Yoga for Opening Your Heart

Soul-filled Cafe Presents:
Betty Larrea, Founder of Be Yoga Be Love

Love

I have been on the path of my heart for over 15 years. For most of my life, I had been obsessed with love and finding a romantic partner. I spent so many years looking for love and validation outside of myself, until I realized that I had to find love in myself first. It has taken years of practice and reflection to remain on this path of self love. Yoga has been an integral part of that journey for me.

Self-love is a daily commitment to treat yourself with respect and compassion. Love begins with self acceptance, which is why yoga is such a powerful practice for nurturing self-love and opening your heart. Practicing yoga allows you to accept yourself, even the parts you don’t like.

The first time I walked into a yoga class, I had the experience of being out of my body while simultaneously feeling fully IN MY BODY. I had struggled with body issues and perfectionism my whole life and here I was letting go of the judgment and settling into myself. I continued to go to yoga class over the years because it was the one place where I could to just “be”, without judgment or criticism. Some days I could balance in Tree Pose and other days, I felt all wobbly and out of whack, just like in my life. But no matter what pose I was able to do or not do, I always left my yoga class feeling good about myself.

Until last summer when I completed my 200 hour yoga teacher training, I did not have a regular yoga practice. Despite the fact that I was teaching 10 children’s yoga classes per week and could see the sense of peace in my students, I had not made a commitment to make yoga a discipline in my life. Throughout my rigorous training, I learned that yoga was much more than a physical practice, it had the potential to open my heart.

Each time I get on my mat, I am opening my heart to myself. I become more aware of myself ~ physically, emotionally, energetically. I am fully aware of my body, its strengths and its limitations. I can see where I am holding tension in my body, where I can let go more, ease up more, connect more and love myself more.

childs pose

Here are five simple ways to create your own heart centered yoga personal practice, whether you practice at home or in a studio.

1) Set an intention for each class.
Choose something that you are committed to have happen in your life. Ground yourself in that intention and devote your practice to creating space, being OPEN to receiving.

2) Be present.
Yoga is an opportunity to be present, to allow anything to come up and to accept where you are in the moment.

3) Give yourself permission to be imperfect.
Be gentle with yourself. Do not push yourself to do that pose you always struggle with, especially when you are feeling out of sync.

4) Listen to your body.
If it feels better to rest in Child’s Pose rather than going for that 6th Vinyasa, take the time to give yourself what you need. Only you can know what truly serves you and tuning into yourself is part of loving yourself.

5) Surrender in Savasana.
I mean really surrender. At the end of yoga class, when you find yourself thinking about of what you have to do next, let it go. Whatever it is, it can wait. This is YOUR time. So just allow yourself to melt into the mat and find that place of pure surrender.

6) Remember that yoga is more about the journey than the poses.
The journey is like a coming home to yourself, coming home to your heart.

I leave you with a brief visualization meditation that you can use before your yoga practice, to ground yourself in self love.

Close your eyes and take a deep breath. As you exhale, imagine you are letting go of everything that is holding your attention from your day, watch your thoughts come and go like clouds in the sky. Notice what you are feeling, thinking and let it all go. With each breath, bring your attention closer and closer into yourself, to being here, right now. This is your time, take this time to connect with that deeper part inside you, the part that knows she is taken care of and is worthy of love. Trust that everything is as it should be, you are perfect exactly as you are, where you are. Breathe into the wholeness of who you are, feel the power of honoring yourself enough to give yourself what you need in this moment. Acknowledge yourself for the strength and courage it takes to nurture yourself in this way. See yourself as a beautiful light and let it radiate forth from your core, let it open your heart to receive the love and goodness you deserve.

* * *

Betty Larrea

Upcoming Guest: Betty Larrea

Betty Larrea is a writer, yoga instructor, artist and educator who is devoted to inspiring others to love, express and BE all that they are. Betty loves playing with words and has been a writer for over 20 years. She is currently working on several book projects, including a series of yoga and spirituality books for children. Betty has performed her poetry at the Nuyorican Poet’s Café, sold her original artwork and jewelry at The Big Art Show in NJ and Philadelphia and showcased her self-published poetry at the 215 Independent Book Festival.

