February – opening the heart with backbends by Emma Després
“All you need is love, all you need is love, all you need is love, love, love is all you need”. The Beatles were certainly onto something when they wrote those lyrics, and with this being the Valentine month February really is all about love – mind you, the whole year should really be about love, because essentially that is all there is.
The trouble is, loving isn’t always as easy it sounds especially when it comes to loving the self. We are often in fact our own worst enemies, berating ourselves more than anyone else could berate us – for we are never good enough, always something to improve, something to give up, weight to lose, fitness to work on, always some thought process that makes us incapable of accepting and loving ourselves just as we are.
This is where yoga can help as it provides us with a fantastic opportunity to connect, or indeed reconnect with our heart, with ourselves then, and enhance our ability to truly love both the self and others. This can be scary of course, the heart is a powerful thing but essentially love is all there is, and the more we can all do to tap into this wonderful energy, the happier this planet will be.
Practicing backbends has always been a source of much joy to me as they help to release trapped emotions thereby liberating the heart space and increasing one’s sense of lightness and freedom in body, mind and spirit. They can help to increase our sensitivity to our deeper feelings and therefore enhance the connection to our true self, which knows only love.
On a physical level backbends require the greatest stamina of any group of yoga poses and are unsurpassed in creating both exceptional flexibility and stability. Backbends open the upper back, chest, shoulders and front groins. They lengthen the muscles in the abdomen, tone and massage the abdominal and pelvic organs and strengthen the muscles supporting the spine.
The pose I have chosen for February is Urdvha Dhanurasa (upward bow pose). Like many of the backbends this is a challenging posture requiring us to be courageous and strong trusting in our own divine power within as we open the heart space to the heavens – so go and practice and spread the love this month.
Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose)
- Increases flexibility and range of motion in the spine;
- Strengthens the shoulders, arms, wrists, legs and spine;
- Opens the chest and shoulder girdle;
- Gives great vitality, energy and a feeling of lightness;
- Helps to remedy reproductive disorders in women;
- Helps to cure headaches and migraine;
- Beneficial for the nerves and the glands;
- Opens the heart and makes one feel alive.
- High blood pressure and glaucoma;
- Shoulder or wrist problems;
- Low back injury;
- Stomach ulcers and intestinal disorders;
- During illness.
Photography by Nick Despres, please see www.nickdespres.com