It is important to consult your physician or physical therapist before beginning any new physical activity. Always listen to your body and respect any warnings you hear.
“We are never so vulnerable as when we love.” – Sigmund Freud.
To be human is to be vulnerable. It’s rooted in our primal need to belong. And that belonging is grounded in the dynamics of the relationships that fuel our lives and give them meaning. No one is immune. And this is why we practice—not to avoid the hurt and pain that come from being vulnerable, but rather, to embrace it, to open our hearts to it, and to welcome it as the guest “clearing us out for some new delight” (Rumi).
This isn’t a metaphor. My husband and I just sold the first house that we purchased 11 years ago to the day. The perfect home to which we brought each of our three babies home from the hospital, the one guarded by our late and great dog, Bear, the place with the best neighbors you could imagine. So many memories. So much love. That’s why it hurt so much to leave…even if we were literally busting at the seams.
Cramped into temporary housing, we know we are not the only ones who have been in this situation. A friend laughs, “we lived with my in-laws for six months when we first moved to town. My father-in-law still says it was the longest eight years of his life!” As we hear rumors of houses coming up, my spouse and I drive by, imagining the layouts, admiring the landscape, scanning the neighborhood. At one spot, I discuss how I’d like to change the color of a house to something dark but to keep a white or light-colored trim. “Yes,” my husband says, “you have to have the dark, to see and appreciate the light.”
I know he is talking much deeper than just the outdoor paint and trim.
We see it in our kids too. My oldest boy just lost his championship basketball game in overtime. It was a heartbreaker. There were many tears from the boys (and mothers) as they felt the pain of loss, as they witnessed their goals and dreams slip away before them. It’s a hard lesson when you give your all and still come up short, and yet an opportunity too—to redefine success by opening our hearts up to failure, to loss, and yes, eventually, to renewal.
Being vulnerable allows us to experience what all humanity faces—loss, pain, and hurt. Let us embrace the risk of pain and hurt as we move upward and onward through these heart-opening poses. I invite you to find the heart opener pose, which is most compassionate for you at this moment. Breathe in thoughts on forgiveness, acceptance, and 100% pure unconditional love, releasing fear, anger, or pain through the exhale. Stay grounded in these poses and reflect on how life is hard, full of challenges, and full of tasks—and how wonderful it is to have this chance, this opportunity to learn and grow. Trust your heart to lead, and know it is okay to wail and cry because it’s hard. We’ve all been there. Let us just sit together at this moment in support of each other with love and forgiveness.
Heart-openers can physically bring an openness to space where we tend to store hurt feelings of pain and fear from disconnection. Take the risk! A broken heart’s pain only tells us that the love that exists within is great and powerful. It will always be worth experiencing hurt and pain to know that we have that connection of sharing the entire array of feelings with all of humanity.
Heart Opener (Chair): Firmly root feet and sits bone, lift heart-center onward and upward. Many options for arms, go where it feels right: rolling shoulder blades and upper arms backward, grasping seat or back of the chair, or opposite wrists or elbows behind the back. Be mindful of the low back as the core is engaged, spine lifted. As you exhale into this pose, relax your head back comfortably, protect your spine by lengthening the back curve of your neck.
Heart Opener (Partner): Rotate arms back towards partner, who firmly grasps forearms. The front partner will open heart, draw shoulder blades together, lead with an open heart, and trust the partner’s support in back. The back partner should keep firmly grounded with knees bent or staggered stance, tall spine, strong core, and equally open heart and lean back to match the partner’s strength. Neither partner is trying to overpower the other but to fall into the support of open hearts.
Heart Opener (Supported): Find a supported tall kneeling or seated posture where the assisting yogi can encourage hips and heart-center up and forward while serving as support for the head and neck of the practicing yogi.
Camel Pose: Start in a high kneeling position, knees lined with hips and ankles. Focus on maintaining core engagement with the tailbone tucked under to protect low back. Move slowly, draw hips forward, while heart center lifts upwards. Shoulder blades draw towards each other while arms spiral backward. Options of hands: on hips, pelvis, or low back for support; or grasping heels or ankles. If comfortable, gently allow the head to release backward slowly and safely to protect your neck.
As you come out of these poses, move out slowly in reverse. Pause in stillness in a mindful seated posture. Just notice the exhilarating effects throughout the body when we tear away the armor of fear or hate by bursting the heart space open to love and acceptance. The reward will always outweigh the risks.
By Dr. Meghan Nelson