Uncategorized Yoga

Open the heart to heal

When we sustain a physical injury such as a broken leg, black eye or a sunburn, the injury is visible for the world to see and comment on. “What happened!?” invites story-telling and sharing the circumstances of the accident. Sharing contributes to healing. In contrast, surviving emotional trauma does not always prompt the healing power of sharing. We tend to shy away from talking about our aches of the heart.

Recovering from physical trauma takes time, of course, but is visible. Talking about the injury and noticing physical improvements contribute to healing. Matters of the heart, on the other hand, are less visible and more complex. Although heartache often manifests itself as a furrowed brow, swollen eyes and a sad face, sparking a conversation about emotional pain is a little more sensitive than discussing a physical injury.

So, while the presence of a physical injury invites questions and conversation, the seclusion of an emotional injury has the opposite effect. Isolation and loneliness prevail.

Meanwhile, the owner of the broken heart

seeks an outlet for the pain.

Healing from a physical injury has socially-acceptable antidotes: over the counter painkillers, topical creams, physical therapy. Matters of the heart are shrouded in secrecy, punctuated by solitude and emotional discomfort. Thus, the victim of the emotional trauma is prone to making bad decisions, escaping through drugs, alcohol, sex, and regrettable lifestyle decisions.

So, how to deal with emotional trauma in a healthy way?

The posture of grief is characterized by hunched shouldersslumped spine,and head in hands. Heart opening yoga poses are the antidote to a grieving posture and will create space to let the emotion out, to free the heart from sadness and begin to heal.

Yoga is the union of mind, body and spirit.

Practicing heart opening poses is a gateway to releasing unwanted emotional energy.

Make no mistake, heart openers will trigger a painful release of emotions, often tears, but will ultimately foster tremendous release and freedom from negative energy. Fortunately, the yoga studio and the yoga mat is a safe place to let go of great emotional trauma. The yoga mat is a place of solace and comfort and is free from judgment.  You are always safe on your yoga mat and just like you aren’t passing judgment on the yogi on the mat next to you, you can be certain that (s)he isn’t judging you either. All that being said, if getting yourself to a studio is simply too much for your broken heart, unroll your yoga mat or towel in the privacy of your own home and practice these heart openers there.

Warrior I

Updog/ cobra

Bow pose

Wild thing




Dancer’s pose

After a deep heart-opening practice, rest in a long savasana followed by several minutes of sitting still, crosslegged. Take your time and step off your mat and back into the world when you’re ready.

backbends Yoga

getting into backbends

Spring is upon us, and with it comes a desire to make changes in my life. Every year, with the arrival of spring I feel a sense of stagnation in my life, and I desperately seek ways to bring fresh energy into every aspect of my life. In my apartment, I find this fresh energy by throwing away boxes of old clothes and books. I also take the time to spring-clean my kitchen, especially the fridge. Spring marks the return of fresh herbs and fresh vegetables to my diet. Spring also brings with it extra daylight hours, and the reduced darkness gives me renewed energy to set goals and make plans for the upcoming months.

In my yoga practice, backbends feel like the perfect way to invite in change and renewed energy. Winter in a cold climate often finds us shuffling along, laden down with heavy clothing, and hunched forward. Spring is a time to peel off layers, open our hearts up and find more time to run around outside, coming out of the hunched and face-protecting posture of the chilly Canadian winter!

Consider how you feel after you have been hunched over a computer for several hours, picking weeds in your garden or cleaning out a drawer. The natural instinct afterwards is to stand up straight, reach your hands overhead and stretch upwards! This is a backbend, and this is exactly the motion that springtime backbends are cultivating.

Backbends are the perfect antidote to a long winter and have many benefits. Backbends can

release tension along the front of the body
open the heart, inviting in renewed energy and letting go of stale emotions
counteract bad posture
realign the spine to its natural curve
help with digestive function
relieve stress by stimulating the heart (fourth) chakra
open the lower back, which will provide freedom from insecurity
prevent you from taking yourself too seriously.
To safely venture into backbends in a yoga practice, consider first warming up your spine with 3-4 complete sun salutations, warming up your hips with a pose such as crescent lunge, and warming up your spine with cat/cow, revolved lunge and several easy twists.

Once warmed up, some backbends to try include

locust, baby cobra, little bridge, full wheel, camel and upward-facing bow

Remember, as always, to practice patience with yourself. Move slowly into each posture, be mindful of pain or discomfort and be intentional in your practice. Finally, respect the limitations of your own body, and do not concern yourself with what other students in the yoga class are doing or with pictures you see of backbends on the internet!

Happy Spring and Happy back bending!