Heart Yoga: Celebrate the Joy of Creation in the New Year

Posted by – December 30, 2015
Categories: Health & Healing

Winter and the renewal it brings is a time for repose, reflection, and awakening. To be awake is to revere, cherish, and recognize each created thing and the creation itself as different facets of the transcendent diamond of the One.

For this time, we share with you a yoga sequence from Heart Yoga by Andrew Harvey and Karuna Erickson, designed to birth you into this eternal moment and this rejoicing.

In Light Upon Light, Andrew explains Heart Yoga:

Heart Yoga was matured and distilled in the Kootenay Mountains of British Columbia. The snow-capped peaks that surrounded the small sanctuary where we worked calmed and steadied us, and spoke to us with piercing, silent eloquence of the majesty of the Infinite Self. The vast brilliant lake at their feet turned into a molten mirror of the light of the One. The tall noble enduring firs, with their tops soaring into limitless sky and their roots intertwining in the dark earth mysteries of the forest floor, initiated us into the primordial meaning of Tree Pose. The winds, flowing down from the mountain glaciers, attuned our breathing to that breath of the Beloved that shimmers and animates each blade of grass, each running stream, each cascade of moss, each jagged rock gleaming from afternoon snows. We felt directly the company and inspiration of the ancient Vedic sages who created yoga in surroundings of similar glory. We understood, beyond thought, how the grandeur of creation birthed in the ancient yogis an answering vision of the potential grandeur of the divine human. As Rumi wrote,

“Transform my heart to a placeless place of safety. Carry it to the mountains where it dies into you.”1,2

Yoga Practice Sequence to Celebrate the Joy of Creation

 

Child’s Pose – Adho Mukha Virasana

Sit back on your heels, and then slowly release forward into Child’s Pose, resting your forehead on your mat or on a blanket. Place your hands, palms up, by your feet. You may place a bolster under your torso and head to support the front of your spine, or rest your chest upon your thighs. Sink your hips and shoulders down toward the earth, allowing your back to round evenly. Let your forehead relax, letting your thoughts pour like water onto the earth. The skin of your face drops from the bones, and your eyes, jaw, and tongue soften and release.

 

Cat/Cow Pose – Marjaryasana/Bitilasana

Slowly come to your hands and knees, balancing on all fours. Lifting your tailbone and head, release your spine down into your body, slowly coming into a slight backbend, the Cow Pose.

Now draw your spine up into your body, dropping your tailbone and head, and slightly arching your back up into the Cat Pose. Slowly and mindfully move back and forth between Cat and Cow poses, creating an even roundedness of the spine in both shapes, and entering fully into the nature of both animals.

 

Downward-facing Dog Pose – Adho Mukha Svanasana

From the hands and knees position, curl your toes under and let your tailbone float up, exploring Downward-facing Dog Pose. Let it be a moving, flowing Dog Pose, paws stepping from side to side, tail wagging. Swivel and spiral and enjoy the playfulness of being a dog.

Step one foot forward between your hands to come into a lunge position, and then bring up your other foot between the hands. Coming into the Standing Forward Bend, bend your knees and let your head drop. Your back releases as if rain were pouring down it, moistening and opening your skin.

Lift through your belly, and beginning at the base of the spine gradually float up to standing, raising your arms over your head to the sky. Keep your eyes soft and your arms open and embracing. Release into a slight back bend, and then take your hands back to your heart, tenderly pressing the roots of your thumbs into your heart center. Bow your head slightly, dropping your mind into the bed of your heart and softening your eyes in devotion.

 

Mountain Pose – Tadasana

Come to Mountain Pose, Tadasana. Feel your feet firmly on the earth, sensing the strength and lightness in the center of your body. Your legs are earthy and steady; your belly fluid and watery; your heart warm and glowing; and your head empty and spacious. Earth, water, fire, and air unite within your divine human body.

 

Tree Pose – Vrksasana

From Mountain Pose slowly shift your weight to your right leg, and steadily send roots through it deep into the ground. Stabilize your right leg, imagining it becoming a tree trunk, and then press the sole of your left foot into the inside of your right thigh. Bring your hands to your heart in the prayer position.

Lift up your belly, as naturally as the sap rises in the spring. Invite that sweet, warm energy to flow into your heart and let your heart open just like a tree breaking into blossom. Lift your arms like branches, your fingers spreading out like leaves opening to the sky. The branches of your arms lift toward the light, while the roots of your legs sink deeply into the earth. Your body in the form of the tree becomes a vibrating channel between earth and sky. Draw your hands together back to your heart, and slowly release your left foot to the floor. Returning to Mountain Pose, drop your tailbone slightly like an anchor before repeating Tree Pose on the other side.

