Yin Yoga For The Heart

~ Celebrate Love ~

“The mind creates the abyss, the heart crosses it’. Where the mind worries, the heart trusts. Where the mind is divisive, the heart unifies. When your heart is singing in love with the world, then the mind has no choice but to be quiet.”
Sri Nisargadatta

4 SIMPLE STRETCHES TO OPEN & RECONNECT

As you celebrate the love in your life today, don’t forget to extend a little love back to yourself. In a world of constant errands, desk jobs, hours on zoom – the chest area tends to carry a lot of tension. As we go about our days, we tend to round the back which creates a closing sensation in the heart region. In a way, this is a protective mechanism. We guard the heart from getting hurt, we try to curl up in a little ball and hope for a painless encounter. There are definitely times we need to protect ourselves from the world we live in… now more than before. But we cannot do it from a place of fear. If you close yourself off in this way, you will protect yourself from harm but you wont be able to accept the love that is being offered to you. So its important to find the balance and inherit ways to rid ourselves of fear-driving protection and develop a sense of discernment so that we can stay open to life’s goodness and still be smart about possible harmful situations.

So when you’re in your yoga practice and you notice that poses such as the ones below make you feel vulnerable and exposed – just remember, you’re doing something positive for yourself. The more you’re able to create space in the heart centre, the more you will be able to let go of fear and embrace love.

The following poses are a Yin sequence which allows for time to get into your joints and release tight connective tissue that surrounds the joints, particularly in your upper body. Practiced regularly, you will discover that your body and mind feel more confident and open to love.

Reclined Heart Opener (5 mins)

I love this pose because it starts out really intense but as you begin to slow the breath and still the body and the mind, the body just melts into the shape of the pose.

Set yourself up with a block under the upper back (I line it up horizontally at the tips of the shoulder blades). If letting your head drop all the way to the ground is too much, just bring a prop under your head like I did. You may notice you can remove it as your body begins to open up.

Feel free to fine tune this for you. You may need to adjust the blocks’ height and position based on your anatomy.

Melting Heart/Puppy Dog (4 mins)

Begin in tabletop and walk your hands forward (keeping your hips high and stacked above your knees) until you feel like you’ve reached a stopping point. Allow the front heart space to slowly melt downward, whilst the hips continue to rise upward

If it’s too much on your body to drop your head all the way to the ground, bring a block under your forehead.

If you are looking for more sensation, bend your elbows to connect your palms and maybe even drop the thumbs down to the base of the neck.

Pec Minor Stretch/Shoulder Rollover (1-2 mins each side)

Whilst not a classic yin pose, this stretch is a wonderful release for the pectoralis minor. In Chinese medicine, this particular area of sensation is associated with the heart meridian lines. In these energetic channels, we tend to hold a lot of our fear and anxiety. So be prepared to feel something and know that it’s okay to ease yourself into the sensation. Just stay curious, positive, and committed to creating space within you. Breathe in love. Breathe out fear.

Begin on your stomach. Bring your left arm out to the side, bending the left elbow slightly if this helps to relax the shoulder. Bend your right elbow and bring your right hand down next to your right chest. Bend your right knee so the toes points up to the sky.

Now, rest the head on the ground or a prop, a block or a cushion (gaze to the right) and begin to press into your right hand (fingertips) and roll onto (or towards) the left side body.
If you are able, set the foot down behind the left leg.

Feel into the left shoulder.

Continue to use your right hand to hold you in place and do your best to breathe through whatever shows up.

You can also explore placing the right hand at the base of the spine.

Go to the other side when ready.

Bound Twist (4 mins each side)

I love this twist because it’s a little different than your typical reclined twist. You begin on your stomach and work your way into the spinal rotation. When working on opening your heart I find that flipping my perspective is often just the fresh start that I need to rid myself of anxiety and release stress.

Roll on your right side (arm stretched forward and legs stacked). Take your top leg and stretch it out in front of you (about 90 degrees). This may be plenty for your body. You can just stay here and rest, possibly rolling the back of your head off your arm and onto the floor.

If you would like to add another element, lift your head and reach your left arm back as you bend the other knee and grab for the foot.
Lay your head back down on the arm and slowly allow your left shoulder and back of the head to begin to drop toward the floor.

Go to the other side when ready.

Counterpose (2-3 mins)

After opening your heart, it’s important to give yourself a moment to notice the energetic shift in the body and mind.

Come into a counterpose (such as child’s pose) and observe the sensations and the space you’ve created with your practice.

Pranayama (breath work)

Complete your sequence with 5 rounds of 3-part breath. Find a comfortable seat. Rest one hand on your belly and one on your heart. Begin to breathe in and out through the nose and circulating the breath in this pattern:

Belly -> Ribs -> Chest

Meditation (5 mins)

Take a few minutes to sit in a simple seat and settle into the release you created with your practice. Maybe repeating a mantra to yourself.

Allow this moment to be where your practice comes full circle. Yoga is meant to bring us to a place where we can quiet the stressors of life and embrace who we are on the inside. It’s the gift of the practice!

“Your heart knows the way. Run in that direction.”
Rumi