In our yoga classes this week, we are practicing opening our hearts. Our breathing is focused on taking our breath to our back heart on the inhale and exhaling out the front of the heart. On the inhale, we feel the strength of the breath and the strength of our heart. On the exhale, we soften our hearts, allowing them to be open to receiving. We accompany our open heart breath with the lotus flower mudra. We take our fingers in front of our hearts and open them up like the petals of a lotus flower, a reminder to keep our hearts open.
Why do we want to open our hearts? First of all, we want to keep ourselves from being “hard-hearted.” Being hard-hearted keeps us from being a loving human being. Sometimes our society frowns upon soft-hearted people. “You’re too soft-hearted,” comes out as derogatory. In other words, toughen up. Be strong. Take the punch. Stop caring about how your actions might affect others. Stop thinking about the other person’s feelings. All of these comments suggest that open hearted people are not strong, cannot endure hardships, cannot separate their own needs from another’s needs. And of course, that is not the Truth.
We also open our hearts to tap into some deeper emotions in order to get to know and understand ourselves better. Perhaps we have gone through an experience, like a death, a divorce, a breakdown in a relationship, and this experience has taught us to harden our heart against further loss. We block ourselves from living life from the heart and move toward living life from the head. We block ourselves from knowing the depth of our emotions. And what a bummer that is! I often remind people (and myself!) that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. In the Spirit world, we experience great pleasure and love. This love is one that we cannot experience here on Earth. Those of us who have peeked into the other side of the veil have felt this love. It is so peaceful and worry free and protective, and there really are no words to describe the depth of those loving emotions. However, what we can never feel in the world of Spirit are the sad and angry emotions. They don’t exist in that world. We cannot experience conflict. We cannot express judgment. Doubt is not a part of that world. And so we come to this place called Earth to experience these other emotions that typically come to us through hardships. They come to us through the lessons we are meant to learn here on Earth. To harden our hearts against these emotions is to deny ourselves of the very reason we decided to have this human experience.
In yoga, we open the heart for the physical benefits as well. As we age, many of us discover that we no longer have a straight, strong, erect spine. We begin to slouch forward in the shoulders. Many of us work at desks or are hunched over kids (teachers) all day. If we could step back and see ourselves, we would see how we are literally curling into a ball. And so in yoga, we practice lifting our hearts, rolling our shoulders back, taking our shoulder blades together; all physical efforts to open our physical hearts and chest. A stronger, erect spine will keep us from back aches, digestive issues, open our lungs more fully, and keep us from heart fatigue.
Today we are reminded to lift our hearts and roll our shoulders back, opening our physical heart and opening our emotional heart. Bring a strong, full breath into the back heart and exhale softly out the front heart. Open our hearts to our human experience and to the others around us. Find JOY in our hearts!