Happy hearts yoga
Practicing with elevated emotion through the heart. A simple sequence for returning to joy, by Isabel Lankester
Here is a short flow to open your heart and stay focused on those elevated emotions. All of us can sometimes need to be reminded of just how joyful the heart inherently is. From the root of the feet to the lightness in our heads, the body is whole and beautiful just as it is. Here, we look at how the breath can replenish our state of happiness again and again, reminding us to be grateful and content.
⬅1. Starting in Tadasana (mountain pose). Root down into your feet, extend the crown of the head as you send your awareness into your heart. We use mountain pose to ground the body and begin to feel into our full lung capacity. Soften the edges of the mouth and smile as you set an intention of elevated emotion, whether that be joy, compassion, gratefulness, excitement or something else positive that has just happened within your day. Use the breath to keep focusing back into this positive line of thought.
2. Take a big step out to the side with your left foot. Standing parallel at the edge of your mat. Place your hands on your waist and look upwards, elevate the heart forward and up. Here we inhale, sense into our wholeness before exhaling into a forward fold, either placing the hands on blocks on to the floor.
3. Prasarita Paddottonasana A. Option to micro bend the knees. Instead of pushing the head through the legs, encourage the heart to lead the body down. Stay here for five breaths before inhaling and turning to the back of your mat, to frame the left leg.
4. Anjaneyasana. Pressing into the front foot, begin to sweep the arms high, feel your innate joy as you broaden the collarbones and feel a slight squeeze of the shoulder blades behind the body. Here we find the heart is truly elevated to the sky. Option to have the hands together or apart. Soften the muscles surrounding the mouth; find that internal smile. Concentrate on lifting the body up and out of the lower spine. Each breath here is a reminder of our warmth, our inner joy of just being alive! Pause for five breaths.
5. Exhale as you frame the left foot, roll the left hip back and begin to fold forwards over the left leg into Ardha Hanumanasana. Sensing again into the humble nature of the head to the elevated and joyful heart, which here can rest forwards and lean into gravity. Option to have the hands supported on blocks and a cushion/ blanket to protect the back knee. Often known as a pose which activates svadisthana (spleen and sacral) chakras, the centre of creativity, pleasure and enjoyment, promoting focus, productivity and inner acceptance. Pause for five breaths.
⬆ 6.Inhale start to bend the front knee, quarter turn to the right again so your body is re-aligned with the side edge of the mat. Place the fingers on the floor, take a slight lift of the heart and then forward fold, catch your peace fingers onto the big toe joints and start to exhale, pull the elbows outwards and the heart down. Prasarita Paddottonasana D, generates a wonderful feeling of lightness to the hip bones and head with a broadening of the upper back chain. Here, concentrate on releasing tension/tight fascia around the upper back, and use the breath as a beautiful tool to encourage the heavy head and neck muscles to soften. The more we let go of this mental and physical weight, the lighter and happier the heart can feel.
➡ 7. Inhale quarter turn to the front of your mat to frame the right foot. Anjaneyasana. Remaining steady over the back knee, begin to sweep the arms up and over the head, finding that inner lightness, and replenishment of the central body via the breath. Remember that when we inhale our lungs quite literally hug the heart organ. It’s the place within the body we know without words. Can you connect to its place of expansion as your emotions begin to echo its warmth and energetic delight? Stay present here for five breaths.
⬆ 8. Exhale as you frame the right foot, roll the right hip back and begin to fold forwards over the right leg into Ardha Hanumanasana. Again, sensing into calm and surrender as the body descends to gravity’s pull. Pause for five breaths.
⬅ 9. Quarter turn for the last time to the centre of your mat, interlace the fingers behind the lower back. Begin to draw the hands over the head towards the floor. Option to micro bend the knees, and feel a tilt towards the front of the feet. This is a big shoulder opener! Prasarita Paddottonasana C. The feet stay rooted and the heart can open to its fullest extent. Notice your breath pattern and internal thoughts, stay anchored to your feelings of elevated emotion and fullness of heart, as the head becomes humble to the happy heart.
⬆ 10. Malasana. Lift the head, bring the feet slightly further in so the toes point out and the heels turn in. Press the hands together at the heart, remembering the centre as the hips stay low and chest bones press forwards to the thumbs.
⬆ 11a + 11b. Come into a seat, Baddha Konasana B. Press the souls of the feet together, hands can hold the feet like a book, as you lift the heart forwards and down. Option to really round the upper back, releasing tension again from the upper and lower spine. Can you feel the ripples of thought remain calm and the body quite literally curls in on itself? Beautifully joyful in this moment. Inhale, sit tall and stretch out the feet wide.
⬆ 12. Take a big side stretch, slide the right hand low and the left arm high over the left ear. Even in its asymmetrical form the body is stable, grounded and quietly joyful. What elevated emotions can you feel right now?
⬆ 13. Take a big side stretch, slide the right hand low and the left arm high over the left ear. Even in its asymmetrical form the body is stable, grounded and quietly joyful. What elevated emotions can you feel right now? Finally, lift up and side stretch to the left. Notice if the body feels comfortable looking up, to the side or down? How can your practice become more pleasant as we attune to the inherently happy heart of the inner self? We are all born inherently content and happy, so can we use the practice to simply remember?
Isabel Lankester is a yoga teacher and runs an online studio: isabellankesteryoga.com