Opening Your Heart

We are designed for balance and wholeness on every level of awareness and being. Most of us understand, at least on a rudimentary level, the process of homeostasis. The physical body actively seeks its balance 24 hours a day. Years ago during a six-month stint in diagnosis, my doctor encouraged me to stay positive as test after test failed to reveal the cause of my deteriorating health. He told me that it was a miracle any of us are healthy on any given day because of the billions of elements that must be in balance for us to be healthy.

Several years after regaining my health, I returned to college and majored in psychology. While volunteering on a crisis phone service, I spoke with one of my professors about memories of abuse emerging decades after the events. He explained that the psyche (in yoga, the mental & emotional bodies) also seeks balance and wholeness. As a person matures, the walls of dissociation begin to crack and crumble and memories emerge as the mind and emotions demand healing.

When threatened, we respond on all levels, drawing in toward the core to protect ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally. What many of us have not understood is how to release out of these natural and deep self-protective states. In my training with Integrative Yoga TherapyI was taught to begin the process by opening up the body in order to open the mind and emotions to release stored energy and move into balance on all levels.

Opening the heart center provides a gateway for other energy centers to open and release blocked energy, whether physical or mental. The heart has to be open for us to receive the love and compassion we need to heal and grow out of hurt and trauma. Fortunately, the physical aspect is simple and, when done gently and consistently, leads to an openness to love and life.

You might begin by trying one or all of these. Sit quietly first and ask yourself what you need. Trust what comes to your mind and heart and go from there.

Stand with your feet comfortable wide apart and your arms at your sides. On a slow inhale raise your arms to the sides and up over your head. As you exhale, bring your arms to the sides and behind your back, interlacing your fingers. Inhale and raise your arms behind you to a comfortable level as you press forward through your chest. Take 3 slow breaths as you feel your chest expand and soften with each breath. Release your hands and inhale as you raise your arms to shoulder level. Exhale and bring them in front of you at shoulder level. Interlace your fingers with your palms facing away from you. Roll your shoulder blades apart and draw your breast bone inward. Take 3 slow breaths as you feel your mid-back expand and soften with each breath. Draw your hands toward your chest to release. Stand quietly for a moment.

Fitness Ball:  Sit on the ball for a few breaths to settle into yourself. Slowly roll and lay back with the ball under your rib cage. Let yourself release into the support of the ball and expand into your breath. If this is new to you, remain for 3 – 5 breaths and slowly come up. If you are accustomed to this position, stay on the ball as long as you like, keeping your awareness at the heart center and breathing slowly and deeply. Come up or off the ball slowly as your head is back while in this position. Be aware of what you are experiencing even as you release.

Yoga Bolster or Blanket:  If you use a blanket, please be sure it is thick enough when folded to be at least 4 inches high. If you have yoga blocks, place one or two under your blanket for height. Place your support under your body, aligning it with the length of your spine from the base of your head to your waist. Let your hips relax down to the floor and open your arms out to the sides at about shoulder level. This opens the chest and you can relax into the breath. Stay as long as you are comfortable, coming up slowly and quietly to preserve a sense of comfort within the openness.

With any or all of these techniques, it is important to hold a clear intention of opening the heart for the purpose of balance and wholeness. These suggestions may bring other options to mind that suit you more specifically. Feel free to play with ideas and find what works for you.

Peace be with you, fellow travelers. May your mind and heart be open. May you be healthy and whole. May you be free.  Namaste.

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