Advanced Yoga Practices
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Lesson 220 -
Opening the Heart Chakra (Audio)
Date: Mon Jul 19, 2004 1:06pm
New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the web archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
Q: I have developed heart and kidney problems
over the last few years. I had a heart attack at the age of 39 in which I
was forced to slow down tremendously.
Recently I saw a very
great practitioner of Shanti and Reiki healing due to my distress over this
situation. I have been in meditation on the Holy Names of both the Maha-Mantra
and the Mantra Rajas for over 25 years. (Unfortunately, we are not taught
the science of meditation)
I was told by this, and
by a couple of other practitioners that my heart chakra is "clogged" and
that it must be opened and cleared. That this is the cause of my physical
distresses. Forgive me, but I am most ignorant of this technique. I know
what the chakra centers are from the Vedas, but not in the techniques on how
to open them.
I live a very simple life, but being a teacher
and Guru in our tradition, I do have stress at times. I have a strict
sastric diet, follow my dosha recommendations and chant over 100,000 Holy
Names daily, which means I am in active meditation over 10 hours a day. This
is not the problem, since it has been daily routine for many years.
If you could please
recommend some reading, or explain this technique, I would be most grateful.
My healer says that this would greatly enhance my health, preaching and
ministry and also allow more of the Light of Nityananda-Gauranga to flow
from me to those around me.
Thank you for your time
A: Thank you for writing
The practices in the lessons are geared toward
overall spiritual awakening, and not so much on individual chakras - except
the ajna to root connection, which is especially important for
enlightenment. Of course, the heart is opened also by this overall
purification in the spiritual anatomy. While meditation and spinal breathing
are global and open the heart "by proxy," other techniques like uddiyana/nauli,
chin pump and targeted bastrika can work more directly in the heart area as
part of the overall process of purification and opening.
In general, I am not for focusing on individual
chakra openings, because how can we know what is the right order?
Unfathomable karma sets each of us on a somewhat different path, and that is
why the broad approach in the lessons is offered, rather than a specific
chakra by chakra approach. In this way we allow pure bliss consciousness to
cultivate natural opening of the nervous system from within, relying on
intellectual decisions very little. Through the practices in the lessons, we
are systematically surrendering to the process of spiritual transformation
that is inherent within us. Of course, pure bhakti is the greatest of all
practices, and you know that already. If human desire is raised to the level
of bhakti (intense desire for God/Truth), then all the methods of yoga are
stimulated automatically. We only need hear of them once (if at all), and we
are off into practice!
Having said all that,
here are a couple of additional suggestions on opening the heart chakra that
are holistic in their effects:
There is a pranayama
technique that works directly in the heart that has not been mentioned in
the lessons so far. It is like spinal breathing, but in reverse direction.
We can call it "heart breathing." It provides the opportunity to bring our
ishta (chosen ideal) directly into our heart using the breath with profound
effect. What we do is inhale from the third eye (point between the eyebrows)
back to the center of the head and down the spinal nerve into the heart, and
then exhale back out the same route through the third eye. On the inhalation
we bring our ishta in, and on the exhalation we send out impurities. If we
slow down the breathing (comfortably), the effects will be enhanced.
Breathing through the nose is preferable, but not mandatory. This method has
great benefit for the heart, purifying and opening it. During this practice,
our heart is filled with our Beloved and impurities are expelled. It can be
done for 5-10 minutes before or after sitting practices, or anytime. Be
careful not to overdo it in the beginning, as it can bring excessive karmic
releases in the heart if overdone. It is suggested you start off slow and
work up gradually according to comfort and effect. This practice has not
been offered in the lessons so far because of the reverse direction aspect
and possible confusion to beginners in the traditional spinal breathing that
is given beginning in lesson #41, which purifies the
heart in a more general way. Also, many people do not have a clear ishta to
use, which can be confusing to those coming to yoga with a non-worship
orientation. This is clearly not the case with you, so perhaps you can use
this practice with good effect. It may even combine nicely with your other
practices. It is in your hands.
For those who wish to
try this practice without a specific ishta (deity, avatar or guru), the
purifying and healing power of universal Truth can be brought in through the
third eye and down into the heart during inhalation, and impurities sent out
A second suggestion is on the physical/lifestyle
level. Much of the contraction in areas of our nervous system can be
reinforced in our daily habits - how we interact and carry on our daily
routine of activities. Sometimes just bringing in a new behavior, changing
the routine, can reduce the contraction. In the case of a heart problem, the
solution is straight forward, coming from modern medicine. Daily aerobic
exercise is one of the first prescriptions to build a healthier heart. No
doubt you know this already. Daily exercise (20+ minute brisk walk, or
equivalent), and a low fat, low salt, vegetarian diet are good for both the
heart and the blood pressure. It is not unusual for a sattvic (pure) diet to
have a lot of fat and salt in it, so being sattvic in diet alone may not be
adequate. I found this out many years ago when I had a tendency toward high
blood pressure in spite of a pure vegetarian diet, which was easily resolved
by the measures just mentioned. Doing these things will also change the way
we carry on our daily routine, including our relationships with other
people. So, putting some emphasis on these physical health measures will
affect our life in nonphysical ways, which is good for the heart also. Some
letting go is necessary to make these changes, and that can reduce the
contraction in our heart. An opening heart is one that knows how to let go.
An opening heart laughs a lot too!
Cultivating the habit of
letting go deep in the nervous system is at the root of deep meditation,
samyama and many of the other practices in the lessons. As inner silence
comes up in our life, we are able to let go of the daily stresses more
easily, even as we are engaged in activity. Letting go while remaining
active in life is, of course, the essence of karma yoga, so it all ties
If you want to take a more focused "spiritual
energy work" approach to opening the heart chakra, I am probably not the
best person to ask. Perhaps an energy healer you are already seeing (Reiki
or other) can help with that. I am not much for focusing too much on
particular chakras for the reasons mentioned. I try and keep the chakras
"under the hood" as much as possible so as not to distract from the overall
task of "driving the car" home to enlightenment. My role is to stay focused
I wish you balanced health, and continuing
success in your important spiritual work.
The guru is in you.
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