On Strong Hearts…>
words by Andrea Manitsas
May 30, 2018
This is a theme that I come back to again and again and again, because it requires constant reminding, constant cultivation, for me anyhow. We’re talking about connecting to the strength and support that we need in order to find openness and remain open. And let’s be pretty clear… I don’t want to say that flexibility in your body, openness in your body, mobility in your body, equates to an openness of mind or heart, because it certainly doesn’t. I know plenty of people who have tight hamstrings and open hearts, and plenty of people who have Cirque du Soleil flexibility and can’t feel a thing. That’s not what we’re talking about here. That’s not the kind of openness we’re striving for. We are building the strength in our body that supports an open heart physically, that supports back bending specifically. We’re creating a lot of strength in our legs, and in our back body in order to give our front body the safety and security it needs to find its openness, but this is a metaphor. This is a reminder for us to know it in our bodies, to have an embodied experience of this idea so that through it we can know it in our minds and hearts – that it is hard work to be open.
There’s a proverb that says, “The world broke and broke my heart until it opened.” The way I see it, we have two options here. The world will break your heart no matter what. So, the world can break your heart until you harden to protect yourself from further pain, you become closed off, numb, with a shell of a heart, like a zombie living the same year over and over again and calling it a life. Or, it can break your heart wide open, exposing you to deeper parts of yourself and truth and wisdom, and reveal a willingness – even an eagerness – to feel it all, the highs and the lows, the cosmic dance as one of my teacher’s puts it. It is the courageous among us, the resilient ones, the ones with the fortitude, that choose the latter. It’s the spiritual path, that commitment to remain open amidst hardship and challenge and heartbreak. That’s what’s up.
Here are some ways to fortify your heart space with asana. Don’t forget to keep in mind the teaching, the lesson, the feeling, as you move through the shapes:
Bend your knees, sit your hips back and down while sweeping your arms up alongside your ears (Utkatasana). Hold for 7 breaths; then turn your palms forward and make fists. Squeeze in (a lot), and against your own resistance, slowly cactus your arms out; then take your elbows a bit back and down to feel the inner borders of your should blades. Hold for 3 breaths; then fold forward.
On your hands and knees, extend opposite arm and leg. Hold 10 breaths; then bend your knee and pulse your foot toward the ceiling for a count of 10. Return to all fours, and do the other side.
On your belly, rest everything on the ground with your arms by your sides. Engage your shoulder blades toward one another on your back until the front of your shoulders lift. Hold for 3 breaths; then fly everything up (Salabhasana). Lift your arms and legs, head and chest. Hold for 7 breaths; then release back into the ground.
Now, come to a seat, place one hand over your heart center. Close your eyes and imagine that your head – that your mind – drops down into your chest and that you are experiencing the world from this place, just for a moment or two or for as long as you can sustain the feeling. Keep coming back to it.