Heart Openers: 3 Techniques

photo (18)

Coming out of winter, many of us have been sitting for months with our chest sunk behind our shoulders.  We’re cold! We’ve been watching House of Cards. We just feel a little tired, okay?

Totally okay.

But pause for a moment as you’re reading this and notice where your chin is in relation to your throat. Notice how your shoulders are sitting in relation to your sternum.  On the table, we can work into the congestion that sometimes gathers beneath the clavicles and help you open the spaces between your ribs. It’s remarkable how this helps clients bring their heart forward and shoulders down; they literally breathe easier.

Thankfully this is work you can do on on your own, too. Here are three techniques for opening up your heart and chest:

1. Things you like to smell. Really! Flowers, sauteed garlic, pine boughs, babies: Scent gets into the limbic system – that deepest realm of brain – and is one of the most direct sensory pathways to our nervous system. So, inhale…over a delicious pot of soup.

2. Find your people. You know those friends around whom you relax into just who you are? The ones who listen well and know how funny and smart and beautiful you are? Call them. Go for a walk. Commit to talking about how you actually are, in real time (not, cough cough, over social media).

3. Supported heart-opening poses. Yoga is a *great* tool for opening the chest and heart (and hips and shoulders and…). I’m a big fan of restorative-style yoga, particularly this pose, supta-bada konasana:

supta-bada-konasana

And this sequence of poses (confess I loved the line drawings – no fancy-ness required!).

newsletter_poses3

Images thanks to thingswelove2.blogspot.com.

 

 

Right-Sized Bites

Down on Broadway – South Portland, not New York – is an electronic sign with a running countdown. “Only 15 Days to Spring!” it says in green digital letters. Technically, we know this is true. But it is 20 degrees and snowing.  An icy crust covers all surfaces.  And we haven’t even gotten to the part where the snow melts, and months of detritus begin to emerge from the banks.IMG_2707

This is a season that can really test our trust.  Also our patience, our senses of humor, and our desire for fresh produce not trucked in from 3,000 miles away.

Last month, my family and I trucked ourselves 3,000 miles away, to Southern Mexico. Cloudless days, hot afternoons – we went outside without coats and ate roasted corn from pushcarts. I love (love!) being in warm places, and I’ve learned not to expect immediate arrival; it takes me at least a few days to stop squinting and start breathing, to actually land.  Coming back, I had a keen sense of how many time zones and latitude degrees we crossed in order to get from there to here. 

IMG_2624

Back in Maine, it is still winter. The season feels like a not-subtle metaphor for body discomfort: Like the pile of snow at the end of the drive, the aches in our bodies don’t go away at the pace we want them to. We want springtime, blossoms, and t-shirt days just as we want easy backs and unhindered shoulders. We are not accustomed to waiting, and it’s hard to trust the pace that gets us from here to there.

IMG_2692

Seeing the coming change at the level of tissue is a little easier. Tissue really does change; muscles unwind and let go, shoulders open.  But for that change to unfold, we have to pace carefully. We want just the right amount of work to invite something new.  Too little, and we feel unmet, too much, and we can react like seedlings in hot sun, over-taxed and overwhelmed.  When I work with clients, I think about what it means to take the right-sized bite; how to exercise patience and long-sightness so that they can  integrate change. 

IMG_2653

So I’m thinking this very long-in-coming spring is its own right-sized bite. Perhaps, with this much time to let winter run its course, we will really occupy spring when it comes. We won’t need automated signs to tell us when the season is here, because we’ll know it from the inside.

IMG_2636