It is often said that one cannot entirely know the true nature of a dear friendship by observing and experiencing it in fair weather only. The same might be said of the deep connection and bond many of us have with our yoga and meditation practice. To come to the mat with an average dose of daily stress and fatigue is one thing, and of course the practice never fails to ease those burdens. But to come to the mat in the midst of deep and intense emotional pain is another thing entirely. It requires more risk in many ways, but it can also yield profound benefit.
In her book, Yoga Cures, yoga teacher Tara Stiles offers yoga poses to ease the pain of a broken heart. She refers to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that explores how in broken heart syndrome (clinically known as “stress cardiomyopathy”), heart cells are temporarily stunned, but not irreversibly damaged. However, the symptoms of such intense emotional pain do in fact mimic those of a heart attack. Thankfully, these sorts of heart attacks are ones we can most certainly recover from – if we allow ourselves.
How Yoga Practice Soothes a Broken Heart
Our trio of yoga favorites in times of heartache are heart openers, hip openers, and guided meditations.
Fish Pose and Supported Fish Pose
Both grounding and mood lightening, Matsyasana (Fish) is a fantastic vitamin for an ailing heart. With the support of ergonomic yoga blocks (Yoga Eggs) at the mid/upper back, this pose opens the back of the heart, expands the capacity for breath, and calms irritation and stress.
Similarly, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon) offers a supreme opportunity for emotional release when the chips are down and we need it most. By stretching the hips and freeing the low back, this pose allows us to access an incredible sense of surrender. On an emotional level, it serves as a gateway to the subtle body – enabling the release of deeply held negative emotions. Pigeon pose is said to be the pose that makes you cry – on days when you most (as well as those when you least) expect it. Pigeon pose is like a dear friend’s warm hug on a hard day – it might fortify you or you might fall to pieces within it, but either way it holds you in support and lets you feel what you’re feeling.
The weight of a heavy heart in times of emotional strife can often sink our self-esteem and cloud our sense of security and belonging. Self confidence can feel impossible to come by and self-assuredness missing. At times like this, the practice of meditation offers a coming home to self that resonates at a level deeper even than paralyzing emotion. And the added support of guided meditations lets you follow rather than lead. For a great selection, we recommend Tara Brach’s website.
Kate Tripp is a yoga teacher, writer, mother, and co-founder of Luma Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio for adults and children in Santa Cruz, CA. She shares her wisdom and experience on the Three Minute Egg blog with weekly, inspirational, yoga-related blog posts. Read Kate's full bio here.
Broken heart image courtesy of fotographic1980 via FreeDigitalPhotos.net