News flash! It turns out the holidays aren’t really about buying presents, decorating trees, lighting candles or any of the other fun traditions we participate in. In the darkest days of the season, just after the days are at their very shortest, we re-connect with the love in our hearts in order to cultivate something very important to our survival: hope.
Yoga offers practitioners a way to open our hearts to love. The outside world is a mirror of our inside world. If we are fearful and angry, the world feels scary and frustrating. If we are loving and hopeful, the world appears joyful and full of promise. Here are four heart-opening poses to practice this holiday season. As you practice, say to yourself “I love and approve of myself.” After all, love starts with you.
1. Penguin Pose (Reverse Prayer) (Paschima Namaskarasana)
In a seated or standing position, bring the palms of your hands together behind your back with your fingertips pointing up. You can also grab opposite elbows (if so, switch your grip for an equal amount of time.) This pose makes your arms look like penguin wings. Breathe. Spread your penguin wings.
2. One Handed Tiger (Eka Hasta Vyaghrasana)
Begin on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Inhale and stretch one leg back. Exhale and reach the opposite hand forward. Feel as if the action in your extended hands and feet are lengthening your spine. If you feel stable enough, bend your knee and reach back to grab your foot. Inhale and press your foot into your hand to lift and open your heart. Breathe deeply, then switch sides.
3. Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
From all fours, inhale as you slide your hands forward. Keep your tail in the air. Your arms are strong and straight. Stretch your spine by pushing down on your hands while you reach your chest toward the ground. Now you look like a playful puppy with your tail wagging in the air. Yip! Yip!
4. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Lay on your tummy with your toenails pressing down. Place your hands under your shoulders. Inhale and push into your hands to lift your chin, chest, and knees off the ground. Only your hands and feet touch the floor. Your bod
y should be curved like a ski jump. Look up and breathe deeply. Exhale and press back into Downward Facing Dog or Child’s Pose.
When you finish your practice, no matter how long or how short, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Thank yourself for your time and effort. May your heart be open and your holidays be full of love, hope and joy. Namaste!