Yoga of the Heart July 21 2014 1 Comment


Have you ever been to a Yoga class where you find yourself squeezing into a space that isn’t quite big enough? Asking the person in front who is staking claim on almost an acre of combined mat and floor space to politely move forward to be met with a death stare and said person conceding about 5cm of floor to you? Then you realise that the same person is wearing about $500 worth of designer clothing and mat and you think to yourself… Is this Yoga?

This is most definitely not Yoga. This is the opposite of Yoga.

The physical practice of Asana (Yoga posture) often brings us together in groups to be taught and practice. It provides us with a sense of community, motivation and unity. It helps us to further our own practice by allowing us access to teachers and other students – but the rest…. The competition, the judgement and ego should be left at the door.

As Patanjali says in his Yoga Sutras 33; ‘Undisturbed calmness of the mind is attained by cultivating friendliness towards the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and indifference toward the wicked.’

Bringing your worries onto the Yoga mat and especially projecting them onto others who just like you are on their own journey, with their own story and their own worries will by definition create you more distress. Yoga is about letting oneself open up and expand. It is about unifying the body, mind and spirit in preparation for mediation. It is a prescription for living a full and happy life. Yoga is in essence an open heart journey. Through the movement of our bodies we learn to soften and control our breath and in turn our mind. Creating space where before none existed, length where there was only compression and fluidity where there was only stagnancy. We learn to open up our heart to infinite possibility and over time we see that concerted effort and motivation does reap a multitude of reward.

There is no end to your Yoga journey, only a beginning. Even if the physical practice escapes you for a time, the virtues that you have learnt, the compassion you have cultivated and the internal peace you have found will find you again. It translates off the mat into a greater acceptance of ourselves and confidence that enriches all facets of life.

The student who marks their territory and finds aggression where there should be compassion is missing the point. What Asana you can bend yourself into is completely unimportant. The important aspect is the peace that you find within the Asana. The control of the breath, the stillness of the mind - a student who can cultivate these virtues in practice is far more advanced than someone who can bend themselves into a pretzel without any body, breath or mind awareness.

If you have difficulty in finding the peace that resides within you during your practice, try taking it back a notch. Open up your heart and breathe into its centre. Find safe and comfortable Asana (maybe even just a seated posture or Savasana) and work from there. The simple practice will remove the ego – watch for that because you will fight yourself. Know what it is to be comfortable, to feel your breath steady and even, to find yourself relaxed but firm in your position. Once you have achieved this move to another slightly more challenging Asana and start again with the breath. Finding this space as you progress in difficulty is vital and until you can find this space don’t move on even if you can physically ‘do’ a posture or Asana wait until you can ‘be’ and breathe in it for a length of time until you move on. Yoga posture should always be safe and secure, never forceful or aggressive.

Once you are able to achieve this process you will leave space to notice how you feel, space to open the mind and heart and not just focus on maintaining an Asana. This place - this space will then translate to all aspects of your life. You will be able to remain calmer in the face of a storm, more joyful in the sadder of times and grateful everlastingly. Most importantly you will be practicing Yoga from your heart.