True balance and harmony are produced where the finite and the infinite meet.
Interestingly, in our very bodies we have a beautiful manifestation of just this. Each of us has seven chakras, or energetic planes of consciousness that correspond to the major endocrine glands. The lower three correlate to the finite aspects of our bodies. They represent the gross manifestation of the physical realm with corresponding elements of Earth, water, and fire (and bodily actions such as elimination, reproduction, and digestion). The upper three chakras have more to do with the infinite, the subtle energetic realms that connect us to life. The only chakra of the upper three that corresponds to an element is the throat and this is ether. The other two are essentially elementless, hence their infinite nature. They have to do with our truth, intuition and spirit. Alas, where the upper three and the lower three meet, there is the heart chakra. Its element is air and its color is the most neutral color of the visual spectrum, green. Its name, Anahata, means “un-stuck” and it is the one chakra that is not naturally affected by the upper and lower polarities of existence. It is also the main site that prana (life force) is generated in the body.
When we meditate, we often try to put out attention at the third eye or to expand outside of our body. Or sometimes you hear that you should be focusing primarily on grounding yourself and connecting with the Earth. Both of these suggestions are only one side of the equation. To experience that true cancellation -to actually “just be”, we must meditate on the heart.
I firmly believe that the best way to do this is in nature. When we rest our foundations upon the Earth we can gather energy from her through the lower three chakras, and likewise, without roofs obstructing our energies, we can draw power from the cosmos in through our upper three chakras. Nature is the most obvious and conducive place to tune into our true beings, drawing both poles together into a beautiful silent symphony at the heart, where life and true unity is produced.
When we focus too hard on the upper chakras we can become unbalanced and mistakenly rip our awareness from our bodies -a dangerous mistake that I made when I first began to practice meditation. Likewise, it is equally unwise to focus solely on the lower chakras -we become animalistic, greedy, overly sexual and aggressive.
Meditating on the heart is the only true way to balance our physical and subtle bodies; it allows us not only to accept and exist in our body, but also not to be overly attached to it by bringing awareness to our more primal natures.
Without the heart, both poles are left devoid of the warmth and compassion necessary to bring forth their best attributes.
A visualization that I personally love to use (while sitting outside and after having established a connection with the Earth and the cosmos of course!) is to imagine an emerald green light peeking through and twinkling at the center of my chest. As I stay with this visualization I will this light to grow and expand until my entire body is filled with a glittering green and the rays are penetrating through my skin and out into the non-local domain…essentially merging my own heart with the heart of the Earth through our common element -air! I find this meditation to cultivate compassion, empathy and also to be very healing and cleansing to both my mind and my body.
Another more extreme heart chakra practice is apnea. You may have already heard about the connection between yoga and freediving, as there is incredible synergy between the two. When we hold our air in, such as in a dive, we become closed circuits of energy. During a freedive all of our blood shifts in correspondence to the natural harmony of the flow of life -It moves away from the extremities and poles of the body and moves towards the heart and lungs to preserve itself. It is an internal reflection of the natural play of the macro world.
Freediving is like the ultimate meditation on the heart!
When integrating this concept into our regular yoga practice we must beware that that we are not consistently practicing grounding or meditative sequences, as too much of either can lead to a grave imbalance in the body. Rather we should practice one or the other to bring harmony to the body if we are showing a strong inclination toward the other. This means that if you are an avid Ashtanga practitioner, the way that you approach your meditation and Savasana are critical to maintaining overall balance (you will want more grounding practices since Ashtanga is an upward flow of energy), and likewise if you are consistently practicing grounding flows, you will want to balance this by focusing at the third eye during your finial meditation.
In my personal practices, I have found that practicing a meditative sequence inthe morning and a grounding sequence in the evening delivers a lovely balance and this is exactly what I offer in my retreats.
However, if practicing twice a day is not possible for you, I would recommend engaging in whichever practice you intuitively feel your body needs, but taking care to regularly check in with yourself and reverse the flow if you find it need be. I have gone months practicing a grounding Hatha flow and then intuitively realized that I needed an upward flowing Ashtanga practice to balance myself out, and so switched with wonderful results. It is important not to be too attached to any one practice for this reason. Yoga should incorporate a synthesis of techniques to nurture the causal, astral and physical bodies and if we remain aware of these bodies and open to the abundance of all that yoga has to offer, we are on the right track to developing true strength, balance and compassion. Home is where the heart is at, and in our bodies, heart is home.
Brittany Jade Trubridge is a little traveling and freediving yogini and the creator of B-Tru Yoga. She is an avid Ashtanga practitioner, vegan foodie, crystal collector, and people-lover. Currently she spends the summers traveling throughout Europe teaching yoga, meditation and advanced pranayama to freedivers, while offering online personal consultations and tailored sequence at her website, BrittanyTrubridge.com. She spends the remainder of the year living on a tiny island in the Caribbean with her husband, William, and cat, Piper, where they run a freediving/yoga school called Vertical Blue. You can also find her on twitter @BTruYoga