We all exist within our own unique expression of physical structure, physiology, mind, personality and heart. These layers of our being, also known as the koshas or sheaths or layers of being, provide a passageway into our deep center, the cave of our heart.
This innermost layer of being informs and guides our attitudes and behaviors, prompts our actions and gives us a sense of meaning and purpose. This dimension is where our passions, longings and potential for happiness and joy reside.
Tending to the heart is as important, if not more important, than stretching and strengthening our muscles.
The tools of yoga can gradually prepare the body and mind for deep inner reflection and a daily cultivation of joy.
• The postures prepare for breathing practices.
• Breathing practices soothe agitation and quiet the mind.
• Meditation (mastering attention) helps us stay present for reflection.
Staying present in the space of the heart for just a few minutes every day is an opportunity to revisit our highest values and aspirations, orient our lives in that direction and open to the connection we have with ourselves and others. Try the following simple practice to do yoga of the heart. Adapt the practice as you want to make it a meaningful practice for you.
Cave of the Heart Meditation
Sit comfortably. Sitting bones anchored/grounded/connected but the spine long and gently lifting. Hands rest comfortably on your legs.
• Bring attention to the heart region – the center of the chest –8 finger widths or so down from the u-shaped bone at the neck.
• Feel the breath gently flowing in and out through this heart space.
• As the breath flows smoothly on inhale, let the gentle expansive quality create space in this cave of the heart.
• As the breath flows out on Exhale, let it carry away any thoughts or worries that arise.
• Let each breath softly loosen and carry away any cobwebs, restrictions, barriers to feeling an expansion and softening in this space.
• Stay with the breath as it flows gently in and out, continuing to focus on the cave of the heart. With each breath, feel your heart space softening and expansive.
• Take a few moments to remind yourself of what gives you deep meaning in your life.
• Acknowledge the people, other sentient beings, places, opportunities, projects and spiritual connections that give you deep meaning. Take a moment for gratitude.
• Acknowledge the challenges that often occur in relationships in life and how you want to approach all of your relationships.
• Take a moment to mentally light a candle in this space in your heart with the intention to take this inner light into your day.
Mary Hilliker, RDN, E-RYT 500, is a Certified Viniyoga Teacher and Yoga Therapist with River Flow Yoga and 5 Koshas Yoga and Wellness Center in Wausau WI. Mary does individualized Yoga Therapy and teaches yoga classes, workshops, webinars and teacher training.