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Did you know yoga can aid heart break?

To open your heart means to open yourself to new experiences, thoughts and ideas. It requires you to expose your very core and openly practise love, acceptance and trust toward others and yourself. However, when you’ve been hurt in the past, especially in relationships, the idea of opening your heart will be met with fear. And it’s completely logical. Why would you make yourself vulnerable and risk the pain and heartache again?

As tough as it is, opening your heart is something to be embraced as you move forward and grow emotionally and spiritually. By working with the anahata, or heart chakra, and yoga asanas (postures) that stimulate this area, you can start to tap into the boundless love that exists within yourself even in the most painful of times.

Welcome to heartbreak

Heartbreak is like no other feeling. It tears you apart. It changes every aspect of your behaviour. It challenges everything you thought you knew and it can make you feel like giving up altogether. Healing won’t be immediate. It will take time and patience and you’ll eventually get through it in your own way. Yoga is no miracle cure but can be used to nurture yourself and to heal and gain strength back after an emotionally difficult experience. Yoga is the perfect tool to help you get back to your true self and deal with the anxiety, anger, depression and whole range of other emotions that come when you lose something that cannot be replaced. Yoga literally allows you to open up on a physical level and helps heal on an inner level, especially when it comes to the breakdown of a relationship.

Amid the chaos that was happening both internally and around me, dragging myself onto the mat … was the best decision I made each time.

It sounds like a cliché but it’s true. How do I know? I recently went through my own experience. My perfect world suddenly fell apart. My hopes and dreams crumbled. My confidence was shaken. My trust, shattered. I couldn’t get out of bed and yoga was the last thing I wanted to do. I didn’t know if I could ever feel normal again. My heart was in a million pieces.

Amid the chaos that was happening both internally and around me, dragging myself onto the mat, even though I had lost all motivation, was the best decision I made each time. Being such a personal practice, yoga is ideal when you just need time to yourself. It relaxes. It taps into the calmness within the calamity. It soothes. It strengthens. It can help target and nourish an area, particularly the heart, when it may feel like it has been shot to pieces.

The boundless love of anahata

Our bodies have seven energy points known as chakras. They are located at the major centres of the body, including the root or base, sacrum, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye and crown of the head.

The heart chakra is, unsurprisingly, associated with emotions such as love, compassion, joy, inner peace and self-acceptance. Energy flows through all seven chakras; however, when we are in a state of disharmony and imbalance, blockages occur and cause “dis-ease” to manifest.

A blockage in the heart chakra could come from a number of different sources, however they are largely affected by past experiences in relationships, love and loss. Naturally, these painful experiences can make you feel defensive, controlling, withdrawn, angry, afraid or depressed.

In Sanskrit, anahata means unhurt, unstruck or unbeaten, suggesting that, even in the pain of the past, there is limitless love at the core of your being. By opening the anahata chakra, you can tap into that love and compassion and help to release blockages so you can move forward and continue along the path to recovery.

In Sanskrit, anahata means unhurt, unstruck or unbeaten, suggesting that, even in the pain of the past, there is limitless love at the core of your being.

Harnessing the power of the anahata chakra and opening your heart after an emotional experience or personal struggle is no easy task. That’s why you need to be patient and kind to yourself and take it slowly. Working with this chakra will let you practise compassion, love and acceptance for yourself. Letting go of the emotions and experiences behind these blockages allows you to make room for new and better life opportunities. Drawing on the boundless love of the anahata chakra is the perfect place to begin healing and to start embracing and loving yourself.

Maintaining balance

Regardless of what you’ve been through, maintaining the balance and harmony of all the chakras is important for your overall health and wellbeing. A dominant or deficient heart chakra (or any other chakra, for that matter) should be kept in check. Even if you feel the chakra hasn’t been strongly impacted by negative experiences or if you’ve healed and moved on from them, drawing on the love of anahata can help maintain the general balance of this energy centre.

A person’s posture reveals so much. If you lead more with your head than your heart, you may be cutting yourself off from your emotions and your centre. If you notice your head sits forward, shoulders are rounded and chest is collapsed, it’s time to work with the heart chakra and allow it to open and harmonise.

This might be typical of someone with a deficient heart chakra. They may be distanced from their emotions, anxious and feeling unworthy of love. Physically, this may be seen in shallow breathing, asthma and other lung diseases. Those with naturally dominant heart chakras, on the other hand, may experience feelings of co-dependency, possessiveness and jealousy. In the long run, this could even manifest as heart disease and high blood pressure. Thankfully, yoga offers us a way to directly target this area when it’s in need of balance.

Leading with the heart

Yoga asanas, particularly chest openers and backbends, are a great means to directly energise and tone the heart chakra. You’ll notice in these poses that your chest expands, your heart is open and you start to lead with the heart rather than the head.

Heart-opening asanas are invigorating. They teach us to trust ourselves and surrender in the moment so we may open our heart fully and allow that love within us to emanate through our entire beings. Poses such as backbends, for many, have an element of fear around them. Your body may contract and resist going into the pose, but when you surrender and let the heart lead, this melts away and you can embrace the asana.

By opening the heart and stimulating the anahata chakra, you can actively start to cultivate that love and compassion within you.

