Yoga Poses

How Yoga Helps the Heart

It goes beyond the Cardiovascular System

Heart chakra banner

When I tell my yoga students we are going to focus on the Heart Chakra (Anahata in Sanscript), there is usually a sigh of relief.  We have worked our way through the physical Chakras of root, sacrum and core. The Heart Chakra, fourth of the 7 energy wheels in our subtle body, lies in the space to the right of the heart along the spine.  This area of our spine is one of the strongest of our skeletal system for good reason.  It is protecting a very important physical organ—the heart.Chakras

We consider both the physical and emotional aspects of the Anahata chakra. Our heart can be very vulnerable depending on our life experiences. What may result is a heart chakra imbalance – respiratory issues, heart issues, depression, fatigue, to name a few of the possible symptoms. When you are unhappy, your thymus, which controls your hormones slows down, which can result in a general lack of thriving.  Emotionally an imbalance in this area can either lead to shutting down or just pretending to be happy.

“The fear of giving and receiving love blocks health, joy and goodness from coming into our lives,” according to Ambika Wauters, the author of The Book of Chakras who adds, “The heart’s unique intelligence is to remember love,  It never forget acts of kindness, friendship or love. “

In order to access love, one must be willing to be vulnerable.  At the beginning of class, I offer my students doTERRA geranium essential oil if they need to open up more or melalueca if they need to protect their heart more.  Both sides of this coin leave one feeling vulnerable.  It’s the paradox of the heart chakra, according to  http://nyapatrinos.blogspot.com/2015/08/chakra-series-yin-yoga-heart-chakra.htmlAndrea meditating “through humility, we find our power; through discipline, we find liberation; by cleansing the physical body, we become more mentally clear and attuned.”

We begin our practice in a seated pose to try and still the mind and tap into the heart; easier said, than done.  It takes practice to distinguish what your heart is telling you versus what your mind is chattering at you. One clue is if thought starts with love then it is coming from your heart. According to Yoga Journal’s Stephanie Snyder in a 2015 article, “Over time you will be able to observe both. This inner listening cultivates a discrimination. Discrimination supports skillful choices, which lead you toward your heart’s calling, your purpose. The result is bringing compassion and love into all you do.”

I invite my students to set an intention for the practice, which is often very personal.

It might include forgiving someone who has hurt you, or opening yourself up to love again after a bad relationship.  It could be working on loving yourself or trusting other people, or being less critical of people. Be sure to listen closely to your heart to ensure your intention rings true for you.

We do the following practice.  Feel free to attend one of my classes on balancing the Chakras or try the routine at home. 

In a seated position we begin by loosening our neck and shoulders.  Be sure to sit on a blanket or bolster to protect your spine.  Sitting on a bolster helps lean your pelvic bones toward the front which keeps your back from rounding.  Half way through this neck and shoulder routine, change the cross of your legs to keep them from falling asleep. (2) Preparatory arm stretches will also include cow face arms and eagle arms (shown). Roll over to hands and knees.  A modified cat/cow with a child’s pose focus on shining your heart each time you stretch up and forward helps get problems “off your chest” (3)

Andrea stretching neck 225 tallAndrea doing eagle arms 225 highCat Cow 225 high

 

Rest in Child’s pose.  Then move into Puppy pose also known as Melting the heart.  (4) Draw your shoulders back toward each other, but be careful not to dump your belly. Move into thread the needle or revolved child’s pose. (5) This is an intense stretch for your shoulder.  Metaphorically speaking, your shoulders are the branches from your heart, which if strong can lead to generosity and compassion. Repeat on both sides.

Andrea melting heart poseAndrea threading the needle

Move into downward facing dog (6)—focusing on your shoulders drawing toward your back.  You might need to bend the knees a great deal to feel this in the upper back.  High lunges, Low lunges or Warrior 1 on both sides will be modified to reflect the opening of the shoulders. (7)  Do both sides. Our balancing series will include both Eagle Pose (8) and Dancers pose (9).  Both work the upper body.  Dancer pose opens up the heart while Eagle pose protects the heart. Do both sides.

