Heart Opening for the Summer Months
By Rebecca Lee Lerman
Hapa Yoga is really just an excuse to teach yoga for this magazine. I am a certified 200 Hour Yoga Instructor from House of Jai, and I happen to be Hapa. I hope all that I teach is easy to learn and accessible for all.
Fresh off of my series, Hapa on a Boat, recovering from ship life has become my number one priority. You can read about my experiences here. Living on a boat for six months can take its toll mentally, physically, and spiritually. For one, you are not living on steady ground. The fact that I dealt with a lot of things that hurt my heart, I am now devoted to healing and getting grounded again.
What better time to do this than in the Summer Months? Summer is all about warming the heart and connecting with the earth. It’s playtime; time to find your joy. The sun comes out so that you can finally run outside and lie on the fresh green grass, lean up against the strong and sturdy trees and laugh with friends and loved ones.
What hobbies make you feel buzzed and vibrating higher? Is it putting a paintbrush to canvas? Dancing more? Running? Sitting quietly and reading? Exploring the world? Taking a hike into the mountains? We can now reconnect with our heart happy hobbies.
We can wear light greens and pinks---the colors for the heart chakra; colors of life and vibrancy.
We can eat those fresh fruits and vegetables to send our energy soaring.
And, before you go out to that picnic or head to the beach, the pool, or have a barbecue with your friends, here are some simple heart expanding postures.
Upward Facing Dog: Sanskrit: “Urdhva Mukha Svanasana”
To start, lay face down, with your palms underneath your shoulders. Hug your inner thighs together. Exhale, belly pulls into your spine, supporting your lower-back. Roll your shoulder blades back and down. Your elbows in line with your shoulders, making a nice 90-degree angle. Inhale as you begin to lift your heart forward and up. Keep your sternum reaching forward to the future and your shoulder blades kissing behind you.
Press the tops of your feet into the ground. Press down more into your hands, to straighten your arms (always make sure to keep a slight micro bend in the elbows so you are not locking into your joints). Your hips and knees should now be off the ground.
This is your Upward Facing Dog.
Child’s Pose, Sanskrit: “Balasana”
Always make sure to counter a backbend with a forward fold to balance the body. Balasana is a great cooling posture as well. When we open the hearts, we will build heat within our bodies. We must also remember to cool off.
Resting our forehead onto the ground, quiets the mind and calms us. And, it may not look it, but this posture is in fact heart opening. We are increasing our awareness towards the back of the heart, letting this areas expand as well.
Kneeling, sit your hips back to your heels, reach your arms out in front of you and rest your head and neck on the ground. Open the back of your neck, let it release any tension. Breath into the back of your heart. Let this part of you open.
This is your Child’s Pose.
Camel Pose, Sanskrit: “Ustrasana”
Kneeling, your knees are directly under your hips. You can rest your knees on a blanket, if you are more comfortable. You can place your palms on your lower back, fingertips facing upwards. Inhaling, shoulder blades kiss and drip down your back--- elbows move toward the midline of your body. Belly draws in to protect your lower back. Lift your heart towards the sky, and open the throat. Here is the connection between your heart and your voice. How can we communicate what we want more of in our lives and what we want to discard?
If you want to go deeper into this posture, you can reach your hands towards your heels behind you. Continue to reach up with your sternum and draw your belly in. It is very important that we engage the core here. A deep backbend can put pressure on the lower back. Keep that core engaged to take the pressure out of the spine. Focus on your tailbone drawing down to the ground. You should still think about lifting your heart up even up when you exhale.
This is your Camel Pose.
If you are coming out of a Deep Ustrasana, with your hands on your heels, place your hands back on your lower back first. Make sure your lower abdominals are drawing in to protect your lower pack. Then, rise up to kneeling. Counter pose with your Child’s Pose.
Low Lunge: Sanskrit : “Low Anjaneyasana”
I love this posture specifically because of the Sanskrit name. To me, it sounds like the name of a Queen. Like Ustrasana, this really opens the whole front body, with a really nice stretch for your hip flexors, thighs and groin. From Child Pose, you can come up to a table top position:
With your hands directly underneath your shoulders, and your knees directly underneath your hips, step one foot forward in between your hands. Make sure your front knee is directly in line with your toes and right on top of that ankle. Shift your lowered back knee back a little bit more. Engage your core on the exhale.
Inhale, interlace your fingers behind your lower back and press your palms together. Roll your shoulder blades back and down. Tailbone draws down, belly draws into your lower spine. Keep lifting your heart and throat up to the sky. Make sure to do the other side.
This is your "Low Anjaneyasana."
These postures are guaranteed to get your heart pumping and your blood circulating.
If you can do these postures in the morning, it will improve your mood and you will feel more energized and ready to face the day. No matter what the season, these are great heart lifting exercises. Try them out and see how you feel.
Do not hesitate to write me with any questions, requests, or just to let me know what kind of experience you had by doing these moves.
Thank you and let’s make our Hearts Happy.
Rebecca Lee Lerman is a New York City based writer and performer. Her plays and screenplays were featured at Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, The Midtown International Theatre Festival, Universe Multicultural Film Festival and We So Hapa, which celebrates people of mixed race. Most recently, PheLerm Productions, for which she is writer, participated in the 72 Hour Shootout competition, and their short film was selected as the top 40 out of 400 to be screened at the Asian American Film Festival.