METTA or LOVING KINDNESS MEDITATION
We will now practice a Metta or loving-kindness meditation. With your heart open and free from its emotional burdens, bring to mind a family member, friend or pet who you truly love without limits. Allow this generous feeling of unconditional love to fill every nook and cranny of your heart space. Imagine this beings face and with a smile invite them into your limitless heart space and say to them the words of loving-kindness: “Lokah samastha sukhino bhavantu” which means “May you live in safety, be happy, find peace”.
Next imagine in your mind’s eye someone you know who is going through a particularly tough time; perhaps a friend with a health crisis or a co-worker who was laid off. Imagine this person sitting in front of you and invite them into your heart space by saying the words of loving kindness: “Lokah samastha sukhino bhavantu” which means “May you live in safety, be happy, find peace”.
Next imagine the people you see every day, your neighbor, the grocery clerk, the bank teller. Those people you pass on the street that you may or may not know. See their faces and with a smile, invite these everyday people into your heart space as well, without doubt. Know that there is ample room in your heart space for everyone that you come across, both known and unknown. Say to them the words of loving-kindness: “Lokah samastha sukhino bhavantu” which means “May you live in safety, be happy, find peace”.
Next imagine in your mind’s eye someone with whom you have a difficult relationship; perhaps a co-worker or a family member. As you bring them to mind, notice the emotions or sensations that are brought to the surface. Open the doors to your generous heart and with a smile invite them in without hesitation. Allow whatever negative emotions you may have about this person to melt away and recognize that you both are seeking acceptance and love. Say to them the words of loving-kindness: “Lokah samastha sukhino bhavantu” which means “May you live in safety, be happy, find peace”.
Next imagine looking at your own reflection in a mirror. What do you see when you gaze at yourself? If at first there is regret and shame, can you look deeper to find your innate good qualities shining through? With as much unconditional love as you held for your friend or pet you love without limits, open the doors to your heart and say to yourself the words of loving-kindness: “Lokah samastha sukhino bhavantu” which means “May I live in safety, be happy, find peace”. Open and receive whatever this opportunity has to offer you in this moment. Imagine bringing your palms together at your heart and bowing down to wisdom received from this revelation. There is no separation, only oneness.
This week we will explore how to create spaciousness around the heart to release the grip of grief, sadness and depression. Any negative emotional experience can cause the body to round forward as a protection against further emotional hurt. With supported backbends, you can give yourself an opportunity to safely be with the physical and emotional energy that may need to move through the heart chakra in order for you to let go of and heal from these past experiences.
Lie on side with rolled blanket under side ribs, bottom arm under head for support. Begin with both knees bent then try extending top leg in line with the rest of the spine. Raise top arm overhead and support with props or hold with bottom hand. Rest 3-5 minutes per side.
Therapeutics: Opens both sides of thoracic region increasing breath capacity
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose or Queen's Pose)
Sit in front of two long-fold blankets or a bolster parallel to mat. Place soles of feet together and let knees move apart resting on blocks or bolster. Place looped strap around back of pelvis between thighs and over outside edge of feet to help lengthen low back. Lie back over bolster and place blanket under head. Rest 5-15 minutes, then release
Therapeutics: Relaxes floor of pelvis, opens belly and chest, creates a sense of safety and calm
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Supported Bridge Shoulderstand)
Place a block on the first height against the wall and a bolster lengthwise in front of the block. Sit on the bolster facing the wall and lie back so that the upper shoulders and back of head reach the floor. Press feet into wall resting heels on the block. If low back is stressed, bend knees and place feet on floor. Hold up to 5 minutes then release by rolling to side.
Therapeutics: Good for upper back stiffness and opening the Psoas and quadriceps if legs are straight
Our shoulders and upper back often carry the tensions and stresses of our daily lives. Too much time spent at the computer or slouching on the couch at night can cause an over rounding of the shoulders and a collapsed chest which makes breathing difficult. Below are a few practices to help open the upper back and bring some breath and movement into the heart center.
Place hands together at the heart, keep thumbs and little fingers together, open other fingers and create cup shape between palms.
Benefits: Elevates heart energy, integrates body and mind
Begin on the hands and knees, toes pointed. Inhale lift the sternum forward and drop the pubic bone back between the legs to arch the spine. Exhale round the back and drop the head and tail bone towards the floor. Repeat with your breath 10 times.
Therapeutics: Massages the internal organs and warms-up the muscles along the spine.
Balasana to Extended Virasana (Child's Pose to Hero Pose)
Begin n Balasana. Inhale and lift chest, raise arms overhead and press pelvis forward. Exhale sit back on heels and fold forward bringing hands beside feet.
Therapeutics: Alternately stretches and strengthens the muscles of the torso front to back.
Half Circle Pose
Begin kneeling. Straighten left leg out to side and bring right hand to floor to the right of the right knee. Inhale left arm up and either circle arm or hold it statically. Repeat to both sides.
Therapeutics: Opens the side chest and if you move the arm it also awakens the lymph nodes at the armpits.
The Sankalpa, or resolve, is used during Yoga Nidra and other meditative practices as a way to plant the seed of transformation deep within the mind. As we begin this new year and release the old, it is a good time to set an intention to work with for the coming months.
Interlace fingers inside of palms, touch thumbs together and reach them towards chest so that a heart shape is formed with the hands. Sit comfortably while holding Purna Hridaya mudra. Bring to mind the challenges of the past year and acknowledge the personal growth these challenges have allowed you to achieve.
Place hands together at the heart, keep thumbs and little fingers together, open other fingers and create cup shape between palms. As your hands open into Padma mudra, allow a receptivity to blossom within the heart. Imagine the best possible outcome of the challenges you are facing. As thoughts of doubt begin to creep in, continue to return to a receptive positive mindset.
Clasp fingers and open palms toward heart; point thumbs upwards. Hold a few inches away from the chest. As you open the hands into Vajrapradama Mudra, trust that you have the strength and ability to bring this positive outcome into reality. Allow your sankalpa to coalesce into a short simple statement phrased in the present tense, "I am ...", "I can ...", etc. State it aloud three times with full awareness, then silently three times. With patience and repetition, the Sankalpa will come to fruition. Namaste'!
I attend Cheryl's class regularly and feel that my practice has improved immensely over the past few years due to her expert coaching. Her teaching style is clear and compassionate and her previous experience in teaching adults is evident in her organized approach and easy to understand instructions. I also appreciate that Cheryl not only teaches us about how to correctly position ourselves, but also touches on many aspects of yoga philosophy, which in turn has deepened my personal practice and heightened my awareness of the connection between mind and body, breath and relaxation.