeling of freedom and pleasure in the body… and through this pleasure, a new reference created for what is possible.

The body will choose comfort, even when comfort simply means familiar and is degenerative. As I practice, I give my body a chance to experience new reference points for what is comfortable, for what is “home.” This experience of the triplicity lifting length in Urvda Hastasana while my heels anchored deep gave me a renewed sense of where my body can live. And as an encouraging sidenote, this release of the inner body through organization and pelvic floor power has given relief from pain. Today I was moving slow, due to being on the first day of my period, and feeling crampy and low energy. By unloading the visceral body though this work, however, my belly now feels spacious and relaxed; the cramping sensation have disappeared, miraculously.

And here is Mr. BKA Iyengar, in hanumanasana.... The torso doing the same work as in Urva Hastasana. Note the deeply grounded humerous and exquisite kidney length!  I am willing to bet his perineum is working enthusiastically, to support this much organization.

And here is Mr. BKS Iyengar, in hanumanasana…. his torso is doing the same pose as in Urva Hastasana, (which is why I using this image here to discuss the actions in the article. Apparently Iyengar’s Urdva Hastasana isn’t exotic enough to merit pictures online yet! And instead of scanning one in from Light On Yoga I am using this one to illustrate the similar work. Note, amazingly, how even with the legs in Hanumanasana the powerful Tadasana spine!) Also, see the deeply grounded humerous and exquisite kidney length. I am willing to bet his perineum is working enthusiastically, to support this much organization.

Yoga for Self Love…?

P1020670This weekend’s workshop, Self Love Through Yoga, may seem like a nice thought… but what will this look like in terms of practice, and experience?

When we perceive our thoughts, feelings and actions to be “good,” it’s easy to “love” ourselves, or at least feel capable of receiving  love, appreciation, acceptance, or attention. These feelings build up a healthy form of ego, an ability to appreciate oneself independently of any comparison of competition with an external frame of reference. (In a cosmic sense, the ego, that perspective of separation of the self from all that is “other,” can be a hinderance to our realization of wholeness; however for the purposes of this discussion, in the context of our human existence, having a healthy sense of self, so that we can be capable and responsible, keeps us balanced and available to connect outside ourselves, rather than swinging into the extremes of self obsession, either by placing ourselves way below or way above other people.)

However, when we only feel deserving of love when we judge ourselves as “good,” then anytime we feel our “goodness” is challenged either by others, or our own self, this conditional form of self love diminishes. Because the human mind often generates discontentment, and tends to focus on what needs work, what is “wrong”… we can get stuck in ruts where on some deep, hidden level, we believe we don’t deserve love and appreciation unless we are “good,” perfect… and this self criticism loop tends to bind our attention to ourselves, so we have less attention for the people we love, our projects, our work, our dreams.

When we can learn to appreciate ourselves, even when we are face to face with a challenge: a mistake we have made, an unpleasant emotion, a situation that points to our lack of intelligence, sensitivity, or skill, THEN, we are building our ability to love ourselves. When we are challenged is often when we most need love. This moment of compassion can create the shift we need (often by diminishing our resistance to experiencing what is there) and the external world shifts too: we discover a step we can take to make things right, have insight towards a solution, or have some more space emotionally to breathe through what is there.

In our yoga practice, we can change the nervous system’s patterns in terms of  how we react internally to challenge. If a pose is physically, emotionally, or psychologically challenging, we can either go into self criticism, or pause, breathe, back up, and observe, working through the re-patterning with awareness, creating a new way, breath by breath. This process is more accessible when we are not rushed, and if we feel safe to be in our process. This is one reason why the goal of organization, rather than range of motion, in our asana practice serves us greatly.

Asana can affect our ability to sense, release resistance to, and even appreciate, where we are at in our journey. Through practice over time, and even in just one session of asana practice, we can gain a palpable sense of how much more stable and grounded we feel through organizing the bones -the inner scaffolding- so that the soft tissues can release, the organs can cleanse though increased circulation, the breath becomes more available, creating a sense of lightness, and wellbeing, etc. By aligning our physical form, the way prana moves through us is altered, allowing us to shift out of old patterns and into more neutral perspectives.  These practices also affect our mind’s dialog of self assessment partly by interrupting the inner critic, and also by quieting the nervous system and releasing tension patterns associated with emotional stress and feelings of failure, anxiety, or regret.

In my workshop this Saturday, I am excited to explore with students, first creating a safe internal space. Restorative forward bends, warmth, darkness, and an embryonic begining will establish a home base in the nervous system. From there we will gradually branch out into stability work, to support us in lengthening versions of backbends, which not only have an energizing, joyful affect, but also can be a bit scary and confrontational, so that in a slow and safe manner we can explore loving ourselves through the challenge of opening.

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Another way to look at this sense of appreciation is through the niyama santosha, contentment. Through growing and changing, moving through feelings, challenges, highs, and lows, this healthy form of self love helps us have compassion for ourselves as we change and grow, and therefore compassion for others. Our relationships with others echo the ways we relate to ourselves. As we cultivate and strengthen our ability to accept and love ourselves through the ups and downs, we can more fully love and give attention to our lovers, partners, family, and community.