Hi CF Yogis! The month of February can bring up a lot of mixed emotions for people. The Valentine’s Day holiday can feel warm and spicy if you’re in a blooming romance, but if you are struggling with loss or grief it can feel isolating or deepen feelings of depression. If that’s you this year, it may feel like the easiest path is ignoring the holiday altogether (and that might not be a bad thing). But, I’d like to offer an alternative to glossing over the holiday altogether.

The ancient Greeks recognized six different forms of love, while in English we sometimes stumble because the single word love can carry so many different connotations. The Greek word eros is the physical form of love that most associate with Valentine’s Day, and there’s something truly delightful and joyful about spending your holiday with “the one” which I don’t want to short change… but here are a few other forms of love that you can also use this holiday as an excuse to celebrate:

Philia: Deep and true friendship. This one strikes me as the mutual love of kindred spirits who just *get* you. A serious kind of love that honors your lifelong companions, or those who you shared a deep personal connection with at a certain time in your life. 

Ludus: Playful love. Like that between children playing together, or people of any age delighting in the moment some shared enjoyment. As a musician, this one makes me think of great musical improvisations, or dancers who know each other’s movements so well that they can anticipate the next step.

Pragma: Longstanding love. This is a mature love that incorporates mutual respect, compromise, and all the “hard stuff” that makes long-term relationships successful. Couples that stay married for decades are the Pragma pros.

Philaucia: Love for the self. This one has two sides — on one hand is the self-serving love that can become narcissism. But on the other is self-compassion, which also radiates outward into care for others. “Put your own life vest on before assisting others.” If you have a yoga practice, this will sound familiar. ūüėČ This form of positive self-love is a foundational step for the final, and many would say highest form of love…

Agape:¬†Brotherly love, or a selfless love for all human beings. This one seems very much in tune with yogic philosophy and¬†the yamas and yimasas. It can be tough given the divided state of our world right now, but it’s one of our biggest sources of strength in our communities. It may be¬†one of the hardest forms of love to practice, but hey, that’s why we call it a yoga “practice!”¬†

These forms of love aren’t mutually exclusive, they can coexist in the same time and space and relationship. But during the different stages of life, some will be more prominent than others. If you find yourself getting down around Valentine’s Day, focus on practicing love… in any of these forms that resonate with you and where you are in your life right now.

This month’s classes at CF Yogi focus on practicing strength, and honestly one of the best ways to grow stronger is to focus on love. We strengthen our physical bodies because we love the experience of living, and a strong body helps us live longer and healthier lives. We strengthen our minds so that we become resilient and intelligent. We strengthen our hearts so that we can spread a bright spirit to our fellow human beings. 

So this month, I invite you to let love strengthen you in more ways than one, and also to use your strength and your yoga practice to continue growing and spreading love to others!

With much agape, ludus, philia, and philaucia,