Imagine yourself awaiting sunrise at dawn. As the sun rises, you feel its warmth. You open your arms, inviting its warmth into you with literally open arms. In yoga sun greetings, we replicate this action as we open our arms and open our heart centre.
But this can be a vulnerable position in terms of defending ourselves- physically, mentally, and emotionally. It takes strength, awareness, but also courage to sustain such an open posture. For many of us, it is not a familiar way to hold our bodies, so it can help to consider how to assist ourselves.
As always, the breath is with us to help open us up. We can deploy Uddiyana Bandha, drawing belly muscles inward and upward, to contain the breath higher up in the chest cavity. We can contract the back muscles, rolling shoulders back and drawing shoulder blades toward each other, to direct air to the front side of the body. Like squeezing an end of a balloon, we increase the pressure in the remaining area, the front chest. Then as we fill the lungs, the expansion opens our heart centre further.
As we work to open our hearts in classes this week, our asanas gradually become more demanding. So the challenge becomes to keep that open heart when things get difficult- a metaphor for life perhaps!
Outside the yoga class, you would look a bit odd doing all of this, and I would not encourage you to habitually hold in your belly! But you can develop the habit of rolling your shoulders back and down, and lifting your gaze, perhaps whenever you are walking. This open hearted posture will resonate in the energy you project to those who cross your path, especially if you throw in a smile!
Ruth teaches yoga in Cheltenham UK, weaving yoga philosophy into the asana practice to help students connect yoga on the mat to their lives off the mat.