Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Simple Seated Postures for the Heart

A student asked me for a group of simple seated postures for opening the heart before meditating.   Here is a sequence that opens both the front and back of the heart.  In yogic philosophy the front of the heart is where we forgive and feel love for others.  The back of the heart is where we forgive and feel love for ourselves, often more challenging to do.
1. Begin in staff pose.  Sit up tall. (If you feel tightness in the low back or hamstrings.  Feel free to modify by bending the knees slightly or sitting up on a pillow or phonebook.)  Do a few shoulder rolls.  Rolling shoulders up and back and  down.  Then reversing the direction. Scoop belly in and up and feel yourself lengthening from the top of the head down to your sit bones.

2. Then reaching out in front of you, you will begin to bend your right elbow as if you were drawing back a bow and arrow. Energetically feel the tension of a bow resisting.  Follow your elbow with your eyes, so that you turn your head. Continue to open the chest and roll that shoulder back.  Pull the elbow back as you inhale and then return to start position on the exhale.  Repeating second side. Pulling  left elbow back as you  inhale. Exhale and return back to start position.  Do this several times.

 3. Then bending your knees wrap your arms around your knees and curl up into a ball.  Resting your head on your knees.  Breathe slowly and deeply into the back of the heart and feel a nice stretch through the shoulder blades and neck.  Honor yourself as you turn inward and forgive yourself for anything that perhaps has been weighing on you. Feel the comfort and fullness of each breath. Allow each inhalation to soothe you with unconditional healing love and each exhalation soften the back of the heart.

4.  Then reaching your hands back behind you open your chest.  Breath into the front of the heart.  Feel a softness in your elbows and continue to draw the shoulder blades down your back.  Open your heart to all those that you love. Sending them unconditional love. Each inhalation lifting the heart. Each exhalation softening the shoulder blades.

Work to deepen into the shoulders, all the while keep the chest lifted.
With slow and deep breaths move gently back with the hands. Never losing that connection to the lift in the sternum and a softness in the elbows.  Finally finish by returning back to center and then rolling the head in towards the chest. Hugging your knees, curled up into a ball one more time. Take a few breathes once again honoring the back of the heart.

5.   Place your feet to the right.  Rest your right hand down beside you and lift your left arm up and overhead.   Feel a nice stretch in the left side as you continue to anchor the left hip down.  One long breath.

As you exhale, shift the torso by reach your left arm out to the left placing it on the ground  and begin to raise your right arm up and over head.   Allow that right arm to circle down to the ground and reach the chest down towards the ground.  Exhale every last bit of air out to prepare for a grand inhalation that gracefully lifts your torso back up to that start position with the left arm once again swooping overhead.  Do this several times with the feet to the right.

Then switch the feet to the left. Anchor the right hip down. Repeat the sequence now switched to the other side.  Right arm is raised over head.

Take a deep inhalation and as you exhale extend that right arm down to the ground beside you. Now raising the left arm up and over.

 Circle that left arm all the way down to the ground and stretch through that left shoulder.  Repeat this sequence several times.

6. Allow your legs to shift to a simple cross legged position.  Sitting balanced on your pelvis, draw your belly muscles in and take your right hand to your left knee and your left hand behind you.  Keep the heart lifted and the left shoulder rolling back.  Feel the sternum lifting with each inhalation.  As you exhale see if you can twist a little bit deeper drawing the navel in for support.  Take several deep breaths.

Then on an inhale  reach your left arm up towards the sky. Feel length through the torso.   As you exhale cross that left arm over the right. Then wrap the forearms together.  If you can reach the right hand up and grab the left do so.  Otherwise simply squeeze the forearms together. Allow the shoulder blades to soften down the back. 

Repeat sequence to the second side. with left hand on right knee.  Rolling open the right shoulder. Inhaling to lengthen and exhaling to twist. After several deep breaths. Inhale and lift the right arm up.

Exhale and cross that right arm on top of the left for Eagle arms.  Continue to draw shoulder blades down the back. 

7.  Come to center sitting up tall. Reach the hands behind you on the ground once again opening the chest.  Let each exhale send love to all those that surround you.  Inhale deeply as you lift the chest. Take a couple more breathes. Then as you exhale fold forward over your crossed legs.  Continue to reach the heart towards the ground lengthening the back body.  Take several deep breaths until you are ready to rise up with an open heart and begin meditating on unconditional love.   Perhaps allowing this meditation to have the intention of healing those places in the body and soul that perhaps have stored pain left over from times of conditional love.  Allow each  inhale to be a soothing comfort of pure love with no strings attached.  

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