Emotional Healing Through Yoga
Part IV: The Sacred Heart
The Heart Chakra marks a transition point on the Path. It comes midway between our more physical, mundane life and our higher spiritual evolvement and links them. The Heart imbues our everyday lives with compassion, which opens us to love on all levels. The first, most important level is love of self, for if we do not love ourselves, we will not find balanced, healthy love coming towards or from us - there will always be conditions or strings attached.
The Heart Chakra resides in the center of the chest, opening outward front and back. You will have felt its energetic presence as a physical sensation if you've ever had a broken heart or expanded in empathetic compassion for someone.
The Heart governs the arms, shoulders, chest, lungs, breasts, and heart. Unresolved, stuck Heart energy can result in respiratory ailments, such as asthma or bronchitis, breast cancer, lymphoma, heart disease, and arm, shoulder or hand ailments.
The clues in the colloquial that point to Heart Chakra involvement are: "It pulled at my heart strings," "felt like I was stabbed in the back," "have a heart," and "get off my back." We say we are "green with envy" when our hearts clang shut with this emotion. The traditional color of the Heart Chakra "coincidentally" is a beautiful emerald green, the core of which is pink. The element of this chakra is Air, and we may experience shortness of breath when encountering someone who "smothers us with affection."
The compassion of the Heart moves us away from the untempered, selfish passion of the third chakra, where force is right and we see the differences between individuals rather than our similarities. Through the Heart chakra, we breathe freely, fully, opening to selflessness-a step further on the Path.
The Heart Chakra opens us to subtler dimensions of perception and experience. The balance of the first through third Chakras is imperative for a healthy Heart Center. Otherwise we have empathy without ground, lust masquerading as love, and high ideals without the ability to carry those ideals into our own lives practically.
The Christian mystical tradition honors the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary as the source of Divine Forgiveness. This shows us the path for our own full healing. Forgiveness is the letting go of wrongs done to us, not condoning them nor forgetting. We remember and learn out of self-love so we don't get taken advantage of again. We grow. But without letting go, forgiving, the events eat at us constantly, causing pain, anguish and disease and keeping us in the past, shutting our Hearts.
Working with the breath is an excellent way to get the Heart Chakra energy moving. Emotions may bubble up to the surface when least expected. Allow the movement of emotion to follow the breath outward. Don't hang onto or push away the emotion or the event behind it. Observe: as the breath moves through you, so can the emotional charge - feel the anger, let the tears flow, experience the fear, work through the grief; but remain in the Present Moment as the Observer, where true healing is experienced. The breath will help you do this!
Some postures that will help you discover your Heart energies follow. I have found that shoulders, chest and upper back are the first things to seize up on even young students. We all have a lot of Heart pain. To the Buddhists, this is a pre-requisite to being truly alive, compassionate humans-a positive rather than a negative. We grow, it seems, through transcending difficulties.
Sitting Bound Rotation: In bound positions, we relax our shoulders (holding with our hands) and stay stable in position longer. Breathe deeply, expanding the chest. If you feel release, turn further. As we move into rotation, the energy is gently squeezed upward, expanding the Heart if we are focused.
Upward Dog: Strengthening the arms and shoulders increases Heart energy. As you hold, exhale and inhale fully. Feel the chest and Heart energy expand outward. Focus on feelings of Compassion to encourage cultivation of this quality.
Head of Cow: As with all bound poses, use straps to assist moving toward further flexibility. As the chest opens, shoulders rotate and posture is neutral; focus on Calmness, Gentleness and Contentment flowing from within to your outer consciousness.
Rooster: While strengthening the arms and Heart, we need deep concentration to achieve balance in this posture. Focus on releasing Pride and Arrogance from the Heart. Allow Benevolence to flow in.
Pigeon: The energy in this posture (and the two below) encourage upward flow to the transforming Heart. Don't forget the back area. Focus between shoulder blades, easing out the implements of past wounds and healing the area with Flexibility, Compassion and Awareness.
Bound Triangle: Once in position, we carefully rotate the expanded side up and back, opening the entire circumference of the Heart area. Breathing more freely, we become less susceptible to winter respiratory ailments.
Zuzanna Vee teaches at The ArtsCenter (Rainbow Yoga Tues.; Partners Yoga Wed.; Hatha Yoga Fri.) and Plum Springs Clinic (Hatha Yoga). She maintains a private healing practice in Chapel Hill incorporating yoga therapy, shamanic practices, and energy healing. Contact her at 919-542-3001, or please visit www.RainbowHealing.net