3 DowndogAndrea doing warrior 1 with open heartAndrea doing eagle 225 tallAndrea doing dancers pose 225 high

 

Add two full sun salutations, focusing each move on a gratitude practice.  For instance when reaching to the sky, express thanks to the sun, the forward fold, thanks to the earth, half way up, thanks to your parents, all the way down, thanks to your children or friends, going through plank, thanks to yourself including your body. Upward dog, thanks to your mind, and coming back up, thanks to the higher being that you believe in. You can even chant these as you go through the sequence. This practice came from Seane Corne. Make sure to open your heart during your back bends.

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Perhaps the most vulnerable heart chakra pose is Camel Ustrasana (10)

The following description of this pose comes from Yoga Journal. “Camel is an upper-spine backbend that comes from narrowing in the belly and widening your hands to your hips and drive the legs and pelvis down as you lift the low belly, ribs, and chest upward.  Finally drop your head back gently as long as it doesn’t cause neck pain. Spend about 3 breaths here and repeat this pose three times. When you finish, sit on your heels, close your eyes, and enjoy the rush of being alive in an open-hearted body.”

Modified Fish Pose is offered as part of this series.  I do not do a full fish pose.   Fish Pose (Matsyasana) 11 is known as the destroyer of all diseases.  It stimulates your thyroid and para thyroid as it strengths the muscles of the upper back and back of neck and stretches your front body muscles.

Andrea doing camel 225 wideIMG_0003

We end the practice in a restorative version  of  Reclined Bound Angel Pose.  Supta Badda Konasana (12) Lie on on your back placing either two blocks or place a bolsters length wise and incline it with a block or two.  Lay back with your spine directly over the bolster. If you are using blocks make sure one block is right across your shoulder blades (for ladies, no lower than the bra line).  Once comfortable open your heart and allow your shoulders to sink towards the floor. Then place your feet together and let you knees fall out to the side.  Roll a blanket into a rope and wrap around your ankles or place blocks under your knees to support you. Visualize the color green, which protects your heart or pink to represent your heart as you relax in this pose. The heart seed mantra is YAM.  Breathe in unconditional love for yourself and others.  Exhale and release old hurts, regrets, anger and grief.

ANdrea doing fish pose 225 highAndrea meditating with hands at heart 225

I wish you health and joy in  your day.  Namaste,  Andrea

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Taking Root – Balancing the Muladhara Chakra

muladhara chakra

Life is always throwing curve balls at us.  Many times these abrupt changes can leave us feeling rootless.  That rootless feeling is often associated with an imbalance in the Root Chakra.

ChakrasThe root chakra, Muladhara, as it is known in Sanscript, is all about security.   Yoga and Essential Oils can help rebalance your root chakra by reducing feelings of anxiousness and helping you feel more grounded. In my experience and readings I have done, there appears to be three ways your root chakra can become imbalanced (bear with me, this is an oversimplification).

  • Something big happens like a job change, change in marital or family status, a death or health related issue that rocks your world.
  • Unresolved issues that might be deep seated related to security from childhood creating long held tension and lower self-esteem.
  • An incredibly busy mind and body that is going all the time, leading to a daily need to ground oneself  with calming practices and daily routines. (I fit into this category)

As a Yoga teacher,  I have been working with my students to understand and balance their chakras.  We started at the beginning with the root chakra, which resides at the base of the spine. (see Blog post for more basics on chakras). When teaching a yoga class focused on balancing the root chakra, I start with an invitation to use doTBalanceERRA  Oils special blend called Balance.  Pure therapeutic essential oils are 1000 times more potent than herbs.  doTERRA Oils  are produced without additives like so many of the oils sold on the market today.

Balance is a perfect blend of Spruce, Frankincense, Blue Tansy, Blue Chamomile, Ho Wood in a mixture of Coconut Oil. The Frankincense has a grounding effect on emotions, while the Ho Wood, Blue Tansy and Blue Chamomile can ease anxiety.  I offer the students a drop of the oil to rub on their hands, their feet or to place on a flat cotton pad. I also diffuse the oil in a mobile diffuser.  We start the class in Mountain Pose 1 (Tadasana) feeling our feet firmly grounded and begin breathing in the oil as a way to feel securely planted on the earth.

