“Opening your heart to love” is an amazing invitation, but if it were so easy, why aren’t we all doing it already? As we well know, most of the ideas that are the simplest to express and comprehend are the hardest to actually achieve. Just like following the Golden Rule or resolving to loose ten pounds, “opening your heart to love” is easier said than done. So what makes this so hard?
It is easy to get caught up in fear, or the perhaps the idea that I’ve been hurt so much in the past makes love difficult. I don’t want to risk loving again or I may be stuck by the thought that I am unlovable. It is hard to “lean into the sharp points,” as Pema Chodron, the Buddhist nun likes to say, but the benefits and rewards are so worthwhile. Sometimes it takes a broken heart to truly prepare us to open and the practice of yoga sustains and increases that opening.
Our yoga practice is another vehicle for learning the skills to open up to love and do the risk taking to be “love.” In urdhva danurasana I trust the ground under me and my arms to support me, even as I totally expose my heart to the world. My head recedes into the background as my heart reaches for the sky—everything is upended, kind of like what happens in love. While backbends are a great medium for being in the metaphor of heart- opening there are many poses that teach me to love myself and to be more present.
Whatever type of pose is most difficult for me can be the gateway to greater self-love. The difficult poses allow me to explore their challenges breath by breath; knowing that it unfolds one breath at a time allows me the space to be present with whatever comes up. Difficult poses can be a lot like a love affair. When do I want to give up, and can I stay with uncomfortable feelings until they shift? When do I need to “effort” more to move forward, and when do I need to surrender to achieve the same result? And while I am doing all of these things simultaneously, am I paying attention to my mind chatter: to what I am I saying to and about myself? When I can speak to myself with love, then I am on the road to having an open heart.
Yoga is a wonderful instrument for quieting the mind and transforming the thoughts to more positive ones. It’s the “yoga zone” we have all experienced after savasana. We are not sure how the alchemy happens, but things just get untangled, and you meet yourself in a place of well-being, love and open-heartedness. So how can we open the heart to love? There are many paths to this goal and a yoga practice is certainly one of them. Maybe the next time you are on your yoga mat, you will view your least favorite pose as your greatest teacher. It’s the place where you can learn patience, compassion, acceptance, equanimity and… love.