When I was about six years old I had a habit of riding my bike up and down the sidewalk that bordered the corner of our suburban home, smiling and waving to the people in their cars as they drove past. It was a simple act from a little girl who was truly present in that moment, sending her joy and energy to everyone around. One day, spotting me from the kitchen window, my mother called me into the house in a hurry, scolding me for waving to strangers as it may invite them to scoop me up and take me away from her. A mother’s instinctive nature to protect her daughter, sure…but what are the consequences when we the choices we make come from a place of fear?
It’s become instinctive for many of us to create a mental list of potential risks when we interact with the world, building walls around ourselves for protection. In this process, we are not only shutting others out and denying them the wonderful gifts we have to share, but we are closing our own hearts to receiving love from others as well. When we experience emotional stress, our energy and blood flow is limited, literally closing our hearts inside a cage of ribs, tissues and built up stress that is only natural as a defensive reaction.
And maybe it is that little girl in me that continues to want to wave to strangers that has urged me to follow a life of heart opening. A yoga teacher since the age of 6. To continue opening my heart and others, I use a combination of breath work, heart opening postures and awareness. One posture I urge you to try at home is:
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose)
- Lie on your back with soles of the feet to the mat, knees bent, arms long at your sides.
- Walk the heels back toward your bottom.
- Take the palms face up and hug the shoulder blades closer together behind your back – they will be your foundation to keep the pressure off the neck.
- Fully exhale, sending all the breath out of the body.
- Inhale, lift the hips toward the sky, keeping the thighs and feet parallel.
- Keep the jaw lifted away from the sternum and the knees hip-width apart.
- Take 3-5 slow, controlled, full breaths in and out of the belly, then slowly lower the spine and bottom down to the mat.
- Hug knees into the chest for a counter-stretch in Apanasana, and smile.
Ask yourself what choices have you made that came from a place of fear rather than love? What did you fear would happen, what would you lose? What was the result?
Reflect on a past situation in which you made a choice out of love.
Notice defensive breath patterns during challenging situations. With full awareness begin to deepen the breath through long, controlled inhales and exhales. Soften the shoulders back, melt the heart, relax the face. What do you notice?