Bring some conscious Heart energy to your Prayer Pose
In terms of both the Classical and Zen Shiatsu meridians Prayer Pose, Pranamasana, is a Heart Meridian pose. Arguably, it is THE fundamental Heart pose.
In the basic Prayer Pose, the hands are positioned at the level of (if not touching) the sternum – behind which lies the Heart Chakra. This is where the meridian begins. It spreads over the heart system, rises up along the outer edge of the breast bone* then arcs outwards (just above the breast) to arrive at the armpit. From here it runs down the lower inside surface of the arm and palm to arrive close to the inside edge of the pinky fingernail.
[It is worth noting that the Small Intestine meridian, the Yang partner of the Heart also runs to the pinky finger.]
The central palm itself is governed by another Fire meridian, the Heart Protector: helpmate to and defender of the Heart.
* In Zen Shiatsu, a branch of the Heart meridian continues up the front of the chest and the throat (crossing the thyroid and voice box) to arrive inside the jaw bone under the chin – connecting the Fire element, which governs our communication, to the tongue and voice.
The Heart is, among other things, the “Home of the Spirit”. So it should come as no surprise that Prayer Pose is also the Namaste mudra hand position. The definition of Namaste is both this physical gesture or form and a spoken spiritual salutation for which there are a variety of translations. Here are two of my favourites:
“The spirit within me bows to the spirit within you”
“I greet that place where you and I are one”
Tips to help you feel at ease in (& so maximize on) Pranamasana:
- Keep the shoulders relaxed – with the blades sliding down – by adjusting the level & angle of the elbows / arms. [Beware of the trap of thinking that the elbows need to be level with the wrists or close in to the torso – they don’t.]
>> This will allow your chest to stay open while your upper spine (neck included) and throat also stay relaxed.
- Think of lifting up through the Heart Chakra – located behind the sternum and in front of the mid-thoracic spine. This will allow the space around the chakra to open up.
[It is very easy to hyper-extend forward through the sternum which then squeezes the thoracic spine thereby closing the space.]
- Keep your diaphragm relaxed and your breathing softly dispersed through both the abdomen and chest – fill up from the bottom.
- Check that you can feel a slight pressure between the hands & particularly the pinkies – pressure that is otherwise well spread across all the touching surfaces.
>> Be conscious of the small energetic space between the central palms. Imagine the Heart Protector holding and shielding your Heart.
- It also helps to hold the Namaste salutation in mind & heart.
To tonify & open the Heart meridian
It’s not hard to get a little bit more out of even such a simple, accessible pose as Pranamasana.
- Establish yourself in the pose. Make sure that you are comfortable and relaxed through the spine and the shoulders. Namaste
- On inhalation as you prepare to move, focus on the quality of contact between the two palms: energetic space, pressure zones and pinky fingers.
>> Try to maintain this pressure and this awareness throughout the exercise.
- On exhalation: moving the right arm from the armpit, press more firmly with your right hand so that both hands move horizontally, to the left – as far as possible without discomfort.
>> Be careful to retain the height of the elbows. At the same time, keep your shoulders relaxed and uninvolved.
- At full extension, you should feel a slight tingly stretch from armpit to pinky on the left hand side.
This is your Heart meridian waking up.
>> Imagine the meridian arcing back from the armpit to the sternum and then, internally, the Heart Chakra.
- On inhalation: again, moving from the armpit, press back with the left hand so that the two hands move back across.
>> Activating the Heart meridian.
- Let the movement flow and, as the hands pass in front of the sternum, shift to exhalation to take both hands to the right – as far as possible.
>> Feel the tingly stretch.
- Repeat steps 5 & 6 alternating from side to side: moving gently with an open chest, long spine and relaxed breathing.
>> Do this as many times as you like before bringing the hands to rest at your heart on a final inhalation.
- Exhale and hold the pose for a moment. Focus your awareness on length in the spine and the opening in & around your Heart Chakra. Namaste.
Another way to add value is to combine your Prayer Pose with other poses: warriors, rotated triangles, trees. Standing poses and balances are particularly good for this.