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Note: For the complete lessons, with additions, see the AYP Easy Lessons for Ecstatic Living Books.

Lesson 220 - Q&A – Opening the heart chakra

From: Yogani
Date: Mon Jul 19, 2004 1:06pm

New Members: 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 This Discussion?"


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 in this.


A: Thank you for writing and sharing.

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 on exhalation.

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 together.

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 on that.

I wish you balanced health, and continuing success in your important spiritual work.

The guru is in you.

Note: For detailed instructions on building a balanced daily practice routine with self-pacing, see the Eight Limbs of Yoga Book.

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