Published on July 22nd, 2019 | by Catherine Tingey0
The Heart is an Organ of Feeling
The Heart is an Organ of Feeling
In hatha yoga we talk a lot about the heart.
There are heart opening postures, breath work to open the heart and we even bow to the heart at the end of practice as we say, namaste.
A student once asked me, why does the heart feature so prominently in yoga? (Great question by the way.)
The heart chakra (anahata) is a powerful energy center.
Associated with the color green, it is the bridge between heaven and earth, the concrete and the spiritual, our base level desires (lower chakras) and our higher level desires (upper chakras).
Like all chakras, a balance between a state of open and closedness is desired.
A closed heart chakra will result in feelings of isolation, loneliness, disconnection and separation – think infinite suffering. You may find it difficult to get close to others, believe you’re unworthy of love if people were to really know you, and exhibit cool detachment as a means of self-protection. These are normal coping mechanisms of living with a closed heart.
An imbalanced heart chakra may have difficulty releasing past hurts and resentments. You may feel yourself clinging to memories in the past, both positive and negative. This manifests as a feeling of heaviness or stuckness in the heart.
An overly open heart chakra struggles with boundaries. You may flit from person to person, career to career, even city to city. Codependency, jealousy and possessiveness define your relationships with others.
With a balanced heart chakra, you feel trusting in a benevolent universe, grateful, connected to others with intact boundaries, a sense of well-being, and an abiding affection for yourself.
But how do we get there?
In The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself – a popular book in the self help genre – Michael Singer talks about the importance of ‘letting go’ and ‘staying open’ in the heart.
This book is long on aphorisms, short on concrete advice, but a good read nonetheless.
“The only thing you have to know is that opening allows energy in, and closing blocks it out. Now you have to decide whether or not you want this energy. How high do you want to get? How much love do you want to feel? How much enthusiasm do you want to have for the things you do? If enjoying a full life means experiencing high energy, love, and enthusiasm all the time, then don’t ever close.”
“When you feel pain, simply view it as energy. Just start seeing these inner experiences as energy passing through your heart and before the eye of your consciousness. Then relax. Do the opposite of contracting and closing. Relax and release. Relax your heart until you are actually face-to-face with the exact place where it hurts. Stay open and receptive so you can be present right where the tension is. You must be willing to be present right at the place of the tightness and pain, and then relax and go even deeper. This is very deep growth and transformation. But you will not want to do this. You will feel tremendous resistance to doing this, and that’s what makes it so powerful. As you relax and feel the resistance, the heart will want to pull away, to close, to protect, and to defend itself. Keep relaxing. Relax your shoulders and relax your heart. Let go and give room for the pain to pass through you. It’s just energy. Just see it as energy and let it go.”
We hear these kinds of platitudes often in the spiritual community and if they’re not bolstered with practical tips, I tend to find them annoying. So let’s get into a practical practice for balancing the heart chakra.
Heart Chakra Balancing Sequence for Beginners
Try these poses in succession, 3-5 breaths in each pose. Emphasize the yoga breath.
If you’re a beginner, omit Camel and Wild Thing.
[Wild Thing] – intermediate/advanced
“Do not let anything that happens in life be important enough that you’re willing to close your heart over it. Life itself is your career, and your interaction with life is your most meaningful relationship.
Everything else you’re doing is just focusing on a tiny subset of life in the attempt to give life some meaning. What actually gives life meaning is the willingness to live it. It isn’t any particular event; it’s the willingness to experience life’s events.”
Whether you’re looking to practice yoga as a means to elevate consciousness or improve your flexibility, feel free to reach out to me with any questions.