An Open Heart for the Season

This Holiday Season my Sunday morning Yoga classes at Bodi ‘n Motion in Guilford will feature the Yoga and the Chakras theme that I have presented for a number of years at this time. My other classes in Guilford, Woodbrdige and New Haven Shoreline areas will also be informed with references to and practices designed ot target this aspect of the practice of Yoga.

The Yoga Journal and other sources describe chakras  are wheels(chakra means wheel in Sanskrit) of energy that Yogi and other healers believe exist that correlate to aspects of the physical, mental and/emotional and energetic aspects of the self. There are seven main chakras vertically from the base of the spine to the crown of the head.  Working with the Yoga asanas(Postures), breath, imagery and meditation with the focus on the chakras allows the yoga practitioner to discover target and  remove energetic and physical  blocks to our development in any particular aspect of self.

Using the practice of Yoga and meditation to balance the chakra system is a great support to better survive and thrive this particularly rich and challenging time of year. Using the direct practices of Yoga to operate on the physical, mental/emotional and energetic aspects of ourselves combined with a new understanding of the chakras as metaphors for our growth can offer a unique way to address  day to day stresses, work through deeper blocks and giving access to the peace and well-being that can offer new meaning and spirit to the traditions of the season.

The holiday season for many can be a very challenging emotional time. We are invited to reflect the gains and losses of the year and years gone by, spend time with people and activities that can trigger negative emotions and overwhelm ourselves with too much or unhelpful activity.

Any Yoga student can simply and powerfully student development can integrate the chakra sensibility into their practice.. Targeting the heart center through Yoga posture and awareness practice in particular (but not in exclusion to the other six centers) offers the possibility of  reducing stressful reactions to old triggers, dissolving negative emotions and enjoying a more open and positive feeling to our the challenges of this time of year.

As the song invites us:

Let your heart be light

From now on

Our troubles will be out of sight

So as always, this is for your education and information only. Please read this disclaimer for more information.Don’t practice this or any practice without proper instruction and medical clearance.

Practicing Heart Openers – yogic poses that expand the space in the rib-cage for the heart and lungs – are an excellent way to celebrate the holiday season.  By opening the heart, we allow for compassion, love, and forgiveness.

Bearing the Sanskrit name anahata, the fourth of the seven chakras is the Heart Chakra.  This chakra opens as we connect with peace, harmony and compassion.  Opening the heart is an exercise in love, both of ourselves and others.  By seeing beyond ourselves, we energize our heart chakra. In the words of the sage Lao Tze in the Toa te Ching, “with compassion come invulnerability”.

Heart Opener Poses

Stretching the muscles of your neck, chest and shoulders, heart opener poses allow for the area in your ribcage to literally open up and expand.  These asanas are both energizing and relaxing.  They can also be emotionally freeing as they may bring up a lot of emotions, memories, or thoughts.

Passive chest openers can include those poses that require us to arch gently over a blanket or bolster.  More active poses includes bow pose wherein you lie flat on your stomach.  Bringing your arms behind you, you grab your feet and lift your thighs and chest from the floor.

Other heart opener poses include updog, cobra, camel, crescent moon, and wheel pose.

Open and Alive 

Each of these asanas has us lift the chest up to the sky.  Shoulders rolled back and down, and head lifted up, the heart is surrendered.  This allows for compassion and love to flow freely out, and for the same forces to be freely received.

A caved in chest and slumped forward shoulders can be the result of protecting oneself from the outside.  But by protecting the heart, the heart is also less capable of giving.  Working through a series of heart openers is an effective way to counteract these forces.

Incorporating heart openers in a yoga practice can be a recurring reminder of the importance of love and compassion.  And during the holidays, heart openers are especially helpful for celebrating the spirit of the season.

En-lightening Your Spirit

Looking at familiar traditions and attitudes from the lens of Chakra Yoga can revitalize us in other ways. In addition to practicing heart openers, your heart chakra is nourished through the feeling of joy.  Find joy in family, friends, and traditions of the holiday.  The spirit of giving also gives joy.  Giving connects us and fosters community.  Giving to a charity or to someone in need is a good example of fostering love and compassion.  Find joy in the everyday.

Holiday cheer is so much more than the material trappings of the season.  By focusing on the heart and making room for the heart to expand, you can celebrate the season with joy and an open heart.

Here is to enjoying the holidays in a new way!