Exploring the heart practices is all about softening before we can activate and expand. We protect into this space, protecting our vital organs of the heart and lungs and subconsciously protect our vulnerable emotional heart. As we drop tension from the chest, the rib cage, shoulders and upper back and take expanded breaths into this area, we soften, we open. Something wonderful happens when we come into an expansive heart space - we become more loving and compassionate toward ourselves and others. We realise we don't need to armour into this space, but can live from a place of openness.
This sequence focusses on releasing tension from the chest, the ribs, the shoulders and upper back. A yang style pose Camel and a mantra meditation are included to bring more energy into the heart.
See the images for the sequence with more details for each pose given below.
Yin yoga flow
Pose One: Butterfly
Come into a seated position with the soles of the feet touching and round through the back to bring the head toward the feet. Focus the breath into the back of the heart space, expanding between the shoulder blades on each in breath. Stay for three minutes.
Pose two: Deer with side stretch
Bend the right leg and place the right foot beside the left knee, the left foot alongside the body. Try to find even balance between the sit bones (sit on a blanket if the hips feel very uneven). Stay in this position for one minute. Then take the right hand and reach up toward the ceiling, taking the hand over towards the left. With each breath feel an opening of the ribs and chest toward the right as you breathe deeply into the right side ribs. Stay for another minute before releasing and swap sides. Notice if it feels easier to breathe. Rest in child's pose.
Pose three: Melting heart
Come into table top position, knees directly under the hips. Walk the hands forward and draw the chest toward the floor, allow the forehead to rest on the floor or a block. Focus on the expansion of the breath into the front, side and back ribs. Use this pose to let go of any unnecessary holding of tension in the body and mind, breathe it out. 3 minutes. Come down onto your belly to rest.
Pose four: Sphinx
Laying down on the belly, place the elbows underneath the shoulders and the forearms parallel (if this is too strong into the sacrum and lower back, take the elbows further forward or lie on the belly with the head resting on the hands). Not sagging into the shoulders, allow a gentle active lift of the front spine and the chest. Close the eyes and stay for 3 minutes. Rest on the belly before coming back into a child’s pose for 1 minute.
Pose five: Twisted child
Take a wide knee child's pose position - knees wide with big toes touching. Walk the hands out in front for the first 5 breaths, lengthening both sides of the torso. Then walk the hands over to the left and take the right hand under the left arm, resting the right shoulder and ear to the floor. Keep the left hand on the floor, or wrap it behind. Stay here for 10 deep breaths then swap to the other side. Take a stretch in downward facing dog before coming into the next pose.
Pose six: Supported camel
This is not a yin pose - only hold for about 5-8 breaths. Sit on the heels to begin and place your hands on a bolster behind you. Press into the bolster to lift the hips off the heels. As you lift up, feel the tailbone drawing down and a lengthening into the front of the spine, draw the centre of the chest upward and breathe deeply into the ribs in all directions. Rest in child's pose to release the spine. Repeat one more time.
Pose seven: Shoelace
Take the right knee over the left so the knees are stacked on top on one another (if this is too strong for the hips, extend the left leg out straight). Allow the back to round as you curl forward, rest the head onto the knee, or a block. Breathe into the back of the heart space and stay for at least 3 minutes before swapping to the other side. Rest on your back in savasana before coming into the next pose.
Pose eight: Supported fish
Place two blocks of equal height (this can be done with a stack of blankets and a book if you don’t have any blocks), one along the spine and one to support your head. Allow the shoulders to sink toward the floor, and the support to passively open deeply into the chest and upper back. Use ujayi breath to assist with the expansion into the chest. Legs can be crossed, soles of feet together, bent knees or extend through the legs. After 3-5 minutes rest flat on the back.
Finish with Savasana and meditation
Resting the whole body into the floor, softening the back body and melting the weight into the support below. Bring focus to the breath, feel as though you are breathing in and out of the heart space, the centre of the chest, the seat of compassion and loving kindness. With each in breath, feel this space expand, filling your whole body, with each exhale feel your whole body soften. On the in breath add a silent mantra, OM as the breath expands from the heart outward filling your body and on the exhale YAM as the breath moves back in toward the heart. OM YAM.