What does it really mean to ‘open your heart’?
It means being vulnerable. It means opening your heart to your own precious love so you might love others.
It means not allowing fear, or guilt, or shame, or any kind of judgment to close your heart down in any way.
Your rib cage protects your heart – and it can be like a literal cage for your heart, entrapping rather than protecting.
Breathe in, slowly – let the air fill your rib cage. Hold. Breathe out – do you notice your breath catching? Do you feel you can’t quite fill your chest cavity, or do you feel air gets trapped so that you can’t fully empty it? This is the pain that is closing down your heart.
Your thoracic spine (middle/upper back) and shoulders too can close in around your heart, seemingly protecting it, but actually imprisoning it.
Do you have stiff shoulders (or shoulder, especially on your left – heart – side)? Do you unconsciously round and slump your shoulders? Do you feel a tightening around your bra strap (men you can imagine)?
When you hold your hands by your side, to they unconsciously curl into towards your body, or do you hold your palms outwards and upwards in an attitude of giving and receiving?
As I prepare for yoga teacher training I am coming to understand how I have closed off my heart when I thought I was protecting it. I have closed off my heart to pain, and now I need to open it, breathe through the pain, and breathe out again.
For a long time I’ve focused on my dodgy right hip, which I feel is somehow still ‘gripped’ with residual pain that I associate with my lost ectopic pregnancy on my right side. Yet I now see that while the pain may be real, my hips are far more open than my heart.
I have focused on opening up my hips (look at me, says my ego, I can pretty much get my hips to the ground in frog pose – they are open). Reminder to self – it is a posture not a pose!
Now I have the hard (heart) work to do.
We fear breaking our heart, yet we do more damage to ourselves by not cracking it open – letting love in and letting our own love and light radiate.
A closed heart is a cold heart. We talk of someone being cold-hearted because they won’t let their heart be warmed by their own or another’s love. They won’t give love in order to feel warmth.
We long for heart-warming moments, and sometimes if we are really brave, we let our hearts melt.
When was the last time your heart melted?
(in Disney’s Frozen – lest we forget – it is the heart that cannot survive the freezing cold, until it is revived, melted by true love).
There are yoga postures that you can do to open your heart, physically and connect mentally, emotionally and spiritually with the energy of love.
And there are some simple daily things you can do, on and off the yoga mat.
1) Puff your chest out (boobs of course look bigger too, bonus) – roll your shoulder blades down and back and focus on the middle point of your back between your shoulder blades. Send love there. If you find joy in prayer then imagine this is a position of exaltation.
2) Breathe into your thoracic spine – we often shallow breathe. A full yogic breath fills your stomach, rip cage, lungs and throat – and focus on filling the chest area around your heart. If the breath catches, release through it.
3) Check your hands as you stand and walk – consciously spread your fingers and open your palms – avoid grasping, clutching and clinging – actions that come from fear not love
4) Focus on your heart beat and imagine it is love beating through your body, calming and warming
5) Fold forward from a seated position on the floor – don’t just flop, but puff your chest first and fold from the spine so that you are literally melting your heart to the floor (you probably won’t get there but you could hug a pillow, or better still, a person)!
6) Do a small, random act of kindness and notice how you physically feel – does your heart feel warm and open?
Come on tell me – when was the last time your heart melted?