Notice how your body, like a tree, grows upwards toward the light, while spiraling its roots down into the rich dark support of the earth. Return to Mountain Pose whenever you are ready.

 

Triangle Pose – Trikonasana

In Triangle Pose you will experience the trinity of body, consciousness, and spirit that you share with all sentient beings, and celebrate your body as a bridge between transcendence and immanence.

Remaining connected to the stability of Mountain Pose, widen your feet about four feet apart. From the earthiness of your feet and legs, spread your arms, lifting them to shoulder height. Turn your left foot in at a 45-degree angle, and your right foot out 90 degrees. To protect your right knee make sure that it turns outward toward the little toe of your right foot.

Inhale, and elongate from the sides of your waist, lengthening your spine to the right as your hips shift to the left, and place your right hand on your right leg or a wooden block. Bring your left hand to your sacrum and let your pelvis rock to and fro a little. You can bend your knees slightly to help you feel the movement of the pelvis. Drawing your sacrum into the body, slowly straighten your legs while moving the tops of your thighbones back behind you.

Feel the energy flowing up through the pelvic floor between your pubic bone and the tailbone. Let it spread up from the belly into the flowering of the heart. Your left arm can now rise up to offer your radiant heart energy to the sky. Both arms are evenly active, equally connecting you to earth and to sky.

Keeping your legs strong, comeup and repeat Triangle Pose to the left side. From the earthiness of the legs, explore the watery nature of the pelvis. It is from the foundation of your legs beneath you that your pelvis is able to release. That freedom moves up into the fire of your heart, and into the empty spaciousness of your head. When you’re ready, return to Mountain Pose.

 

Standing Forward Bend – Uttanasana

From Mountain Pose, bring your hands to the tops of your thighbones and gently slide them back behind you, aligning your hips, knees, and ankles. Lifting your sitting bones, tip your pelvis forward over the tops of your thighs and let your spine evenly round forward into a crescent moon shape. You may bend your knees slightly to protect your back.

Make a cradle of your arms, and rest your hands on the opposite elbows, or rest your hands on a block, on your legs, or on the floor. Release your head, softening your neck. Relax for a few breaths, surrendering into this pose.

On an exhalation, press down through your feet and up through your belly, rolling up to standing. Your head floats up last, receiving the energy flowing from your feet through your pelvis. You are back to Mountain Pose.

 

Eagle Pose – Garudasana

From Mountain Pose shift your weight to your left leg, and bend the legs slightly. Lift your right leg, placing your right thigh over your left thigh, and draw your right shin behind your left calf. If it’s difficult to balance, you can keep the toes of your right foot on the ground for a while, eventually drawing them around your left calf.

Extend your arms in front of you at shoulder height, palms up. Bend your arms, and draw your left elbow across the right one, pressing the elbows against each other. Try to place the fingers of your right hand in the palm of your left hand. Lift your elbows up to eye level, moving your hands away from your head. Scoop through your belly into your heart. Enjoy the expansive release of the wings of your shoulder blades.

Stay three to five breaths then return to Mountain Pose, before repeating Eagle Pose to the other side.

This pose helps you to experience the majesty, concentration, and vitality of the eagle. When you practice, keep your eyes soft, so that you’re not coming from the determination of your mind and will. Instead, expand your vision to the spacious perspective of the eagle. Become the eagle, soaring above the world, scanning all of creation with its keen vision and one-pointed concentration.

 

Sun Salutations – Surya Namaskar

You may wish to add several cycles of the Sun Salutation, to celebrate the light radiating throughout all of creation.

 

Squatting Pose – Malasana

From Mountain Pose, release your sitting bones down toward the earth, coming into a squatting position. You may place a foam block under your heels for balance.

Many people squat on the earth all day in this position, because they feel grounded and at ease here. Notice how wide open the floor of the pelvis becomes, the first chakra opening to receive energy from the earth.

 

Sphinx Pose – Bhujangasana modification

From squatting, slide forward onto your belly, releasing your front body onto the earth. Lengthen your arms out in front of you, like a lion stretching in the desert sun.

In Sphinx Pose, you are invited to savor and claim the full power of the sphinx, tasting the wonder of your own deepest secrets. Let the pose of the sphinx speak to you as it spoke to the Pharaohs, Oedipus, and to Alexander the Great, revealing the magical depth of your identity with all creation.

