This is the last part in a 5-part series looking at the dimensions of the heart in yoga in view of the kosha model. We have been considering how yoga can affect all levels of the heart (see Part 1 here). The first four parts of this essay were published some time ago and I somehow forgot to publish this one! Thank you to the kind words and reminder from a reader who sent me an email wondering where part 5 was….!
The anandamaya sheath is comprised of bliss. In the bliss sheath, the heart is manifested as unconditional and infinite love. In yoga (and across many spiritual traditions) the heart center is thought to be the seat of our soul – our Divine self.
“If you want to know me, look inside your heart.” – Lao Tzu
“The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.” -Buddha
“I looked in Temples, Churches and Mosques. I found the Divine in my heart.” –Rumi
Consider your actions when you are speaking to someone about yourself, notice your hand gestures. You motion towards your heart as you say “I am Charlotte Bradley”. Nischala Devi Joy points out that this gesture reveals the truth – I am here, I live in my heart.
According to the Yoga Sutras (1.2), “Yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart.”
Yogah Chitta Vritti Niordahah: Chitta is the individual expression of the Divine Consciousness, Chit.
The next sutra (1.3) is interpreted as: “United in the heart, consciousness is steadied, then we abide in our true nature – joy.” Nischala Joy Devi explains that when consciousness is united and remains undisturbed, our true, divine nature shines through and is expressed as joy and infinite love. We can look to some inspirational examples of ahimsa in the unconditional love exhibited by people such as Mother Teresa, Ghandi, Jesus and the Dalai Lama. This compassion dwells in each of us.
“Through compassion you find that all human beings are just like you.” – The Dalai Lama
“Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.” –Mother Teresa
Yogic Tools for the Joyful Heart
Embracing reverence and love for all (Ahimsa), we experience oneness. Everybody experiences joy, pain, love, sadness. As we develop an empathy with others, our individual experience becomes the experience of all.
Experience the Joy of Living with Reverence for All
“Ahimsa is a vast and continuous practice. Rather than waking up tomorrow morning and vowing to have reverence for everyone and everything all the time, it is better to choose something specific and obvious. Giving yourself the opportunity to succeed is in itself Ahimsa.
Is there a person or a situation that can assist you in your practice? Is there someone whom you have treated unkindly or who has treated you and kindly? Perhaps it was someone at the office who could be soothed by an offering of flowers or a healthy treat. Healing the hurt that already exists is a great beginning to the practice of Ahimsa.”
Source: The Secret power of Yoga; p.183
The Buddhist practice of loving-kindness teaches us compassion fore everyone. You begin by engendering love for yourself and then expanding the circle to loved ones, friends, neutral persons, those you dislike, and extend the meditation to include everyone.
In the practice of tonglen we take on the pain of others (inhaling the darkness) and wish them free from suffering (exhaling and sending them light). Tonglen translates as “sending and receiving.”
3. Bhakti Yoga
“Boundless love and devotion unite us with the Divine Consciousness” (Sutras 1.23)
Bhakti yoga is devotion to the Divine. The heart protects itself from the outside world by curling up and encasing the Divine within. But the practice of devotion can open the heart and allow us to experience our true nature (joy). Bhakti yoga is often misunderstood as a path for people who are highly emotional or perhaps religious. However, we are each on our own path of devotion. Powerful experiences, such as witnessing the birth of a baby or contemplating the vastness of the ocean fill us with both gratitude and humility and link us to our hearts. (The Secret Power of Yoga, p.59)
We have looked at how the heart is expressed in all five koshas; annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijnamaya and anandamaya. The physical heart pumps blood throughout our cardiovascular system nourishing all of our cells. The heart center vibrates with its own energy, communicates and interacts with our brain, feels our emotions, guides us with its wisdom and houses our Divine Soul. Using the tools available to us through yoga, we can affect the heart at each level creating wholeness and coherence and finding the joy we are meant to live.
Dimensions of the Heart in Yoga (A 5-Part Series)
Part 1: The Physical Heart (The Heart of Annamaya Kosha)
Part 2: The Energetic Heart (The Heart of Pranamaya Kosha)
Part 3: The Intelligent Heart (The Heart of Manomaya Kosha)
Part 4: The Wisdom Heart (The Heart of Vijnamaya Kosha)
Part 5: The Heart of Bliss – Unconditional Love (The Heart of Anandamaya Kosha)
Warner, Mona (2008). 200 Hour Level Yoga Teacher Training Manual.
Devi, Nischaala Joy (2007).The Secret Power of Yoga
Devi, Nischaala Joy (2000).The Healing Power of Yoga
Faulds, Richard (2006). Kripalu Yoga, A Guide to Practice On and Off the Mat
Clark, Bernie (2007). YinSights.
McCall, Timothy (2007). Yoga as Medicine; The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing
The Heart Math Institute http://www.heartmath.org
Rea, Shiva (2007). Radiant Heart Yoga (DVD)
Grilley, Paul (2007). Chakra Theory and Meditation (DVD)
Finger, Alan (2005). Chakra Yoga
Hay, Louise L. (1999).You Can Heal your Life
Weintraub, Amy (video – Breath of Joy) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OZ3v3w1h0g&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fyogaflavoredlife.com%2Fwellness%2Ftry-breath-joy-energize-uplift-and-cleanse.html&feature=player_embedded