I would like to say I have an open heart. It sounds nice and like something I should have. Blessed with family and friends, I have people in my life for whom I open my heart. Yet, the heart can go through some rough terrain over a period of time, and it can cause the guard gates to go up, requiring encouragement and often a leap of faith to get back in gear.
Wheel is one of my least favorite poses in yoga. It is a back bend, something I have not done since I was a little girl. More than 20 years ago, I sprained my lower back and have since been on guard against it getting hurt again. After an emergency trip to the hospital, and several weeks laid up, I was finally rescued by an Osteopath who, mercifully, tweaked my back with some gentle pressure, allowing me to reach my toes for the first time in weeks.
Needless to say, when I first started yoga, and the instructor announced it was time for Wheel, I balked. Laying there on the mat, I told him I do not really twist. Nor do I bend like that. I was on guard for fear of my back. He stood above my head, looked down at me and told me to brace myself on his ankles. He leaned down and scooped me up under my upper back and, voila! I was in a back bend – albeit with some support. This went on for a few classes until I realized I did not have to fear my back, and soon I could push up into a back bend on my own.
Next, I was encouraged to try a variation; to go into a back bend and lift one leg, hold it for a beat or two, place it down, and do the same with the other. I had seen this done by others in the room but, again, my guard was up. I could not even get the toes of one foot off the ground. Once more, my instructor encouraged me. He stood alongside me and placed his knee under my back. With his support, I was able to lift my leg and hold it for that beat. Soon after, I could do this on my own.
In yoga, it is believed that there are seven main energy centers aligned along the spinal column called Chakras. Coincidentally, Chakra is the Sanskrit word for Wheel. If balanced, these energy centers spin in wheel-like circles, and all is well emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually. However, if we navigate some rough terrain, some of these Chakras can become blocked, and it is the yoga poses that help open them up and get the energy flowing properly once more. The fourth Chakra is the Heart Chakra, located at the center of the chest. It is associated with love and trust, and the first step in its healing is to find faith and love for oneself. The yoga pose associated with releasing any blockage in this Chakra is, coincidentally, the Wheel.
There is yet another way to get into Wheel, and that is to stand on the knees in a position called Camel, place the hands in prayer at heart center, and tilt back, going overboard while extending the hands up and over the head to finally find the floor behind the feet. The knees come up off the ground and the body winds up in Wheel. The motion is fluid, but there is a moment of limbo before the knees are up, before the hands are on the ground, before the body is safely positioned.
Once again, my instructor stood nearby, verbally guiding me through the motion. In the split second that I realized I was in limbo, and in the millisecond that I was deciding to bail, he encouraged me, saying, Keep going, keep going, keep going! That was all I needed to make that leap of faith to land my hands. I was safe. I was in Wheel.
Soon after, I confessed to my instructor that Wheel was my least favorite pose.
“Heart opener,” was all he said.
I got the message. Those two words summed up the work that needs to be done to lower the guard gates and get my heart in gear.