As many yogis’ can relate to, very often, after an emotionally trying time in one’s life or after having a difficult day, we step onto our mat in hope of release. We seek healing through our practice or we may simply relish in devoting time to ourselves.
Halfway through our practice, we may find that whatever conflict we were experiencing when we stepped onto our mat, whatever pain we were feeling, any insult or disappointment, even anger that was weighting down our heart has now lightened. We may suddenly, as class comes to a close and we lie in our final savasana, see things with what feels like different eyes; eyes filled with love, somehow complete, with an understanding that we always have all that we need.
There are many heart opening postures in the Bikram Yoga sequence- from Half Moon Pose to Standing Bow to Floor Bow, and of course the climax and deepest backward bend in the sequence- Camel Pose.
As the eight-Limb Path to Yoga shows us- asana is just one limb of this spiritual practice. Heart opening postures help to bring us back to the essence of our true selves. In those intense moments of backward bending we have the opportunity to release, let love in, and visualize our way toward the realization that through this practice we are drawing nearer to our true nature- shedding fears and armor.
Just before Camel Pose, one of my yoga instructors will tell the class to think of something that we harbor inside of us; something that no longer serves us, whether it’s stale thoughts or even a situation in our lives. Maybe this never served us at all. As we look to the wall behind us, grab our heels, and push the front side of our bodies forward, letting go of the fear that backward bending can hold...we release. We’re instructed to release it, all of it. Let it go. Never to return.
I’ve gone a step further and released any darkness harboring my heart in the form of pure white light transforming its power as it leaves my body. As I hold the posture, breathing through any discomfort, I release what no longer serves me. Heart openers can truly turn our focus inward through the light of awareness.
Visualization is a very powerful technique in meditation; whether it is part of moving mediation such as yoga, or during seated meditation with or without mantra. One can visualize healing with a deepened understanding through concentrating on our heart center. As we hold heart opening postures like camel pose, we not only open our heart chakra, but our throat chakra as well, finding ourselves open and vulnerable.
One visualization in this posture that helps to hold onto its strong benefits is to envision white healing light connecting our third eye, or brow chakra, with our throat chakra, down to our heart chakra. Throughout this posture, we can visualize this stream of white light connecting these three chakras. In visualizing this, we are connecting our mind, body, and spirit as we move healing energy that may have been stagnant before the posture began.
As we breathe deeply and hold the heart-opening posture, we can also hold the visualization as well- aiding in helping us attain true vision through our third eye, aiding in mindful speech as we nourish our throat chakra with white light, and opening our spiritual potential to our true loving nature through our heart chakra. We can visualize a soft white light freely flowing through these three energy centers of our body as we backward bend.
Our hearts open and the posture never ends. We can take our true “knowing” with us long after we step off of our mat.
Heart opening postures help us develop a deep wisdom to find meaning, open mindedness, compassion and empathy. These postures can feel quite uncomfortable because very often we hide our hearts.
Letting go on our mat, releasing what no longer serves us, helps us to see clearly both on and off the mat. The path through yoga practice is not simply a distraction, and asana is just a conduit for healing. As we step forward in our quest for truth that our higher selves are ever present; we allow our true essence to flow freely through practice.