Healing the heart through yoga

Through the practice of Yoga, one experiences a series of progressive transformations in the quality of the mind. We are not made up of different minds. The same mind goes through a change. This happens in the course of one practice session but also within the course of many years.

Hṛdaya literally means the heart. But here it is not meant to be the physical heart. We could say, it is the mind when the parasympathetic nervous system is dominant. It is the mind that has put down its guard. Then a deeper intelligence begins to function. This is where true listening happens. Hrdaya is where benevolence, kindness, understanding, choiceless-love, compassion and peace are experienced. Only the Hṛdaya-mind is capable of being in total connection. This is why we are so absorbed in what we do when we “love” doing it. We are able to connect.

Hṛdaya  is where dharana happens, that is the mind is freed from drifting and wandering. In Dharana, vrtti nirodhah has happened. The quality of minds that follow are Yogic Minds. Once we come back to our heart-mind, almost any transformation is possible.

The line between the External mind (the mind of survival and instinct) and the internal mind (the mind of reflection and intuition) is Fear. Survival in its essence needs both fear and desire. Without fear and desire there can be no survival.

By whatever means or whatever path one chooses, healing the heart becomes possible only through allowing oneself to be open and vulnerable. Which means, the Buddhi (rational mind), Ahaṁkāra (I-ness) and Manas (sensual mind) have transformed into Sattva Guna (unclenched state), revealing first the Hṛdaya (the heart), which organically transforms into more sensitive and fluid states of mind.

Yoga begins in the heart. Only when our heart is reached and touched, the inward process begins. This is why from the first day we begin to bow our head down to the heart, the chest. So Yoga reveals itself to one who is willing to be vulnerable in stability, so that that line, that fear, that keeps the mind external, is crossed. The fear is a river. On one side of the river is survival. On the other is the freedom to think clearly and to be free in one’s heart, to go beyond survival, to experience love.

Sorrow is tamasic (heavy) in nature and keeps us from crossing that river. Benevolence, joy and contentment have a Sattvic effect on the mind that brings lightness. This line between the external mind and the internal mind which we call fear becomes thicker and thicker with sorrow. Walls are built. The inner minds close up. Sorrow weighs us down, in our abdominal region. Literally, the organs become heavy. 

This is why Patanjali says the practice of asana is to find sthiram (stability) and sukham (pleasantness, lightness). When one is light, one will be interested in looking deeper into one’s own heart. Though happiness is not really the goal, it is a stepping stone to freedom. A mind that is traumatized, hurt, saddened and tired needs to first be lightened. The burden needs to be dropped. This is why Patanjali introduces Kriya Yoga to find stability and true happiness. This stability and happiness manifest as lightness in mind and body. This lightness begins the process of healing the heart.