Yoga for a Broken Heart
I have spent the past two years using yoga alongside therapy to heal my emotional wounds. Suffering from pelvic pain, my asana practice revealed to me that my physical pain was a manifestation of my emotional pain. Once I released that, my pain subsided and I was able to cancel an impending surgery. I have seen numerous times in my practice and in my teaching that pain in the heart and the body can be helped or healed through yoga. Through my healing journey, my teaching has evolved to a more heart-centered approach; one that focuses on the connection between the mind, body, and heart and the belief that they are constantly striving toward wholeness.
Here are a few of the techniques that I’ve used in my own life and teaching.
- Use affirmations with Sun Salutations
Bathe your body in the truth of who you are. Each inhale say “I am”, each exhale say the affirmation (silently or aloud). Do one Sun Salutation per affirmation below.
- Imagine red light at the base of the pelvis and say the words I AM SAFE
- Orange at low abdomen, I AM CONFIDENT
- Yellow at upper abdomen, I AM POWERFUL
- Bright green at heart center, I AM LOVING
- Pale blue at base of throat, I AM TRUTHFUL
- Deep blue between eyebrows, I AM WISE
- Violet above the head, I AM WHOLE
- White in the space slightly higher above the head, I AM FREE
- Soak in the effects of washing your body and mind in truth
- Talk to Your Pain
When you feel physical pain, silently ask the pain what it is trying to tell you. Give it a chance to speak – tell it you’re listening. Sometimes it helps to practice asana, journal, draw, or go for a walk during this process.
- Ground the feet down and open the heart up
Use standing and balance poses to help you feel grounded and present. Practice chest openers to help you keep your heart open. Interlace your fingers at your back, hug your shoulder blades and elbows together, reach the knuckles toward the floor, and lift the sternum and side ribs up. Do this as often as possible to help you keep your heart open to life and joy.
- Keep your heart soft
Pain can cause you to close up. To help you stay open, place your right middle finger on your heart center and gently and slowly massage. In that spot, imagine a beautiful ray of light breaking through the clouds. Choose a quality of love that resonates for you, and imagine that quality shining brightly. Any time you need to remember this place of love and peace deep within you, put the right middle finger there gently.
Brokenness and pain are part of being alive. Owning that pain and dropping into it is how we begin to heal.
What to Do When You’re Not on Your Mat
Gaia’s The Yogi’s Heart series can help you open and heal your heart.
Why Does Your Mala Necklace Have 108 Beads?
From the yoga studio to a night on the town, people are donning mala bead necklaces around the globe. However, this trend is steeped in meaningful tradition and symbolism. Each mala necklace has 108 beads, and each bead evokes an energetic frequency based on its material, whether stone or seed.
What is the Significance of 108?
The number 108 has a range of significance across many different cultures and disciplines. For example, this number informs the architecture of sacred texts that are central to yoga and eastern philosophy. As a devoted scholar of yoga and tantra, Shiva Rea explains in Tending the Heart Fire, “there are 108 chapters of the Rig Veda, 108 Upanishads and 108 primary Tantras.” And these texts are written in Sanskrit, a language comprising 54 letters, each with a masculine (Shiva) and feminine (Shakti) form, 54 x 2 = 108. Listed below are just a few of the many relationships that carry this number.
Ayurveda and Other Religions
In in the field of Ayurveda, there are 108 sacred places, or marmas, in the body, identifying intersections of matter and consciousness. When manipulated, these points can awaken and align the vital energy. Members of the Vedic tradition see this number as denoting the wholeness of the universe: one represents the solar masculine, zero represents the lunar feminine and eight represents the infinite nature of all things. In the classic japa mala, used in Buddhism and Hinduism, there are 108 beads used for prayer and mantra.
Mathematics and Astronomy
Mathematicians favor the number 108 for its countless patterns and potential divisions. For example, it is divisible by the sum of its parts and most of its proper divisors, making it a semi-perfect number. Through the lens of astronomy, the diameter of the sun is approximately 108 times that of earth and the distance from our planet to its solar star is, on average, 108 times the diameter of the sun. A similar parallel relationship also exists between the earth and the moon.
What is a Mala?
A mala, meaning garland in Sanskrit, evokes a circular, continuous form. In practice, a mala is the devoted offering of repeated cycles (typically in divisors of 108) of mantra japa or yoga asana. Within a mala, there is always a sense of beginning, continuing and completion. Both inside each individual cycle and in the practice as a whole. This three-form (trimurti) quality allows us to embody, in practice, the rhythmic cycles ever-present in the natural universe: creation (srishti), sustaining (sthiti) and destruction (samhara).