Put a little love in your heart. And the world will be a better place. ~ Put A Little Love In Your Heart, Dolly Parton
How long does it take to strengthen a heart?
I think that depends on what kind of shape it’s in and whether it is a strong one in the first place.
The heart is a powerful muscular organ that never rests. It beats continuously throughout a lifetime, and so it’s important to provide it with the necessary nourishment, especially if it’s a big one.
I’ve been trying to strengthen my heart.
It’s a long overdue effort, but apparently my strategy to date hasn’t been the most effective. I’ve basically preserved mine rather than fortified it, and it can’t get stronger without the proper nutrients.
Yoga has worked on my body, and for the first time I’ve got some muscles going on. I could feel them especially in the beginning, when I first started practicing. I remember the aches as every muscle took note of the poses and, even now, my muscles can still hold the memory of a practice, reminding me afterwards of how hard they have worked.
These days, I feel strong, and I am strong, and I make it a point to practice as often as I can, so that I can get even stronger.
And I think it’s affecting my heart.
For the first time in a long time, I can feel some aches there, too, as if my heart has been working as hard as the rest of me.
The other day, at yoga, we moved through the practice in an unusual way. Instead of our regular vinyasas, we did rolling ones, otherwise known as Water Wheels. And we first prepared with a warm up, moving in slow motion from Down Dog into Plank, tilting our chins to our chests, doming our backs and rolling out our spines until we were fully extended. From there, we lifted our chins and brought our hearts forth before tucking again to bring our hearts under. We alternated between these movements, warming up our bodies and warming up our hearts.
I liked practicing in this way, but I didn’t think too much about it at the time. I just moved slowly and with care, concentrating more on keeping my arms straight as I rounded my spine in much the same action as Cow pose, and then arched it in much the same action as Cat pose.
And then came the Water Wheels, and I dipped my knees, and finally bent my elbows as I lowered my chest and then my chin all the way to the ground before pulling into Up Dog and crouching back and through, my heart skimming the floor before making my way back into Down Dog.
Throughout this practice, we continued to dip our hearts, and I did so while unaware. I really just continued to concentrate on the rest of my body, listening to the instructions as to what to do with my legs and my arms and even my navel, pressing it in to tighten my core.
When we lifted our hearts in Capiasana, or Low Runner’s Lunge, I really just focused on opening my hip and pressing my hands up and over my head. And when we lifted our hearts in Skandasana, or Side Lunge, I really just focused on getting low and spreading out my arms. And when we lifted our hearts in Vashistasana, or Side Plank, I really just focused on balancing on one foot and one arm while lifting my knee.
I didn’t know that all along I was feeding my heart the nutrients it needed, just by moving in this way.
In fact, I didn’t even know my heart was in on the action until we repeated the rolling Planks and Water Wheels again at the end. This time around, I felt a rush of emotion each time my heart dipped low, and it caught me by surprise.
Practicing is my plan to strengthen my heart just like I do my muscles. And I think it’s a good one, too, as I seem to be able to feel it more than before.
And even if it sometimes catches me by surprise, I think that counts for a lot, because, now, my heart can hold the memory of a practice, too.