Keeping your belly soft, lift your shoulders away from the floor, curling your spine up slightly and sliding your elbows underneath your shoulders. Pressing the palms of your hands down into the earth, widen and lift your collarbones. Roll from leg to leg, drawing your inner legs toward each other until they begin to feel like one leg, grounded in the earth. Slowly and majestically lift your head, smiling serenely. Lift your belly softly toward your heart.

Slowly release down to the floor, unraveling the cells of your back body. Feel them glow with the serene energy of the heart’s nectar. When you are ready, slowly rise up again, repeating Sphinx Pose a few times.

 

Cobra Pose – Bhujangasana

Soften your belly onto the earth like a golden king cobra. Elongate your spine, and feel it undulating and spiraling throughout its length. Rest here and release your body, with the king cobra’s regal confidence, into the dark, rich warmth of the earth below.

In Cobra Pose, you will experience and incarnate the ancient power and sacred wisdom that has in many cultures been associated with the snake. A creature at ease both in the dark worlds of the earth and in the worlds of light, the snake effortlessly fuses the energy and knowledge of both.

 

Downward-facing Dog Pose – Adho Mukha Svanasana

From the hands and knees position, curl your toes under and let your tailbone float up, exploring Downward-facing Dog Pose to release the spine after Cobra Pose.

 

Cross-legged Sitting – Sukhasana

Sit in a simple cross-legged position (refer to page 49 for more details). Elevate your sitting bones on a firm cushion or folded blanket(s), so that your hips are higher than your knees, and your thighbones can drop down from your pelvis. Balance evenly between your sitting bones, your tailbone, and your pubic bone, mapping those four bones like geographical landmarks within the world of your body. Notice how as your lower body descends toward the earth, a warm rebounding rises up through the core channel of your body.

With each exhalation, your pelvic floor domes up into your body like a parachute, and your belly scoops up toward the back of your diaphragm, which also rises with the exhalation. Your heart energy expands while your mind quiets. Notice the subtle dialog between the floor of your pelvis and the crown of your head.

 

Corpse Pose – Savasana

Lie back onto the sacred earth, your great mother and teacher, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. One at a time, slide your heels out along your mat, surrendering your legs fully back into the earth. Let your breath flow down your legs, moving out through your feet. Sweep your consciousness like a broom from thighs to toes, releasing any holding that you may encounter. Soften your arms out to the sides, palms up. Drop back, releasing your front body into the embrace of your back body; the back body opens into the cauldron of the earth beneath you. As you send roots down from your own body into the earth, they intermingle and intertwine in the dark mystery of the earth with the roots of all creation.

In this Savasana, we merge into the Creation, and the creation teaches us and fills us with its blessings.

Watch your breath with steadiness and ease. The inhalation is absorbed evenly throughout the body, soaking in like moist earth receives a spring rain. Each inhalation flows right through you into the earth. Your exhalation smoothly floats out like dawn mist rises from a lake. Feel your breath joining with the breath of all beings, dissolving together into the spacious sky above you. Feel this peace spreading through your body, and rest here as long as you wish.

Slowly come up to a sitting position, and draw your hands to your heart in the Namaste position. Offer your practice to the awakening of all human beings to the divinity of Creation. May we do everything in our power to honor, cherish, and protect all of Creation.

Earth teach me stillness
As the grasses are stilled with light.
Earth teach me suffering
As old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility
As blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring
As the mother who secures her young.
Earth teach me courage
As the tree which stands alone.
Earth teach me limitation
As the ant which crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom
As the eagle which soars in the sky.
Earth teach me resignation
As the leaves which die in the autumn.
Earth teach me regeneration
As the seed which rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself
As melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness
As dry fields weep in the rain.

—UTE PRAYER3

Excerpted from Heart Yoga by Andrew Harvey and Karuna Erickson.

Citations:

  1. Light Upon Light: Inspirations from Rumi by Andrew Harvey, p. 185
  2. “Grace Is the Door” by Rumi
  3. Bridge of Stars: 365 Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations from Around the World by Marcus Braybrooke, p. 10
Tags: Andrew Harvey Karuna Erikson Yoga

About the Author

Maren began her publishing career as an intern at Counterpoint and Soft Skull Press, where she stayed on for more than four years as a publicist and web coordinator. She joined the NAB team in 2015 and is still stoked about it—she gets to read her Rob Brezsny horoscope (Scorpio)​ before anyone else! Maren lives in Oakland with a monstrous Maine Coon and spends the majority of her spare time convincing him to not eat all of her houseplants. Sometimes she has time to write, paint things, garden, or repair furniture.​