Today marks the 13 year anniversary of when Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, and it was during this same week, only a year ago, that we were all watching the devastation that Hurricane Harvey had just wreaked on the city of Houston. In the aftermath of both of these events, we have heard so many accounts of what people did wrong — from the incompetence of governmental leaders, to the discriminatory actions of police officers, to the negligence of average citizens overlooking the needy in their efforts to flee — that they overshadow all of the stories that demonstrate what people did right. For instance, I feel enheartened and inspired by the members of “the Cajun Navy,” who rushed over from western Louisiana to Houston with their boats in order to help rescue folks who were stranded in their homes. And it seems to me that in our uber-polarized society, we need to acknowledge and highlight instances where people’s actions stem from an instinctive sense of shared humanity. So what’s preventing us from seeing our commonalities on a regular basis? What if we treated each other with dignity, respect, and belonging all the time instead of reserving that behavior to times of crisis?
From the Hatha yoga perspective, the head is the part of the body that divides and categorizes one’s experience of life while the heart region connects and synthesizes it. And so if our intention is to regain vision of our basic human unity, then it is a postural imperative to elevate the heart above the head. This is one of my favorite effects of a yoga practice that emphasizes inverted backbends: the poses make me feel as though my heart is expanding and my head is shrinking, energetically of course. I know that those regions aren’t actually changing in size, but the inner sensation is undeniable. And the attitude that accompanies this sensation is somehow more tender, patient, and kind than my habitual orientation.
If any of that sounds interesting to you, then I’d like to invite you to try a few practices from our extensive vault. Filmed back in 2014, the Full Circumference Chest Opening Series features asana sequences that are designed to expand your heart area in all directions. You will feel lighter and more open on all levels of your being. Hope you enjoy!