A vision board I made many years ago while working on recovering my lost health & joy!
The Heart: known as the “ruler” of all the other organs and The Guardian of Emotions.
When the body is healthy and balanced, this is a kind and compassionate leader. But when the body is imbalanced or unwell, all manner of havoc may occur!
In the system of Yin Yoga (as well as acupuncture and Chinese Medicine), we support the body energetically by accessing the meridian system.
Meridians are the invisible channels along which energy flows throughout the body. There are 12 major meridians and each corresponds to an internal organ. (Meridians are similar to nadis and work in conjunction with the chakras, if you’ve heard these terms that are used in Hatha Yoga and Ayurvedic Medicine).
As we’ve been discussing all summer, this is a very “yang” time of the year, corresponding to that hot, fast, fiery, bright, busy, active, achievement-focused energy that we have a lot of in our culture – and that ramps up even more in the summer. This puts an extra strain on our heart, which plays a big role in our body’s circulation system and regulation of body temperature.
August can often be the hottest part of the summer, making it an essential time for supporting our heart by working with our Heart Meridian.
How do we know if there is an imbalance in the Heart Meridian?
We may see physical signs such as poor circulation, cold hands and feet, hot flashes, heartburn, redness in the face.
Or there may be mental/emotional manifestations of an imbalance such as insomnia, disturbed sleep and dreams, an inability to think clearly, forgetfulness, concentration problems, poor memory, sadness, desperation, joylessness, depression (when Heart energy is depleted) or cruelty/hatred (when Heart energy is in excess – yes, there can be too much of a good thing!).
Have you ever noticed how tempers seem to flare and people seem to act crazier when it’s really hot outside? An inability to think clearly, cruelty, hatred – too much fiery Heart energy!
All of these conditions can of course have other factors that cause and influence their presence – but the important piece of knowledge that we can take away is that we have the power to do something positive to improve these symptoms by working with our Heart Meridian.
Though we often experience an excess of Heart energy in the summer during this hot, fiery, and “yang” time of the year, and more often a depletion of Heart energy during the winter – we could see a depletion of Heart energy at any time really. Any time that we are not connecting to our innate joy or not freely expressing our emotions, we may experience the symptoms of depleted Heart energy (sadness, desperation, joylessness, depression).
But whether the heat is making us batty or we’ve lost our connection to our joy – the energetic prescription is the same: balance the Heart Meridian!
Just like the pipes in our house can become gummed up or even completely blocked with gunk if we don’t take care of them properly – the energy that runs through our meridians can become clogged, blocked, or stagnated. Practices like acupuncture, acupressure, Qigong, even certain foods and herbs can promote the flow of energy through the meridians.
Guess what else works to promote the healthy flow of energy through our body’s meridians? Yin Yoga!
Yin Yoga creates this effect through the practice of acupressure – we hold the body in certain shapes that put pressure on whatever meridians we may be targeting.
I’ve had students in class that are especially sensitive to energy who report feeling a buzzy sensation of energy moving through the body upon the release of a pose. I had one student that was so sensitive, she always had to excuse herself to use the bathroom every time we practiced a pose targeting the Urinary Bladder meridian!
If you’re new to Yin Yoga or are considering getting back into the practice, my Yin Yoga classes are happening now, are all-levels, and are a great way to put all this learning into real tangible experience – you can find more info or sign up here!
How else can we support the heart? Through the experience of joy!
Joy is the emotion that feeds our heart – and luckily, summer can be a pretty awesome time to find things to be joyful for.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be big stuff. In fact, sometimes it’s the littlest of things that can produce the most incredible feelings of joy and peacefulness.
Remember the idea of mindfulness – paying attention – and you will begin to find that you can feed yourself with small ongoing doses of pure and honest joy.
Dr. Patrizia Collard wrote in her book, The Little Book of Mindfulness:
“We have started to understand that mindfulness practice may prevent us from getting sick and unhappy, but it can ALSO return our awareness to the childlike curiosity we all had when we were young. We may experience once again the wondrous qualities of natural life: a blade of grass, clouds in the sky, the taste of a delicious strawberry, the importance of surrounding ourselves with friends and others who care deeply for us.
We remember all of a sudden that it is these little moments that are the true wonders of being alive. These glimpses of joy really matter, because they connect us to life rather than split us from it.”
This August go forth and be joyful. Become mindful of all the little joys, and in so doing, keep your heart happy, healthy, and balanced.