Find Your Heart in Yoga

AmyBlogThere are as many reasons for the practice of yoga as there are practitioners, though an individual’s motivations for coming to the mat frequently change.  As we evolve through our unique and personal journeys of growth, it’s likely that the direction of each of our practices will undergo change over time as well.

“Tapas,” the third niyama, described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, expresses the necessity for leading a life of discipline.  But discipline alone will not feed the soul.  It is because of the feelings and experiences that we garner through the practice of yoga that we return, feeding the heart.  Speaking for me, if I am unable to feel a connection with the heart, both my practice and discipline suffer, and I undergo a loss of inspiration.

Yoga philosophy maintains that there is a direct link between the heart as an organ and the feelings we generate or access. So through our physical practice, we are able to become more in tuned with our emotions.  As tension and rigidity fall away in our bodies, reality is increasingly revealed. Reviving the body revives the heart.

 

Staying Inspired: Change Your Perspective

Poses which encourage a connection with anahata, the heart-center, are backbends such as cobra, cow, upward facing dog, warrior-1, bow, camel, sunbird, and wheel. Postures which are passive and allow an integrated connection with the breath, such as reclining twists, legs up the wall, or even corpse pose, offer a similar connection. I frequently include postures in my practice with which I find it difficult to connect, repeating these poses in one practice so that I can experience them more fully.  And if I begin watching my breath, not only does my practice undergo change, but I am encouraged to become an observer of my thoughts and feelings rather than a participant with them.

 

Connect to Your Heart

Attempt a three or four-pose sequence that will allow time for repetition. Move through the sequence the first time with a focus on the breath. Then observe your feelings as you begin the sequence again, and see if you are able notice where you feel your breath in your body.

Ask yourself:

  • Does my breath expand the front of my body equally on both the left and right sides?
  • Can I feel movement of breath in my back?
  • If I were to change the pace of my breath, what would happen?

After establishing this deeper connection to the breath, practice the sequence a third time. Attempt to leave expectations of a similar experience out of the equation. Approach these poses as if this were the first time you were experiencing them. Releasing expectation helps to create a new perspective, leading to renewed inspiration.  And inspiration is a motive that will keep us returning to the mat.

 

15 Minutes is Valuable

Many of my students, expressing concern with the limited time available to them for practice, are surprised learn that there are occasions when my daily practice is less than an hour in total. I have proven to myself time and time again that in 15 minutes I can work on connecting to my heart. Let’s face it, fifteen minutes of time these days is often jammed with writing emails, sending voicemails, or managing a child’s needs.  But fifteen minutes of focused alone time can set one up to be more present and receptive, quickly and effectively.

To my students I explain that if I have only 15 minutes available to me, then that’s how long my practice will be. In fact, I feel that frequency of practice is far more important than duration. “Tapas,” let us remember, means discipline, and not distraction.

 

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