by Mayuri Gonzalez, E-RYT, RCYT, Mindfulness Teacher
“Our hearts resonate at the same frequency as the earth and the universe. Therefore, we are all valuable instruments in the orchestration of the world and its harmony.” ~Suzy Kassem
A closed-off chest with rounded shoulders can signal more than just bad posture. It’s also the stance we come into when we’re experiencing grief, sadness, anger, or even fear. These emotions manifest in the way that we hold ourselves as we guard our tender heart and brace ourselves for battle and the next bad news.
These times we are in right now feel like we are going to battle- battle against painful systems of oppression and injustice while potentially confronting the parts of us and our conditioning that need to be seen and unlearned. This work must be done both individually and as a collective.
This work is uncomfortable and challenging and one thing that I have learned is the importance of coming home to the wisdom of my body and heart. It is so important to not just rely on our minds. This is the work of the heart.
Coming out of this guarded, ready-for-battle posture through a heart-opening yin yoga sequence can help bring our mind and emotions into a more open space, where our heart energy can flow freely while releasing tension in the shoulders, neck, and upper back.
I created the following simple 30-minute yin yoga sequence to help open the heart and shoulders. The meridians that we mainly work with are for the heart, lung, and small intestines. Each pose is explained in more detail below its picture.
2 Blocks or a few pillows/ bolster
Timer for holding the poses. (I like to use the insight timer app on my phone which will offer various gongs and tones)
Please use as many props as needed to get yourself into a place of comfort, trust, and stillness, so your nervous system can relax and benefit greatly
Sound can be very powerful to work with the energy of the heart. This video recording from Temple Sounds is incredible to play in the background of your yin practice to compliment the healing or you can download through iTunes or purchase through their website. It is also wonderful to explore practicing in silence.
Please note that these are suggestions, we all have different bodies, so if at any time you feel numbness, tingling, or sharp pain, please come slowly out of the pose, back off or move on to the next. Honor your body and be gentle.
1. OPENING MEDITATION 5 Min
Start in a comfortable seat, maybe using a blanket or pillow to elevate your hips. Close your eyes and connect to your breath, becoming aware of how it flows through your body. You don’t have to change anything about it, just observe and listen for a few moments. Then move your awareness to your heart, place one hand over your heart and feel into that space. Is it open and receptive or does it feel tight? Spend a few minutes paying attention to your breath and the physical or energetic experience around your heart region.
2. RECLINED BUTTERFLY 5 Min
Use 2 blocks or a few pillows to elevate your chest and rest your head. If you using blocks, place one block horizontally across the upper shoulder blades at its low or medium height and one block under the base of your skull at the highest hight. Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall out to the side. Use props here if it feels uncomfortable under your thighs or keep your legs straight or soles of the feet on the floor. If it feels comfortable, close your eyes and lie here breathing, sensing your breath moving through your entire torso. See if you can feel the breath in your chest, belly, pelvis, and back of your heart. Feel into where space is most needed.
3. CAT/COW 2-3 Min
Use cat/cow to neutralize between the postures, you can use it also between any of the following ones. On your inhale arch your back and on the exhale round the back. Move slowly and feel free to even circle your hips if your body calls for it. Let your spine more freely and naturally.
4. CHILDS POSE WITH BLOCKS 4 Min.
Sit back and rest on your heels in child’s pose with your knees separated. Use 1 or 2 blocks in front of you to rest your arms and then let your head rest on the floor, so your arms will be elevated and you feel a nice stretch in your shoulders. Breathe and surrender.
5. DOWNWARD FACING DOG 2 Min
From your hands and knees lift slowly your hips and stretch into downward dog. Let your feet be hip-distance apart with your heels slightly turned out. Spread your fingers wide and alternate between bending both knees and stretching out your legs. Let your knee stay slightly bent and press your belly back towards your thighs to give you a great stretch in your back as well.
6. SHOULDER ROLLOVER 3 Min Each Side
Come onto your belly and extend your right arm out to the side, level with your shoulder, palm facing up or down depending on your comfort. Bend the opposite elbow while drawing the hand under your shoulder. Push into the opposite hand and begin to roll open to the side of the extended arm. You can also step the foot up and over or keep your legs stacked and slightly bent. If you feel good with one knee up, you may continue to roll until you are able to get both knees up – again, don’t force anything. If you have the shoulder flexibility you may be able to reach back with your left arm and interlace the fingers of both hands. If not, just keep the left arm relaxing behind your lower back. If you feel any discomfort in your neck with your head on the floor, bring a blanket or a block underneath your ear. Make sure you can breathe freely and image your breath melting away any tension you are holding in the front of your check or heart. To come out, slowly roll back onto your belly and relax your arms by your sides for several breaths. (repeat on the other side)
7. SAVASANA 5 Min
Rest on your back and consider using pillows or a bolster under your knees to support your lower back. Let your arms rest by your sides with your palms facing up and close your eyes if that feels comfortable. Take a big inhale and exhale through the mouth. Let your body rest and absorb the practice.
After 5 minutes (or more!) slowly deepen your breath and hug your knees into your chest, roll onto your left side and stay for a few breaths.
When you are ready, slowly find your way back into a seated position.
Keep your eyes close and notice anything that may have changed in your body. Notice any sensations in your body or shifts in your emotional and energetic state.
Give thanks to yourself for taking the time to practice and connect with your body.
With great respect, compassion, and love…….