The Vinyasa Show Artwork
Season 3 - Episode 9

The Light and Dark of the Heart

30 min - Practice


This restorative practice is designed to connect us with the whole heart. Jessica invites us to move in both the front, bright heart that we present to the world, and the soft, darker, and unexposed, underbelly. Have your props on hand to take full advantage of her guidance into relaxation.
What You'll Need: Mat, Square Bolster (2), Blanket, Block (2)

About This Video


Read Full Transcript

(water flowing) Welcome to the light and the dark of the heart. This is a restorative practice meant to deescalate the body and bring you into connection with the whole heart, the front and the back, the soft and the open. So we have our front side of our heart and it is the part of ourselves that we bring to the world. It's the part of ourselves that is bright. It is the good morning stretch.

It is the Instagram post. Right, and we have the backside of our heart. This is the soft tender underbelly of the heart. I like to think of this as like think about pink puppies' bellies or like your sweet baby belly. This is a side that is tender, is vulnerable, is one that we don't expose to everyone.

This is the one that needs a little bit more cushioning, a little bit more protection, but our work as yogis and practitioners of evolution is to embrace both aspects of ourselves, to love both aspects of ourselves, and to fully walk into that space with love and acceptance. We'll be using several props: two bolsters, two blankets, two blocks. But don't panic if you don't have any of those things. You can use pillows from your bed, couch cushions, rolled up towels, blankets that you have at home. To start we will come into a supported fish pose.

You'll need two bolsters and a blanket. We'll take our blanket and just put it off to the side for a moment and we'll grab it later. And you'll take one bolster and place it towards the top of your mat where your head will be and the second bolster just a little bit down. Think about about an arm's width distance between the two. And you'll come on down onto your back and what you're looking for is this back edge of the bolster to find right behind the heart so right behind the sternum.

It's like I like to imagine this is if we're putting our arms around our buddies here. So it's right underneath the armpits. And you might have to take a second and adjust it, which is fine, right. And then the bolster, the second one, comes underneath the head and the arms come out. Here you can grab a hold of your blanket and I like to leave it only unfolded a little bit so there's some weight and put it over the pelvis.

If this is comfortable, have bottoms of the feet together, you can do that. You can also extend the legs out long. Really, it's up to you. Now arms come out to the sides, the palms facing up. We'll be in this practice for about four to five minutes here, and your work is to allow the heart to open.

To allow the front of the body to breathe. To soften and relax. So take a moment and notice the quality of the front side of the body. If you imagine a widening sensation through each aspect of the front side of the body. If you allow the palms to soften and widen.

And this may not be an actual visual movement, more of a quality. And points of the hips widening and softening. In front of the heart. The tops of the shoulders. Moving apart.

Notice the cheeks getting soft and away from the nose. So tension in the forehead. Space between the eyebrows. Allow the jaw to relax. The upper palette to widen.

Space between the teeth. Upper jaw and lower jaw. This is ever so slightly subtle lifting upward the whole front side of the body as if the heart were the center, and there's just this tiny tug lifting, pulling us forward, opening, expansive. And you start to find just a little bit more awareness around your breathing. Notice the sounds of the room and temperature of the air.

And a little movement fingers and toes. And gradually letting that get a little bit bigger. Start to bend into the knees here. And you can gently move your blanket off to the side for a moment and let yourself roll on over to your right side, pause there. And slowly pressing down into the ground coming on up.

And we'll move into our next shape. So for this, tarasana, you'll need a blanket, one bolster and two blocks. And you'll take your bolster and put it underneath the knees. And you'll take your blanket and you'll fold it so that it's more of a longer rectangle. Place it over the feet and start to pull it through and underneath the ankles.

Create a little bit of support here. And then your blocks, place one, and the other on top. So this can vary. Some people are gonna need them higher. Some people might only need one block.

What you wanna make sure is that the head as you fold down that it actually creates contact. This is greeting the backside of the heart, and you're wanting a rounding quality and you want actual weight so that you can relax and soften through the neck and the back. And so as you start to come down, right, meet the blocks. And if you find that there's a quality of a little bit of lightness, right, then you switch the block into whatever dimension, whatever size, that you really need. Oh, it's feels weighted here.

And the hands can soften, they really can be anywhere that feels natural and comfortable. Notice this nice rounding through the heart, the backside of the heart. And you let weight start to come in towards the forehead releasing the neck, releasing the head. And you start to check in. Where are you holding?

Is it your hands? Can those soften? And shoulders move away from the ears just ever so slightly. And here the widening quality is between the shoulder blades. And to release and let go.

And you might find that after a few breaths that you actually have a little bit more space for depth than you did when you first came in, and so you would adjust your block and it just comes down a little bit lower, and you check in again. And can you find connection and third eye to your base? Can you soften through the hands? Can you allow the body to round? And through the widening of the backside of the heart, there's an embracing side to the front side of the heart.

And with each exhale, maybe just a slight deeper, adjusting the blocks. It's even possible that you remove one and place it to the side and move a little bit deeper. And again softening through the hands, releasing the head. Allowing the backside of the heart to be open. To get some fresh air.

