In difficult times, it is easy to retreat, draw back, close our heart. We are bombarded with voices that incite conflict and division. We’re told we have to be afraid, build walls, turn away from the world.
Yoga teaches us the opposite. Yoga means unity. Not just mind-body harmony within ourselves, but unity with the world around us. Unity with fellow humans, with other living creatures, with nature, with the elements and the spiritual. Daily practice is an exercise in creating an open heart.
An open heart is receptive, fearless, loving and above all, strong. The beauty of yoga is you don’t have to feel a certain way to start with. You just do the practice and allow the asanas to do their work.
There are many heart opening poses and these are three of my favourites.
Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
Lie flat on your stomach. Stretch your legs back, tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands on the floor under your shoulders. Hug the elbows back into your body. You press the front of your body firmly into the floor and as you inhale start to straighten the arms to lift the chest off the floor, maintaining the connection through your hips and legs. Keep your lower body tight, like a cobra’s tail. Take small breaths at the top as you gently increase the arc of your spine, lifting your eyes toward the ceiling.
Bow pose (Dhanurasana)
Lie on your stomach. Bend your knees and reach back to grab your feet just below the toes. Keep your knees and feet in a line, about six inches apart. Gently kick back and up. The power in this posture comes from your legs, which should stay parallel as they pull your arms and shoulders back. Tilt forward onto your stomach and lift your head. Remember, where your eyes go, your body will follow. Breathe in and out through your nose through the posture.
Advanced posture: Wheel pose
I recently did a step-by-step blog on wheel pose which is a fantastic heart opener that works your whole body. Read the post here.
How do you cultivate an open heart? Share your thoughts in the comments!