Yoga of the Heart: Cultivating Loving Kindness

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Yoga of the Heart: Cultivating Loving Kindness

yoga schoolBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

The spiritual practice of cultivating loving kindness initially arose from the Buddhist tradition, although many spiritual traditions hold the practice of compassion towards others as a main tenant of their faith. The practice of regarding all living creatures with compassion and respect elevates spirituality beyond one’s own self-interest. However, many of us forget the importance of being compassionate with ourselves. Without self-love, it is difficult to truly love those around us. Additionally, a lack of self-love can sabotage our ability to take care of ourselves, which will hamper our ability to truly uplift those we love. 

When we learn to cultivate loving kindness toward ourselves through a refined and balanced practice of Yoga poses, pranayama exercises and meditation techniques, we will be much more able to uplift those around us by wordlessly embodying a state of grace, humor and dignity that is grounded in our own sense of self-worth. Honoring and loving ourselves, through the practice of cultivating compassion and loving kindness in our own Yoga practice, will naturally generate compassion for those around us, without sacrificing our own needs in order to take care of others. 

* Heart-Expanding Warrior One Pose with Lotus Mudra 

Warrior One is a simple and extremely powerful backbending Yoga pose that opens up and expands the entire front of the torso, throat, arms, shoulders, and neck. It also helps to elongate the spine, improve balance and increase the flow of prana throughout the body. To practice Heart-Expanding Warrior One Pose, warm up first with a series of Sun Salutations. This initial series of Yoga postures will warm-up all of the major muscles groups throughout your body and prepare you to flow into a sequence of standing Yoga asanas. 

If you need some guidance on how to practice the Sun Salutations, please refer to a reputable website, book or DVD that illustrates the series in detail. If you are a beginning Yoga practitioner, you may benefit substantially by going to a local Yoga studio for personalized instruction from a certified Yoga teacher. This initial series of Yoga postures will warm-up all of the major muscles groups throughout your body and prepare you to flow into a sequence of standing Yoga asanas. When you are warmed up and ready to practice Heart-Expanding Warrior One Pose, please come to Mountain Pose at the front of your Yoga mat with your weight evenly distributed between your feet. 

Begin to move through the beginning postures of Sun Salutation B, when you come to Downward Facing Dog, pause, and with your next inhale step your right foot approximately three feet towards the front of your Yoga mat. Keep your right foot parallel to the sides of your mat. Turn your left foot in 45 degrees towards the center of your mat and keep your heels in a straight line with each other. Exhale, and then inhale and raise your arms overhead. Press your palms together into a prayer position with your fingers pointing up to the sky. Hold for three to five breaths. 

To practice the heart-expanding modification of Warrior One Pose, bring your arms down to shoulder height with your next exhale. Extend your arms out fully to your sides and keep your palms facing up. You will feel a strong opening all along your Heart Chakra, throat and shoulders in this modification. You may wish to visualize a shower of golden light pouring into your heart and filling you with love and warmth as you hold this Yoga pose. Hold the posture for three to five complete breaths, and then come back to the front of your mat and pause in Mountain Pose. 

A beautiful way to complement the heart-opening practice of this modification of Warrior One Pose is a contemplative moment of reflection as your place your hands in a prayerful Lotus Mudra at your heart. With your next inhale, raise your “handmade” lotus over your head and gently open your fingers. You may wish to ask the universe to fill your hands with divine light, goodness and abundance; the beneficent gifts of the Goddess Lakshmi. Pause to receive and be filled with the abundance of the universe and with your next exhale, bring your hands back down to your heart in Lotus Mudra and bow your head to your own heart. 

© Copyright 2014 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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