Deepak Chapra once said, “The less you open up your heart to others, the more your heart suffers.” People who have experienced heartbreak might argue the opposite; that opening our heart makes us suffer. However, if we can use our past mistakes to understand ourselves better, we will eventually recognize the people and experiences that allow us to open up and be ourselves.
Despite his rising career as the Chief of Medicine at a prominent hospital in Boston, Deepak Chopra began to grow a distaste for Western medicine due to its emphasis on prescription drugs. He studied transcendental medicine which influenced him to quit his job and form a company that specialized in holistic products that healed people naturally. He encouraged others to stop focusing on material items and drugs to make their lives seem brighter, but to instead focus on their own happiness to find their inner-light. (Deepak Chopra Biography, A&E Television Networks).
This ideology dates back to the early 20th century, when Swamis, or yogis founded by religious teachers, began migrating West, hoping to spread spiritual understanding through the practice of meditation and the concept of self-realization. One swami named Mukunda Lal Ghosh, urged others to ask themselves, “Who am I?” so they could discover their innate self, beyond their exterior ego (How Yoga Got Here, Yoga Set Free).
Once we set out on a path towards understanding and appreciating ourselves, we are that much closer to opening our hearts. In an ode to the swamis who brought yoga and its practices to Western culture, let’s practice some heart-opening poses that will teach us more about ourselves.
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Upward and Onward
Let’s start with the heart opener used commonly in vinyasa sequences; Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana). In this position, you lie on your stomach with your legs stretched long and the tops of your feet on the floor. You hands should be flat on the floor as your arms hug the slides of your chest. Next, straighten your arms as you lift up your torso, move your tailbone towards your pelvis, and lift your legs a few inches off the floor. Make sure that your elbow pits are facing forward. Rather than rounding your hips and chest, you are opening them, as well as your heart (Upward-Facing Dog Pose, Yoga Journal).
Dancing On My Own
Looking for a more challenging heart opener? Try Lord of the Dance Pose (Natarajasana). Start by standing tall with your feet flat on the ground, about hips distance. Ground your standing leg as you lift your other knee up to your chest by maintaining a tight core. Once you find balance in this position, take hold of the top of your lifted foot and pull it behind you without letting go of your grasp. Next, tilt your body forward until it is parallel with the floor, similar to your positioning in Warrior 3 Pose (Virabhadrasana III).
Once you feel balanced, tip your other hand and chest up toward to the ceiling. If this feels comfortable, try adjusting your arm so that your elbow is facing towards the ceiling as it grasps down toward your toes.
Remember: Don’t be afraid to use props. If your foot and hand are far away, use a strap to connect them in this pose. This will further open your heart and get you closer to the completion of this pose and unlocking all its benefits.
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A Rosy Outlook
Did you know that the stone, Rose Quartz, promotes self-love, clarity and restoration of harmony through forgiveness and compassion? It is believed that wearing jewelry close to your heart that contains Rose Quartz can attract love from others and/or promote a deeper appreciation for oneself. If a fashionable, heart-opening piece of jewelry peeks your interest, check out the Rose Quartz Expandable Necklace by Alex and Ani, for the affordable price of $78.
Feed Your Soul
Once we begin to open our hearts, how do we keep them healthy so we can live long and prosperous lives? “The food we eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison,” said Anne Wigmore, a well known holistic health practitioner, nutritionist, author and doctor who used wheatgrass juicing to heal herself and promote natural healing across the world. Let’s use Anne Wigmore’s approach to self-healing by fueling our bodies with foods that have tremendous benefits for our hearts (The Anne Wigmore Foundation).
Did you know that the grilled salmon on your plate or the raw salmon in your sushi, is not only delicious, but also beneficial for your heart. It is full of omega-3 fatty acids that prevent heart disease.
Not Nuts About Walnuts?
Maybe you’ll have a change of heart when you discover that they contain omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E and fiber which promote a healthy heart. Tip: Throw a few walnuts into your oatmeal or salad. It will add texture to your meal without overpowering it, while simultaneously providing you with nutritional benefits.
Cha Cha Cha Chia
Did you know that Chia Seeds can reduce bad cholesterol and plaque buildup? Best of all they are only 60 calories per serving. Some of my health-conscious friends have raved about items like chia pudding and chia shakes for years; but I was late to the party, only getting on the ban-wagon this year. I think some people are scared away from the consistency, as this was a main concern for me. However, I discovered that you can purchase ground chia seeds that can be added to your morning shake or yogurt, to fill you up, provide you with heart benefits, while remaining undetected (The 25 Best Foods for Your Heart, Deborah Hastings).
When we open our heart to something or someone, there is always the potential to get hurt. Despite this risk, it actually hurts us more to stay closed to life’s infinite possibilities. Furthermore, if we practice self-love and become truly content with ourselves, we will be less likely to fall apart if things go wrong, and more likely to move forward and prosper with a better idea of what we want.