Last week we practiced some postures to balance the heart chakra, thinking about being kind to ourselves. We often feel guilty or selfish if we take time out to do something we enjoy, but working with the heart centre to open the heart opens us to the possibility that it is OK to lie down for 10 minutes when we get in from work, or take a long relaxing bath. If you look after yourself, becoming less stressed and more patient, then everyone around you will benefit too.
This week we’re moving up the spine to the energy centre at the throat – Vishuddhi, associated with the voice and communication. If this centre is out of balance, you can find it hard to communicate – words get stuck in your throat. Our words are very powerful, and we can use them well or use them to hurt and lash out. Balancing the throat centre helps you to speak clearly and truthfully, improving your relationships both personally and professionally. For students at the University where I teach yoga, presentations are a key part of assessments, so communications skills are very important not only now, but for job interviews and in the workplace.
A posture that stimulates the throat centre and thyroid gland in the neck is the bridge (setubandhasana), so we’ll be practicing that this week. In this posture you create the shape of a bridge with your torso, and the throat centre acts as a bridge between heart and head. It’s good to keep a clear channel between these two so that you can make balanced decisions, listening to both your head and your heart.
When you prepare to speak, think first – “Is It True? Is It Necessary? Is It Kind?” ~Mary Ann Pietzker.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
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.