August Pose of the Month
What does it mean to you to have an open heart?
In yoga the subtle or energy body is the part of you that you can’t see or touch… it’s where the energy flows. In our subtle body there are 7 significant places, energy centers or vortexes called chakras …which is the Sanskrit word for “wheel”. These centers store and distribute energy and are linked to our physical, mental, and emotional well-being and health- for when one or more are blocked we feel an imbalance. These imbalances due to a blocked chakra could result in symptoms such as anxiety, fear, insecurity, pain, etc. and may be temporary or chronic.
A deficient chakra neither receives appropriate energy nor easily manifests that chakra’s energy in the world. There’s a sense of being physically and emotionally closed down in the area of a deficient chakra. Think of the slumped shoulders of someone who is depressed and lonely, their heart chakra receding into their chest. The deficient chakra needs to be open.
~ Barbara Kaplan Herring (Yoga Journal)
In yoga an open heart comes from an open heart chakra, or anahata chakra as it’s called in Sanskrit meaning “unhurt” or “unstruck”. The anahata chakra is the 4th of the 7th chakras, so it’s located right at the center of the chakra system, the place where physical and spiritual worlds unite. It is located at the center of the chest, the upper chest and upper back. It is here at the anahata chakra where we find the openness to be able to connect freely to a harmonious and peaceful world within and around us. Love and compassion flows freely and easily when our anahata chakra is open and balanced. We are able to forgive and accept ourselves and others.
Easier said than done sometimes huh? It’s okay and natural to feel like at times our anahata chakra is blocked or imbalanced. Sometimes life throws things at us that make it really hard to keep an open heart, situations at times that we can’t control or unpleasant interactions with people. It’s part of being human, part of life at times to feel the qualities of a closed heart chakra- anger, grief, jealousy, possessiveness, isolation, fear of betrayal, hatred (toward yourself and others). However, we have a choice with what we do with those feelings, with that closed or blocked heart chakra.
Do we keep it closed/blocked, hold on, and live in the place of grievances? Or do we take control of what we do with that hurt, feel them fully and then let go, and choose to live in a place of Anahata? In the end, the decision is OURS to make, and who doesn’t want to learn to love unconditionally and have healthy relationships with themselves and others?
When we live in a place of Anahata you will find that life just has a way of falling into place for you. With a heart that is open and free, new people and experiences will be abundant. With a heart that is open and free, you will be able to meet those new people and experiences with greater love, compassion, and understanding.
The best way to receive love is to give it. Love is a currency and whatever you give will come back to you.
So you might be thinking… what does asana practice have to do with the chakra system? The asanas (poses) are one of the tools that we have to help free up energy and stimulate an imbalanced chakra. Each chakra is associated with certain poses that help us distribute and direct (or redirect sometimes) the energy to the “right places” to help us feel balanced and keep the positive energy flowing. Our yoga practice in and of itself is a powerful tool and way in which we can connect to the deeper layers of the self, our divine pure self, where love and compassion always exists.
Our pose of the month this month is Camel’s pose- Ustrasana. Ustra in Sanskrit means camel and the pose is named after a camel because it makes your body resemble a hump. Nothing says heart opener like Camel pose. Practicing Ustrasana may bring on feelings of vulnerability as that’s common with heart opening poses since we have a tendency to naturally want to protect our heart center. So be patient with yourself and those feelings as you practice this pose, recognize them and try to work through them. Allow yourself to courageously live in that vulnerability so that you can keep your heart center, your anahata chakra, open and balanced.
This pose also helps to promote and connect to a deep sense of trust in the self and the body, moving slowly and carefully so as not to overstretch in this back bend. Some other key holistic benefits of this pose are that it increases flexibility in the spine, stimulates the nervous system, opens the chest and shoulders, improves circulation and digestion, and stimulates the thyroid. Another HUGE benefit of this pose is that back bends, like Camel Pose, can return or restore the natural flexibility of your spine; which is extremely important if you sit for extended periods of time in front of a computer or in a car, or just tend to hunch over and round forward more in general.
We are excited to open our hearts this month as we practice Ustrasana together in class! To practice it at home you can follow the instructions below. And don’t forget to snap a picture of yourself in the pose while you’re at it, so that you can enter the pose of the month challenge! This month is the last month for our challenge, so join us as we have a little fun and you may win a cool prize at the end of the month! Don’t forget to tag @innerspringyoga AND #soINyoga when you post your picture. If you’re not on social media you can still enter the challenge by emailing us your photo at email@example.com.
Begin standing on knees with knees hips distance apart; hips, shoulders, knees aligned.
Energetically draw shins toward each other, internally rotate thighs and widen sitting bones.
Hands at low back; palms flat fingertips pointing downward, or hands in fists
Externally rotate shoulders to draw elbows toward one another.
With hands at low back vision “creating space” by using hands to spread the musculature of the low back.
Extend the spine axially, and make the sides of the body long
As you begin to lift the hard into the back bend imagine lifting the shoulder blades up and over and imaginary bar that is just below the tips of the scapula
Extend hips by squeezing glutes.
Use the strength of the neck to support the weight of the head and keep the gaze at the ceiling.
Hands can remain on low back, or release hands to heels or blocks.