Heart Openers, On and Off the Mat

"Arms stretched out behind you, grasp your hands behind your back... lift your gaze and open the heart" The yoga instructor gently continues to remind us to round the shoulders down and back throughout the class. We are practicing heart openers.

I love yoga for many reasons: the chance to intentionally practice deep and full breathing, the chance to practice beginner's mind, the chance to sit and lie in silence, and the chance to do chest and heart openers.


Heart Openers On the Mat

Every time we do a heart opener, I am so grateful. Not only does it feel wonderful physically, but it reminds me to open my heart in other areas off the mat. While doing a heart opener, I marvel at why it feels so refreshing to me.

I realize that throughout the day and week my shoulders must incrementally be hunching up and forward -- walking in the cold, in front of computer screens, in hard conversations at work or home. Unconsciously I am tensing ever so slightly and closing myself off to protect myself from being inundated and hurt. I only come to realize it when I'm in a position that counteracts that instinct to curl up and protect myself.

Heart Openers Off the Mat

I was thinking of heart openers in light of Lent and Valentine's Day -- two calendar events that encourage the expression of love to God and love to people. I know, without having to examine myself deeply, that my heart has been closed off to people and God in various ways. Incrementally I've been guarding myself, barely noticing the hunching of "my shoulders".

My husband and I usually try to avoid going out on Valentine's Day because it's overmarketed and restaurants are over crowded. However, I've been reading blog posts lately on showing love to your husband and felt convicted. There are so many ways I could open my heart towards my husband in daily actions and words.

Lent is sometimes a time when people abstain from something, remembering the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert resisting the temptations of Satan. What if we resisted the temptation to close ourselves off from God and one another? What if we risked being vulnerable and opened our hearts to one another and God in a new way?

What if we practiced opening our hearts off the mat? How would that change us and the people we come in contact with?