Open Your Heart
Bhakti: The Yoga of Love
As yoga has evolved over thousands of years, numerous forms and schools of yoga have developed. One of the major yogic traditions is known as bhakti – a Sanskrit term that can be translated as deep devotion or love. Bhakti is the path of the heart. It is the love of God as well as the cultivation and blossoming of love in all of our relationships. As the Vedic tradition teaches, since we are each an individualized expression of God or Spirit, through our relationships with others, we can discover our higher Self.
If you pay attention to love, think about love, express love, respond to gestures of love, and make love the basis for all your choices, then you are practicing bhakti yoga, the yoga of love.
Here are a few specific practices to expand the energy of love in your life.
Whatever we put our attention on expands in our experience, so focusing on gratitude and appreciation is a powerful way to expand our heart energy. One of the earliest advocates of a daily gratitude practice was Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza. In the seventeenth century, he suggested that each day for a month we ask ourselves the following three questions:
1.) Who or what inspired me today?
2.) What brought me happiness today?
3.) What brought me comfort and deep peace today?
Writing down your answers to these questions each evening will deepen the power of this profound practice.
Enliven Your Heart Chakra
The heart chakra is the energy center located in the area of your physic al heart. Known as the anahata, the heart chakra represents the unifying energy of love and compassion. When the heart center is open and flowing, you feel connected at a deep level to all beings in your life.
To enhance the flow of energy through your heart, practice chanting the mantra that corresponds with this chakra: Yum. With your eyes closed, spend a few minutes focusing on the inflow and outflow of your breath. Then put your attention on your heart and repeat, silently or aloud, the sound Yum. Repeat the mantra until you feel infused with a feeling of peace and love.
Expand Your Heart with Standing Bow Pose
Standing bow pulling pose, or dandayamana dhanurasana (dan-dee-yah-MAHN-ah don-eh-AHS-ahna) in Sanskrit, is a wonderful pose for opening the heart, strengthening the lower back, and getting centered. As you stretch open your chest, you enliven the flow of energy the fourth or heart chakra.
- Begin by standing with your toes and heels touching and your arms handing relaxed at your sides.
- Now as you flex forward at the waist, shift your weight to your right leg as you bend your left knee, clasping your left hand around your left ankle. Press your left leg back and up as far as you can comfortably. Don’t be concerned if your foot is not above your head. As long as you’re extending your leg to your own full potential in this moment, you will receive the full benefits of the pose. Keep your right hand forward and parallel to the floor.
- Keep your gaze focused on a point 5 or more feet in front of you, either at eye level or higher. Hold the pose for 10–20 seconds, then release and slowly lower your left foot to the floor. Pause for a moment and repeat the sequence on the other side.
Modified: Support yourself on the wall or chair in front of you. Bring the heel of one foot back behind you. Hold on to your ankle or foot with your hand and keep your knees together. Gently squeeze your buttocks. Take 6–10 breaths.
Release Obstacles to Love
One of the most powerful ways to release blocks that prevent the free flow of love is simply to be present. Instead of trying to figure out what an emotion is about, connect to the sensations in your body, which has a natural instinct to discharge pain and heal.
- Take a few deep breaths, sit quietly, and feel the sensations in your body. You might feel tightness in your chest, stiffness in your shoulders, or some other manifestation of the upsetting emotion.
- Feel the sensation without judging it. Just be with it.
- Allow any feelings, thoughts or energies that arise. You may hear the voices of anxiety, anger, fear, or regret. Let the voices say what they want to say. Listen with compassion and understanding.
- Feel the energy of the emotion dispersing as much as it can, without demanding a complete release. Know that body will let go of as much stored emotion as it is able to.
- In a few hours or the next day, repeat the process. You will gradually release the toxicity of stored emotions and open your heart to the present moment.
Practice the Law of Giving and Receiving
The spiritual Law of Giving and Receiving states that giving and receiving are different forms of the same flow of energy. When we give from the limitless joy and abundance of our heart, we increase the circulation of abundance and love in our lives. If we feel diminished when we give or we give grudgingly, then the gift is not truly given. Anything that is of value in life only multiplies when it is given.
Every act of receiving is an act of giving. When you happily accept a gift, you give pleasure to the giver. Therefore, gratefully receive all the gifts life has to offer: nature, sunlight, food, and friends. Be open to receiving gifts from others, whether it is a material gift, a compliment, or a kind gesture.
Embrace Your Wholeness
The root of the word bhakti is bhaj, which means "to share" or "be part of." To share true intimacy with another requires that you know yourself, you trust yourself, and you love and accept yourself − including all your imperfections. If, like most human beings, you learned growing up that some aspect of yourself was unacceptable or unlovable, we encourage you to embrace your wholeness. Dr. David Simon’s best-selling book Free to Love, Free to Healis filled with healing wisdom and practical tools that help you release negative core beliefs and stored emotional pain – freeing you to love and be loved.
If you want to be personally guided in this powerful process, you may be interested in the Free to Love/Healing the Heart workshop, where the loving Chopra Center staff will help in your journey from constriction to expansion, and from fear to love.
- Stretches the front of body
- Strengthens legs and low back
- Increases circulation of blood to heart and lungs
- Knee injuries
- Ankle injuries
- Shoulder injuries
- Hip injuries
- Back injuries
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