Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Opening the Heart

Lately I've been a little closer to the yearning of young hearts, and it has seeped into my yoga teaching. How do we open our hearts? In asana practice there are ways to relax the shoulders, loosen the rib cage, stretch the core and gradually release the physical self so that the heart literally has more space and feels more vibrant. Pranayama, too, can bring energy into the heart center. But the mind can remain clenched around what we fear and what we wish for, leaving us yearning for a certainty we cannot have, and a completeness with another being that does not exist. Call it romantic or idealistic or any other word, it is the ache of the heart for safety and for love.

It seems clear to me that we must also release our expectations if we are to remove the blockage between us and our heart's desire. The mind requires the same kind of methodical loosening and stretching as the body, in order to release its grip and actually allow us to be present, to see what is, to feel what is true, and share ourselves without fear of pain. What we expect will block our ability to perceive what is happening. How we categorize and assign definitions, rules of order and requirements, all shape that which we can take in or give.

Just as in any session of yoga practice, we can identify our patterns, we can loosen the tendency to clench or to pre-set reactivity. A session on the mat will help open up pathways for energy and perception that have no vested interest in any particular outcome. One of the tenets of yoga philosophy is that of non-attachment to outcome, the fact that one is fully present in the action itself is enough. The outcome may be one thing or another depending upon how you perceive that set of conditions, and as with so many jokes and children's storybooks, it may look one way and turn out another.

One of the most intrinsically important pieces of yoga is that of the individual inquiry. No one else can take you on that journey, simply help you along the path. Once you are willing to let go of the judgment, the expectation, the goal, and simply experience what is actually happening, there is no predicting the possibilities. And so it is with the heart.

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