By opening the heart and stimulating the anahata chakra, you can actively start to cultivate that love and compassion within you. This is why yoga asanas that stimulate this area are so beneficial when it comes to healing a broken heart. Drawing on that love and appreciation of ourselves and others as we practise asanas that target this chakra enhances the power of the poses. Remember the love, acceptance and compassion that is anahata as you enter a backbend; as the heart lifts to the sky; as the lungs expand with air; and as the energy and love of the “unstruck” heart ripple through your being.

It’s amazing the effect heart-opening poses have on the body. If you have a deficient heart chakra, going from a sunken-in, hunched-over position to one that opens the chest creates an immediate feeling of uplift. At the same time, poses that are calming and gentle allow those who may have dominant heart chakras the chance to look inside and reflect so they can find love and serenity in themselves.

Asanas for the heart chakra

The emotional and personal struggles around matters of the heart often usher in a time of uncertainty. Chances are you don’t know what’s going to happen in the near future and your plans may have been completely thrown out the window. Yoga puts you in the present moment and takes you away from the negativity and worry surrounding the past and the uncertainty of the future.

In times of struggle, many of us face the frustration of just wanting to get back a feeling of normality. In yoga, you can allow the challenge of a pose to be the means to open your heart and look within. The boundless love that exists within yourself is something you can draw on when you feel fragile. The calmness and clarity that come with this, in turn, build you up and over time help you heal. Just remember to be gentle and patient with yourself, both as a general rule and in asana practice.

Dancer’s pose (natarajasana)
Balancing poses such as natarajasana challenge you to find stability when you are teetering back and forth. The dancer’s pose is strong, beautiful and serene. Stand with your feet together. Grab hold of the right foot with the right hand. Inhale and raise the left arm to the ceiling. Start to bring the left hand forward and lift the right leg up at the same time. Slowly go deeper into the pose. Keep the hips close together and ensure the right side does not open up too much. Keep your balancing leg stable and focus your gaze on the hand in front of you.

Reverse/dancing warrior (viparita virabhadrasana)
Strong and agile, the dancing warrior opens the chest and back. Take the width of your mat and stand with your feet apart. Rotate the right foot out and bring in the left foot slightly. Extend your arms out to the side and focus on the right hand. Enter Warrior II and bend the right knee over the right ankle. Let the knee point slightly toward the right. The legs and arms should be strong and straight. On an exhale, lift the right arm up toward the ceiling. At the same time, start tilting the left arm down so it touches the back of the leg. Feel the stretch through the back and chest. Breathe deeply as you go deeper into the bend.

Upward salute (urdhva hastasana)
Let your heart soar as you open your upper body in this stretch. Stand on your mat with a slight distance between your feet. Ground the soles of your feet on the floor. Start to energise all the leg muscles and lengthen through the spine up to the crown of the head. Bring the hands in prayer position to the heart centre and connect with the anahata chakra. Inhale and raise the arms to the ceiling and enter a backbend. Let the heart lead and push the chest and hips forward. Complete several rounds, going deeper into the bend each time. Follow each bend immediately with a very loose forward bend as your recovery position. Hold the pose for several breath counts before moving to the next set.

Wide-angle seated forward bend (upavistha konasana)
Forward bends offer a chance for introspection and reflection. Start this pose by sitting on your mat and opening the legs as wide as possible. Point the toes upward and keep the ankles firmly in place. Bring the hands on the mat in front of you and tilt the pelvis forward so there is a slight curve in the back. Stretch and lengthen the spine and start to walk the hands forward. Move from the hip joints and lengthen the upper body as you start to bring the heart closer to the floor. Once you’ve gone as far into the pose as possible, grab the feet (or the furthest point you can reach on the legs) and hold the forward bend.

Camel pose (ustrasana)
Ustrasana requires you to trust yourself and surrender to get the full effects of this dynamic pose. Kneel on the floor with the knees hip distance apart and the top of the foot flat on the mat. Rotate the thighs inward slightly. Feel as if you are also drawing the sitting bones inward and up. Bring your hands to the sacrum to support the back and start to push the hips forward. Allow the chest to lift and open and peel the shoulders back as you enter the bend. Release the hands and hold the heels. Let the head and neck relax. If you cannot reach your feet, you can prop your toes onto the mat to get a boost. Follow with the extended child’s pose to counter the stretch.

Anjali mudra
When we are heartbroken, we are emotionally drained. Any physical activity can be a huge effort. Use the anjali mudra as a restorative position and focus on the breath. Start by sitting cross-legged. Tilt the pelvis forward slightly so you can feel your sit bones in contact with the mat. Lengthen through the spine, up to the top of the head. Bring the hands in the anjali mudra, or prayer position, at the heart centre. Lift the elbows upward slightly so there is space under the armpits. Allow the shoulders to soften and relax. Bringing the hands together on the heart is said to unite the left and right sides of the brain and allows you to directly stimulate the anahata chakra. Connect with the heart and allow the chest to open so you can take deep, full breaths and quieten the mind.

Veronica Joseph

Veronica Joseph

Veronica Joseph is an accredited yoga teacher who loves to share her yogic journey from travels in India, cleansing techniques, her favourite poses and their benefits and tips to remember when practising.

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