A Practice for Opening the Heart

What would it be like to live with a permanently open heart?

This is a question that I have been contemplating recently. What I’ve noticed is that, the more I can accept whatever is going on in the moment, the more connected I feel to my heart. I see that accepting what is happening inside is the direct route to accepting what’s outside.

Obviously this is not an easy task, especially when I don’t like what is going on. But taking time each day to contact myself and simply breathe into the different parts of my body, while welcoming the sensations, has really supported me in openhearted acceptance—of myself, and of whatever is happening in the moment.

The Practice: Self-Soothing for Body and Soul

  1. Place your legs up the wall and a pillow under your head, making sure you are comfortable. This position calms and nourishes the heart, and has a quieting effect on the mind.
  2. Bring one palm over the other, just above the pubic bone, and direct your breath and awareness into this area. Feel the warmth of your hands calming and comforting yourself.
  3. Moving slowly up the midline of the body, place your hands on as many different areas as feels good, ending with the hands lightly resting on the throat.
  4. If there is a region that feels particularly tense, place one hand there and another hand on an area that feels relaxed and well. Sense well-being being transmitted between the two.
  5. Include a mantra to stay connected to your breathing. I often use the word “Shalom,” which traditionally means peace but, like many ancient words, contains so much more.
  6. Practicing in bed before sleep sets us up for a deep night’s rest. It is also nourishing at any time of day, as a way to slow down an overactive mind and come into the present moment.

There it is—simple and effective. Giving yourself the time and space to do the practice is the challenge.

It is in the practice of Partner Yoga where I have felt the most continuous stream of openhearted presence, particularly during weekends for couples and more extended trainings. There is something truly magical that happens when humans share conscious, compassionate contact over a period of time. In Partner Yoga practice, all the ways in which we normally judge ourselves and each other quickly fall away and we see and feel how we all want the same thing—to love and be loved; to be seen, heard, and understood; and to be accepted unconditionally.

Find out about upcoming programs with Elysabeth Williamson at Kripalu.

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Elysabeth Williamson, E-RYT 500, internationally recognized as the foremost authority on partner yoga, is author of The Pleasures and Principles of Partner Yoga.

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