Betty received her 200 hour yoga certification from Three Sisters Yoga in NYC and her children’s yoga teacher certification from Karma Kids Yoga. With over 12 years of experience teaching yoga to children and families, Betty founded Be Yoga Be Love, which delivers yoga and arts enrichment programs and events at schools and fitness centers in NJ. She also provides private in-home yoga instruction, tutoring, writing coaching and is a course facilitator trained by the author of the best-selling book Calling in the One to lead workshops for women to attract love into their lives. www.beyogabelove.wordpress.com

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37 thoughts on “Yoga for Opening Your Heart

  1. Good Morning everyone!  I am so excited to be here and look forward to answering your questions and hearing your reflections today.  Let the LOVE discussion begin!!

    • Caroline, What a wonderful question! As I mentioned in my article, one of the most freeing parts of my yoga training was discovering that YOGA is about so much more than the physical poses (asanas).  Yoga is a holistic practice that involves breath, movement and meditation.  One of the first things I tell my yoga students is that yoga is about connecting with your breath.  When you can bring attention to your breathing, no matter what pose you do, you will get the full benefit of yoga. Yoga is supposed to feel good, so if a pose is too strenuous, don’t push yourself. People sometimes forget that yoga is a PRACTICE, it takes time to really know your body and connect with yourself in such a focused way. I recommend starting with the poses you feel comfortable with and building from there.  Some wonderful poses for rejuvenation are the simplest to do. Child’s Pose, Upward Salute, Standing Forward Bend, Downward Dog and Savasana.  Child’s Pose and Savasana are the best because they allow your body to rest and replenish and that’s what rejuvenation is all about!

  2. Hello Betty, Hi Heather! Great to see the two of you at the Cafe this morning.  Betty I related very deeply to your post and your realization that while you were teaching yoga, you did not have a regular practice for yourself until recently.  I was just journaling this morning about my tendency to create ritual for others while sometimes neglecting the rituals I’ve created for myself.  I have noticed that there are a lot of very old issues surfacing right now in myself and also for my clients–perhaps another evolutionary step as we begin to make friends with all the parts of who we are–even the aspects we thought we’d “healed” that still have something to say.  For me, one of those issues is honoring and nurturing myself with extreme self-care, and also observing how that commitment can get derailed by a habitual seeking of approval from others.  I enjoy yoga and it occurs to me that the very tangible experience of a self-care through a regular yoga practice might be beneficial for me right now.  I’m going to sit with that today, and especially with the idea of surrender and trust called for in savassana.  Thanks to you both for this lovely topic of self-love, so appropriate for Valentine’s Day! Blessings

    • Kimberly,  

      Thank you for sharing such a beautiful and insightful reflection.  You brought up such a key point which I think resonates with many of us, especially those who work in the wellness and service fields: the need to take care of yourself first.  This all goes back to self love… how can you love and nurture others if you do not love and nurture yourself? When we are not deeply grounded in ourselves, it is so easy to get caught in the trap of placing our focus outside ourselves and the need to have approval from others. A regular yoga practice is a commitment to love yourself, to nurture yourself on all levels-body, mind AND soul. If you enjoy yoga and it feels good to you, I invite you to carve out some time every week for yoga.  Let it be YOUR time to reconnect, recharge and nurture yourself.  A “regular” yoga practice is what you make of it.  It can be taking a class or practicing yoga at home.  It can even be as simple as taking time every day to connect with your breath, 3 to 5 minutes of deep belly breathing to tune into your body and calm your mind.  Wishing you much love and blessings!  

    • Kimberly, you also mentioned that your evolutionary path is bringing up some old aspects of yourself.  Perhaps you can think of your yoga as a place where it is safe for ANYTHING to come up and move through you.  Practice allowing any emotion, thought, belief to come up, notice it and then with each breath, each movement, practice LETTING IT GO.   And yes, savasana is such a perfect place for release and surrender. May your yoga bring your closer to YOU. xo

  3. Kimberly, I absolutely loved your post since I find the same to be true for myself. I had a regular practice a few years ago that I gave up when things got really busy on the business side of things for me. Now that I’ve switched gears in my career, I’ve been trying to carve out time to reconnect with this practice. And Betty, your post absolutely resonated with me as well. It was a nice reminder to really honor yourself. I have a tendency myself to care take for others without doing for myself first. It’s something I’m in the process of changing and I have to admit, it’s not always easy to put myself first and really listen to what’s going on internally.

