Yoga India Foundation

How Yoga can help heal a broken heart

Sometimes it lasts in love and sometimes it hurts instead” was singing Adele, an English singer, and songwriter, in 2011. She is not the first and won’t be the last to sing about the pain love can cause. A broken heart can indeed have devastating effects on the mind and the body: at best you lose some self-esteem, feel less grounded, get some anxiety. At worst you fall into depression, abusing your body with alcohol, junk food and inactivity, and abusing your mind with negative thoughts about yourself, the people around you, and the Universe. It feels like your whole world has collapsed, you don’t know who you are anymore or where you’re going, you feel lost.

In the western world, relationships have become another consumption product, thrown away when they are not working so well anymore, instead of being fixed. Even marriages are not a guarantee of “till death do us part” anymore, with half of them ending in divorce. So, it is safe to say that most people in the western world have experienced and/or will experience a heartbreak at some point.

I will explain in this essay how Yoga can help heal a broken heart. I will describe a Pranayama technique which helps to release anxiety and anger, explain 3 asanas helping to enhance feelings of being grounded, self-confidence, and balance, as well as give some diet suggestion.

Yoga is described, and usually used, as a means to balance and harmonize the body, mind, and emotions. Yoga can be seen, in my view, as a philosophy of life which promotes cherishing our body and mind, to try and reach a constant state of well-being. So what better choice could you make, when feeling heartbroken, than immersing yourself in this healthy way of life, and chose to love yourself, your body and your mind, instead of abusing them?

When feeling bad, at worst I tend to make bad choices, at best I used to do sports. But sports, while releasing endorphins and making me feel powerful and energetic, did not succeed in providing me with more balance, sensations of being grounded, and being in peace. Yoga, however does just that. The Pranayama teaches me how to breathe and be in peace, and removes this “ball” of anxiety in my stomach. The practice of Asanas makes my body feel good, and the spiritual aspects of Yoga: the OM chanting and the meditation, make me feel connected to the Universe, and make me trust more the future and my ability to overcome all the obstacles in life.

The first thing you need to learn when being in distress, is breathe. We know that, we’ve always heard it, but we often don’t know how to do it. We need to learn to breathe properly, from the abdomen. This is the base of it all.

Every morning, when that ball of anxiety starts to appear in the belly, or even before it appears, I suggest breathing from the abdomen for a while, then practicing 10 yogic breathing, while still laying down. Here is how to perform the yogic breathing: Put your right hand on your abdomen and left hand on your chest. Inhale during 3 count filling up your abdomen, keep on inhaling 3 count filling up your thorax, then 3 count extra inhaling to move up your clavicles. Then exhale.

Repeat 10 times. This will maximize your inhalation and exhalation power, get more oxygen in your lungs, and help correct your breathing habit.

Once the yogic breathing has been applied, sit down in a simple crossed leg position, on the floor and perform 20 rounds of Bharamari Pranayama (Humming Bird Breath):

Use your thumbs to close of the flap of your ears. Close your eyes and use your pinky finger, ring finger, and middle finger to cover your eyes, and place you index finger on your forehead. Inhale with your nose, then make a humming sound to exhale. Repeat 20 times.

This Pranayama helps release stress, anxiety and anger.

Now that you’re breathing and relaxing your mind, it’s time to get your body moving. A morning yoga session will help you have energy for the day, and will give you a sense of empowerment.  Here are 3 Yoga Asanas that I recommend as a way to heal this broken heart:

  1. Warrior 1: In this asana, you need to stand strong, look forward and open your chest, which will make you feel strong and give you courage to get through the day.

Torso facing towards the front of the mat, feet together at the top of your mat, toes pointing towards the front of your mat, bring the left foot back about 4 feet apart, at a 45° angle, to the left of the mat. Align the right heel with the left heel.

Bend your front leg but keep both heels on the ground and make sure your right knee does not go further than your ankle.

Inhale and bring your arms up towards the sky, lengthening the spine, chest opened and shoulders relaxed. You can keep your arms apart, palms facing each other’s, or bring the palms together in prayer pose. Gaze at your palms or at the sky.

Exhale and twist your hips towards the right, to make them as square as possible, facing the front of the mat. Repeat with other leg.

  1. Upward facing dog: This asana challenges you to lift and open your chest, to the world. It will help you become more extravert during this time of introversion.

Lie on the floor, stretch your legs, back of the feet on the mat. Bend your elbows and place your hands on your mat besides your chest. Elbows in. Inhale and push on your palms, lifting your chest towards the sky until your arms are straight. Shoulders should be relaxed and chest opened.

Keep your legs active, your tights should not touch the ground.

Slightly tilt your head back and gaze to the third eye or sky.

  1. Tree pose: This asana will help you feel balanced and grounded…like a tree! While doing this asana I like to imagine having roots coming out my foot, into the ground, and being strong like a tree.

Stand at the front of your mat, feet together, arms at the side. Focus your gaze on a fixed point in front of you. Shift your weight on your left foot, grasp your right ankle and place the sole of the foot on your left inner thigh. The heel should be close to the pelvis and the right knee pointing towards the right. Hips square and aligned with the standing leg.

Once you found balance, inhale and raise your hands above your head (you are growing branches to your tree). Keep your hands apart, palms facing each other, or join your palms above your head in prayer pose. Repeat with other leg.

According to Ayurveda, the universal life force manifests as 3 different energies or Doshas: Vata (air), Pitta (Fire) and Kapha (earth and water). We are all constituted of a combination of those 3 doshas, with a predominance for one. The proportions vary all the time depending on the environment and your current experiences and state of mind.  When having a heartbreak, the likelihood is you will have an imbalance in Vata (air), as you won’t feel grounded anymore and thoughts of anxiety will keep coming into your head. You may also have a Pita (fire) imbalance due to feelings of anger and resentment. The asanas I recommended already help working on increasing Kapha thanks the backward bend of upward facing dog, and the slightly back bent of Warrior 1, bringing more stability in your life. But nutrition is very important in reestablishing a balance.

To pacify Vata, you should avoid raw vegetables and favor dairy products and nuts. To pacify Pitta, you should avoid Alcohol, coffee and spicy food, drink a lot of water and eat sweet juicy fruits.

With a balanced diet pacifying your Vata and Pitta imbalances, daily exercises of Pranayama and Asanas favorizing self-love, self-esteem, inner strength, inner peace and balance, you will be on the right path for a healthy recovery from your heartbreak. Welcoming Yoga into your life will be the best choice you ever made for your mind and your body. This is the beginning of a better and healthier life J