Leave them better

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“Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel. Things are gonna be much better if you only will,” sings iconic musician James Taylor.

My husband and I recently celebrated a wedding anniversary, and spent part of the evening listening to James. His songs remind us of the wonderful times we spent listening to him while we were dating, and are a nostalgic balm.

Earlier we had received a gorgeous bouquet of flowers from my in-laws. My mother-in-law, Libby, makes the effort to send us calla lilies each year in remembrance of the flowers I carried on my wedding day. She is someone who knows how to shower the people she loves with love. She has the ability to raise other people’s positive vibrations just by her presence. It starts with her southern charm, and is then fueled by her generous heart. She has the gift of truly listening, understanding what someone is needing, and finding a way to give it to them. To say that I scored big in the mother-in-law department is an understatement.

Now more than ever it seems like the time for us all to try to lift each other up and provide positive vibrations. And not just friends and family, but everyone we encounter. We are all feeling pain. It started with the coronavirus, then the layoffs and closings, and has deepened with the senseless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Like others, I have seen normal encounters become angry exchanges much too quickly these last weeks. Now is the time to not only shower the people we love with love, but to shower ALL people with love. It’s time to take a deep breath and try to feel compassion for the person in front of you before acting or speaking. You don’t know what pain they might be feeling. With each interaction you have think to yourself: how can I leave this person better than I found them? Give a kind word or bigger smile to those we encounter. Leave them better than you found them with the kindness that lives in all of our hearts.

Things are gonna be much better if you only will.

Open the Heart

During the Quarantine there seems to be lots of time spent on our devices, seated on soft furniture and of course watching tv.  This tends to create a ‘folding forward’ action in the body. It’s a real challenge to move and be like we were prior to this time.  Yogis often speak of a counterpose to any given pose.  So, in this case, back bending would be called for to counter the forward folding we have consciously or more likely unconsciously been doing.  Now, I am not talking about some giant 4 limbed wheel pose.  I  am suggesting several back bending ideas to bring more space and lightness to the center of the chest which yogis refer to as the ‘heart center.’ Yes, back bends open up the heart.  When we open up the heart we allow more room for joy to come in! Most of us feel heavy hearted right now so this can be a mood lifter as well. 

My first suggestion is the  classic pose is called Setu Bandha Sarvangasana in Sanskrit.  Setu means bridge, Bandha means to construct, and Sarvangasana means to use all the limbs.  We are constructing a bridge using all of our limbs.  For our version we will use a block under the sacral plate.  If you don’t have a yoga block at home with you, feel free to use a stack of books, a firm folded blanket or pillow.  Anything that will provide solid support that you can trust to really rest on.  

  • Come to the floor or your mat and recline
  • Bend both knees and keep them hip distance apart as you lift pelvis onto your support
  • Adjust so that it feels comfortable on your low back, sacral area.  (Please do not attempt if you have any low back issues!)
  • Visualize that your heels are under your knees.
  • Roll your arms so that your palms face upward, see if you can tuck your shoulders in towards each other and downward, then rest arms beside you
  • Soften face and throat and allow chin to move slightly downward to chest
  • Now that you are set up, feel the movement of your breath.  
  • Breathe into the soft expanded belly, breathe into the wide open heart/lung center
  • Allow yourself time to rest and breathe fully into the front body
  • Stay awhile, breathing and resting into this shape
  • When you feel ready to come out, remove your support and slowly lower the spine to the floor.  This is one of my favorite moments in yoga, when my spine meets the mat it feels as if I have created more space between my vertebrae.
  • Keep a bend to the knees and allow them to drop side to side a few times as if they were windshield wipers 
  • As you come up from the mat notice how you feel.   

My second suggestion is, when you step away from the computer,  interlace fingers behind your back and reach your hands down, palms facing up and away from you.  Feel the width of your collarbones across the front body.  Take some deep breaths and lift, widen and open the heart center.

And lastly, anytime during the day, close the eyes and connect to the breath.  With each inhale feel as if you are lifting up the heart center.  On the exhale, keep the lift of the chest as the breath sofly leaves the body.  Allow yourself several rounds visualizing a bright light shining  right from your heart.