Yoga Goals: Lead With Your Heart

Photo: Sarah Kunst

“Lead with your heart” has been my mantra in the process of starting the Get Go. Sometimes I feel like a kid going to school again, only now I’m wiser. I know I’m not the only one who’s trying to do things differently this time around–every single person I know is living a version of this. A career crossroads, divorce, new relationships, new parenthood, new homes, aging parents, the list goes on. In these times–when the world turns upside down–there’s only one thing to do. Lead with your heart; lean into the unknown.

There’s a Chinese saying–nothing can be right if your heart’s not in it.

I recently learned the meaning of my Chinese name. Shien Shien is actually two words that sound the same in English but have two different meanings in Chinese (obvs). The first “Shien” means heart, the second means Happy-Peaceful-Prosperous. So my name is Happy Peaceful Prosperous Heart. You can call me HPPH for short.

We’re born great, we just don’t know it. 

From an early age, I decided to play American. The less Asian I appeared, the fewer opportunities to be teased. I stopped speaking Mandarin when I reached school age. I insisted on bringing my own McDonald’s to family dim sum. I begged for permission to walk to school myself instead of with my grandfather. When my request was denied, I speed-walked a block ahead while he walked at his own pace keeping me in sight and continued his duty everyday until I was in sixth grade. He only stopped because we moved away. I still can see him at the school gate watching me go in. It was his pride and joy. It breaks my heart that I didn’t appreciate the richness of my family traditions until much later.

Sometimes we look back to go forward.

My grandparents put their hearts into the most ordinary of tasks and every day was a day they were grateful for, even during the most uncertain or difficult of times.

To build my daily practice, I called my friend, Caley Alyssa Joyner, an LA-based Alo Yoga ambassador (click to shop our looks) and rockstar yogi, to help me open up more, physically and emotionally. I had met Caley when I was at SELF and featured her in my first issue. She’s got a voice that makes you listen. Opening up and leading with your heart can feel like an exercise in vulnerability–but Caley’s approach is about tapping into strength you didn’t know you had. That’s the surprise about vulnerability. Her take:

Vulnerability is a gateway not a destination. Have courage to pass through it to access your power.

When I look at the picture at the top of this post, I remember the gorgeous day Malibu when it was taken and sharing with her my vision for the Get Go. Caley’s response: “Whatever you need, I’m here.” That’s exactly what I see in that photo: Two strong women holding on, not letting each other fall, hearts open, heads back in joy and anticipation. Friends lend each other strength. A personal practice cultivates strength in yourself. Both are important.

I worked with Caley that day to open up my heart. Here’s what we did and how you can do it too.

 

 

HALF MOON POSE

I’m a yogi in progress. My leg doesn’t really go any higher and my heart is not as open as I’d like! My alignment is far from perfect. But I don’t post photos of myself on the Get Go to say “Look at me! I’m perfect!” I post them to say, “I’m trying! I know you are too. Let’s keep going and see what we can do!”

With time and practice, we open up. It’s a process.

Firm your standing leg with a little bend in the knee. Keep your lifted leg at hip height and flex your foot for balance. Keep both sides of your waist long and extended.  With your torso facing to the side, rotate your heart upwards.

 

 

FORWARD ROLL

This one feels so good and is a perfect day-opener or ender. Stand with feet wider than hips. Lead with your heart. Let your chest fall until it touches tops of the thighs. Roll up one vertebra at a time. Everything falls into place as it should.

 

 

VINYASA

Sometimes in yoga class, we’re so in the moment we don’t realize what our bodies are actually doing. When your instructor says, “Take a vinyasa,” and you go through your downdog-plank-updog this is what you’re actually doing. How beautiful and majestic, humble yet mighty!

Make sure your shoulders stay in line with your elbows. Don’t dip below the elbows. Start in a plank and push back into a down dog. Lower through chaturanga. Shoulders back, let heart lift. Let love rule and happiness, peace, and prosperity radiate.

HPPH, peeps!

Follow @CaleyAlyssa or visit CaleyAlyssa.com to meditate and practice with her in-class or online.