Every now and then, I want to change the name of my yoga room. This week, I want to call it “Tender Heart Yoga.” All week, I’ve been practicing and teaching a heart opening practice. While I get my shoulders onto the back and lift my heart toward the sky, I soften all that connective tissue and the years of stories held in and around my heart.

Is it enough to focus here for a week?

When I first opened my studio, I taught Anusara’s first Universal Principle of Alignment– Open to Grace.

“Why don’t you do it for a year?” asked an astute friend. “Become an expert at it?”

I stayed with it for a month. Then moved to the 2nd UPA, Muscular Energy. But my friend had a point. When a practice is good, and I mean deeply helpful at unraveling old, unhelpful patterns good, it makes sense to stick with– for a while. Maybe a week. Maybe a month. Maybe a year. Maybe even the rest of our lives.

If I had one practice, what would it be?

The Dalai Lama urges us to be kind. But how do we get there? Where does kindness come from? Can we be kind when our hearts are armored? Can we be kind to others when we still beat ourselves up inside, or when we are still easily triggered by someone else’s ugly?

Pema Chödrön, in her book Start Where You Are has a chapter called “Poison as Medicine.”

“The peacock eats poison, and that’s what makes the color of its tail so brilliant.”

In this time of darkness, the inner landscape can look bleak at times. The holidays are coming. Our families are waiting. Old wounds lurk like shining eyes in the brush at night.

“Whatever you do, don’t try to make the poisons go away,” says Pema. “Because if you’re trying to make them go away, you’re losing your wealth… all this messy stuff is your richness.”

And so, I practice. I explore that tender, vulnerable, immensely soft spot that lies just below the solidity of my heart.

“If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart and relate to that wound.” -Pema

It takes tremendous courage to stay with this tenderness. To not act out or repress our feelings, but to use the poisons, the messy stuff, as a reminder to turn again, and again, to this soft spot. And from this soft spot, perhaps, we will encounter a true kindness from which to move through the seasons.