Accessing Anahata

Much as I like the idea of subtle energy, I tend to resist it when presented with the opportunity to deepen my practice in this way.  For some reason, that didn't happen over the weekend while studying meditation, pranayama, bandhas and vayus with two teachers I greatly admire - Jenny Hayo and Chiara Guerrieri.  I am deeply grateful to both of them for the space they held and the teachings they offered.  And I also know that I showed up ready to receive.  Perhaps 6 months of backing way off of my physical practice to focus on subtle alignment and sensations in the body had prepared me.  I felt my breath move in new ways and was refreshed in my desire for a consistent mindfulness practice. With that sense of openness, I returned to a guided meditation that I find quite powerful, though it had sat on my shelf for a good long while.  Maitri, or Meta, is a simple and beautiful way to increase the capacity of the heart for compassion towards self and others.  I shared my own interpretation of Maitri in my very first post on this blog.  It's certainly appropriate for any time of year, but as I discovered this week, spring provides an abundance of imagery to support the practice.

If you are unfamiliar with this meditation, it's a four-part offering to self, a loved-one, a neutral being, and finally to someone with whom you are experiencing dis-harmony.  I usually use my own words, but this week felt drawn to my teacher's rendition:

May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be safe, may I live with ease.

May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be safe, may you live with ease.

May we be happy, may we be healthy, may we be safe, may we live with ease.

Maitri is associated with the anahata chakra, or energy point in the heart space.  Each chakra has a color and anahata is green.  I often try to imagine my awareness dropping down into my chest and am always curious to see if somehow the color green will show up.  It doesn't and I'm left wondering what I'm missing.

I left my Maitri practice on Tuesday and had the rare opportunity to move at human speed for the rest of my day.  By this I mean that I walked to wherever I needed to go.  As I made my way from one neighborhood to another, I was suddenly flooded by green.  Everywhere I looked - neon, earthy, dark, mint - green.

IMG_5047IMG_5051IMG_5048IMG_5056IMG_5054IMG_5062IMG_5065IMG_5066It turns out that when I open my awareness, slow down and use my senses as I move through my day, I find that what I've been looking for is already all around.  Every where I go this week, I see green.  The world around me is alive with love and compassion.  It's spring and love is in bloom.  Hello heart chakra, nice to meet you.

Strong and Subtle

solar plexusA shift in my schedule last week prompted me to stay at the studio after teaching Tuesday afternoon to practice with my friend and colleague Natalia Rudovsky.  Her level II class offers a very different style from mine and while I have a deep respect for Natalia's abilities both as a yogi and a teacher, I don't usually find myself craving the fiery energy explored in this 75 minute practice.  Perhaps something about the bright sun that day alongside chilly temperatures nudged me to challenge the physical body, lay down a mat and surrender my desire for ease. Yoga is a discipline that asks us to find balance between ease and effort and I confess that I am generally more at home with the former.  I like to curl up to a nice mellow, gentle series of poses.  And so, even though I don't often seek it, a practice that pushes the limits of my physical strength and breath capacity can be just what I need from time to time. Not only did the asana sequences challenge me, but Natalia's exploration of the Chakras brought me face to face with an aspect of the subtle body that I often find illusive.  What are Chakras?  My longtime teacher, Lisa Steele, describes them in this way: "the Chakras are an invisible center of spinning energy, located where the mind and body meet.  While not synonymous with any portion of the physical body, their effect on the physical body is strong; it is believed that our physical bodies shape themselves around the Chakras."

If you enjoy a strong asana practice and want to deepen your understanding of mind-body-spirit connection, I encourage you to try and make it to Natalia's Sunday and/or Tuesday evening classes soon.  Every two weeks features a new Chakra (current focus is on Manipura (third/solar plexus).  I myself hope to be there again soon.