    • Stephanie,  I am so excited that you are reconnecting with your yoga practice and I love the idea of “listening” to yourself internally.  What would it be like if this week you explored the possibility of yoga as a way of deep listening and receptivity to your inner world?  Setting that as an intention for your practice may provide the space to give yourself the attention you need and put yourself first. Perhaps your intention could be something like “I listen to myself and honor what is going on inside me.”  Before your practice, ask yourself, ask yourself “Stephanie, what do you need right now?”  and then truly listen during your yoga practice.  The answers are inside you and waiting to be revealed.  Also, continue to be patient and gentle with yourself during this time of change.  It is not easy making yourself a priority in your own life, but just remember that people in your life will all benefit from it as well.  When you give to yourself, there is more of YOU to give!  I look forward to hearing what opens up for you in this new space of LISTENING.  Much love, Betty

  4. Dear Love Girl,

    As you know I am a big runner and I have gotten so much from doing this. The appreciation that I like being pysical and I free my soul as I run!!! Another gift from running is that it has become a time for me to reflect & share my intentions with God!. Right now what I am looking to combine with my run is some meditation. I have done yoga on & off for along time. There have been good & bad experiences but the best experience was with this buddist (female) monk. I loved it because it was meditatioon more than anythhing else or at least it felt that way. Can you please advise a form of yoga that is more grounding & meditative. You can say all Yoga is medative but I have different experiences. thank you for your help!
    Gina

    • Gina, I love your description of running as a way to free your soul and connect with a higher power!  It is true that running and walking can be a form of active meditation because you are fully in the zone, connected.  Some forms of yoga that are more meditative are Hatha Yoga, which is a more slow-paced yoga with lots of stretching and holding the postures, which allows you to really focus on your breathing and Yin Yoga, which is a deep stretching of the connective tissues of the body and flexibility in the joints which is also great for running.  These more gentle forms of yoga create balance and have a calming effect, allowing for deeper relaxation and improved meditation.  As far as meditation, I believe it is an excellent complement to your running.  There are many forms of meditation you can explore.  Can you tell me more about your positive experience with the Buddhist monk?  so I can better recommend some meditation techniques that are best suited to your needs.   Seated meditation with some soothing music or a guided meditation come to mind, but I would love to know what you enjoy, so I can offer you more suggestions. xo Betty

  5. HI there, Heather and Betty! This is such a timely topic for me. I have been a long time yogini, but at times, my practice is very sporadic. Right now, I’m being forced to do self-care due to adrenal fatigue. It’s made me aware of one thing that I’ve always known: I prefer the gentler forms of yoga. I always return to them and find that these styles help me the most. The gentler styles help me to access my heart, intuition, and self-love and self-compassion more. I tend to enjoy the Bhakti side of yoga the most, so the gentler forms of yoga seem to be congruent and aligned with me. Yet, what is “trendy” right now with yoga classes is vinyasa or hot yoga. Both styles make me almost pass out due to my low blood pressure. Just last week, I almost tossed it on my mat trying vinyasa. I know the only right yoga is what works for you. Yet, since I’m being called to do my yoga teacher training one day soon, my ego does wonder if there is a “market” for gentler forms of yoga. Most Westerners approach yoga as physical exercise and gauge its value by how good of a workout it gives you. I live in the Midwest and I’ve found this to be the case. I guess my question is how to be brave enough to be aligned with my heart and love myself enough to go with the yoga style that I resonate with for myself and for a future teaching path? (I’m longwinded, apologies.)

    • Lisa,  Such a thought-provoking question and I am sure so many of us yogis can relate so thank you for sharing.  Before I did my own yoga training, I was a big fan of Vinyasa, which is still my favorite yoga style because of the fluidity and ability to really let myself “flow”.  During my training, I experimented with many forms of yoga and one of my new favorites is restorative yoga because it allows me to surrender on a deeper level.  There is nothing more decadent than taking an hour and half to just rest in poses that are meant to relax and replenish your body and soothe your mind.  

