Yoga for Your Heart

yoga-heart

My mom and dad always celebrated Valentine’s Day with us. They didn’t see it as a day for just romantic love, but a day for anyone that you cared about.  Dad would get us each a rose and there was (of course) chocolate involved!

I am pretty lucky. Although it wasn’t often expressed in words, I grew up feeling loved.

The Heart Chakra

Anahata, the fourth chakra, is the seat of heart energy.  It is the center of love. In Sanskrit, Anahata means, “unstruck, unheard and unbeaten.” This refers to the sound of the universe. It is unstruck because it is not caused by any kind of external friction. Sounds like love.

By loving both others and ourselves unconditionally, we open up our heart energy. Open your body and your mind to kindness. Accept the whole person – emotions actions, thoughts – the whole deal.

The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes. ” ― Pema Chödrön

Every time you step on your mat, you open your heart to self-love.  You become more aware of your emotions, your body and your energy. You see where you are holding tension. You uncover your body’s limitations and its strengths. And you embrace both. You expand intuition; find ways to connect and love yourself more.

And you just can’t keep this contained.  You take this energy with you into your day – into your interactions, relationships and choices.

Create a Heart-Centered Yoga Practice

1. Set an Intention

When you go to your mat, commit your practice to something or someone. It may be something you want to change in your life. Thoughts are energy and that energy gets sent out into the world. You can choose to send out a positive vibe.

2. Be present and listen

  • Take this opportunity to be relentlessly present. Bring your attention to your practice. When something distracts you; notice it, let it go and regroup.
  • Listen for what you truly need.  You know what it is. Maybe today it’s child’s pose instead of another vinyasa or power pose.
  • Give yourself time and space, and be open to what unfolds. No judgment.

3. Practice heart opening postures

Backbending postures expand the chest area and open the heart chakra. Emotionally, backbends may leave you feeling a bit vulnerable.

A Short Heart Opening Practice

Below are some poses to create a flow focused on opening your chest and heart space. Hold each pose for 5-10 breaths. Download a visual version of the sequence here (pdf).

Cat/Cow (Marjariasana)
Warm up your spine and get the energy flowing by alternately expanding your chest and upper back.

Standing Yoga Mudra
Move into Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) with your hands clasped behind you, reaching overhead and forward (see picture here). Symbolically, the thinking mind is surrendered below the feeling heart.

Extended Side Angle
Focus on opening your chest to the sky and feeling expansive.

Sphinx or Cobra Pose
Lead with your heart.

Supported Bridge
Relax and receive.

Child’s Pose
Surrender and focus on your breath as it expands and opens the back of your heart space.

Reclined Butterfly (with a bolster if you have one!)

This is a pose of vulnerability, openness and trust.

Savasana (Corpse Pose)

At the end of your practice, surrender in Savasana. Take this time to really let go.

Mantra: I bow to the heart, my inner teacher.

4. Bring it to the world

Posture practice is one tool to help you come home to your heart. How can you bring this compassion into the world…? A kind smile works wonders. Give them out generously.

Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” – Mother Teresa

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

With love and gratitude,

Charlotte

Image courtesy of Ruth Hartnup

 

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