"Remember the emphasis on the heart. The mind lives in doubt and the heart lives in trust. When you trust, suddenly you become centered." ~ Osho
Valentine’s Day inspires thoughts and actions of romantic love. Love, in many spiritual traditions, is a much more universal and powerful concept. Here’s thoughts on what the yoga tradition says about love.
The heart chakra is one of seven spiritual centers in the body. Located in the chest region, the energy of that area governs the heart and lungs.
There are three chakras (energy “wheels”) below the heart chakra (root chakra, sacral chakra, navel chakra) as well as three above it (throat chakra, third eye chakra, crown chakra). With three energy centers above and below it, the heart chakra is the middle chakra, and is said to mitigate between the two halves.
The energy of the heart moves inward and upward and is more powerful than all the other chakras combined. It is called prana vayu. From a western and physiological perspective, this makes total sense. Without the beating of the heart or the movement of the breath, life ceases to exist. It’s literally the “heart” of the matter when it comes to human life.
Focusing on the heart is said to heal imbalances in the lower chakras and provide a bridge to the higher chakras. How can we cultivate this potent energy and use it to increase our ability to give and receive love? Here are two practical ways to develop our awareness and innate heart energy.
1. Focus on your breath, especially inhalations. Take a little time each day to sit comfortably and breathe. Extend your inhalations to 5 or 6 counts and exhale the same length. Once this becomes easy, try holding your breath for a few counts at the top of inhalation, then exhale slowly. This will increase your energy and expand your capacity not only to breathe well but also to love.
2. Practice this very old meditation dating back to the Vedas which is also referenced in the Yoga Sutras: after a few moments of focused breathing, sit quietly and keep your attention on your heart. Relax and become effortless. Then imagine a soft light shining from the center of your heart. Keep your attention on this light. When you catch yourself distracted, return to this image. Stay with this meditation for a few minutes and visualize the light expanding beyond your heart to fill your whole body. Possibly, you'll visualize this beaming, luminous light expanding further, beyond your body.
My challenge to you this month is to do these simple but powerful practices. Do not focus on romantic love, focus on universal love. Increase the love in your heart, share it, and take notice of the positive ripple effects offered to all areas of your life.
About Nikki Estrada
Nikki Estrada has been in the yoga scene for more than twenty years. She lectures, leads workshops, teacher trainings and immersions nationwide. Nikki began her formal training in India, focusing on Ashtanga—a very physically challenging style of yoga. She is currently a senior yoga teacher and educator in the San Francisco Bay Area. Nikki's Vinyasa-based classes are a synthesis of her years of yogic and Ayurveda study and personal experience, with an emphasis on spirituality, intelligent alignment, meditation and living life more joyfully. Her videos can be found on www.yogainternational.com. More information about Nikki can be found at www.nikkiestradayoga.com She resides in northern California with her husband and two daughters.