Your chest carriage tells your love story.
“He loves me, he loves me not” is a game that oscillates us between sadness and joy. Are we questioning the ambivalence of our sweetheart or our own uncertainties?We want to be loved with devotion, yet we want autonomy. We want to love with conviction yet we want options. We want to satisfy every emotional possibility that lives in our Heart Center. This grand canvas can feel impossible to satisfy, but when you understand the underlying emotional expressions needing your attention, the canvas can be tamed for you to focus on a clear vision.Love, as I see it, is the allowance of every emotion. Strength is experienced as a result of that flow. Tension, on the other hand, blocks that flow, and as a result blocks love.Tension is the result of holding patterns in the body’s soft tissues (skeletal muscles, organ & bowel muscles). These patterns are psyche-muscular in nature and reflect outdated beliefs that have become automatic, so they can go unnoticed until they are triggered. Love relationships are very often a trigger for such patterns to surface because we are asked to stretch out of our emotional comfort zone. This can be experienced in the body as pain and fatigue, or seen as a collapse in posture.Your Heart Center is cocooned within the heart and lungs, the organs that carry your joys and sorrows. Eastern healing arts recognize that every organ contains a specific emotion and the muscles surrounding those organs are influenced by your relationship with that emotion. Your heart, known in the West as the seat of your emotions, embodies your joy for living and is exercised through quick energy and laughter. The lungs embody your sadness and are exercised through the expression of grief and crying. Love is romanticized as exciting and euphoric, but the flip side of that experience is nervous and insecure. (For every yin there is a yang. It is unavoidable!)As an external sheath of your Heart Center, the chest muscles’ carriage can teach you about the ambivalence that lies beneath the surface–the conflict between joy and sorrow–and how it is affecting your ability to give and receive love. I call it your Smile of Truth–an open smile in your chest that creates your life forward.
How to recognize when your Smile of Truth is fiction:
- Unresolved feels of sadness or overlooking personal aspirations cause the chest to concave.
- Faking happiness or insecurity around your lovability causes the chest to protrude.
- Honest pursuit toward your aspirations and dreams of being in love, without airs of grander or martyr-ism, allow the chest to settle neutrally.
Whether sadness has been stifled or happiness has been falsely posed, permission to feel sorrow and joy, as it unfolds, is necessary to prevent tension from getting stuck as unresolved or insecure holding patterns in and around the chest muscles. To let go of the notion that you should be happy all the time permits joy to exist within sadness, and sadness to exist within joy. To birth love into being you contract and release between these opposing forces with free flowing energy, and let go of a static definition of love. This oscillation between joy and sadness is the emotional exercise that teaches you where center is. That satisfied feeling that wells up in your chest when you firmly decide what is right for you is the feeling of being in love–centered in your Heart’s Center.
How to access your Smile of Truth:
- With feet hips-width apart, knees slightly bent, and abdominal muscles gently engaged, hold a stick, towel or strap with a wide grip in front of your thighs.
- Circle straight arms forward, then up overhead, and back behind the shoulder blades slowly. Progressively separate the breasts so the shoulders can rotate back with the arms.
- Reverse the circle up overhead, forward, and down in front, keeping the chest’s newfound openness. Repeat the circle 3-6 times, pausing at the tightest aspect of the circle, just behind head, to relax the shoulders and soften the chest muscles.This chest opener separates the breasts at the Heart Center and elongates the sternum. Exploring this stretch brings about a greater understanding of what chest muscles feel like, so they can contribute more to your everyday posture. Be resolved in fully connecting with and expanding the chest muscles throughout this movement. When the chest muscles are tense or fatigued, they retreat, and the shoulder muscles will take over. Be strict with your intention, practice keeping the chest muscles–Smile of Truth–connected to your action, rather than your shoulder muscles. If the chest muscles transfer the challenge over to the shoulders, try a wider grip or conclude the exercise. As the chest muscles develop awareness, they will become more and more able to stay connected.Let your expanding chest connect you to what is right in front of you with an open heart. Feel your Life Force aligning with what the Universe has presented to you. A chest stretch will teach you the subtleties of heartfelt connection. It’s like leaning back in your desk chair, satisfied with the work you just produced; body, mind and heart are all immersed in creating your vision. Chest exercises move you forward from your Heart Center, boldly incorporating the desire for love and acceptance. (I say boldly, because it also leaves you open for social scrutiny.) Step into the world to be seen and judged!
How to strengthen your Smile of Truth:
- Sit, stand, or lie supine with palms together and elbows wide. Direct an upward swell through your Heart Center. Engage the chest muscles to lift your breast, rather than aiming to lift your bone–punching your ribs forward. Feel the chest’s gentle strength pass through the arms unimpeded to produce an inward pressure between the hands.
- The forward swelling of the chest will subsequently drag the associated ribs and vertebrae slightly forward, creating a subtle and relaxed arch in the upper back. This spinal arch is a natural consequence of the chest’s upward swell. If this arch is prohibited or exaggerated, your shoulders will take over as the active muscle group.
- Release the isometric pressure between the hands and allow your alignment to return to neutral. Repeat until you can successfully isolate the chest muscles independent of the shoulder muscles.
This isometric resistance exercise awakens the musculature of the chest so you can present your heart outward to the world. As if the sun were rising through your chest (flowing strength) and the moon were setting through your back (releasing tension), engaging the chest muscles feels like an emergence. These opposing energies create an energetic orbit that circles the entire body, uplifting the anterior body trusting openhearted love, while grounding the posterior body by letting go of unresolved insecurities. Feel the Heart Center shift forward while the shoulders relax back. Commit to matching the inspired lift in the chest with a downward surrender in the upper back and feel free flowing energy feeding the natural ebb and flow of being in love.Haste can cause you to pinch the back muscles to quickly lift the chest, substituting the chest’s more subtle connection with the back’s protectiveness. This turns heartfelt joy (heart) to sorrowful discouragement (lungs). The best support the back muscles can offer the chest’s effort is to yield to the chest’s more yin expression. Feel the weight of the shoulder blades settle downward in the back’s musculature, as the chest muscles lift upward, giving your action confidence and clear connection. Be mindful of the back muscles as a partner who supports the grace within the chest, rather than as an overpowering protector replacing the chest. Notice how supple the back muscles can be as the movement in your chest progressively swells. Boldness is needed to surrender the back’s protection, just as it is needed to believe in the chest’s dreams. As you deliberately release the back muscles, feel a newfound boldness clearing the way for your heart’s vision. Patience in finding your chest muscles is found by slowing down the need to move forward and instead connect forward.As you work the chest muscles, let your Heart Center experience the fruit of your dreams. Literally feel your chest smile as you offer it to the world through your active connection with your dreams. Notice how this Smile of Truth, expressed through the chest’s radiance, projects your inner beauty outwardly into the world. And in the doing, you learn to love yourself first and foremost.To learn more about how to feel and heal your capacity to love through your chest muscles check out: https://bodylogos.com/2018/03/sob-your-head-off-its-good-for-you/
—Tammy Wise is a Tao Minister, mind-body strength expert, and founder of the BodyLogos holistic fitness method. Her writing and methodology has been widely featured in media including New York, TimeOut New York, Fitness, Shape, and Natural Health magazines. She is currently writing and producing a BodyLogos book and 3-D video system for online. Learn more about her training, holistic treatments, and products at bodylogos.com, or follow her on Twitter at @BodyLogos.