In her yoga therapy practice, Jennifer Womer Kreatsoulas ’99 teaches people who struggle with poor body images how to create positive relationships with their bodies. Hand to Heart Breathing is a meditation she uses to help others develop self-awareness and encourage healing.
She says it is a simple but powerful method to take a purposeful pause and connect to your body in a gentle, compassionate way:
To begin, simply find a comfortable position. It can be seated, lying down, or standing. Take a scan through your being; notice where you’re holding some tension. We all hold tension—you don’t need to judge the tension; it happens. Just notice it and meet yourself where you are with it.
Then do your best to bring some ease into your body, dropping your shoulders, relaxing your hands, softening around your jaw and your eyes. Tune inward and just notice your breath. Notice how you’re breathing in this moment. You don’t need to do anything special with your breathing. This is just an opportunity to notice and connect with it.
Then bring one or both hands to your heart. Rest your hand really gently on your heart. I love to think about this connection of hands on our heart as an act of compassion toward ourselves.
And then notice yourself breathing into your hands. It might be a very subtle sensation. It might not even be a sensation; maybe it’s more of an image for you. Either way, notice this connection of breathing into your hand, holding yourself in this kind and gentle way. Take a breath in and a breath out. A gentle breath in, a gentle breath out. Continue to breathe at that rhythm, perhaps noticing a softening in your chest as you hold yourself in this very kind and gentle way.
Practicing this sort of connection is so powerful for our healing because we’re so trained in the eating disorder to turn away from our bodies. And this very simple action of placing your hand on your heart is a true paradigm shift because we’re turning toward our bodies to create calming, to create grounding, to create connection and healing, to create a purposeful pause. You might even sense yourself feeling a little calmer after doing this for a few moments, helping with anxiety. So many benefits from just simply pausing and breathing in this way. Hand to heart, connected. Take a breath in. Breath out.
Sometimes emotions can bubble up with this meditation, and if you find yourself doing that, it’s OK. Probably there is a part of you if those emotions are coming that just feels like a welcoming or a coming home to oneself, and that is really beautiful. If that’s not what you’re feeling today, that’s OK too. There’s no right way to feel when we do meditation. Observing and noticing, meeting ourselves where we are, that’s where the power is.
Take a few more moments to breathe into your hand. Be connected to your body in this kind way. And if you’re feeling like you really like this, know that this is something you can do for yourself at any point during the day. You can place your hand on your heart, take a few breaths, use it as a way to calm and ground and connect. You’re welcome to stay here and breathe for as long as you like.
To come out of the meditation, simply remove your hand from your chest. Your eyes are closed; soften them open. Bring a simple smile to your face, acknowledging the time that you spent with yourself in this kind and healing way. I wish you a beautiful day.