The first year I taught, the majority of my students had never done yoga. Naturally I grounded their lessons in the first chakra. To paraphrase Julie Andrews, let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. The first year we worked on foot placement, and the shapes of the poses. Within a year everyone could do reasonable facsimile of the basic asana. Yay! We had foundation. People were having fun. Their yoga vocabulary began to grow; I used more Sanskrit terminology in that first year than any other. I gradually dropped Sanskrit as I realized that articulating directions people would understand was more useful than sticking on tradition. After all, I wouldn’t feel right blurting the Lord’s prayer out of context, so WTF with plastering an “Om” symbol across one’s butt, breasts and so on, that has nothing to do with a successful yoga practice, Know what I mean?
Teaching the second chakra evolved organically. Svadhisthana, or the pelvis chakra hinges around creativity. My firm belief is that the hips are the center of the pose. Once everybody got their feet straight, it was time to breath life into the pose by finding the center of gravity – their yoga practice became more stimulating. Talk about creative! That year I had a couple of pregnant students. This is not my specialty but I learned enough to service them appropriately. That was also the year I birthed my first blog, and went back to school to become a licensed realtor. Interesting, no? One begins in bones, but the work will out itself. The last thing that happened to my pelvis that year was hot flashes. Hahahaha. Just a few, and then my hormones rebalanced.
I had trouble remembering the name to the third chakra, Manipura, because it didn’t seem to make sense to me. “Pura” means village in my father’s language. “Mani” means gems, and I could not understand what that had to do with one’s navel or solar plexus. Then I stumbled across the historical meaning, in the days of the Raj, a “manipura” was a jeweled corset. Aah, so “pura” was not exactly a village, but a center, a middle, a gathering place. This made teaching the third chakra very simple as it entails finding the corset of muscles that pull the belly up and in, narrowing the waist. My students were starting to have a very advanced practice. They were finding the integrity of the poses, the architecture. I introduced the concepts of bandha.
Around this time students began to comment that they learned more in my classes. They appreciated understanding the poses. “You teach how to do a pose,” one student told me. They were past having fun, they were now experiencing tangible physical benefits. One moral of the story is that you ought to give yoga three years if you only come once a week. Or one year if you practice daily. But don’t expect to find the benefits of balance and equanimity within a one hour class. There’s just too much to learn.
For most practioners a practice centered on the lower triangle of closely-related chakras is good enough. Focus here to receive practical benefits of increased stamina, flexibility, strength, immunity etc. By contrast, the top three closely-related chakras do take one to fairly airy fairy places. Not everyone needs or wants to explore the metaphysical realms of higher brain function. Think twice before you decide you need to read minds. There’s an awful, (and I truly mean ‘awful’) lot of blah blah blah out there. What’s up, nuttin’ whassup wid u? Floats through the ether like brain noise. For the siddhi of invisibility, one only needs to be a woman and turn 50. Superpowers are not all they are cracked up to be.
Neatly bisecting the top three and bottom three is the Heart Chakra. As I researched last night online I learned there is more hoo ha about this Anahata than all the other chakras put together. Tradition dictates the fourth chakra is located in the heart and is blocked by grief. This was interesting to discover because Americans tend to view the opposite of Love as Indifference. Grief is a shadow to love because one can not feel grief in the absence of love. They are twins, not separated at birth. Lay all your grief out in front of you, you have indeed felt great losses. Love is a form of energy and attraction. Love swirls within us, chemically bonding negative to positive. A magnet hugging a refrigerator can defy gravity, just as hope and doubt defy empirical evidence.
“Ahata” in Sanskrit means “struck” or beaten, as in sounding a gong or beating a drum. “Anahata” is un-struck, not beaten. That is an odd way of describing a living heart, no? But not when you think of the “I”. When people refer to themselves, they point to the chest, not the brain, not the hips. We define ourselves as pure potential. Inside of us lies a space waiting to vibrate in concert with others. The watery sac that encloses the heart is more sensitive than the heart itself. I believe a heart sensitivity, when balanced, allows a person to feel sorrow or anger without shame or guilt and to enjoy love – not just romantic love. Romantic love got all the airplay on the internet – “balance your heart chakra to cure co-dependency ! ” was a theme I saw in countless sites.
The problem was, an absence of direction. It is very cheap to say, “If your relationships are good then the heart chakra is balanced, if your relationships are off – you are closed, etc.” But that’s cheating. Circular argument is a logical fallacy in which the reasoner begins with what they are trying to end with, once again: cheating.
Open the Anahata Chakra by getting in sync with your beating heart. Honor yourself. If your pulse is rapid, something’s afoot. Pay attention to what has your hackles up. If your pulse is slow, wake up! Close the Anahata by grounding. It’s no use loving silly, without boundaries, without judgement, without common sense, that’s asking for exploitation. Balance the heart chakra by increasing proprioception. Sensate. All is not lost. You will not lose your ability to experience romantic love so much as you will re-define what is romantic.
Perhaps working through a problem and coming to a common understanding (if not agreement) will take more from the heart than capitulation. Perhaps the major religions of world teach submission, turning the other cheek and so on. But that is not intimacy. That’s spiritual by-passing. It’s a sinister practice. Be dexterous instead.
When grief and joy are both allowed to express, the heart finds both dissonance and harmony. Your life will be richer for the assemblage.