There is a difference between a broken heart and a heart broken open. The broken heart is real but leads to a shutting down on life. The heart broken open creates the possibility for light to filter in. In that open space, there is room for compassion and tenderness to grow. In the end, choice helps to shape your experience. Choose to let your heart be broken open and see what remains to grow. - Ashley Davis Bush
I resonate with the work of Ashley Davis Bush and find her to be so affirming and loving in sharing her wisdom. When I saw the quote written above on her Facebook page and it made me think of all the heart opening practices there are in yoga.
Slowly and gently yoga invites you to notice your heart. To breathe into it, and to create space in it. Enough space to hold all the hurt and all the love simultaneously - perhaps this is what being broken open means. Connecting with the heart's brokenness and openness creates compassion and understanding, and from there, choice. Choice to treat yourself compassionately, choice to make decisions that are life giving and self supportive. There can be wisdom and guidance in a heart broken open.
Below is a short heart opening sequence.
As you move through this practice be open to how your heart is communicating with your mind and body. Notice what thoughts present themselves to your mind. Notice your emotional reactions to them. Notice the subtle (or not so subtle!) sensations in the body. This practice isn't about solving or changing anything. It's simply about connecting and opening to the wisdom and awareness that can reside in a heart broken open. Trust yourself.
Start in savasana. This is my favourite way to start class. Use this time as a time to transition from living your day outside yourself (as is often the case with jobs, families etc) to a "yoga space." A time of awareness and connection with yourself. Allow your body to settle, and bring your awareness to what you are experiencing on the inside. Take this time to allow your mind to settle on the breath, noticing its rhythmic flow, constancy, and availability. There is no rush. Take time to slow down. Take time to practice being open to and with your heart.
Bend your knees and roll onto one side. Resting there for a moment. Pressing up to sitting and setting up for a deeper heart opening pose. For this pose you will need two blankets, folded so it resembles a long skinny rectangle. Set yourself up so that one folded blanket is placed towards the head of your mat, around where your shoulder blades will be. Have the other folded blanket to place under the knees.
You will lay back on the blanket so it touches the shoulder blades. The shoulders must be above the blanket, so the shoulders can release towards the floor. Notice in the photo how my arms can easily fit above the blanket and the blanket is placed below the arm pits. **If the shoulders are resting on the blanket, it will not allow your heart to open. Place support under the head if your chin is lifting up, or if there is tension in the neck or throat.
Allow your upper back and knees to gently cascade over the blankets...hence the name, waterfall pose; Imagine water as it flows over rocks in a stream, smoothly and softly.
Breathe into your heart. Inhale and swirl the breath around your heart with the intention of having the breath nurture and explore the heart. Exhale and relax, sink, soften. Inhale and swirl, nurture, open, explore. Exhale soften.
To move out of this pose, roll over to one side and press up to sitting.
Next, move yourself to a wall. Have your folded blanket ready to use, or a bolster. The easiest way to get into legs up the wall pose is to sit beside the wall right hip and thigh is parallel to the wall. Turn to lay down on your back and swing your legs up the wall. Spend a few moments here, allowing your body to adjust to this position. There is no hurry. Slow down.
Bend your knees and place your feet on the wall. Lift your hips up off the floor and slide your blanket or bolster underneath your hips. You want to feel stable here so adjust the props as needed. Roll your shoulders together behind your back and press them into the floor so your breast bone lifts towards your chin and your chest and heart is open.
Breathe into the openness of your heart - the center of your chest. As you inhale expand the breath to both shoulders. Exhale and soften. With each in-breath expand the breath further: from the center of your heart to both shoulders and eventually down the arms and into the hands.
When you are ready to come down: place the feet on the wall and lift the hips. Remove the bolster or blanket and roll down one vertebrae at at time. This can be a really nice release for the back so move slowly and care-fully.
Once your hips are back on the floor, rest.
Staying in legs up the wall is a nice way to end the practice. Or, stretch out, lay flat (as in the start) and rest. For the first 10-20 breaths of savasana focus on breathing light into the heart. You can imagine a warm glow or a candle flame. As you inhale, imagine that light growing brighter. As you exhale maintain a sense of a light inner body. Inhale and grow the light brighter. Exhale and maintain.
"The heart broken open creates the possibility for light to filter in." - Ashley Davis Bush.