Forever, February has reminded me of giddy love; cutout paper hearts, Hallmark, red roses, chocolate kisses, colorful candy hearts “I love you” mugs, teddy bears, pink underwear and big fat juicy smooches. I still love the trademark Valentine trappings – it’s fun. But my understanding of true essential love has evolved and may be best expressed by the following quote.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”- Corinthians
Giving and receiving love with a compassionate and wide-open heart is by far the best medicine I know of for happiness, healing and true love.
GUIDANCE FOR CREATING JOY IN YOUR LIFE
A healthy backbend practice encourages an open heart and will naturally help relieve a stiff achey back; returning you to that youthful loving feeling of flexibility and mobility you’ve long been missing. A daily practice of lifting and opening your chest through a variety of back bending postures opens the heart and creates space so we can go with the flow of love with ease. Backbends are a wondrous physical motion that logically encourage our hearts to open, allowing love to flow. In many ways a backbend puts you in a vulnerable position; the heart is a vital organ you cannot live without. Not only does this put your physical body out in the open, but your emotional self as well.
There is a reason we use the term “heart – ache.” To let go and experience love, we must be willing to set our fears aside and be vulnerable. When you expand your chest and open across the front, you are exposing your heart. In this posture, letting go of pent up grudges and resentment is simply easier. The conscious intention to forgive and let go, and the desire to connect deeply with others, your heart is unbounded and open to grow in every direction.
“Backbends encourage us to open the chest and heart, to inhale deeply – actions that symbolize embracing life. “The act of being able to feel— to truly feel – is important for balance, whether physical, mental, or emotional.” Moving Toward Balance” — Rodney Yee
As your back bending practice grows and your heart begins to soften and open this year…
I hope everyday brings amazing discoveries and pure delights, and inspires you to reach greater heights of energy, joy, vitality and love. Continue to live each day with the promise and practice of love. A compassionate and open heart will help you make better choices, that lead you out of dark places and into light and brighter spaces.
WHAT WILL BACKBENDS DO FOR YOU?
Strengthen the back and increase mobility in the spine.
Open the heart chakra and emotional center.
Energize both body and mind.
Expand and stretch the chest and shoulders, solar plexus, abdomen, hips and thighs.
Beginning your back bending practice:
Bring your spine into an even arc so that no particular area feels stressed. Certain areas of the spine (the lumbar region for example) have quite a bit more mobility than others. This makes it easy to depend more on these areas for backbends. It’s important to feel for a sense of “evenness” throughout your entire spine.
Gentle passive back bending with a bolster or stability ball are wonderful alternatives to the mat. Passive backbending gently opens the chest and upper back while softening and expanding the spinal muscles. The breath flows freely as the ribcage lifts and broadens. The neck and the throat soften and relax.
Before taking any back bending posture, it is important to elongate your spine. Elongate first, then bend.
Because backbends often require quite a bit of effort, especially when starting out, there is a tendency to tighten the muscles of the neck and face. Focus on your breath, keep it steady and flowing; releasing tension from these areas.
Relax your shoulders away from your ears, shoulder blades moving down towards your lower back. Also open the chest by bringing the shoulder blades together.
Set the foundation for your backbend with mindfulness and awareness. Move slowly and with compassion – there is no hurry! Clear your head of any negative thoughts or images and focus on smooth, deep breathing.
Are you ready? Not quite sure? That’s okay, just go, go, go and keep on going; let the experience of not knowing but trusting yourself, guide you into new postures and exciting places this year.
Join me, roll out your mat; let the love flow and everything you need will grow!
1. Lie on your back
2. Bend your knees, bringing the soles of the feet parallel on the mat close to the buttocks.
3. Pause, breathe and let the tension and fear gently go. Repeat as often as necessary.
4. Bend the elbows and bring the palms of your hands underneath your shoulders with the fingertips pointing towards your feet.
5. Inhale and press down into the palms as you lift the hips up off the floor.
6. Bring the crown of your head to the mat. Pause here for a moment as you make sure that the elbows are staying parallel and not splaying out to the sides.
7. Straighten the arms as you lift your head off the floor.
8. Make sure to keep the legs parallel.
9. Reach the chest towards the wall behind you.
10. Slowly straighten your the legs.
11. To come down, tuck your chin into your chest and lower down slowly.
12. Rest, join your knees together, and swish them side to side to release any tension in your back
Beginners: Try the pose at the wall. Take two blocks and place them leaning on the wall at 45 degree angles. Put each hand on a block.
Have someone stand behind you and hold their ankles instead of putting the hands on the floor.
Advanced or Just for Fun: Lift one leg at a time straight up to the ceiling. You may want to try this variation from bridge pose before you go all the way in wheel!
Climb down the wall from standing or come up to stand from the pose. Ask your yoga teacher or an experienced yogi to help you.
There is simply no wrong when you go with love.
“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. The thought manifests as the word. The word manifests as the deed. The deed develops into habit. And the habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care. And let it spring from love, born out of concern for all beings.”
Want to learn more about backbends? Check back on Valentines Day this Saturday. You can also join me and the other teachers at Karma Yoga to explore and practice an array of back bending heart opening poses.
Go With Love Everyday