In a world where so much separation and hurt exists, I think all of us could be benefited by living more from the heart. We are encouraged to live from the heart by spiritual teachers, yoga instructors and meditation guides, but would does that actually mean? What does it really mean to operate from the space of compassion and tolerance?
I recently led a 7 day Yoga Retreat at Anamaya Resort in Costa Rica and while there I led a heart opening yoga workshop. Within this workshop, we flowed through a short heart opening yoga class and then moved into a journal portion. As these women had their hearts opened through the yoga, they found they were able to dive deeper into the heart and ask themselves some powerful and deep questions.
What does it mean to have a closed off heart space?
A large portion of the population moves through life with their heart spaces disconnected or barricaded off. This makes it difficult for us to have compassion, to extend tolerance, to feel empathy or to connect with our own inner knowing. Perhaps you have felt this way or know someone who moves through life in this way. If it resonates, it’s okay. Let’s dive more into the why.
So why do people close off their heart spaces? Well, there are many reasons but there is one primary cause that affects the heart space more than just about anything else.
You likely guessed it right: Fear.
Fear is the quickest way to shut down the heart space completely. When we are operating in fear, our sympathetic nervous system activates and this is biologically connected to our fight or flight reactions. This nervous system is what nature programmed into you so you could survive dangerous situations where life or limb is in danger. This nervous system would serve you well if you were being chased by a lion or in fear of your.
However, most of us do not live in fear of a lion chasing us and rather have totally different stressors that put us into the same sympathetic nervous system reaction. We live in fear of our boss, of failing, of being late for work, of showing up unprepared, of losing. And while this situations are not necessarily a life or death situation, they trigger the exact same response. Our cortisol levels rise, our adrenal starts pumping and our body shuts off key systems like digestion so that we can save energy to survive.
Sadly, many of us have lived in this fear centered mindset for a long time. Many of us have lived a life full of stress, anxiety and fear and because of this, our hearts disconnect.
Living in the opposite frame of fear
To reconnect to the heart, we must connect to the exact opposite of fear. We must learn to live in a state of courage. In latin Cour means Heart so to have courage is to literally have heart. When we live courageously, we are living from our heart.
Here are 3 ways to reconnect to your heart space ~
1. Create an affirmation for yourself that embodies courage
Write out an affirmation that you can read everyday that encourages openness and love. It could be something as simple as “I live from the heart”, or it could be something longer like “I moved through life connected to my heart. I feel empathy and love for everyone around me. I am patient, kind and aware of my impact upon others.” Read this affirmation everyday. You’ll find yourself experiencing massive shifts from this simple practice.
2. Implement heart opening yoga poses
Each morning, start your day with a gentle yoga practice that weaves in heart opening yoga postures. Some great ones to add into your practice include reclined butterfly, camel pose, wheel pose, locust pose, Goddess pose and crescent lunge. By physically opening up your chest, you’ll immediately be more connected to your heart and what exists there.
3. Journal about experiences that have hurt you
If there are specific experiences that have changed the way you show up in the world or experience love, journal upon them. Write out what changed for you and what you’d like to cultivate during the next season of your life. This is also a great time to rub ylang ylang essential oil on your chest and remember the powerful emotion of love.
As you begin to live with more courage and connection to your heart, remember that it is a journey. You do not need to arrive at a full heart centered space immediately. Rather, find compassion for yourself and trust the journey you are on.