As we continue our journey through the chakras we come to the heart. It sits right in the middle of the other six with three below it and three above it, which might give you some clues as to how special the heart centre is.
As with everything about us it is all inter-connected so we can’t work on, say for example, the base or sacral chakra without affecting the others, it is all part of our wholeness. That is why mainstream medicine is letting us down in many areas today as most of medicine is based on the Newtonian premise that we are mechanical and therefore parts can be replaced or treated individually with no inquiry to what is going on in other areas of our lives. We are so much more complex than that and there is also so much we don’t know about the intricacies of energy, and let’s remember we are made of energy and everything we interact with is energy. We cannot always see what we are dealing with, it is not that black and white.
Many of us have forgotten how to “feel” to tune into our hearts for that inner guidance that comes from a place of truth. That is what Dru Yoga is so good at, working with the heart energy, gently and subtly opening up the heart pathways so that you can feel more. This is why so many people get that unexplainable feeling after a Dru class that leaves them feeling lighter, calmer, balanced and happier.
If you’ve been coming to my classes you will know that I encourage you to check in with the layers of your being before we start and during the class. This is so that you get to feel what is going on at these levels:
Physical level – Anamaya Kosha: What is going on in your physical body?
Pranic level – Pranamaya Kosha: How is your breath, your energy level?
Feeling level – Manomaya Kosha: How you feel, how is your heart feeling?
Mental level – Vijnanamaya Kosha: How is your mind, where are your thoughts?
If you can learn to consistently check in with these layers throughout your day you will be able to identify what affects your koshas and energy levels, and make conscious choices about how to manage your responses.
For example, you might check in with your heart and notice that you are feeling a bit down, low, or uninspired. What tools have you got from attending yoga that could change this? Remember we are energetic beings and therefore we can change the energetics at any time we choose. The fastest way is to change our breathing: commonly when we are feeling low, our posture may be slightly slumped, our breathing shallow, and our thoughts turned inward.
Try taking three deep breaths and sighing the breath out. Then practice a little anahata breath (breath of the heart) followed by the heaven and earth stretch, reaching and stretching into the sides of your body. To come fully into the moment, focus on your breathing. Let your breath take you into your body so that you can re-inhabit your body again. We get so busy and in our heads with the numerous roles we play that often, without knowing it, we become quite detached from our bodies. We have sent our energy out on missions in many directions—work, family, kids, what’s for dinner and so on—and wonder why we feel scattered, exhausted and ungrounded. Coming back to our breath and in particular breathing into our heart can be very calming and soothing. It can help to put your hands on your heart as that will take your awareness there quickly and aid focus.
Breathing deeply and fully doesn’t just affect your mental and pranic levels. Did you know that by using your diaphragm properly, you are helping your physical heart health? As you expand the diaphragm and breathe fully into your belly, up into the rib cage and then further up into your chest, you’re expanding the whole front of your body. Exhale and feel the diaphragm release as it recoils upwards and gently massages the heart through the fascia (connective tissue). The act of breathing literally massages the heart. Because the heart is bound directly to the diaphragm and indirectly to the sternum and lower neck joints via the fascia, diaphragmatic action—deep breathing—manipulates the soft tissue of the heart (Donna Farhi, Pathways to a Centered Body, 2017). Think how good a shoulder massage feels for your skeletal muscles and you have an added incentive to check on your breath and use your diaphragm fully throughout the day.
Our heart is the balance point from the lower and upper energy centres. It’s always a good place to start your practice from and to finish with. As we have worked with the sun sequence, Surya Namaskara, this past term you’ll have noticed that we start with our hands at the heart. We activate the heart before the sequence and then again at the end of the sequence, restoring balance at the beautiful heart centre where the light of the sun is reflected in the qualities of the heart, love, kindness and compassion.
Honour your heart throughout the day. Stop, place your hands on your heart and affirm to yourself “I Love You”. Breathe deeply and smile.