I understand that we, as Yoga teachers, use a lot of metaphoric colours in our conversations, more so, as teaching instructions. One of the metaphoric terms that’s commonly used is “heart opener”. The term “open heart” has a fairly wide scope. It tends to include aspects like openness, compassion, empathy, love and togetherness. It is popular to say that back-bends done in asana practice “open the heart”. Back bends do physically lengthen and mobilize the torso to certain extent (anatomically it would be way more complex to explain, especially from the myofascial and neural perspectives) but how far does one go bending back to ‘feel’ the heart open, or is there something more to it than meets the eye ?
I believe the heart-opening asana do give us a sensation of ‘opening up’, anatomically too, some asana can correct a slouching posture and allow us to feel more at ease with ourselves but the deeper ‘opening of the heart’ can happen only when we consider the subtle aspects of Yoga practice.
The subtle aspects are aspects of the mind which need to be worked upon through other methods of Yoga that are beyond the scope of asana. I believe no amount of bending backward will open the heart until the following aspects are worked upon by the practicing Yogi. If these psychological aspects are NOT worked upon, the seeker will be left with an ultra-flexible spine and hyper-rigid mind. Please make sure to work on these along with your asana practice.
1) Generating a deeper trust in the process of Yoga, the God/Guru and yourself.
2) Giving time to yourself, your regular sadhana, to slow down and to be gentle with yourself.
3) Working on your negative self-talk and being patient and good to yourself.
4) Moving beyond sensory habit patterns and generating purposeful activities.
5) Being in the company of like-minded, meaningful co-travellers on the path.
6) Being honest with yourself and clear about where you would like to be.
7) Trying to be content at what you do and gradually working on who you are.
8) Realizing the transient nature of things and yourself.
9) Understanding Love, beyond its transactional references.
10) Refraining from judging others for what they do