This month we have been exploring all of the basic aspects of the heart: the feelings, emotions and connections that it provides as well as the subtle energies of the heart chakra. But, there are still lesser known and deeper layers of the heart that Ayurveda and Yoga describe to us. These “deep cuts” speak to the expansive quality of the heart chakra as it relates to its element – air.
DEEP CUT #1: Ayurveda and Yoga define the air energy within us as having five directions. Inward, upward, downward, from the periphery to the center and from the center to the periphery. Their Sanskrit names are prana, udana, samana, apana and vyana.
Prana, when combined with the word vayu or wind, means the direction of the air or wind that is moving from the outside to the inside. Prana vayu mainly involves the senses, our breath and the mind’s perception of joy or happiness. In general, it is the things we bring into our selves. Pranayama is the ideal way to gain balance for this specific wind.
Udana vayu (wind) is upward and can energize the mind, awaken intelligence and self expression. It is located primarily in the chest and moves within the respiratory system. A good balancer for this air is an essential oil such as eucalyptus or myrtle to enhance the breathing and elevate and oxygenate the body.
The next air is the samana vayu which is associated with the digestive system. Its direction is from the periphery to the center as it is responsible for absorption and conversion. Similarly, apana vayu is the carrier of downward air and supports the movement of wastes. We associate these two winds with the root, sacral and solar plexus chakras.
The most important vayu for the heart is vyana. Its movement is from the center to the periphery. Representing the seat of life, like the heart, the wind vyana controls consciousness and unconditional love. It circulates the basic life juices, thoughts, emotions, and energy to the rest of the body. Overall, a balanced yoga practice with the poses, breathing techniques and meditation practices will facilitate the movement of this energetic wind. Specifically, pranayama that emphasizes breath retention and expansion are the most beneficial for the vyana vayu.
DEEP CUT #2: The element of air is related to the heart chakra through the sense of touch and the hands.
All of the elements: space, air, fire, water and earth are connected to a sense organ and a motor organ. For the air element, the skin is the organ of touch and is capable of detecting movement in the form of changes in pressure, friction or vibration. Its associated motor organ is the hands.
A very important mudra or hand gesture is Anjali Mudra (AHN-jah-lee MOO-dra). Anjali means “offering” and mudra means “seal” or “sign.”
We usually use this gesture when we begin or complete our yoga practice, however, this same action may also be used in individual poses such as Tadasana (Mountain Pose) or Vrksasana (Tree Pose) and within the Sun Salutations series.
In general, anjali mudra is used as a posture for returning to one’s heart; whether you are greeting someone or saying goodbye, initiating or completing an action.
In class, we salute ourselves and each other and give thanks for our efforts, the teachings and the benefits that the practice brings to us. Symbolically, as you bring your hands together at your heart center, you are connecting the right and left sides of your body as well as your active and receptive natures. Therefore, anjali mudra connects us with the true meaning of the word yoga, which is to unify or yoke together.
Yoga is strongly connected with the word “Namasté.” Translated as “the light within me salutes the light within you,” the expression is associated with anjali mudra – the bringing of the hands together so that the thumbs can press toward the heart.
Now that you have a deeper understanding of the heart energy and it’s connections, practice cultivating the energy of your love so you can share it with others. Namasté, Kim.
Please join me on Saturday, via Zoom, to learn more about the heart chakra energy in my free series.
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Yoga & the Chakras – Part 4: Be Radiant
Saturday, August 21 @ 2pm (PST)