In yoga, it is common to practice “heart-opening poses.” These are often backbends that open the heart chakra (there are seven chakras, or energy centers, running up the spine). You might think, “My heart is hurting enough, thank you very much. Why would I want to open it up more?” Not for pain, but for healing.
By opening up your heart chakra you allow yourself to feel the fullness of your love and grief. When you make it safe to feel all your feelings you begin the journey to wholeness.
At first, you may be reluctant to try these exercises. That’s perfectly understandable. Start small. Lie on your back and place a rolled up bath towel under your spine, so it runs between your shoulders and your lower waist, along your spine. Let your body to drape over the towel forming a little bridge. Allow your shoulders to relax down, and put a pillow under your head if that makes you more comfortable. Just breathe into your heart center, slowly and deeply. What emotions rise up? They are all exactly what you should be feeling right now. If you can, lie there for five minutes. Then, come into child’s pose. Kneel, and sit back on your heels. Let your chest move towards the floor. If you’re comfortable, rest your forehead on the floor, if that’s too far for you to easily go, put a pillow, or two, under your forehead. You arms rest at your sides palms turned upwards near your feet. Stay here for as long as feels comfortable. (Child’s pose is calming, and a good counter pose to the backbend you just did.)
I can’t stress how helpful yoga can be. Not just during traumatic, challenging times, but every day. Nothing I know of will re-center you better than yoga. There are many yoga studios, but you can find classes everywhere: gyms, religious institutions, and adult education programs often have sessions for beginners. It’s a good idea to learn yoga from a teacher, rather than teaching yourself, because you can’t see your body from all sides and you will undoubtedly learn some poses with misalignments. Once you’ve mastered the basics you can get free podcasts, DVDs to try from your local library, and streaming videos. There are even yoga shows on TV.
The following are some of my favorite yoga resources:
myyogaonline.com This is a fantastic site out of Vancouver, Canada. They have all levels and types of yoga, Pilates, meditation, music, and information on nutrition. The videos are of the highest quality. Membership is under a hundred dollars a year (compare this to $10-15 per yoga class); a great bargain. My favorite teachers on this site are Bernie Clark, for his Yin Yoga; Nico Luce for his advanced classes; and, the Kundalini series.
THE KARMA YOGA PROJECT by Donna Helm Yost. There are two parts to this DVD: a Vinyasa flow practice of about 50 minutes and a Yin Yoga class, also about 50 minutes. Donna has a loving, gentle, accepting style, but the practice is still challenging and invigorating. Not for beginners.
YOGA RADIANCE: Four Seasons of Renewal. There is no name on this DVD, but the sequence is challenging and varied. There’s even a Lunar practice, an evening vinyasa. I love this, but it took me awhile to adjust to the faster pace.
YIN YOGA by Paul Grilley. This two DVD set is an excellent and comprehensive place to start your Yin practice, though you have to be careful not to go too far in the poses when you start. The first DVD gives you the history and rationale behind the practice and the second one has a variety of different workouts.
YIN YOGA by Erin Fleming. This is my favorite Yin CD. It’s only audio, so you have to have a little yoga background to understand what poses are being called for, but just a little. I have been doing this practice for years and never find it boring.
I am also a fan of Alan Finger’s DVDs. They are excellent for beginning and intermediate yogis.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang