subtle body

Total Eclipse of the Heart

by Bernie McKnight

Chakras are energetic centers that run along the midline of the body from the base of the torso up to the crown of the head.   The chakras form a system through which energy cycles.  Located in the middle of the chest and the center of this energetic structure is Anahata, the heart chakra. Energy interacts with each chakra differently and as energy rolls around the heart chakra it is in the center of love.

I know my heart chakra to be functioning at its optimal performance when I experience feelings of peace and connection, when I have a sense that everything (even when I don’t judge everything to be perfect) is in its right place.  It’s nice to have what’s referred to as an open heart chakra, but it isn’t always easy.  When the feeling that I’ve been misunderstood or marginalized has me frothing with rage I know that my heart chakra is probably blocked.  It can be fun to think about whether my chakra starts off blocked and causes my outrageous reactions or if something about the situations I react to cause my open chakra to slam shut.  But all of that thinking really does is keep me from the work at hand, to find a way to open up a connection to love in the moments when I want to use all of my resources on being right. Read More…

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ANAHATA CHAKRA: Is this love that I’m feeling?

by Stephanie Estice

In the womb, the heart is the first of our organs to form and be fully functional.  We might consider the brain to be of most importance, and yet, in a recent study of perception, when sensing images that were rated pleasant or unpleasant, it was the heart that had sensation first, before the brain. And, when the heart is in a state of coherence, it is the heart that sends signals to the brain that trigger states of well-being.

When you experience the energy centers, it becomes easy to see the depth of importance of the heart center. We are here to do our work in the physical, the emotional and the mental arenas of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd chakras, and yet many of us have a deep longing to explore the spiritual frequencies of the 5th, 6th and 7th chakras. What role does the 4th chakra, Anahata, the heart center, play in this dance of the energy centers?

Energetically the heart center is a bridge. It is a bridge between the earthly energy centers and the spiritual ones.  What we find in the heart center is love and compassion. It can start as that loving feeling you have when you feel good will towards another. It’s the sensation you have of warmth in the center of your chest when you connect with nature or when you hold an infant. And the more time you spend practicing this experience – through a practice of gratitude, through the heart openers you do in your asana practice, through noticing when you have sensations of warmth and harmony – the more you will gain a steadiness in this important bridge, a maturity of consciousness that will spill into all areas of your life.

I used to think that I would find my salvation in the energies of the spiritual chakras. At that time I didn’t realize that I was using my practices to try to escape emotional and mental pain. I had traded in meditation as a replacement for the role drugs had played in my life many years ago. There were times in yoga class that I heard the teacher speak of grounding, but from my years of experience trying to avoid the sensations of my physical, emotional and mental bodies, I had no idea what that meant. When asked to notice the sensation in my feet, I could sense nothing there. Thanks to the grace of a wise spiritual teacher, I was directed to practice being steady with the energy of the heart center – specifically that of the upper heart center, behind the collarbones. I worked on this for many months, and it has now continued on as a practice that has stayed with me for years. As many know with the Loving Kindness or Metta meditation, once we are able to connect with self-compassion, we are better able to see the suffering of all beings. Our heart grows. As my heart grew in more and more acceptance of all the places I had previously judged myself, I became gentler with myself and others. Ultimately I was then able to be with more experiences, with more sensation. Through the exercise of being with the energy of this bridge, I have been able to step into new learning that has helped me fully embody the rest of my human experience, which has led to balance throughout the energy body.

So listen…stop and listen to your heart center. Listen to the calling of your soul, that place of your knowing and remembering, to bring compassion to Self and others. Allow the harmony that this center radiates to wash over your being.

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Awash in Gratitude

By Linda Oshins

Last week in pranayama class, one woman had her heart and mind open all the way. She stood in front of me with eyes so big I could see right through her, her body like a doorframe, pure consciousness on view. She walked out into the world like that.

This week we practiced Mahat Kapalabhati Kriya. Kapalabhati is a breathing practice made up of a series of sharp exhalations alternating with longer, rebound inhalations. It’s stimulating, warming and a powerful energy mover. Mudras are hand gestures. And Kriyas are cleansing, purifying practices. So Mahat Kapalabhati Kriya is a purification practice done by keeping up a continuous, rhythmic breathing technique while holding different hand gestures. I showed everyone the mudras, and we formed them with our hands. Then the class practiced kapalabhati as I led them through the mudras, explaining what each one does. Chin mudra activates the lower abdomen and back and the lower lobes of the lungs. Chinmaya mudra activates the middle chest and back and the middle lobes of the lungs. Adi mudra activies the upper chest and back and the upper lobes of the lungs. Continuing in this fashion we activated the entire torso and lungs, up the spine and the chakra system, and into the brain. Shraddha prana kriya mudra slows respiration and brings attention into the front brain. Medha prana kriya mudra slows respiration and activates the discriminative centers of higher wisdom in the brain. Suddenly I’m awash in gratitude.

I have been taught a practice that activates the discriminative centers of higher wisdom! And I’m in a room full of people so practicing! From a still place we watch subtle shifts in energy flow and consciousness. Sometimes I take this for granted.

The breathing and mudras continue… Prajna prana kriya mudra, witness consciousness unfolds and the entire brain relaxes. Vishnu mudra, calms the mind and induces meditation. Dhyana mudra, brings breath and prana (energy) into the heart chakra. Dhyana Mudra 2, grounds the body for deep meditation. Dhyana Mudra 3, brings breath and prana into the whole body and bring multi-dimensional awareness into the foreground.

At the end of the practice we sit in meditation until Shari Speer chants Om Nama Shivaya. My body feels like a struck bell vibrating to her voice. Sometimes her voice appears in my mind like smoke from incense winding upward in offering, but today I simply resonate with it. And I’m so grateful.

Like the woman last week, we stilled the habitual chatter for a time. Thank you to my teachers and to the community at Yoga on High who practices together.

Mahat Kapalabhati Kriya was taught to me by Richard Miller, whose teachings, research and writing you can find on iRest.us

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