Just Breathe: Accessing the Heart Chakra through the Lungs

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…

Lung Meditation

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

image from blog.gaiam.com

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

image from yogawithkatrina.com

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.

1st Chakra: Earth Element

“Those who dwell among the beauties and the mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.” ~ Rachel Carson

Yesterday was the beginning of the Chakra Yoga class that I teach each Wednesday at 8 Limbs Yoga Wedgwood. As I mentioned in my last post, we are starting the exploration of the chakras with the 1st chakra and will spend the entire month diving into practices geared toward accessing and exploring that specific chakra. The 1st week, our focus for the 1st chakra was its governing element, Earth. We spent the practice dropping into the connection of our bodies to the Earth and ways in which we experience the Earth element in our bodies.

The 1st chakra rests near the base of the spine at the perineum. Our exploration included a great deal of focus on running energy from the 1st chakra into the earth. This can be done in your seat or standing. In a standing pose, the legs provide a vehicle for that energy to travel downward and connect with the Earth, and vice versa, to travel back upward and feed the chakra. Rather than telling students what they should expect to experience, I opened it up to their own exploration. Truly we are our own masters and have the best knowledge about our own energetic systems. The practices listed below are opportunities to open to Earth energy, and whatever you experience beyond that is true and accurate and represents your own knowledge around Earth in your body.

Below are some practices we explored in class to connect us with the Earth:

Tree Meditation

Find a comfortable seat. Feel your sit-bones resting on the floor. Take a few breaths and feel their weight resting on the Earth. Breathe into the length of the spine and connect with the 1st chakra located a the perineum. Take a few breaths into this space and then send your awareness from your seat into the Earth. Imagine roots growing downward, with each breath sink them deeper. After 8-10 breaths, reverse the travel of energy and just as a tree’s roots feed it water and nutrients, begin to draw the energy of the Earth up the roots and into your body. Let it rise up each root imagining the energy as light, color, sensation or simply envisioning it in your mind’s eye. Take 8-10 breaths drawing the energy into the 1st chakra and feeding it. Before you open your eyes take a few breaths to notice what you feel, breathe into your own wisdom and allow the eyes to softly open.

 

Connecting with Leg Lines: A Block Between The Thighs

Try the following sequence with a block between the legs. Start at the back of your mat and move slowly, as if you were swimming through honey. When you move from Ardha Utanasana to Adho Muka Svanasana, walk the hands forward on the mat to arrive.

photo courtesy of teachasana.com

Tadasana → Utanasana →Ardha Utanasana →Adho Mukha Svanasana → Chaturanga Dandasana → Bhujangasana → Adho Mukha Svanasana → Ardha Utanasana → Utanasana → Tadasana

Focus your awareness through the duration of the practice on hugging the inner thighs into the block and experiencing the activation of energy running down the legs. Take 4-5 breaths in each pose.

 

Prithivi Mudra: Earth Mudra

image courtesy of youngever.com

Find a comfortable meditative seat and close the eyes. Let the hands move into Prithivi Mudra with the tips of thumbs and ring fingers touching. Take a few breaths and breath into the energy being generated in the hands. Let your awareness travel from the hands into the arms toward the center of the chest. Imagine a rose at the center of the chest and as you watch the rose SLOWLY blossoms, then begins to drop petal after petal.  Each petal floats downward in slow motion and comes to rest at the seat. Spend anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes in this seat, as you feel complete, release the mudra, notice what you feel and then as you’re ready open your eyes.