Opening to the Heart of a Warrior

Embrace tenderness. Embrace sadness. Embrace a broken heart. These actions yield compassion which turns into freedom from our suffering. When we learn to listen to the heart, letting it override the demanding mind, we soften into the true nature of our self and find it easer to open are hearts to others - in love, in joy and in pain and suffering.

Foam Roller for Breathing and Chest Opening
Lie supine over a foam roller set vertically on your mat. 

1. Spend 3-5 minutes with the arms widened into a "T" position, palms up. 
2. Spend 3-5 minutes with the arms next to the hips, palms up.

Focus your attention on your breath. First feel the breath moving into the belly, then into the side ribs, then into the chest just under the collarbones. Exhale from the belly, then the side ribs, then the just. If the breath becomes strained return to natural breathing. Awareness alone will deepen the breath.

Lie Flat on Your Back
Half Happy Baby with bottom leg bent or straight. Add the Happy Baby leg arm reaching by the ear.
Shoulder Bridge Flow with Arms. Inhale both arms back to ears toward the floor as the hips lift off the floor. Exhale both arms back to hips as the hips lower to the floor. Repeat 5-8 times.
Shoulder Bridge with Leg Lifts. Legs and feet together. Lift hips. Straighten one leg in line with the other knee. Point and flex the ankle a few times. Add Figure 4 stretch for 5 breaths.

Foam Roller for Shoulders
Child's Pose. Big toes touch and knees are as wide apart as the mat. Extend arms forward and elevate the palms or wrists on to the foam roller. Let the forehead and chest move towards the floor between the arms. This will soften the heart space and clear the mind from distraction. If the forehead rests completely on the mat, apply gentle pressure to the forehead by rolling the head side to side. Stay for 5-10 breaths.

Side Stretch
Child's pose with knees closer together. Walk hands to the right. Allow hips to drop to the left of the feet. Reach further with the left arm. Press the outer edge of the hand into the floor and gently lean into the stretch to access the area under the arm pit and across the side of the rib cage. Stay for 5-10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Hip Opening for Heart Opening
When the pelvis is released our energy is able to flow more freely throughout the entire body. When we feel less physically restrained we gain greater access to our hearts.

Downward Facing Dog. Focus on keeping the ribcage with the arms and curling the pelvis on to the thigh bones. Each exhalation hollows out the abdominals and releases the head weight between the arms.

Forward Fold. Walk forward into the pose from Downward Facing Dog

Lizard Pose. Step Left leg back to Lunge pose. Place hands to inside of front leg. Walk front foot to outer edge of mat to create more space. Keep entire foot grounded into the mat, the knee hugging the shoulder. To deepen come down to forearms. To decrease intensity place hands on blocks. Breathe into the pelvic floor, allow the hips to release downward. 

Extended Split Leg Forward Fold. From Lizard pose, straighten both legs and pull hips up and back. Use blocks under hands to decrease the intensity. Allow the weight of the head to fall forward towards the front leg while the back heel releases towards the floor. The front foot grounds into the mat completely and the legs actively scissor towards each other.

Downward Facing Dog Balance. In Downward Facing Dog, lift one hand and the opposite foot off the ground. Feel how the muscles around the torso engage to actively balance the body and prevent you from falling. It's ok if you do though. The goal is to build strength and awareness in your heart and mind, not to hold a posture frozen in space. Repeat on the second side.

Three Legged Dog. Lift Right leg to the sky while keeping the abdominals engaged. Be mindful not to overarch in the lower back in order to lift the leg to a height your mind believes is necessary. Listen deeply and lift the leg with your breath. Look for the same awareness and muscular engagement you felt while trying to achieve the Downward Facing Dog Balancing pose.

Warrior 1. From 3 Legged Dog, pull the knee into your nose while rounding your spine and bringing the weight of your shoulders over your wrists. Step the foot to the inside of your Right thumb. The back heel spins flat and you rise your torso forward and upward into Warrior 1. Again, look for the same awareness and muscular engagement you felt while trying to achieve the Downward Facing Dog Balancing pose. 

Lunge with Twist. From Warrior 1, bring arms forward and down to the floor. Lift the back heel. Twist the torso towards the bent leg. Right hand can be placed on a block for greater freedom in the twist. Left arm can reach the the ceiling with the palm facing away from the body, or alongside the ear with the palm facing downwards towards the floor. 

Repeat Three Legged Dog to Warrior 1 to Lunge with Twist flow on the second side. 

Back Bending
Shalabasana 1. Lie on your front forehead down, arms alongside the body. Use a theraband or yoga strap between the hands and place hands and band at lower back. Begin to pull the band apart as you lift the head of the arm bones and the hands simultaneously off of the body. This will engage the muscles along the back of the arms and upper back. The head will lift and hover off of the floor. Use the breath to the lift the body and engage the abdominal muscles to support the movement. Repeat 3-5 times.

Shalabasana 2. Repeat Shalabasana 1. While the body is in the lifted position, release the band and bring arms to a "T" position with the palms facing downward. Inhale the arms back to the hips, exhale the arms back to the "T" position. Repeat this flow 3-5 times. Relax in a Child's Pose as a counter stretch.

Savasana. Lie flat on your back with the legs a bit apart and the arms slightly away from the body. Place the palms up. Close the eyes. Watch the breath and the body move together to the rhythm you created with your practice. Remain aware of your heart and the space within and around it. Listen to what it is telling you. You have the heart of a Warrior, ready to face anything life brings. Remain in this posture for 5-20 minutes.