Has this ever happened to you? You’re sitting in a yoga class, (or maybe in front of your alternative medicine YouTube video of choice), and the teacher says something to the effect of, “Be here now, drop into the feeling of your Heart Center.” One stealthy side eye pops open, checking for movement from your classmates. You bring your hands to your chest, mimicking the teacher. Thoughts begin to swirl, “Is everyone somehow listening to their heartbeat? Focusing on their breath? Does she mean my physical heart or my emotions? Should I keep my hands here?” And before you know it, you are no longer in the room, you are no longer "here and now." You have traveled the short passage up to the mind and become lost in the cloudy, metaphorical, dialogue that so often accompanies transformational coaching.
There are many styles of learning, and I am not ashamed to admit that philosophical analogies don’t really get me there. I don’t want to waste my time listening to a yoga teacher who doesn’t know me say empty platitudes like, “Be here now.” What does a phrase like that look like in the physical world, in my mind and body? How will I know if I am here and now, or somewhere else? Maybe this attitude comes across as short and impatient, but I just don’t think there is anything wrong with standing up in your life and saying, “I don’t understand and this isn’t working for me.”
Learning how to activate the Heart Center or the Anahata Chakra, can be a powerfully transformative practice that is a personal and unique experience to each individual. I personally have used the following technique to awaken my own heart, reducing physical pain, relinquishing negative thought patterns that kept me trapped in anxiety, and increasing my overall capacity to experience the vibration of joy, happiness, and love within my body. This chakra lies at the center of the heart and is the energetic balancing point of the body.
In many Eastern traditions, the seven chakras are thought to be “energy centers” that correlate to specific body parts and physical experiences. The upper energies of the Crown, Third Eye, and Throat chakras can easily become out of balance. Real life examples of this trapped energy are racing thoughts, difficulty vocalizing your ideas, headaches, eye fatigue, etc. Often, energy blocks of the upper chakras are associated with upper body parts and the experiences had there, i.e. your thoughts, the words you use, and how you choose to say them, hear them, or maybe what you choose not to hear.
The lower energy centers of the body, the Root, Sacral, and Solar Plexus chakras, can also easily become stuck; manifesting as sluggishness, crippling shame, feelings of abandonment, and joint problems, just to name a few. The relationship between energy and the physical and mental bodies is as complex and diversified as we are as individuals. All of the practical examples I have provided are real-life diseases that I have personally had great success alleviating through activating my Heart Center. All of this ‘stuck’ energy desperately wants to be transmuted into something useful. It wants to be held within the body differently than how it is currently being held.
Tapping into the Heart Center is like turning on a Joy Factory within the body. Your energy intrinsically knows how to run the machine; the factory simply needs to be switched on by your own conscious effort. Once the Joy Factory is on, this creates the space needed to allow the energy of your body to naturally shift in its own time, with no effort, working its way to the heart center where it can be transmuted into something more useful. That doesn’t mean that there is a miracle cure out there that can take away your pain in a single day. This is a daily practice, that over time can awaken the Heart Center, shift your perspective, empower your energy, and, if you choose, change your life.
Daily Joy Practice for holistic health:
Find a comfortable seat or position if sitting is unavailable for you. This technique can be done at any time, anywhere, with anyone. Close your eyes or take a low, soft, gaze, and begin by noticing the breath. You may wish to place one hand on your heart and one hand on your low belly in order to physically feel the air moving in and out of your body. Focus on taking even breaths, silently stating “I am breathing in,” on the inhale, and, “I am breathing out,” on the exhale. Allow this gentle effort to be your single-pointed focus. All thoughts that remain within the mind, see if you can strike a deal. See if you can put them aside, just for now. Let your thoughts, emotions, and desires, know that you will be back very shortly. Ask yourself, if just for now, you can put them down and pick them back up later if you so choose. Once you feel centered, the thoughts may still be there but you simply let them move through because you are wholly focused on the internal sensations of the body, on your breathing, on the air moving through you. Know that this is the feeling of being here, now, fully embodied at this moment.
When you are ready, being to imagine something that brings you immense joy. The type of joy that leaves your body shaking with excitement. The feeling you get when you see someone you love so much you want to grab them, crushing them in your loving grasp, smothering their face with kisses. For me, I imagine kissing my cat, Sophie, all over her whiskery face. Imagine the scene that brings you joy; imagine that scene is taking place right in front of you. Whatever that may be, whatever brings you joy is perfect. You may begin to laugh, cry, twitch; these are all examples of energy moving within the body. Imagine the joyful scene until it feels so real, in your mind's eye you could reach out and grasp whatever it is.
Now focus on the physical sensations of the body as you imagine this joyful scene. Where do you feel this joy in your physical body? Maybe you feel a bursting in your chest, a tightness in your throat, tears on your cheeks. Allow whatever you are feeling to be okay, not trying to change anything, simply notice.
Begin to focus on the physical sensations of the heart center if you haven’t already. Simply notice what your chest feels like as you think of joyful thoughts. Allow the sensations of joy within your body to steadily travel in towards the heart center. Expanding into your own unique sensation of joy. This single pointed focus activates and expands the heart’s capacity to hold joy. It is like exercising a muscle. The more often you focus on expanding the physical sensations of joy in your body, the easier it will be to choose to activate those same sensations during moments of stress, radically changing your perspective and overall experience of life.
So the next time a yoga teacher tells you to drop into your heart center, you know how to drop. Feel joy. Feel gratitude. Bring that into every moment, every decision, every thought, especially the ones you create about yourself. Namaste!