Working with the heart is scary business for most. We’ve all been hurt at some point in our lives and as a result we want to protect ourselves. I see many clients for intuitive work who have shields, walls and other sorts of energetic protection around their hearts. This is natural, we’ve been hurt before and we want to keep from getting hurt again. Yet when we create barriers like this it also makes it harder for us to receive love and we create this feedback loop of protection and inability to open to love which often leaves us feeling more and more unloved.
Yet its near impossible to go into the heart and demand it to “open up” to “be vulnerable.” When we go right in and force change and opening we can often create more barriers around our heart. When I work with clients privately I often find that going in through a side door to the heart is less intimidating and can give us even great access because the heart is not being made to feel vulnerable in the same way. With that in mind, we began our exploration of the heart chakra this week with the lungs. Physically the lungs rest around the heart, feeding the heart, in a way protecting the heart and even squeezing and cleansing the heart as we take deep full breaths. The heart chakra is also ruled by the air element and thus the lungs give us another access point to this chakra. Here are some lung practices that will guide you into the heart…
Find a comfortable seat and close the eyes. First find the breath, as you inhale and exhale simply notice it moving in and out of the body. After five cycles of breath bring the awareness to the chest and as you breathe feel the rise and fall of the rib cage. Feel the lungs expanding underneath the ribcage, visualize them moving with each breath. After ten rounds of breath bring the awareness to the breath moving in through the nostrils and throat. As you inhale, feel the coolness of the breath as it enters the body, as you inhale feel the warmth of the exhale as it leaves the body. Visualize the breath traveling through the nostrils down the throat and into the lungs. As you take your next few breaths, now imagine the breath moving through the nostrils, the throat and the lungs as illuminated by emerald green light–the color of the heart chakra. As you take each inhale draw emerald green light into the body and as you exhale imagine stagnate energy in the body and lungs leaving the body as black, grey or brown light. Each inhale draws in vibrant green light, each exhale cleanses the body and the lungs. Continue this practice until you can see the lungs in your mind’s eye filled and overflowing with deep emerald green light. Then, on an inhale sweep the arms out to the side, up overhead and on exhale trace the midline and bring the hands to the heart. Imagine all of the green light in the lungs now condensing inward to the heart and breathe. Stay here as long as you like.
Opening the Lungs with Asana
After you have warmed up, try this sequence of poses to open the lungs (and the heart). With each pose, feel the arms as an extension of the lungs and that with each inhale you take you draw the breath through the fingertips up the arms and into the lungs and each exhale breathe out from the lungs through the arms and out through the fingertips.
Start in Downward Dog, extend the right leg back into 3-Legged Downward Dog. After 5 breaths step forward into a Low Lunge, arms extended overhead. After 5 breaths, imagine the biceps pulled down by heavy weights and let the arms drop out and down on exhale as if you were holding a giant beach-ball. On inhale lift the arms back up. Complete this 5 more times and on the last 3 exhale through the mouth. After the last round, inhale the arms up and clasp the hands, bend the elbows and bring the hands to the back of the head. Press the elbows back, rest the head in the hands and imagine you could scoop the head and chest up with the arms. Press the elbows back. Stay here for 8 breaths. Breathe into the lungs, fill the collarbones. On inhale press the hands into the head to bring the head back to neutral. Stretch the arms back up and on exhale circle them down. Step back to a 3-Legged Downward Dog with the left leg extended back. Take 5 breaths, roll the hip open, bend the knee. Take 5 more breaths. Breath into the length of the left side from left hand through left lung out to left knee. On exhale unwind and finish in Downward Dog. Take a flow here if you like and then complete the same sequence on the second side, beginning with the left leg extended back.
Restorative Lung/Heart Opener
Finish you practice with a restorative lung opener. For this pose you will need at least one bolster (the bolster under the back of knees and blanket underneath the seat is optional, but can certainly help to make you more comfortable). Come to your seat and slide the bolster right up against the low back. Recline over the bolster and set the legs any way that feels comfortable, use the support of props as shown. Let the arms extend out from the body at a T. Breathe into the front the chest. Feel the rise and fall of the ribcage and feel the arms as an extension of the lungs. Breathe into the entire front body and let the breath lengthen and deepen. Bring the awareness to the front the of the chest and as the lung expands feel how they gently expand to hold the heart and as you exhale, they give the heart space to open and expand. Go into this place and be still, do not force or try…simply be with the experience of being present with your heart and notice what comes to the surface.