Yoga of the Heart

Yogash citta vritti nirodhah PYS I.2

Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind.

Hrdaye citta samvit PYS III.35

By samyama on the heart, the knowledge of the mind is obtained.

The first sutra above is one well-beloved and well-known by most yoga practitioners.  It sets the intention not only for many a yoga class, but for the entire Yoga Sutras text, and for the practices of yoga itself.  Methods, tips, tricks, successes, failures, and breakthroughs comprise a large part of the discussion of yoga.

The second sutra is much less well-known, as most of the samyama sutras are rarely studied.  Samyama is the practice of dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (integration) simultaneously on some object.  When the distinction between object, the act of focusing on the object, and the person focusing blurs and falls away – samyama arises. When this happens, the person focusing may receive insights on the object of focus.  This is in some ways analogous to modern day scientists who devote hours and years focusing on some object to reveal its inner nature or some new truth.

Suprisingly, samyama on the heart reveals the inner nature of the mind – the main focus of yoga itself. When you consider that the actual energetic waves the heart produces radiate nine feet from the body, it becomes clear that the heart is not merely some sentimental expression of emotion, but can be a very real and powerful physical aspect of our yoga practice.

Whether engaging in a heart meditation like those taught by Aadhil Palkhivala, working through backbends, or simply using the breath at the start of class to not only bring clarity and steadiness to the mind, but to the heart as well – consider incorporating the heart into your yoga practice this month.

Recommended music:  Heart as Wide as the World by Krishna Das