Do you dream of a life with less stress? Do you desire to live with a more open heart?
Often your perspective and your habits can keep you from turning this dream into a reality.
If you find this is true for you, a practice of deepening your awareness and opening your physical heart space on a regular basis can help you retrain both your physical and emotional heart to stay open rather than closed.
There are countless reasons the area around the heart becomes restricted. Some of the ways this can occur are as a result of a physical injury, emotional pain, continued exposure to a stressful situation, or a regular habit of sitting curled over a computer.
In the same way you would respond by covering your face if someone was coming to slap you, your body instinctively closes the area around your heart in order to protect yourself when possible emotional pain arises.
A regular practice of becoming aware of these patterns can allow you to change them.
Without judging yourself or your habits, allow yourself to notice what is happening in your mind and in your body when you start to feel overwhelmed. Don’t try to fight it. Just start to notice. Bringing your awareness to these patterns will eventually allow you to see that you are able to choose another way if you desire.
Backbends, or “heart openers,” as they are often referred to in yoga, uncurl the shoulders from the hunched over sitting position often found in modern society. They open the chest, which, for many, physically closes off when it feels like protection is needed from emotional pain. They expand the rib cage, giving more room to breathe deep, calming breaths.
The mind, body, and spirit work in unison, so that the physical body can be used to open deeper layers of one’s self. When it is difficult to see how to open emotionally, the physical body can guide you there. By expanding the chest and giving the breath room to deepen, the mind will find clarity and often the things that once felt overwhelming will seem to have a looser hold on you.
Below is a short practice for opening your heart space through movement and breath.
Be gentle with yourself, knowing that this is all a journey. Every moment is an opportunity for learning. Invite yourself to be open to the lessons that come on this journey and you will find yourself living from your heart more and more.
Stack your shoulders over your hips so you have a lift in your spine.
Bring one hand to your heart and one hand to your belly.
Take 5-10 full breaths into the area around your heart.
Allow yourself to simply notice the rise and fall of your chest with the movement of this breath.
Come into a table top position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your hips over your knees.
Moving with your inhale, drop the belly towards the ground as your heart and tailbone lift towards the sky.
When your exhale comes, begin to reverse by rounding your spine up towards the sky and tucking your chin.
Continue to flow through these movements with your breath at least 5-10 times.
Bring your forearms parallel to one another and stack your elbows under your shoulders.
Press your forearms arms gently into the ground as you draw your shoulders down your back.
Stay here for 5-10 breaths, focusing on breathing into the area around your heart.
Then, lift your feet up as you bring your knees to stack over your hips.
Hug your navel towards your spine to gently engage your abdominal muscles as you begin to guide your knees over to the right letting them come down towards the ground.
Try to keep both shoulder blades down on the ground.
To intensify the stretch, use your right hand to gently press your knees closer to the ground.
Find 5-10 breaths before repeating on left side.