Follow your heart

Angel Seat Chalice Well Gdns Glast - CopyAngel seat in the Chalice Well Gardens, Glastonbury

Dipping in to a lovely book by Shiva Rea at the moment, called ‘Tending the Heart Fire‘. Wonderful photos, easy to read and full of wisdom. Inspiring me to focus on some heart opening postures and sequences over the next couple of weeks, both for myself and in my classes. Dru yoga has these in abundance, helping to make the heart lighter and lift the spirits. Simple techniques that can really make a difference if you’re feeling a bit down or miserable. Movement of any sort – walking, dancing, swimming, can get you off the sofa and start the process of feeling better about yourself. But heart opening yoga like the Charity pose (Parsvottanasana), Chair of the Heart (Utkatasana) and Dru’s Sequence of Compassion is even better!

Here’s a short excerpt from the book…….

“If we drop into our feeling sensations of our body, we discern a subtle reverberation of this light in our chests as a deep, penetrating heat that ebbs and flows, expands and recedes, dims and intensifies. While we many not often pause to think about it, this intimate connection and truth in our hearts is reflected in our speech by how we counsel one another: ‘Listen to your heart’. ‘Trust your heart’. ‘Follow your heart’. Our heart feels ‘heavy’, or we are ‘light-hearted’. When we affirm the truth, we ‘swear upon’ our heart, instinctively making the universal mudra of connecting hand to heart. When we open to our heart’s deepest knowing, we have a ‘change of heart’.”

“In our hearts, there burns a fire
That burns all veils to their root and foundation
When the veils have been burned away
Then the heart will understand completely.
Ancient love will unfold ever-fresh forms
In the heart of the Spirit, in the core of the heart.” Rumi

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A mudra for friendship

Lotus flower

“Imagine the bud of a lotus flower in your heart. Every time you inhale, the flower opens a bit more – until it finally is completely open and can absorb the full sunlight into itself. It lets itself be filled with light, lightness, warmth, love, desire and joy” ~ Gertrud Hirschi, Mudras – yoga in your hands.

A mudra is (usually) a position of the hands and fingers that can recharge your energy reserves and make you feel better about yourself. Another of the yoga tools to keep in your toolbox for when you need it.

We’re focusing on the lotus mudra this week, which is an opening gesture: with the heels of the hands together, you imagine opening your fingers like the lotus flower opens its petals to the sun. With the hands held in front of the heart, you can imagine opening your heart to whatever comes your way. So a good mudra to practice if you’re feeling a bit isolated or lonely. It also helps to make you a bit more approachable if you’re shy or tend to close yourself off from life and other people.

Tip: a useful mudra to practice if you use a mouse and keyboard a lot as it keeps the fingers flexible and stretches them out and back.

Focus on the heart

heart on tree

“Have respect for yourself, and patience and compassion. With these, you can handle anything.” ~ Jack Kornfield.

With Valentine’s day coming up, this week’s classes had to have a heart-centred theme. Whether you are in a relationship or not, you can give yourself some love and compassion. We are often so busy caring for others, that we forget to look after ourselves. Yoga is a great way of looking after your body, mind and emotions, helping to restore balance and harmony to every part of your being. Time on the mat is time for you to replenish and relax.

Parsvottanasana (the charity pose) is a gentle backbend that expands the chest and opens the heart, giving rise to feelings of generosity and compassion. It’s also great for stretching the hamstrings, strengthening the core muscles and increasing flexibility in the spine and around the hips.  In Dru yoga, we work with the breath and do a lovely flowing form of this posture, encouraging a fluid, wave-like movement in the spine.

Seat of compassion

… posture of the month from Dru yoga.

heart and sun

(No, it doesn’t look like this, but what a great way of doing some side stretches with a friend).

From time to time we probably all get angry, impatient or irritable and then regret something we’ve said or done in the heat of the moment. This lovely posture helps you to act from your heart, developing kindness and compassion so you share those feelings with those around you, rather than bite their heads off! Your friends and family will thank you for practicing it, and it might be worth encouraging them to do it too 🙂

It is based on the runner pose, which is one of the postures in Surya Namaskara – Salutation to the Sun, so is a good preparation for this energising sequence that we’ll be working with over the next few weeks.

See a description of the seat of compassion posture, together with it’s many benefits.

Christmas getting you down already?

heart candle in hands

“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher” –   Pema Chodron.

Moving towards the season of goodwill, it sometimes seems anything but that. We get overwhelmed by everything we have to do and the stress levels rise. Shops are busy, with everyone rushing around, and we think ‘what on earth can I buy for Auntie Maud or the folks next door’. Instead of it being a pleasure to give, it becomes a chore and we end up even blaming them for being so difficult to buy for.

Yoga can help to relieve some of that stress and bring the goodwill back into the season, so we start to feel the joy of giving, not frustration.

Focusing on the heart is a powerful technique for developing feelings of generosity and gratitude, which in turn will make you feel happier. A posture which opens the heart and gives it a lovely massage is Utkatasana or ‘Chair of the Heart’. It also helps to generate heat, so a great one to warm you up if you’re feeling chilly. We’ll be practicing this posture with the Lotus mudra, which intensifies those feelings of generosity and compassion.

Tip: If someone’s getting you down, imagine them standing in front of you while you do the Chair of the Heart. Visualise your heart opening or glowing like a candle flame and send out feelings of love to them instead of anger, fear or frustration.

Apologies to those of you that love everything about Christmas!

Are you kind to yourself?

 If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion.  – Dalai Lama

Field of buttercups  

When we think of compassion, we might think of it as being kind to other people. We don’t often think of being kind to ourselves, and if we do, we might think we’re being selfish. How often do you do something that you know that you need, that will nurture your body and mind? But then you think, ‘No, I haven’t got time for a bath/relax/walk’, or ‘No – person A/B/C really needs me to do x/y/z’, or – ‘No, I must do the ironing/weeding/wash the car’. How important are these things compared with looking after yourself? We assume that our bodies and minds will just keep on going and will cope. Sometimes we need to say ‘Yes – I will do something for me. I will be kind to myself’. Do something to gently replenish, nourish and heal, such as a walk, yoga, long bath – whatever feels right for you.

“Self-compassion does not make us spoiled or weak, but rather is a learned coping strategy that research shows can decrease anxiety and enhance resilience and recovery from the effects of stress.” – Melanie Greenberg writing in a Psychology Today blog.

In our yoga classes, we’ve been working with the Dru Seat of Compassion sequence that can help to open our hearts to have compassion for ourselves and others.

What do you do to be kind to yourself? And if the answer doesn’t readily come to mind, think about how you could change that.

Heart space

Sun in heart of hands

“The little space within the heart
is as great as the vast universe.

The heavens and the earth are there,
and the sun and the moon and the stars.
Fire and lightening and winds are there,
and all that now is and all that is not.”

The Upanishads

We can sense that space within the heart through practicing postures that bring an awareness to the heart area, such as Utkatasana (Chair of the Heart) and Parsvottanasana (charity pose). They help us to reflect on what it means to be open-hearted.

I experienced the warmth of many open hearts when I visited the Mandala Yoga Ashram on their open day last weekend. Situated high on a hillside in the depths of Wales, reached by a narrow track, climbing upwards through the mist. Finding a warm welcome, smiling faces, flowers, and an amazing group of people who’d come together on that remote hillside.