It’s one of the most common adjustments I have to make: getting my students to open their chest area more. I see it all the time: hunched shoulders, concave chests, a rigidity around the neck and back.
All symptoms of our very human tendency to protect our heart. As is often said in yoga, our bodies are the crystallizations of our minds. Pinpoint where a student’s stiffness lies and you’ll know where it is that they store their stress, their anxiety, their anger, and their fear.
The beauty of yoga lies in how it obliquely releases these long-held traumas by patiently training the body to surrender its tension. At some point, it even teaches the body to respond in different ways. (Case in point—when I find my shoulders tensing when driving in traffic, an inner voice reflexively says: Relax your shoulders. Pull them away from your ears.)
So I spend a lot of time reminding my students to expand their chest area. It’s as close as I can get to telling them (reminding them) without actually saying the words, to open more, to trust more, to yield more, to turn their face up towards the sun, to receive the gift, to live life like an open hand.
We are built to bear what is given to us. So let us bear the gift lightly and well.