We are too angry. We suffer too much. We sit hunched over our technology. And our hearts are closed to ourselves, to nature and the human world.
Already you might be thinking I’m on a ride to the crazy train. How can a heart opener make me less angry? How can it calm me down, ease my suffering? Well, to put it simply, when you open up space in your chest for your heart space, you’re opening up your heart.
Remember that yoga isn’t just about getting into poses. We aren’t stringing some movements together randomly to have a nice behind. We shouldn’t be thinking “okay, warrior one. Great got it. Next? Warrior two. Okay, nailed it. Next?” We probably shouldn’t be thinking at all but experiencing.
That’s part of this.
The deal with yoga is that it is really is a journey. The poses will never be nailed. We’ll be constantly exploring and changing and learning. That’s part of the beauty! Since it is connected so much to our mind and our spirit we have the opportunity to learn about ourselves and change ourselves during the special time we have on the mat.
Granted, not everyone feels this way but I do. And I’m passionate about it. So many beautiful, wonderful things can come from focuses your gaze inwards while you practice.
So first, we’ll take a look at some physical benefits and if you aren’t interested in the spiritual, feel free to move along. But, I encourage you to stay.
It makes us stronger. Because of our technology and hunched posture we have weak upper backs and weak necks. Heart openers challenge us in exactly this spot. We open the chest but we pull with our back. We hold with those muscles. It also improves our posture, helps us breathe. Stops headaches because it relieves tension. It also helps stretch and strengthen the lower back too. In general, it’s fantastic for your spine and your spinal health.
Creating space in the chest opens us up to deep, healthy breaths. This helps us in other workouts and helps our focus. With more oxygen circulating our system, more oxygen makes its way to our brain. If we don’t use our lungs and lung capacity, we won’t have it someday. Everything stiffens up. Creating that deepness of breath keeps our muscles around our ribs strong and supple. It keeps us breathing deeper and longer.
And, as a bonus, it helps out our thyroid. More on that here.
Now, this where some of you might start leaving the conversation.
It helps your confidence. We tell our brains as much as our brains tell us. What I mean is if we frown, our brain gets the message from our muscles that we are in a bad mood even if we aren’t. You might find your mood suddenly worsening for no reason. The solution here is to keep smiling and to work on eliminating a frown from our face.
Similarly, if we spend our days hunched over and closed off, our brain is getting the message that we are timid, not confident, maybe even sad because that’s what we’re saying. Rolling the shoulders back, opening up the heart, maybe even smiling tells our brain we are confident and happy. You’ll see it reflected in your mood.
There’s a great article that covers this and some other ideas in depth. Give it a read!
Now, let’s get into murky waters.
There’s no specific answer to what will happen if you try more heart openers. It’s a very personal experience but every experience is vibrant in its own way. Our heart-opening journey will sparkle and shine with so many bright colors, we’re just seeing different colors.
For me, heart openers helped me learn to forgive not just others but myself. Heart openers in my personal practices also brought up feelings of worthlessness, anger, and frustration with myself. This is good, by the way, if you ever feel this on the mat. It means, in a nutshell, that’s what you have to work on. I learned in those moments that I needed to take care of my heart space.
So I kept doing heart openers. I worked harder at them. I tried to be more gentle with myself in my daily life. I kept my heart open to myself and the world. After a while, I noticed that there was no more tension in my heart openers. I wasn’t feeling those negative emotions. I felt peace.
It also helped me to be happy. After working with poses that opened my chest for a few months, I couldn’t help but smile when I got into them. They honestly made me very happy. And I could continue to hold onto that feeling. I learned how to be happy and have an open heart in my daily life. For this, I’m extremely grateful.
My stress, and even anxiety, was rooted in a neglected heart space. When I took the time to cultivate it, open it and nurture it, I reaped enormous benefits.
This is, unfortunately, the kind of thing that I can tell you about all day long but until you practice it you won’t know. Because your journey is different than mine. It has nothing to do with our scope of understanding but everything to do with our fundamental differences.
So bring this kind of practice into your life. Start easy, but commit to it. Be honest and let yourself open up into the poses. Feel them out, flow through them. The most important part of this journey of opening up your heart is to do it honestly and with conviction.
There’s very little benefit to a yoga practice that isn’t connected to your heart or your spirit. Sure, we get some exercise but don’t uncover the tremendous mental benefits that are lying there for us, waiting. We owe it our minds, our hearts, and our bodies to give ourselves to the time on our mats.
Good luck and happy heart opening!