Open Your Heart – Not Just Today, But Every Day – Written By: Pamela Lyn
Valentine’s Day. Some people relish the opportunity to celebrate the ones they care about most, while others find it trivial.
The truth is, regardless of how you feel, you cannot ignore Valentine’s Day — we are marketed to from every angle; bombarded with heart-shaped objects, red and pink color schemes, and reminders to honor and appreciate.
But do we really need a calendar event to coax us to speak our truth? To share our admiration and open our hearts? Shouldn’t we always be communicating with our partners, offering kindness to those we care about (and to strangers as well)? Shouldn’t gratitude be a part of day to day life in order to support a healthy heart, mind, and body?
Therefore, how can we take Valentine’s Day, a single day event, and expand it, weave it through our entire year?
Through yoga of course!
But first, let’s travel back in time to the Roman Period for some historic fun!
Strong theories exist regarding the origins of Valentine’s Day. The best is the merger of Lupercalia, a Roman Pagan Festival, and the execution of Priest Valentine who was martyred for his good deeds of marrying young lovers during a time when marriage was banned.
“Banned?! How could that be?!” Because the emperor felt single men made better soldiers. Luckily Valentine disagreed and continued ceremonies. When caught, you can believe he was jailed, then executed. But not before composing what is thought could be the very first (and innovative at the time!) “valentine” to his true love — signed, “From your Valentine”.
Lupercalia was quite the interesting festival — Roman men gathered to sacrifice a dog for purification and a goat for fertility. These hides were then soaked in sacrificial blood and used to whip the behinds of happily expecting ladies; seas of ladies who lined the streets, bare-bottomed and patiently waiting their turn, as it was thought to promote fertility in the upcoming year.
An additional joyous merriment was a lottery in which single gals placed their names in a receptacle. Men drew at random and couples assembled; if sparks really flew, some even married!
The Catholic Church certainly Christianized this Pagan bacchanal when the opportunity arose. So they meshed the two events and voila! A primitive Valentine’s Day. Coincide that with birds’ mating season, introduce Chaucer’s writing to further romanticize and popularize the day, and centuries of history are now condensed into a few paragraphs!
So here we are, NYC 2018 — Valentine’s Day, as we know it, is approaching and everyone will acknowledge it in their own way.
But one thing is certain that we can do — heart opening postures in honor of this month of love.
We can shine our beautiful light out from within, share our sentiments for the universe, the community, and for ourselves. Let our magic radiate. If we have any healing to do, perhaps now is the time to begin addressing it.
The heart chakra, Anahata, means “unstuck”. It is capable of so much beauty, appreciation, and admiration. When your heart is open you will soar. You will have the capability to give and receive all the amazing connections the universe has to offer. So why hold hold back any longer? Go ahead, set yourself free. Let Valentine’s Day remind us with it’s commercial message, but then take it deeper. Recognize that love wraps us in the warm blanket of our daily surroundings and that gratitude is found even in the smallest moments. The more we share positivity the more we receive it back.
Perhaps try these yoga postures for a deep moving, heart opening experience. And then continue to remain open through all the days of the year, through your yoga practice, and through sharing. Not just on Valentine’s Day, but each and every day.
As Buddha said, “The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.”
Heart Opening Postures:
- Begin in a comfortable seated position. Take several deep breaths with your eyes closed. Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth. When you feel ready, press the palms together in Anjali Mudra. On your next inhalation, let the palms expand outward, tilt your head upwards slightly, and open your chest and heart wide. Chant the word “Yam” for the heart chakra, Anahata, as you draw the palms back together. Repeat three times or however many your body is calling to you. If you like, visualize the color green, the color for Anahata.
- Cat / Cow — start in a neutral spine on hands and knees, top of the head reaching forward. As you exhale, lift your belly button in and curl through every part of your spine for cat pose. Then drop the belly and draw the heart forward, arching all the way through your back, shoulders gliding away from your ears as you curve through cow, top of the head reaching towards the base of your spine, lifting and opening the heart.
- Parsva Virabhandrasana (Peaceful/Side/Reverse Warrior) — Starting from Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) stance. Front heel bisects the back arch. Parallel your front thigh to the ground, keeping your knee over your heel. Extend and lengthen through the front hand, tipping back, and stretching through the side body. Send the breath into the front side ribs to create space. Your back arm can slide down the leg as the heart begins to open.
- Rockstar — From side plank, bend the top leg and drop the tip toe right behind the calf of the bottom leg. Lengthen through your spine and shine your heart to the ceiling directly above, allowing the back bend to embody the entire spine. Keep the supporting hand right below the shoulder and press into your finger prints to avoid collapsing into your wrist. Let the other arm drip towards the floor, palm facing down with the pinky side of the hand toward the head. Let the neck relax, release any tension, and let the head hang naturally. Shine your beautiful heart out.
- Salabhasana (Locust Pose) — Lie on your belly with your arms at your sides. Internally rotate your legs to take the pressure off your sacrum. Breath nice deep even breaths. Lengthen through the heart and lift yourself off the floor, rooting into the pelvis and hips. Keep your legs and feet hugging in. Shoulders glide down the back, the back of the neck is long, gaze is down and slightly outwards.
- Urdva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose) — Begin on your back and bring your feet in about hips with apart and as close to the seat as possible. Place your hands by your ears with fingers turned toward the shoulders. Make sure your feet stay parallel. Take a deep breath in and on your exhale, lift your hips up high and let the head hang down. As you continue to press into the hands and feet, hug the elbows in over the wrists, and the knees over the ankles. Keep your core engaged to support the backbend. Feel your heart shining out.
- Matsyasana (Fish Pose) — Lie on your back. Inhale to lift yourself off the floor propping yourself up on your elbows. Drop the head back to open the throat and the heart. Shift the weight back to bring the crown of your head to the earth. As the neck lays back, let your tongue rest on the roof of your mouth. Press the legs together pointing through the toes without creating tension. Let your heart be fully exposed and vulnerable in this beautiful posture.
- Shavasana — Don’t forget this amazing pose. While lying on your back with the feet apart and dropping open to the sides, press into the elbows to lift the chest, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Lay yourself back down on to the ground with the heart wide open in this restful nurturing pose.
Postures Written and Edited By: Pamela Lyn and Christopher Temple