A couple of months ago, my daughter got married. It was a ‘destination wedding’, so we were away in a sunny warm climate by the Caribbean Sea. I asked her if she would like me to plan a ‘wedding morning’ yoga practice for her. Always a lover of physical activity, she said she would enjoy that! I thought about how to plan for such a special practice. I wanted our practice to have more meaning than simply being a way of reducing the pre-ceremony jitters, although that was definitely a factor for her, as it is for any bride-to-be!
One of the therapeutic aspects of yoga is that various poses help us to open, keep open, or to unblock, our chakras. In Sanskrit, chakra means wheel or disk. The seven chakras, located along our spine and through the neck and crown are thought of as the spiritual energy centers of the body. When they are aligned and open, ‘prana’, our healing energy, flows freely through our body, up and down the spine, through the chakras. However, if a chakra is blocked that’s when we may have physical, mental and/or spiritual dis-ease.
For a my daughter, on her wedding day, I thought my main focus, or theme would be opening the heart chakra. When your heart chakra is aligned and balanced, love and compassion flow freely. You are able to both give and receive love and compassion, an important ability for anyone entering into a matrimonial relationship.
There are many yoga poses that support opening the heart chakra. The ones I chose for my daughter on that beautiful sunny beach, to start her wedding day were the following:
Sphinx – a gentle back bend, which opens the heart. Start lying on your tummy. Lift the chest and slide your hands back so that your forearms are flat on the ground and your elbows are directly under your shoulders (align those joints!). Your palms press firmly into the ground, lifting your chest and opening your heart. Your pelvic area is resting on the ground, your thighs and the tops of your feet are pressing firmly into the ground. In Sphinx, your gaze is straight ahead. Stay here for 8 – 10 breaths.
Cobra – a deeper back bend, which is a great follow up to the gentle, yet focused Sphinx. From Sphinx lower your chest to the ground. Slide your hands back by your chest. Press into your palms, keep your elbows tucked close to your sides as you being to straighten your arms, lifting your chest and upper abdomen off the ground. Keep a micro bend in your elbows. Your gaze is straight ahead. You can adjust your Cobra to meet your needs. To deepen the pose, or bring your Cobra up higher, slide your hands back further towards your waist, straighten your arms more and look up. This will lift your chest higher, and more dramatically open your heart. Hold your Cobra for 8 – 10 breaths. To find a gentle and lovely stretch for your neck use your breath to exhale and look back over your right shoulder, inhale as you come back to center and then exhale to look over your left shoulder, inhale to come back to center.
Lord of the Dance or Dancer – a beautiful balancing pose which is an intermediate pose, but can be adjusted to meet your needs and ability. Start in Mountain pose (Tadasana – I explained this one last week!). Bring your weight to your left foot. Bring your left hand to your left hip. Bend your right knee, bringing your foot back towards your right glute. Grasp the top of that foot with your right hand. You can stop here and work on your balance. Just being in this position, you have already begun to open your heart center. When you feel ready to continue (maybe now, may tomorrow, maybe next month!), begin to straighten your left arm and reach that hand out in front of you, as you hinge from your left hip, bringing your torso forward. Again, you can stop here. To take the full Lord of the Dance pose, continue reaching forward with that left arm and hand – reach through your finger tips and press your foot into your hand. That posture will cause a greater arch in your lumbar spine and therefore a greater opening though the heart center, as your chest comes forward. Focus your `drishti`just ahead, on a still object Hold for 6 – 8 breaths and repeat on the opposite side!
Find love and compassion, and open your heart with yoga! This week has made me think about the importance of balance in our lives and the way yoga can help us find and maintain that balance. Next week we will find our balance together.
Enjoy your Practice! And let me know how it goes.