Last week’s tip was about releasing the neck. This week, I want to focus on opening the heart for the alignment of the whole upper body and shoulder girdle.

Before giving you pointers you can use on the mat, in exercise, and in daily life to have more comfort in your body and ease of movement, I want to make an important point: The physical alignment of the body is about more than knowing how to hold it and giving it instructions. It’s about letting the body find its natural balance, its optimal form because your heart is in the right place.

Opening the heart is more than a cue or direction that you give yourself as a yoga teacher might instruct in certain postures. It is also an attitude, a way of life.

The more you open your heart emotionally, psychologically and spiritually, the easier it will be for the physical heart to release, align and heal.

As we develop a greater understanding of what is out of balance in our bodies and how it is connected to other aspects of our lives, we will begin to experience a physical transformation. As we heal our hearts, our bodies will begin to open. With love, time, movement and breath, we let go and release what we have been holding. When we no longer cling to old, unbeneficial emotions and perspectives, our chests expand and widen. Our shoulders relax. We walk tall as our necks soften and lengthen. With a change of heart, our bodies also change. Love allows for the possibility of a greater clarity, vision, wisdom, and expression of self.

As the heart heals, we can begin to strive toward our greatest potential. As the body’s bridge between heaven and earth, the heart is the evolutionary gateway to our highest possibility. Those emotions that are absent of love have their root in the lower part of the body. They are the most primitive aspects of self—our animal nature, our most “visceral” urges and instincts. Fear, willfulness, judgment, regret, disappointment, anger, insecurity reside in the gut and pelvic basin. What is the affect of these “lower” emotions on the body’s alignment, posture, ease of movement or sense of well-being?

Begin to study the way you carry yourself and how you hold your body. Use your physical experience, whether in exercise or in life, as a meditation. How does it reflect your past? How has your body responded to past physical or emotional traumas? Where in your form do you keep your wounds?

In her book, Engaging the Movement of Life, osteopath and Continuum Movement Teacher, Bonnie Gintis makes a very important point:

 “It’s unfortunately a common experience for people to feel that their body is inevitably bound to get in the way of fully living life. The wants and needs of the body are often viewed as impediments to spiritual practice and presence”…“The body does not have to be transcended to gain access to spiritual states of bliss or peace. The body is the vehicle for reaching these states and can fully participate in the process.” (p.5)

Your body, your life, the fact that you are alive and breathing in form is a great blessing. Give gratitude for its beautiful gifts. And start to open them.

Next post: Physical aspects of opening the heart—the alignment cues.