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Heart Crisis: 4 Yoga Poses to Open Your Heart Chakra

By Ashley Zeller, JCC Wellness School Manager and Yoga Instructor E-RYT® 200

Angie Finds Relief. About a year ago a new student complained of neck and shoulder pain. After a few sessions and conversations, we discovered she had recently switched from working part-time to full-time, significantly increasing the time she spent sitting at a desk in front of a computer. Her pain level decreased dramatically after bringing her computer to eye level and by attending yoga classes twice a week. She also had no need for physical therapy anymore.

Text Neck. Similar complaints are all too common among not only my yoga students and Reiki clients, but with society as a whole. You may have heard the term “text neck” used to describe the pain associated with overuse of our phones, devices, and computers. According to a 2014 article in the Washington Post and in reference to a study on the effects of smartphone use on the spine, “It is an epidemic or, at least, it’s very common,” Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, said. “Just look around you, everyone has their heads down.”

The article goes on to emphasize that tilting the head down while looking at a phone can put up to 60 extra pounds of pressure on the spine. The result of the added weight could mean more surgeries according to Hansraj.

Heart Crisis. And what about all the pain medicine prescribed and possible addiction acquired as a result of this “epidemic?” Time recovering from surgeries might mean more time spent tucked away with our phones and devices. Where Hansraj proclaims “epidemic,” I say we are in a Heart Crisis!

Our hearts are closing. Not only are our physical bodies closing, but we are emotionally shutting down. We have a false sense of community through social media and our virtual world.  The truth is some of us spend more time in our virtual worlds, hunched over our devices than time spent with our actual, tangible family and friends.

The Chakra System. What do we do about this Heart Crisis? We reopen the heart by tapping into the heart chakra, a large element in the entire chakra system. The chakra system itself is a powerful piece in the foundation of yoga, Reiki, meditation, and other healing modalities. The word chakra comes from Sanskrit and translates to mean “wheel of light,” says Ambika Wauters in The Book of Chakras. “The chakra system is a model for the flow of energy that runs through all life and through the human energy system. It is like a ladder that takes us from the physical realm of substance up through the workings of the higher mind and spirit, and into the realm of Divine Consciousness,” says Wauters.

Most know the heart chakra and other chakras as being a part of a seven-part system. Each chakra is connected to a specific set of organs, negative and positive emotions, negative and positive characteristics, and memories.

The Heart Chakra. The heart chakra is associated with the organ of the heart and all pulmonary functions and the thymus gland. It is strongly effected by love or lack of love and grief. For example, I recently gave Reiki to a client who had just lost her spouse of 40 plus years. When I placed my hands on her heart chakra, the energy felt and looked like a gloppy, motor oil puddle. Around the same time while working on the heart chakra of a child, the energy was like standing in an untouched forest with the mystery of morning fog keeping me alert.

Definition of the Open Heart Chakra. When the heart chakra is open or balanced we are filled with genuine, unconditional love for all beings. We are compassionate, but we also have healthy boundaries. When a person’s heart chakra is out of balance “they have expectations about the how and whom they can love. If someone falls outside of the realm of their conditions they withhold their love. They love in the limited way they have been loved,“ says Wauters.

The woman who recently lost her spouse will hopefully be intentional about the care of her heart. If she succumbs to the Heart Crisis, stays fixed in grief, and spends most of her time isolated and physically rounded over a device, she could experience challenges such as neck/shoulder pain, asthma, and other discomforts. The gloppy puddle could harden and so could her heart. However, if she is intentionally active, among friends and practices movement that physically opens the heart chakra she will likely be healthy and joyful at the end of a natural grief cycle.

Many of us can relate to the woman’s loss and/or “text neck” and the Heart Crisis. Death and loss are unavoidable. And we aren’t hanging up our smartphones any time soon. But there are many exercises, meditations, activities, and techniques we can use to open the heart chakra (and all the chakras) to create on an overall healthy state.

Four Simple Poses to Open Your Heart Chakra. Please enjoy these four simple yoga poses to open the heart chakra (consult with your doctor before practicing the following poses if you have neck or spine injuries)

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 Sphinx. Begin on the belly. Place the elbows under the shoulders with hands separated shoulders distance and spread the fingers.  Press deep into the elbows and forearms, feeling the shoulders move away from the ears.  Keep the chin away from the chest and the eye gaze directly forward.  Lengthen and firm the legs while feeling an inner spiral of energy within the legs.  Firm the bottom without clenching.  Energize the lower belly.

Contraindications and Cautions:  Back Injury, Pregnancy

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 Low Cobra. Begin on the belly.  Bend the elbows and place the hands with fingers spread under the armpit area.  Keep the legs close together while extending the legs behind and while grounding the feet.  Firm the legs while feeling an inner spiral of energy within the legs.  Firm the bottom without clenching.  Lift the torso halfway up off the mat using the strength of the muscles in the back and the energy in your abdominals as the lifting force (not your hands as the lifting force).  Feel the shoulder blades draw down the back, the shoulder joints roll back, and the elbows lightly in towards the sides.  Keep the eye gaze down, as the back of the neck lengthens.

Contraindications and Cautions:  Back Injury, Pregnancy

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  Bridge. Begin on the back with knees bent and the feet to the earth.  Bring the heels near the bottom and separate the feet hips distance.  Avoid turning the feet out.  Keep the toes pointed forward.  Straighten the arms down the sides, firm the outer arms, and roll the shoulder joints open and back.  Feel the feet right under the knees.  Lift the hips and chest towards the sky.  Feel the power of the underside of the body to avoid splaying the knees out.

Contraindications and Cautions:  Neck Injury, Pregnancy

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 Table. Begin seated.  Bring the hands on the mat slightly behind the hips with the fingers facing forward or back.  Bend the knees and move the feet close to the bottom.  Place the feet hips distance apart.  Lift the hips to knee level.  Press the earth away from the hands and feel the chest rise higher.  Feel the power of the underside of the body to avoid splaying the knees out.

Contraindications and Cautions:  Wrist Injury, Pregnancy

Are you interested in learning more about the Chakra System and/or yoga?  Attend the Chakra Workshop with Ashley Zeller on October, 22 from 1:30 to 2:30 at the JCC or contact Ashley Zeller, 317-251-9467 x2311.

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