“Your heart knows the way. Run in that direction.” –Rumi
I was in yoga class the other day and as my teacher closed class she asked us to bring our hands to “heart center” and close our eyes.
She reminded us that “what we’re doing on our yoga mats is about so much more than the poses. It is about how we take all of the love and energy we’ve cultivated on our mats and carry it out into the world.”
I feel like this reminder is one I wish I heard in every single class. It got me thinking about love and our ability to cultivate it through yoga. In yoga, we cultivate self-love by moving our bodies in ways that are beneficial and taking the time to slowdown and care for ourselves, and we practice love for others by setting positive intentions and generating collective energies.
Whether explicitly or not, almost every yoga class touches on the concept of love. One subtle way that we see this happening is through the focus on the fourth chakra, the anahata chakra. (The chakras are energy centers in the body, learn more here.) The anahata chakra is also called the “heart chakra” and it is said to activate heart opening and love creation. This chakra is represented by the color green. The anahata chakra is also said to be a bridge between earthly and spiritual aspirations and associated with unconditional love.
Whether we are aware of it or not, the anahata chakra is an essential part of each yoga practice. When you bring your “hands to heart center” – a common cue in a yoga class – you are actually placing your hands in a gesture of prayer at your anahata chakra. Linking your body, heart and mind.
When thinking about a theme, intention or focus for your yoga class, the anahata chakra is a wonderful option. So how can we bring the anahata chakra into center stage in our yoga classes? Here are my two favorite ideas:
Supported Fish Pose
For supported fish pose, have students place a block underneath their shoulder blades. The lower long edge of the block should be right at the wing tips of the shoulder blades, and they should adjust the block until it feels comfortable. With the block in place, they will lay back over the block, allowing their head to rest back on the mat or a second block. Their legs and arms can open wide. Tell them to breathe softly here. As they breathe, ask them to imagine a green light at the center of their chest. With their inhales, have them imagine their heart space filling with love. That green light is growing bigger and brighter. The bigger the light grows, the more space in the body it takes up. Fueled by the inhales, the green light keeps growing, moving outwards – spreading light and love to everything it touches. Allow students to visualize the green light spreading as far as you wish, and then slowly reverse the meditation, and bring them back to the space. Before closing the meditation, ask them to observe how their body, heart and mind feel. Can they notice a feeling of love rippling through their bodies?
Heart Meditation During Cat / Cow Pose
As you open class, ask students to awaken the spine with cat / cow postures. Both postures begin in tabletop position. From tabletop, students will drop the belly, tilt the tailbone and gaze up to the sky with an inhale breath to find cow pose. On an exhale press they will press into palms, tuck tail bones and drop their head, to find cat pose. Continue moving through these cat / cow movements for a few breaths. As the students move, introduce the anahata chakra. Maybe you introduce the concept of chakras, perhaps you share a quote about the heart, or you explain how we can use the yoga practice to cultivate love, and then carry that love out into the world. From there, ask the students to close their eyes and focus on their heart space. As they continue to move, cue them to initiate the movement from their heart. Letting their heart lead the way through the cat / cow poses. By “leading with their heart” in these movements, you can draw a parallel between how we can also lead with our heart in the rest of our lives – making choices based in love.
These are just two ideas for how to bring the anahata chakra into your yoga class, but there are many others! Do you have a favorite way to feature the anahata chakra? If so, please share in the comments!