Open Your Heart

Hello and happy middle-ish of the month!
I meant to send this out last week for Valentine’s Day but, well…life happened.  So I am sending now as I figured it is always a good time to talk about love and the heart!
With all that is happening in the world, it can be easy to drift away from love into despair; away from love into fear, judgement, criticism, anger, etc.  There are many things that hurt us and make us want to close our hearts, both emotionally and physically.
As we know, what happens in our emotions affects our physical body and what happens physically affects our emotions.  Things like slouching and sitting in cars, chairs and couches can round the shoulders, collapse the chest and close the heart. Things like grief, betrayal, violence, oppression and heartbreak can do the same.
When our heart closes, our chest collapses and our shoulders round.  As a result, our breath becomes more shallow because the lungs and diaphragm are not able to expand fully.  This results in breathing that is isolated mostly to the upper portion of the lungs where the sympathetic nervous system response is located which is the part of our nervous system responsible for fight, flight or freeze and causes all the normal, every day functioning to shut down in order to deal with the perceived threat.
The parasympathetic nervous system, which is accessed through the lower portion of the lungs is responsible for the rest and digest response.  It is where we repair, regenerate, rebuild and assimilate,  all of which are necessary for optimal health.
If we aren’t able to access the lower portion of our lungs, our physical and emotional health suffer as we tend to remain in the fight, fight or freeze response causing a host of problems.
All that to say, opening our heart is not just something nice we say in yoga class.  We practice yoga so that we can stand our ground while keeping our heart open. We practice yoga to remain calm in the storm and keep breathing deeply so our system doesn’t shut down even when there is stress. We practice yoga so that we don’t close to the world around us with all it’s pain and disappointment and can still function and make a positive impact, even though we may want to close.  Keeping your heart open in the darkest and most painful of moments is an act of rebellion.  Stand your ground, for sure.  But keep your heart open, breathe deep and let the love that always exists in.  It’s good for your health.  It’s good for the world!