Balancing the Muladara ChakraWe set an intention during this grounding which might relate to personal security such as “I know I will make enough money to pay my bills” or “even though I am currently experiencing major health challenges, I will trust in my body and my health practitioners to lead me back to health.” Other yoga poses that I incorporate into a Root Chakra Balancing practice are : Child’s pose 2 (Balasana) with your head on the floor or a block, Downward -facing dog  pose 3 (Adho Mukha Savasana) into low lunge pose 4 (Anjaneyasana).  Working the lower body builds the strength in the legs and flexibility in the hips so that you feel  supported.

Rooting your feet during either a Warrior 1 or Warrior 2 series 5 (Virabhadrasana II) continues to help you draw strength from the earth and your lower body. An obvious choice for a balance pose in such a practice is Tree Pose 6 (Vrksasana), but make sure in all of these poses that you do not  push yourself beyond what feels safe and secure.  Maybe you place your feet on your shin and not on your thigh for tree or stand close to the wall in case you need to support yourself.   Chair Pose 7 (Utkatasana) and Yoga Squat  pose 8 (Malasana) can be added to  your root chakra balancing routine before you come down to the floor.

Part of balancing any chakra is to find balance within yourself between what is known as Sthira and Sukha, strength and flexibility.  Once you steady yourself through the lower body strength work, it is important to find a bit of ease.  So spend the last fifteen minutes of your root chakra balancing class, seated or lying on the floor stretching out your hips and hamstrings with a series of postures including  wind reliever pose 9 (Apanasana) reclined pidgeon pose 10 (Supta Kapotasana), reclined bound angle pose 11 (Supta Baddha Konasana) and ending in Corpse Pose 12 (Savasana). 

Muladara Chakra

In my class on the root chakra, I offer the students another whiff of  the Balance Essential Oil as we say the Root Chakra Balancing Mantra of LAM, LAM, LAM. To experience my compassionate style of yoga teaching, check my Yoga schedule.  To learn more about using Essential Oils, use the form below to send me an email.   

I wish you health and joy in your day!

Namaste, Andrea

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Heaven Lane Yoga – Designing custom yoga classes to meet your physical, emotional and health needs.

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Balancing Your Chakras with Yoga and Essential Oils

Chakras

Chakras are fascinating and the more you learn about them, the more empowered you can become to heal yourself and thrive.

Throat chakraMy two favorite ways of working with chakras are through yoga poses and essential oils. I was first introduced to chakras (pronounced with a hard CH like cheese) during Yoga School in 2014.  I had a vague understanding that chakras (a Hindu word meaning Wheels) were associated with parts of my spine and that each chakra could be represented by a color of the rainbow.  My instructor filled in some of the blanks with an excellent book entitled The Book of Chakras by Ambika Wauters.  In it, I learned how chakras could be thought of as energy centers of your physical, mental and emotional bodies.  I took a chakra self-assessment to figure out which of these energy centers were blocked and need to be balanced.

I was shocked when my imbalance showed up in my throat chakra known a Vishuddha. I laughed.  Me — the person who majored in Communication, spent years as a broadcast journalist, then a lobbyist for environmental causes, then a school teacher.  I was known to my friends as someone who willingly would give them a candid, if not blunt, assessment of any situation.  I also was known as a good listener.  In fact, many friends and students called on me when they needed to vent.  As I re-read the description of the throat chakra , it finally dawned on me that what was blocking this wheel of energy was my belief that I had so much to offer the world and no one was listening.  I was teaching to mostly empty classes at that point in my yoga career.  Today my classes are generally full and I feel much more balanced as far as my throat chakra is concerned.

yoga-eoI continue to help my students learn more about the Chakra System and its role in physical, mental and emotional health.  Using the essential oils as I teach my students yoga seems to enhance their  practice. I only recommend doTERRA because they have no chemical fillers or other additives which can actually be harmful.  In addition, they are carefully harvested in a sustainable way. Here is a quick primer on doTERRA Essential Oils

  • They are pure therapeutic grade of oils extracted in an environmentally sound way from different parts of the plants—leaves, stems, flowers and roots.
  • Each oil has specific chemical properties that can be powerful tools in health if used correctly.
  • Oils can penetrate cells through topical use, aromatic use(smell) or through ingestion.
  • Oils, as opposed to most medicines, don’t have serious side effects and are safe .

