Thursday, July 22, 2010

Opening & Listening To Your Heart

Often in our daily lives, we can feel consumed by our responsibilities and obligations. We have responsibilities at work: deadlines, meetings, travel, etc. At home, we have to take care of our families, housekeeping, the dry cleaning, and much more. Meanwhile, our minds are running a mile a minute often thinking about the next thing we have to do. It’s rare that we can keep our minds in the present moment.

Here are the defining questions: When do you have time to take care of yourself? Do you have the opportunities to just sit and relax; watch television or read a magazine? Do other people take care of you the same way you take care of them?

Here’s another scenario: have you ever had an idea, a goal, or an intention that rolls around in your head, but you just can’t seem to find time to allow it to flourish? We tend to give ourselves all the regular excuses like, “oh, I just don’t have time. I’m too busy.”

The intention of this practice is give yourself permission to take care of yourself; to create space and time for your ideas to manifest, and to allow those ideas to come to fruition. This practice is about getting out of our heads and into our hearts.

Featured Poses:
Warrior Two
Bridge Pose

Block (Optional)

Stand in Mountain Pose near the top of your mat, close your eyes, and begin your slow, deep, Ujjayi breathing. Even after a few breaths, realize that you are giving yourself the time and permission to be with yourself and to take care of yourself. Listen to the sound of your breath to draw you to a greater awareness of self.

Begin to breathe even slower and deeper. With each inhale, experience how you are filling your lungs and expanding your rib cage. Experience the lengthening of your spine as well as the lifting and opening of your heart. Keep your focus on your heart space and continue to breathe into this part of your body. As you pay attention to this sensation, you are beginning to shift your attention away from thinking and more toward feeling. Another way of thinking about this is to experience how you are turning down the volume of the voice in your head and turning up the volume of the voice in your heart. Listen.

Begin your Sun Salutation:
Extended Mountain Pose
Swan Dive to Forward Fold
Monkey Pose
Jump or step back to Plank Pose
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog
Jump or Step both feet to the top of the mat
Monkey Pose
Reverse the Swan Dive and return to Mountain Pose

Repeat this opening sequence two times. On the third time, add on the following poses after Downward Facing Dog.

Extend Right Leg into the air.
Step forward into Warrior One.
Open into Warrior Two

As you stand in Warrior Two, be aware of your body posturing: your arms are extended away from your torso and your legs are extending away from your pelvis. Here, you are creating more space in your body. Allow this to be a representation of how you want to create more space in your life. Also, your heart is more open here. Continue to breathe deeply into your heart space: feel the expansion of your lungs, ribs, and heart.

Windmill the left arm up and over and return it to the floor.
Step back into Plank Pose
Chaturanga Dandasana
Upward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog

Proceed with the left leg until you return to Warrior Two.

Again, pause here to be aware of your posture, breath, and the creation of space. When you create space in the body like this, you are allowing new ideas and feelings to enter the body. It can also be an opportunity to release ideas, feelings, and sensations that may get in the way of this creative flow.

Continue this same sequence one more time on each side until you return to Downward Facing Dog.

Step or jump both feet to the top of your mat.
Cross your legs and sit down.
Roll all the way down to your back.
Keep your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
If you have a block, place it between your thighs.

Why a block? This tool is a reminder to keep your feet and hips aligned, but more importantly in the yoga practice, it reminds you to always move inward toward your midline: your spice. If the legs open, you drop the block, an indicator of moving away from self. Holding onto the block reminds you to stay connected within.

With a strong release of breath, tilt your pelvis to allow your lower back to move deeper into your yoga mat. On that same exhale, lift your hips into the air. Be sure you are holding onto your block, feet are flat on the floor with your knees directly over your ankles for support, and begin to squeeze your shoulder blades together underneath you. You are moving into Bridge Pose.

Bridge Pose is a back bend, but more accurately, a Heart Opener. In this pose, you are emphasizing the opening of your heart energy: raise the volume of the voice in your heart. Use the breath to continue supporting your body in this pose.

With each inhale, feel the heart lift up and over your head. With each exhale, continue the tilting of the pelvis to help support your core (your low belly and low back). Take at least 10 breaths here to help settle into the pose. Not only be aware of what is happening with your body, but also be aware of what new ideas and feelings are entering into you. You might also find that Heart Openers, like Bridge Pose, help you release negative energy as well as help you to solve problems.

When you move away from thinking for a moment, you shift yourself away from the analytical and sometimes critical mind. Enjoy the silencing of your thinking and listen intently to what your heart is saying. Here, you may find the real answers to questions and problems you’ve been trying to solve. Of course, these answers may not come during the yoga practice, but perhaps after your practice; even a few DAYS after your practice. Think of the yoga practice as a method to bring more opportunities for change to occur off the mat. If you continue to honor the opportunity to listen to your Heart Voice, even off the yoga mat, those answers and ideas will continue to flow in.

To safely come out of the pose, take a small step forward, lift your arms over head to release your shoulders, and carefully lower your body to the floor. From here, feel free to move into the pose one or two more times, then recline fully in Savasana.

Because Savasana is a relaxation pose, it also gives the mind the opportunity to rev up and start thinking again. Be aware of those thoughts that want to enter your mind again. Instead of fighting the thoughts or chastising yourself because you “should be” relaxing in this pose, simply be aware of the thought then return to the flow of your breath. By doing this, you shift your focus from thinking to feeling – to being present in the moment. Remain in Savasana for at least 3 minutes before concluding your practice.

If you have any questions about this practice or want to share your experience with this practice, we’d love to hear them. Post them here.


1 comment:

  1. Bridge pose is a great intermediate inversion. But it’s important for everyone to keep the toes straight, which a lot of people forget. Yoga guru Leeann Carey has a great free yoga video on Bridge pose that your readers could benefit from: