Understanding the Heart chakra

heart center

Have you ever noticed in everyday life the multitude of expressions we use concerning our hearts and it’s relationship to how we feel? Somehow we instinctively recognize each Valentine’s day that our heart signifies our romantic love; sayings such as I love her with all my heart, she has my heart, my heart belongs to you are so common they are intuitively acknowledged as true. To quote William Shakespeare “If you love me I will always be in your heart” over the centuries these words have touched millions of lives.

Perhaps more powerful than feeling love in our hearts is the heart ache we all have felt at one time or another. People instinctively hold their chest it’s as if an emotional dagger has wounded a person, indeed the lowest point for a person we describe as heart­break. Suffice to say there is more to the heart than just pumping the blood around the body.

Simultaneous functions of the heart exist and are prevalent in all humans which distinguishes them from other animals. The heart radiates the feelings aspect of one’s consciousness whereby any person can direct their love outwardly or inwardly depending on their motives, perspectives and habits.

For the average person caught up in seeking happiness they look outside themselves from external sources to fulfill their desire to be happy. Whether that be towards people, an object of pleasure or expectations the heart reaches out in desire. It’s as if a ray of energy wants to attach onto that object or person based on the potential to fulfill the desire, it will keep looking for fulfillment until that desire is fulfilled. Then we feel relief followed by the feeling of temporary happiness and you think that would be the end of the story. As you have probably figured out by now it’s not, the desire intensifies , new desires sprout, new cords of energy reach outwards and we begin the process all over again. Not to mention that happiness outside ourselves is often followed by a slump or hangover in ourselves. It hurts!

In expecting to receive love, then receiving the love from another the heart creates attachment and from the perspective of prana (life energy) this is a literal cord project from you to that other person or object. Once expectation and attachment based on arbitrary condition is in place we are in perilous territory. Let’s say two people that become attached through conditional love do not meet each others expectations, this causes frustration and bickering in many a relationship. Worst case scenario there is a fall out, the pranic cord is severed and the heart ache ensues.

Heart ache or heart break are very real feelings and may manifest outwardly in new emotions, any downward pull of prana will literally depress you and may make you sick.

In yogic terms there is a valid reason for this phenomena and it’s simply due to the expectation of receiving happiness from another based on conditions out with your control. Behind all attachments and desires there are subtle ramifications to the flow of your life force in a downward direction. Hence the saying I feel down or low.

There is an expression that goes, let the good times roll, but roll to where? If the heart directs it’s love outwardly there will be a current of energy that uplifts us for a while, but it is doomed to fall again and not be sustained. The never ending mystery can be solved simply which clarity and guidance from the yoga teachings. It is this:

Know that you are the happiness that you seek. It is within you always, it is you! When we look outside ourselves then set conditions on our happiness this is only a dim reflection of the true love potential in your heart. If you recognize the true source of the happiness you will not become too attached or be heart broken when things don’t go your way.

It is possible to cultivate lasting love and purify the heart chakra where your love becomes impersonal and expansive to all regardless of their actions. In fact your love becomes unconditional. This is is the key.

To work on the heart chakra but to ignore the lower chakras (Firmness in your direction in life, openness to your intuition and self control to become the best version of yourself) leads to apathy, cynicism and lack of direction. Do not be cold to the World, find the love within and share it in all your words and actions and with all the beings you touch.

If your love can become impersonal, expansive, unconditional and held in sincere kinship, things will start to shift for you in an upward direction, literally upliftment. In essence the heart will start to become sacred, to be clear this does not mean you become cold or unfeeling towards others. The inner secret is to develop the heart’s love and offer it to the Divine in any form that speaks to you.

Through this new awareness you begin to realize that real Divine love flows through your every situation, every person you touch, every sunset you gaze upon, all of these and more are Divine gifts that allow you to feel the love within you. Take time to bring that feeling inwards and recognize the higher source. Each time you practice this the love in your heart will increase exponentially.

Develop devotion in the form that speaks to you, chanting or singing the Divine names is regarded as the highest path of yoga called Bhakti. Giving your whole heart in this practice allows you to direct the heart’s energy to the Divine, this sacred offering will purify the heart it is the only desire that won’t lead to heartache.

For the love in your heart to truly grow and be sustained there is an essential yogic ingredient, you consciously choose to offer your heart’s love at the spiritual eye (ajna chakra) in deep meditation. As you channel the love upwards within yourself it’s as if a ray of light is shining to that beyond and beyond.

Once you begin to understand and become aware of the heart it’s relatively easy to see when it’s reaching out in desire based on condition. In that moment learn to re­direct the heart’s feelings inwards, know that you have the love and joy within, then even the difficulties become wonderful experiences.

Awaken Divine love to transform your yoga practice and spiritual life. Make the heart a sacred refuge once and for all, then you will awaken unto something far greater than yourself.

You will become an expression of Divine love.

This October I will give a free lecture on the chakras including simple practices that have the potential to uplift you. For guided meditations on the chakras visit our FB group. Eastside Yoga meditators.

Love to you!

Steven

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Develop Your Home Practice

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Benefits of Postnatal Yoga

~ By Melissa Savoie

The postnatal yoga that I offer at Eastside Yoga is a class for mothers and babies to attend together.  Partners, family and friends are also welcome.  Women usually don’t begin attending this class until cleared by their midwife or doctor for activity around six weeks postpartum.  

 

Just like prenatal, postnatal classes are focused on community.  We begin the class with a circle to share updates on the babies’ progress as well as physical, emotional or mental updates that moms choose to share.  These discussions also include sharing information about infant care: teething, feeding, diapering and any other issue that might arise in early parenthood.  In this way, the group acts as both a place for asking and answering questions as well as a place to find referrals to other resources in the community.  These referrals include infant swimming and music classes, mother’s support groups, pelvic floor physical therapy, chiropractic and acupuncture.  This sense of community supports women especially in these early days of parenthood, which can feel very isolating.  

 

The yoga in postnatal is a mixture of yoga done for parents while their babies rest or play on blankets and yoga done with the babies.  This is an open class.  Parents might stop to care for their child at different points in the practice and then re enter when ready.  The yoga for parents is focused on the needs of the group in the room that day.  Common issues include low back discomfort, upper back tension, wrist discomfort and a feeling of being unsupported in the core.  We use therapeutic style yoga to address these areas of tension as well as strengthening poses to support postpartum recovery.  

 

The yoga for the babies also includes strengthening poses for mom: squats while holding the baby, lunges and wall sits with songs.  We do a lot of singing in postnatal yoga.  Primarily, the same songs are sung each class so that as a baby grows the classroom is a familiar and comfortable place.  As they begin to move into toddler class, they will sometimes sing along.  We usually do a standing circle of activities, followed by a seated circle.  These activities and songs are a great way for parents to bond with their child.  This can be one of the first activities outside the home that they share and enjoy together.  

 

To end class, we finish with some restorative poses like long twists, legs up the wall or my favorite for parents: supported crocodile pose.  This pose is a great variation of savasana for parents, who tend to be very stimulated.  We lie facedown with the torso supported by a bolster and the forehead resting on a blanket.  It encourages release in the neck and a moment of relief from the constant alertness involved in the parenting of infants and babies.  In these moments of savasana and rest, how ever long they last, part of the practice of parent and child yoga is finding peace and rest in moments that might feel chaotic.  This is the practice of parenthood and is reflected in this type of yoga.

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Benefits of Prenatal Yoga

~ By Melissa Savoie

It’s Saturday morning in East Austin with sun lighting up the gold curtains and warming the cork floor.  Six women in varying states of pregnancy move about the room, unfolding their mats and gathering blankets and blocks.  The class begins with eyes closed, one hand on the heart, one on the belly.  Focusing on the growing and changing new life inside and to the breath that connects mother and child from the very beginning.

 

Prenatal yoga classes give students the opportunity and the place to connect to their community and their changing body.  At the beginning of each class, women are asked to share where they are in their pregnancy as well as any symptoms or experiences that are pressing at that moment.  These discussions are sometimes also focused more on the emotional and social experiences of pregnancy.  Being able to share these common symptoms, emotions, worries and joys help women feel connected to the other mothers in the class and to normalize their experience. Prenatal yoga class is a great place to begin to build relationships with other mothers that will continue after the birth of the baby.  

 

The movement in my classes often ends up being more therapeutically focused.  We try to relieve the common discomforts of pregnancy, including leg cramps, low back discomfort, upper back tension, ligament pain and even allergies.  In addition to contributing to the relief of these symptoms, yoga can also increase circulation, improve sleep and reduce stress and anxiety.  We also practice strengthening poses to prepare the body for labor and aid women in their postpartum recovery.  These include full and half squats, modified push ups and gentle core strengthening exercises.  These poses are great for building strength but also help women to feel strong and confident as they prepare for birth and parenthood.

 

We work on connecting the movement to the breath, which helps to focus the mind.  Also, practicing restorative poses or resting poses helps to relax the nervous system and calm the thoughts.  Practicing progressive relaxation techniques, breathing techniques and vocalizing is also applicable to labor and delivery later on, but help women stay more relaxed and calmer during their pregnancy.  Studies have connected the practice of prenatal yoga to shorter labors with less pain.  In general, being able to relax the body and mind is useful preparation and beneficial through the entire prenatal period.  

Yoga supports awareness and mindful decision making. The practice offers the opportunity for self study, which supports the transition into parenthood.  Any positive practice, which supports the mother, whether it’s healthy diet, meditation, yoga, or exercise supports the baby as well. Yoga helps to make that connection between the health of mother and baby more clear and present, hopefully supporting mothers to continue to practice self care as they move into early parenthood.

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Change Challenged? Yoga can help.

One thing you can count on in life is that there will be change. Look around, it’s everywhere. Seasons change. Babies are born, and then they grow up. Friends and family move away and pass away. Hairstyles and fashions don’t stay the same from one year to the next. Jobs come and go. Relationships evolve, and sometimes they deepen and sometimes they end. Think about any area in your life, and you will see change. Imagine that your boss or spouse or friend calls you up (or texts you, as is more likely the case with all the changes in the way we communicate) and says “Things need to change”. How do you feel? Excited and optimistic or nervous and anxious?

Change is challenging, and it is constant. A change I recently made was leaving a steady job with smart people and a nice salary to pursue my passion for teaching Yoga full-time. “But you have it so good!” A few friends mentioned. “I guess if you can afford it” said others. And, a lot of “I admire people who do what you are doing. I’d be too afraid.” All of these friends know how much I love teaching Yoga and that I’ve been trying to make this change for quite a while. But even my friends, who are not actually making a change, are having trouble handling my change. It is hard for us to change, and it is also challenging to watch others change around us. I think my practice helped me to come to the final decision to make this particular change. In November, I added Ashtanga classes to my practice. Ashtanga has always been a big challenge for me, and the first few classes were so humbling. But it signaled to me that I had the courage to make other changes in my life, which is just one of the ways our practice can empower us. Once the momentum began, there was no turning back.

My practice has also taught me to let go of expectations. There is a Facebook post going around these days that says “Expectations are planned disappointments”. When you let go of expectations, the world really can open up for you. I let go of the expectation that I should always have the answer. It’s hard, but I am allowing myself to dive into the unknown. And the more I practice on the mat, the more I can identify when I am being limited by my expectations. It’s an interesting process.      I’m thrilled to be making this change. In the first week of my new life I have felt completely exhausted, even going to bed at 8:30 one night. Not what I “expected”. My wise friend today told me to embrace the change and just ride on it, and to take it a little easy. I will try.

Here are just 5 of the many ways Yoga helps us cope with change.

  1. Yoga strengthens your inner resources. Sometimes we get defensive and blame others when change has happened. Our practice teaches us instead to witness the change, and examine our own response to it. When we recognize our role, we understand what we need to do to face the change, and seek the strength to do so.
  2. Yoga helps you recognize habits and patterns. While things change, we may still remain in our old habits and patterns—they are familiar and often provide a comforting frame of reference. But they may not serve us in our new situation. In our practice, when we become a witness, we can notice these patterns and be open to a new approach.
  3. Yoga helps you recognize reactions in the mind and body, rather than identifying with the mind and the body. Even though we each have a mind and we each have a body, we are not our minds and bodies. Sometimes this confuses us. When we can recognize our reactions for what they are, we can chose to a different approach.
  4. Yoga helps you to live in the moment. Change brings fear in both the past and future directions. We may be hesitant to let go of the past and identify with things in our past. Or we may be projecting out various outcomes in the future, often letting our fears get the best of us. Our practice teaches us to recognize the present moment and live fully in it.
  5. Yoga encourages you to let go of expectations. As previously mentioned, expectations often lead to disappointment. They also get in the way of being in the moment. Most things are not as bad as you imagine, and many are better than you expect!

In summary, Yoga helps you regain perspective when in the midst of change, which is an integral part of life.

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly slight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
C.S. Lewis

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Gratitude

Hi community!

For those of you who attended my stress management workshop last weekend, thanks so much for sharing space and energy with me.  It was always a goal of mine to lead a workshop, so I’m really grateful that my first one with met with so much kindness and good attendance (19 people including Steven’s mom!)

Stress is such an important topic, considering that we are all faced with some form of it whether it be interpersonal, job related or just due to the minor inconveniences we face as human beings.  One thing I have learned in my own journey toward understanding the experience of stress is that I can actively make a choice whether I indulge in it or let it go.  If I indulge in the feelings associated with stress; panic, fear, anxiety etc.  I might curl up into a ball in the corner and give up.  If I choose to let it go, I take a moment to deepen my breath and to notice my surroundings.  

Those that attended had such beautiful things to say about their own experiences with stress.  It turns out that we all have a lot in common.  We know for a fact that stressful situations are going to come up in life no matter what.  Even if we are yoga teachers or avid meditators or drink tea everyday at the top of a mountain.  There’s bound to be stress.  We can’t change that.  What we can change is our internal experience.  Pranayama and Asana practice are great allies to shift the fight or flight response to a more calm and even existence.  It is possible to do this.

I used to deal with painstaking anxiety. Panic attacks, accelerated heart rate, and racing thoughts.  It was very difficult to make even the smallest decision under these circumstances.  I have learned through the incredible gift of yoga that there is a way to change this.  It might not be perfect.  I still get flustered when an unexpected bill comes in the mail or if my car has troubles but I know now that I have this great tool to rely on and the knowledge that I can get off the hamster wheel of fear, doubt and anxiety.

We plan to have more of these workshops in the future and so I hope you will consider coming if you were unable to attend this last time.  It’s a great learning experience for all of us.

Also, please join me for an additional yin flow class on Friday evenings at 6 PM.  What a great way to end your week and salute the weekend.  

Deep breaths,

Brooke

 

 

  

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The Great night of Shiva – Shivaratri this Friday

On the 14th day of the dark half of this moon cycle,  Hindus celebrate with a festival dedicated to Lord Shiva,  known for his compassion to devotees on this night, he dispenses spiritual and material blessings to those who utter his name with reverence.   For centuries the great Yogis have referred to Shiva as Yoganath, the Lord of the Yogis,  he is regarded as the teacher, the path and the goal and the highest Guru.

During this special night of the lunar calendar it is said that if sadhak (practitioner) can maintain focus on the Divine from sunset to sunrise they can gain control of their mind for the entire year! Several years ago I attempted this and let’s just say it’s extremely difficult to get through.  Any devotional practice or simply chanting of a Shiva Mantra will have a positive effect on your concentration and meditation.

Yoga (to yoke) allows us an opportunity to realize our highest Selves and experience directly a Divine connection this is the destiny of all yogis.   Mantra being the oldest yoga practice is a powerful tool to experience pure consciousness.  Shiva is a cosmic force is defined by Yogis as pure conscious bliss.

This Friday (February 28th) the moon’s influence over the mind is at its least for the entire lunar year, a rare opportunity arises for us mere mortals to gain a greater control over our minds.  This window allows us to meditate more deeply and perhaps lessen our mind’s almost constant fluctuations, bringing us closer to inner bliss.  Perhaps its worth a try?

Any time this week but especially Friday night it is recommended to chant Shiva Mantra.
A simple yet very powerful mantra is OM Namah Shivaya.  chant 108 times.

OM Namah Shivaya

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