Your Yoga Newsletter on the Heart
Greetings Yogis and Yoginis!
This month we have been exploring the topic of the Heart. The heart has many layers of significance in the sphere of Yoga philosophy and practice.
To begin with, Hatha Yoga practices of breathing, stretching, toning and meditation are proven to affect the physical heart beneficially.
I witnessed this when a student of mine, (an eminent doctor) had serious artery blockages for which surgery was the suggested treatment. But, using the Dean Ornish MD yoga-based heart program he demonstrably reversed his disease and lived well into his 90’s. https://www.ornish.com/undo-it/
I also recently experienced a traffic accident and in the ambulance dramatically lowered the heart rate and let go of fear by practicing the cooling breath. (Called “sitali” in yoga parlance, this is a simple lengthened pursed lips inhalation that need not be done with a curled tongue). I received much tender human kindness and gratefully emerged with a minimum of damage!
When we do yoga, we assist the heart in its job: delivering oxygenated blood to the hungry cells, and receiving carbon dioxide from the cells.
The job and the joy of the heart is giving and receiving
Yoga practices help make us less dense, less defensive, more receptive, more permeable to light, and more able to receive and to give.
Yoga gestures that are physical, mental and emotional help us tap into a free- flowing energetic openness that has no trace of grasping.
(dont be like Scrooge)
The Sanskrit word for heart, hrdayam, consists of two root phonemes: “hri”: to receive and “da”: to give. These roots underlie our English word “heart” as well.
In French the word is coeur, in Italian, cuore, and in Spanish, corazon, reminding us that the heart can also be understood in Tantric practice as the axial core of our being, the subtle channel called the sushumna, which forms the vertical axle of the wheels of the chakras.
The dynamic definition of our boundaries produced by Hatha yoga asanas makes that core somatically implicit.
Experiencing the arising and subsiding breath as moving serenely along that channel, by breathing you can grace the central axle of your vehicle anytime you choose with divine love and enthusiasm!
When humans engage in the myriad gift giving-and-receiving rites the world over, we are meant to be opening our hearts to each other on the material as well as on the non-material plane.
And to make it even more interesting, (since it is always easier to love the person three counties over), we are asked to do that with members of our own family!
The heart, composed of two functional parts which need each other for completion, embodies the unity-in-duality at the core of our existence. It is is where the pairs of opposites become one, where dichotomizing thought constructs are vaporized in the crucible of the fire of love.
“When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner as the outer, and the above as the below… then you will enter the Kingdom.”(Logion 22; Gospel of Thomas)
Anahata: the Heart Chakra
The heart is threshold between inner emptiness and outer form, your personal doorway, your exit ramp to eternity. You can enter the heart with keen awareness through the vehicle of the breath. If you listen, you may hear a continuous “Ahh” resounding within it.
The space between the breaths, that moment of transition between inhalation and exhalation, and exhalation and inhalation, is referred to in Tantric practice as the heart.
When your attention attains that pause at the top of the pendulum swing of each breath, you may enter with the key of love through that space to the embrace of eternity.
The Heart Sūtra (Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya), a supremely revered mantra of of Mahayana Buddhism goes like this:
(Gate is pronounced GAH-tay)
Here’s to giving and receiving infinite Joy in 2018 !