      I do believe there is a market for more gentler forms of yoga these days.  I am seeing more and more yoga studios offering Candlelight and restorative yoga because there is clearly a demand for these classes.  As you said, it does take courage to follow your heart and do yoga that feels good to you and deeply resonates with you.  The most positive thing about my yoga training at Three Sisters Yoga is that I was exposed to so many styles and forms of yoga, which allowed me to create a teaching style that is uniquely me and can convey my truth to others to inspire them to find their own truth. 
       I wish you well in your yoga journey and finding your teaching path.  I am sure if you continue to follow your heart, you will be led to the teaching style that is a reflection of YOU and your essence. Namaste. xo Betty

      • Hi there, Betty,
        Thanks so much for the response :) I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me. Thanks and love for the encouragement and support. Love to you and well wishes. xo, Lisa

    •  Lisa – so great to see you at the cafe!  I loved our rebel chick guest post for your book launch a couple months back.   And how cool that you are looking at adding yoga teacher to your tool box. 

      You have me looking at my own yoga preferences.  I am, I guess the more typical westerner. I do like the yoga that is more physically demanding.  Last summer I did 10 days in row of the Bikram Hot Yoga (which I found amazing and tranforming) and my first yoga practice and love was Ashtanga yoga, which is lots of non-stop movement. 

      I agree with Betty though that there are lots of people wanting the quieter forms and I love the Candlelight idea.  And it seems when it comes to having a heart opening practice, that the gentle forms may actually be the way to go…  With the inspiration from Betty and her tips, I’m planning on exploring some of the other forms. 

      warmest…

  6. I am so moved by this discussion and the heart opening that is taking place right here on this forum!  It is such an honor to be interacting with such amazing women and I would LOVE to hear all your thoughts and reflections…

  7. I am headed out again to teach another class but will be back at 4:30pm so send your questions in and I will also be taking questions and comments until 8pm for those of you who may be at work and want to participate later! 

  8. Betty – I came across this quote this morning in a book I am reading called “The Lotus and the Lily” by Janet  Conner… “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.” ~The Buddha.

    We’ve been posting a lot about the “Be Yoga” part of your biz name, but I’d love to have you share some more of your thoughts about the “Be Love” aspect and the wisdom you have gained from your path.  Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day – which has a big focus on “romantic love”  – which I know in our conversation and from your article that you maybe have a different view on that than the average bear.  Anything you want to share about amour?

    xo

    • Romantic Love! I could write a book about it and maybe someday will but  Ahhhh….where to begin?  The biggest lesson I have learned is that when it comes to love, you attract what you are ready to RECEIVE.  

      I have grown so much from each and every romantic relationship I have been in and what I have discovered is that each person I have fallen in love with has been a mirror for me, reflecting something in myself that I needed to see.  Sometimes we are unconscious of some aspect of ourselves and we need to see it OUTSIDE of ourselves so that we can accept it, heal it or change it.  My past loves have been some of my greatest teachers, and have contributed to my evolution as a woman and as a human being.  

      Most recently, my life has been focused on keeping my attention on myself, loving myself and becoming the woman I was meant to be.  I also believe that as women, we need to open ourselves up to receiving love from a man.  So many of us have taken on finding a mate like finding a job, where it’s more about going after it, rather than magnetizing LOVE into your life.  According to the Law of Attraction, like attracts like, so it makes sense to me now that the more you love yourself, the more love will be drawn to you.  

      In my own journey, I can see where I have needed to become vulnerable with others, allow them to really see me and support me, which has made me more receptive and inviting to men.  The other aspect of being open to love is surrendering, letting go of attachment and trusting that love will arrive in divine time. 

      Thanks for asking me to share this…I really love being able to empower others to love themselves so they can attract more love into their lives!

      •  What a beautiful response Betty!  I am drinking that in.  It feels special to reconnect with you on this eve of V-day, after many years of being out of communication- I feel like a witness to the wisdom that has grown within you. 

