“There is a candle in your heart, ready to be kindled. There is a void in your soul, ready to be filled. You feel it, don’t you?” ~ Rumi
Today I took my very first live, in-person class with Shiva Rea, at my very first yoga conference, here in majestic Estes Park. Such a beautiful way to start the day! Shiva’s class this morning was entitled Tending the Heart Fire: Bhakti within Tantra and the focus was on both learning about, and working, the heart muscle in order to tend the heart fire.
I have to be honest, I kind of expected to be strung through the wringer with a two hour ass-kicking asana session with the legendary Shiva Rea. However, I was pleasantly surprised (and super grateful) the first hour involved deepening our understanding and the second hour focused on bodywork. I always enjoy learning why we do things and expanding my awareness of historical, cultural and religious perspectives, so I appreciated everything about this session.
Physical postures are amazing and I love that aspect of yoga, but as a yoga-teacher-in-training and a student of Eastern traditions for almost two decades, I am very grateful for the inclusive teachings, which Shiva gracefully provided.
We started the class discussing how various cultures and religions across the world view the heart as one’s inner fire or essence. Shiva explained, the Christian view of the heart is as a vessel in which love is poured or carried; whereas, Vajrayana-Tantric Buddhists view the heart as the beginning of the path to liberation. The heart is the fire of consciousness and it is the fire in our hearts, she said, that connects us back to the beginning of creation.
Shiva also described some of the research being done at the Institute of HeartMath regarding the immense electromagnetic field radiating from our hearts, and the discovery of neural receptors in the heart identical to those found in the brain. It’s fascinating; I learned a lot about this last spring in a neuropsych class and understanding the connection between our hearts, the greater energetic field surrounding us, and the beginning of creation is powerful.
Finally, after working through an hour long asana session—tending to our heart fires, flexing our heart muscles, and every other muscle!—my heart fire has been kindled, my need to learn something has been satisfied, and my first Yoga Journal Conference and first class with Shiva Rea have lived up to my expectations and have left me feeling profoundly grateful and inspired.
Jennifer Spesia is completing her PhD in Psychology in 2013 and currently works with individuals, couples, families, and groups in her psychotherapy practice in the beautiful state of Colorado. Jennifer is a long-time student of Eastern spiritual traditions, a meditator, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa), a yoga-teacher-in-training, a human companion to three amazing dogs, a world traveler, a philosopher, a seeker, and an eternal student.