Friday, February 5, 2010

the heart chakra

I've been reflecting on the heart chakra lately. I don't know if it's because Valentine's Day is coming up, as cliche as that sounds. I prefer to call it El Dia De Amor Y Amistad--the Day of Love and Friendship-- which is how February 14th is celebrated in other countries, as a good friend of mine told me (thanks, RZ).

Back to the heart chakra. This excerpt is from Yoga Journal:

"Through the heart chakra, we open to and connect with harmony and peace. The health of our heart center registers the quality and power of love in our life. In Sanskrit, the heart chakra is called Anahata, which means “unstruck” or “unhurt.” Its name implies that deep beneath our personal stories of brokenness and the pain in our heart, wholeness, boundless love, and a wellspring of compassion reside." - Barbara Kaplan Herring

I thought that was a beautiful definition.

It reminds me about what yoga really is - union. That yes, even with pain, sadness, and brokenness, we are all capable of offering love and compassion. And we are capable of receiving it too. It's all part of that oneness. We are also capable of being compassionate towards ourselves. Which I think is harder sometimes.

It makes me think about the thoughts, experiences, and memories that may keep me from being open in my heart's center. All these things that we hold on to, we feel in the tightness in certain areas of our body, when we contract and tighten to protect ourselves, or to keep from letting go of something that we need to let go of. Which is why backbending, a great heart chakra-opening pose, can be so challenging sometimes. I know it because my body doesn't lie. It's right there in my hip flexors. Ouch.

*Play background music here: "Fear... can stop your love and...love...can stop your fear..." (Morcheeba, Big Calm)*

I am reminded of how easy backbending is as a child. I remember doing it all the time as an 8-year-old, with hardly any discomfort. I wonder if it has to do with the fact that children are fully present. They let go. They may get into fights among themselves, and then not long after that they are fine. Well, life isn't that simple anymore. As adults, we tend to hold onto things longer.

 
(photo taken by Dad in New Hampshire, summer 2006)
 
I went to a challenging yoga class a few weeks ago. The instructor had us hold Warrior II (photo above) for what felt like a REALLY long time. Not only that, she had us go deeper, till your front thigh was parallel to the floor (still keeping knee above ankle). And this was after several sweaty sun salutations. And yes, we had to breathe deeply and fully (of course, right?!). Then she said, "Think about something that happened that is causing annoyance that you are holding on to. Sometimes it's something so petty, sometimes it's more serious. Visualize where your level of annoyance is. As you sink your hips lower into your Warrior, deepen your breath, and with every exhale, lower that level of annoyance. See the level go down with every exhale."

Whoa. Now that was intense.

But that's what the physical practice of yoga helps us with. It helps us recognize those areas in our life that we need to face and work through. Those things that cause us to tighten, contract, and close up. Those things that we need to let go of to move forward, so that we can be open, so that compassion can flow in and out of our hearts more easily. When we ease gently into a challenging asana and let go through the breath, or decide to let go of something that holds us down, we create space. We create space in our bodies, and we create space in our hearts and minds for more positivity to enter. That's what is so transformative about yoga.

A thought has been forming in my mind about a yoga practice of asanas for opening the heart chakra. More on that later...

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1 comment:

sfauthor said...

Nice posting. Do you know about these chakra books?

http://www.YogaVidya.com/freepdfs.html

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