I used to be a serial forward folder. Backbends and heart-opening poses made me cringe inside and out. My throat would choke up, my chest and shoulders would stick together like glue, and my low back would crunch.
Over time, two knowledgeable yoga teachers helped me to see what I could not. It may seem “far out”, but I had unknowingly built a protective armor all the way around my heart.
Past traumas can sometimes manifest physically in the body. In my case, it showed through my posture and yoga practice. Both instructors offered life-changing physical cues in yoga poses, as well as internal guidelines to free the shield around my heart. My story may seem abstract, and perhaps you have never experienced anything like it. But, if you work a stressful job, are unhappy in a relationship, or even sit at a desk all day, your heart could definitely use a little TLC.
Below are asanas to begin the journey towards the heart center. Work to hold each for 5 breaths.
Loving hint: As you venture into the practice, remember to acknowledge both the front and the back of the heart. Observe imbalances with kindness and curiosity.
1. Child's Pose, Balasana
I recommend moving into Balasana after each of the poses listed below. Child’s Pose is the ultimate surrender and softener. From Table Top, spread your knees wide, bringing the big toes together. Press your hips back towards your heels. Keep your shoulders soft. You can place a blanket underneath your knees as well as roll another between the hips and heels for support.
2. Low Lunge Twist Variation
From Down Dog, step the right foot between the hands and lower the left knee. Walk the right foot out a few inches to the right and the left palm out a few inches to the left. Note that the right foot can be flat on the ground or to the side, like the pictured hybrid version. You can place a block under the left palm for support. Inhale, reach the right arm up and twist your navel towards your fingertips. Release, moving back to Dog and try for the other side.
3. Puppy Pose, Uttana Shishosana
From all fours, walk your arms forward, reaching your fingertips towards the front of your mat. Spread your fingers and press your palms like you would in Down Dog. Keep your forearms and elbows lifted as you move the forehead and the chest to the ground. With the hips over the knees, melt the heart as much as you can to the earth.
4. Sphinx, Salamba Bhujangasana
Lie on your belly with your legs side by side, rotate your thighs inward, and slightly roll your outer thighs towards the floor. Draw the tailbone towards the toes, and press the toes into the mat. Situate your shoulders over your elbows, forearms parallel, palms down. Inhale, gently lifting the upper torso as you soften the shoulders and both sides of the heart. Exhale to move the tailbone towards the toes.
5. Side Plank, Vasisthasana
From High Plank, bring the big toes together to touch as one unit. Roll to the right, pressing the palm into the mat. Inhale, push up out of the right shoulder, lifting the left arm. Stack the feet, curling the pinky toes towards your ears. Bring your navel to your spine and your sacrum into your body as you look up towards your left fingers. You can modify by lowering your bottom knee. Practice the same for the left side.
6. Wild Thing, Camatkarasana
From High Plank on the right side, lift the left leg and place the entire foot on the floor behind the right. Press into the right palm as you lift the pelvis and heart center as though there was a string attached to both guiding you up towards the sky. Lift the left arm up and over, and gaze towards the left fingertips. To come out, gently roll the body to the right, landing in High Plank, preparing for the other side.
7. Corpse Pose, Savasana
Release the body and relinquish thoughts. You can simply lie on your mat or use props for restoration. Remain here for 5 to 10 minutes.
The journey through the heart can be an authentic awakening. You may experience a good cry or a hearty laugh. Over time, you may feel like a completely different person. Shine from your heart, and the rest of the body will follow.
What poses connect you most to your heart?