In the next series of articles, I will be exploring the Chakras, Yoga and Essential Oils.

I wish you health and joy in your day!

Namaste, Andrea

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Heaven Lane Yoga – Designing custom yoga classes to meet your physical, emotional and health needs.

Ask me about Doterra Oils.  I can save you 25% and provide you with great, useful information.

Connect with me!

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Make Your Fitness Routine Functional

Andrea doing cobra on the beach

Cobra is a gentle back bend.

As the yoga journey takes me more into the realm of helping athletes and others with injuries and illnesses, I have come across some very interesting reading material.  In fact, just this week (January 19, 2016) the  Fort Myers News Press had an article by Angie Ferguson entitled “Make Your Fitness Routine Functional.”  The term “functional” is showing up a lot these days when it comes to being healthy.

As Ms. Ferguson points out “Regardless of the number of stretches, exercises and physical therapy a person does, if the foundations of how the body works are not applied, all your efforts can be for not.”

What’s more, according to this article, functional fitness is as unique to each of us as our personal histories and/or  our habits.

So how does this apply to my style of yoga teaching?

Downward Facing Dog is a great example of functional fitness… stretching the spine and hamstrings while strengthening the core. Notice the bent knees

First of all, I am constantly updating my knowledge of how the body works and  have been applying these understandings to my own yoga practice and my teaching.  Here it what I have learned recently about teaching yoga for tennis players and other athletes.    There are three main ways yoga can help these athletes with their physical game.  (I am not going to address the other elements in this article like breathing, focus and a calmer state of mind.)

Muscular Endurance—“effort without dynamic movement.”  If your yoga class is moving through the poses too quickly, you are not developing endurance.  Holding a pose (as I require my student to do) develops endurance and also has the added benefit of helping you feel exactly where in the body you are working.  Mindful attention to the body will allow you to better access your functional health.

Functional Flexibility- “Functional Flexibility is a combination of Mobility – ROM (range of motion) around a joint site, and Flexibility – Muscle Elasticity or Tensile Resilience of muscles or muscle groups being dynamically challenged to lengthen. I use the term functional flexibility because this is not about getting your leg behind your head. Yoga is not about extreme flexibility.” This quote  is from Michael Brantl , a male golfer, yoga teacher and author of a book called The Empowered Golfer, Yoga for Optimal Golf Performance. His very important point is often overlooked in many yoga classes and in the on-line glamorization of yoga.

Butterfly

If your knees are on your ground in this Cobbler’s Pose, be careful not to overstretch the inner thighs.

What I explain to my students is if you are already very flexible in one area like you have very open hips then you will naturally gravitate toward a pose like cobbler’s pose or butterfly.  My knees touch the ground whenever I sit in these poses.  However, what that usually means is my ability to internally rotate my hips in poses such as Staff Pose or Warrior 1 will be more challenging.  So you guessed it.  I should be working on those poses and need to be very careful not to overstretch in the poses which have my hips open.

During one of my favorite workshops led by Dr. Steven Weiss called the Injury Free Yoga Practice, he put it this way…” In Yoga we put our worst foot forward.” So let’s all focus on getting functionally healthy by first, accessing our weakness without judgment, secondly, tuning in mindfully to poses and how they feel within our body and thirdly, committing to strengthening those parts of our body that are weak and creating flexibility in those parts of our body that are tight.

Most of all remember functional health is predicated on you. My job is to teach you to ultimately  become the assessor and the teacher.  I am here to help you develop your inner wisdom so that you are not relying on some generic instruction to help you reach your fitness goals. I am available for private and semi private lessons either at your home or through some of the facilities I am connected with.  For more details, check out my Yoga Page.  You can reach me through my contact form on my webpage.

To learn more about my yoga offerings, please check out my website, my on-line profile through Thumbtack Professionals or my YouTube Videos.

I wish you health and joy in your day and in 2016!

Namaste, Andrea

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Heaven Lane Yoga – Designing custom yoga classes to meet your physical, emotional and health needs.

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Andrea Trank
Heaven Lane Creations
HeavenLaneCreations.com

 

 

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