To peek out to the world. And this shape is a great posture to practice anytime you have trouble sleeping and feeling anxious. And so as you start to prepare to bring yourself out, again first just coming back to the breath and coming back to the space around you. And then ever so slowly you start to lift the head away from the block and really allowing this to release out just one tiny, tiny step at a time, letting the head be the very last thing that comes on up and allow it to be really slow. And there's an intuitive counter posture that comes to mind, great.

Otherwise releasing the blanket, moving the blocks out of the way and moving your bolster off to the side. And we'll come back down onto our back for our next posture. What we'll need is just a blanket and the rest of your props you can put away for a moment. You'll take your blanket and you'll unfold it at least the length of your torso, and then you'll roll it up. And you wanna sort of it's like a folding lesson a little bit, right, so you wanna like take your time to make sure that it's nice and a clean roll so that you don't have any bumps or lumps getting in the way once you get down.

And then you place it down the center of your mat here, and you'll actually come and sit on top of it. It'll feel a little awkward at first. And you may have to adjust it once you get down depending on how tall you are, and what you wanna find is if you can keep the blanket as best as possible all the way down and straight along the spine that supports the sacrum, right, the neck and the head. And then you extend the legs out and your arms come to the sides. And it might take a moment.

You can feel free to kind of adjust, and if at any place, you know, this is just one of those things where sometimes it takes it's worth the effort to straighten it out if it feels like it's crooked so that when you're there that it's really doing the work that it's meant to do, which is again is this widening and opening through the front of the heart. The arms come out to the sides. Allow, if it's comfortable, for the palms to face up. Your eyes can close. And here we'll take a look at the backside of the body.

And how we can use that in relation to opening through the front. So notice your shoulder blades on either side of the blanket, and can you allow those to soften down. Maybe it's a little wiggling. Is there some heaviness that can come in there? I find that sometimes there's just this subtle resistance.

The subtle resistance to the embrace of the ground to the embrace of surrendering over to the Earth, and that's what we're working on, letting go of. And so an obvious point or a strong point might be the shoulder blades and can you allow those to soften. Hands might widen a little bit more in the tops of the shoulder heads move down. And a little more subtle to the lower back and the sacrum. And again, it might not be this visual movement.

It's more of a surrender. It's moving towards the embrace. And you check in with the leg line, the calves, the ankles, the heels of the feet. Any place of resistance. Can you allow the Earth to hold you?

And lastly checking in again with the face. Relax and soften through the jaw. As you start to come on back home to your body. And some bigger inhales at the belly get round, let that be your movement. Long exhale.

And we'll bend into the knees and plant the feet on the floor. And reach your right hand over head and let yourself gently roll off of the blanket and onto your right side and pause there. And take a moment to recollect and come on back. And pressing into the ground coming on up, we'll move into our last shape. So this is the soft, the backside of the heart.

We will use a blanket. And a bolster up at the head of our mat. And a block. So, you might move this just a little bit higher. What you're looking for is that this back edge meets the space between the shoulder blades so you're meeting the backside of the heart with this edge of the bolster, and then that this block comes behind the head.

And you take your blanket and put it on top of your body. So it again might take a little bit of an adjustment to find the right spot. You lay on down. And you want the gaze to come down towards the leg line. And you extend the leg lines out and place the blanket for a little bit of weight and then the arms come out to the sides.

I like to just find a little bit of a lift and settle into the sacrum. (breathes deeply) Let the gaze soften or the eyes close. And so this is the sweetest and softest of rounding through the backside of the heart, and then the gaze towards the front side of the heart. Just full embrace. And we can think of what those metaphors mean to us, the light and the dark, and how that relates to our own life.

How do we show up? How do we move in the world when we're feeling light and bright and full? How do we move in the world when we're feeling a little bit more challenged, a little bit vulnerable? And can we embrace both sides of this? Can we embrace ourselves in our fullness in our whole capacity?

And so again notice if there's any holding. Any resistance to allowing yourself to surrender over to the ground. You find heaviness through the leg line. The back of the pelvis. A sense of widening through the space between the shoulder blades.

Being open and receptive to the backside of the heart. Allow the head to be heavy. And softening through the cheeks, move away and widen from the nose. Softening the eyes themselves. And you start to come on back taking a bigger fuller inhale and longer exhale.

So another two more big full inhales, long exhales. And the movement finger and toes. And you gently reach up and take the block out from behind the head and place it off to the side and reach the arms over head and point through the toes. And bending into the knees, let yourself come on over to your right side. You can rest on your arm.

And pressing yourself on up to a seat. And sit down on your blanket and taking a comfortable seat. Let your eyes close here, the hands rest on the lap. Take a full inhale through the nose. (inhales) And exhale on out through the mouth.

(exhales) And the palms together in Anjali mudra. Spread the fingertips out wide and press the thumbs into the sternum. Bow the head on in. Your wholehearted embrace. Namaste.


Lizzy R
1 person likes this.
Nourishing and yummy. Thanks so much.
Jessica Garay
YES! So good to tap into our restorative and nourishing side! Happy you enjoyed the class :)
Brittany A
thank you for encouraging presence with the body and whole-heartedness. this is exactly what I needed on this nourishing rest day from my athletic practice.
Kate M
Embracing the fertile darkness and the radiant light. Thank you, Jessica.

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