“The heart is very much like a miraculous balloon. Its lightness comes from staying full. Meeting the days with our heart prevents collapse.” ~ Mark Nepo
The month of February brings more focus and attention to the space of our hearts and how we express love – both self-love and love of others. When I think about the heart, it also brings to mind the act of courage. The origin of the word courage comes from the Old French, equivalent to cuer or heart and the Latin cor. Years ago, I learned a definition for courage from the 13th century as the ability to speak all of one’s truth by telling all of one’s heart. Brené Brown, the writer and researcher on topics including vulnerability, has also explored this meaning, read more of her insights here.
The heart is situated at the center of the upper body and the center of the seven-chakra (energy body) system. There are three chakras below and three above the heart. As the Hermetic saying states, “as above, so below.”
The first chakra provides grounding to the earth, to a sense of safety, family of origin and tribe. The second chakra holds a seat of creativity, fluidity, expression and sexuality. The third chakra sits in the area of the solar plexus and holds space for a sense of self, personal power and conviction. The heart is the mid-way point and channel to listen inwardly to one’s deepest held desires. The fifth chakra occupies the voice and how to communicate this inner knowledge outwardly. The sixth chakra is the third eye, spot of deeper knowing. Finally, the seventh chakra is the connection to that which many believe is beyond us – a connection to source, creative consciousness and great mystery.
How do we further listen to what the heart tells us and then speak one’s truth and act with courage – especially in such a fast-paced modern world?
The practices of yoga and meditation are powerful tools on this path.
Here is a practice to activate your heart space:
- Sit tall allowing space for your chest to open on a cushion or chair quietly for 5-20 minutes. I recommend 10 minutes. (To help you establish a regular practice with free guided meditations, try Susan Piver’s Open Heart Project).
- Center yourself and ground through the body, establishing your base.
- Notice the quality of your breathing and areas it feels open or constricted.
- Check in with your mind. If and when it wanders, which is completely natural, say to yourself “thinking” silently or aloud and then come back to focus on the breath.
- Breath more fully to your belly, expanding to the rib cage and upper chest.
- Fill up and widen the area around your chest and heart. If it’s helpful to feel the breath, place one hand on the heart center and the other on the belly.
- Expand the full range of your heart space – the front, both sides and space beyond the heart – often this area can collapse forward, holding extra tension from the shoulders and sitting postures held throughout the day.
- As you breathe, imagine warm light filling the area of your heart.
- If you have a specific question or situation you would like guidance from your heart on, bring this in.
- Continue to breathe. Notice if any images, sensations, thoughts, emotions arise and simply stay with your breath.
- As you start to physically create more space for your heart, again notice if anything specific arises in the way of messages or guidance. If so, write them down or share with a trusted friend.
You can continue to use this meditation and tool as a way of becoming more regularly connected with your heart space and acting with courage based on the messages received.
You possess strong abilities within for self-love and how to guide your life from inner knowledge. You contain the answers. Now go ahead – listen to your heart and act with courage.
In honor of #HeartMonth, Yoga Tree and YogaWorks have launched an open your heart 14-day practice challenge to help keep you motivated, and raise funds for the American Heart Association’s Rock the Red Campaign for Women’s Heart Health. To find out more about the yoga challenge visit: yogatreesf.com/openyourheart
About the Author:
Claire Williams teaches regular all-levels classes at Yoga Tree Telegraph on Monday and Wednesdays at 7:15pm and on a sub basis. She has been a committed student of yoga since 2001. In 2008, she earned her 200-hour certification, and in 2015 completed her 500-hour training at Yoga Tree. While working to earn her MBA, she was the Community Relations Manager at the yoga and service non-profit Off the Mat into the World.
In addition, she is a certified coach and facilitator. Claire’s personal mission is to be a light for truth in a connected world filled with hope and love and she is grateful to live this work. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @clairewilli and reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org