        • Thanks so much Heather!  I agree that the timing is so perfect for Valentine’s Day and reminds me that while I do not have my Beloved in my life yet, I am able to share my wisdom with others and inspire LOVE!  That is my purpose and I am grateful to have been given this opportunity to provide that here. xo

  9. Hello, Betty and Heather,

    So wonderful to have a cafe gathering today! I agree with Kimberly…I related deeply to your post as well, Betty. You have such a wonderful message and reminder to all of us, to delve more deeper into our own practice of self-care. I am noticing for myself how the idea of surrender (even while it’s very appealing to me!) is challenging, and how much of a gift it is when I remember. Thank you for sharing your lovely wisdom today!

    • Sue, So happy you could join the discussion…Surrender is one of the scariest things to do because it means giving up control.  So many of us have been taught that if we don’t “get it done”, it will not happen. Your mentioning the gift of “remembering” reminds me of the idea that we have all the answers we need inside us, we only need to “remember”. Through self care and nurturing, we can remember to listen to our own inner voice and wisdom.  Oscar Wilde said “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” May you continue to fall deeper in love with yourself every day!  xo Betty

  10. Hi Betty, it’s Heather. I was reading through the prior posts, and I am really interested in approaching my yoga in a different light – I love how you talked about allowing emotions to flow through you during your practice, and breathing through them, letting go with every breath. I am going through some very intense personal changes and growth at the moment, and I realized that I have been avoiding my practice for exactly this reason…my practice has a tendency of bringing things that are hurting or troubling me to the surface, and that scares me. I’m not sure why, as the times I have given in, I felt so much better when I was finished with my practice…

    I am having a hard time right now with the concept of letting go. To everything. Attachments, people, and just life in general. It’s been a very frustrating and emotional journey of late, and truth be told, I am not sure why I continue to get in my own way.

    • Heather,

      Your vulnerability and transparency are so beautiful, so first of all, thank you for your authenticity.  I understand the messy and emotional process of self growth oh so well and the frustration with yourself for still getting caught in your own web of self doubt sometimes.   My own journey has been a long and difficult one, with many heartaches and disappointments along the way, as well as the need to let go of people, situations or beliefs that do not serve my higher good.  

      You are a seeker of truth, which is why it is so painful to let go of things in life. Sometimes, our biggest lesson is simply not just about letting go but trusting ourselves and accepting where we are.  We are a work in progress and it takes real love and compassion to hold the space for transformation, especially our own.  
      Trust that you are exactly where you need to be.  That trust comes from total acceptance of yourself, in this moment.  When you find yourself questioning or doubting yourself, that is your ego, not you, getting in the way,  YOU know who you are and the path you are on.  Continue to nurture yourself through yoga and ALLOW the fear to be there, allow EVERYTHING to be there with you on your yoga mat.  and TRUST.

      Sending much love and hugs, xo
       Betty

      • Oh, goodness…I am fighting tears…how is it that you always seem to know what’s in my heart?

        I needed to hear that…that we are a work in progress, and it’s vital to accept where we are. I think sometimes (maybe most times), I try and push myself too much, too fast through my growth, and then I end up frustrated and angry and hurt. I always think others’ expect too much out of me, even when I know they truly don’t – perhaps I expect too much out of myself, is the reality.

        I think I still need to nurture myself a bit. It has only been recently where I began to truly start loving myself….I think that new bond is still pretty fragile…

        Love & blessings to you. xoxox

        Heather

  11. I am signing off now but just wanted to thank each and every one of you for such a moving dialogue.  More women should be having these kinds of conversations and I am honored to have shared this experience with you.  Thank you again Heather for this opportunity.

    If you missed the discussion or would like to go deeper into what we have been discussing, please feel free to send me an email at beyogabelove@yahoo.com and if you would like some inspiration, please visit my blog “For the Love of Yoga” at http://beyogabelove.wordpress.com.  Hope to connect with you all again soon! 

    Love & Blessings xoxoBetty

  12. Hey Betty, if you are still answering Q’s… Something that keeps,coming up for me today is how do you distinguish between being ‘vulnerable’ and being a ‘victim’?

    I realize that sometimes when I am in the middle of struggling with something difficult, I don’t know if I am being one or the other. I know we can be affected by the people around us who might be uncomfortable with vulnerability. But then I know I can also fall into a woes me place.

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