All about the heart centre: where is yours?

In the two and a half decades that I’ve been practicing yoga, I’ve heard the term “heart centre” many times. I would place my hand above my left breast, eyes closed, assuming I’ve followed the instructions of the yoga teacher. But, even the most experienced teachers can learn something new by going back to the basics. Last month, I attended an online Pranayama workshop with the founders of Svastha Yoga Therapy, A.G. and Indra Mohan. They went over in detail the history and practice of two basic yoga breathing exercises – Lahari and Nadi Shodhana. With both of them, Indra asked us to focus on our heart centre. Noticing the way it expands with the inhale, and noticing how it relaxes and softens on the exhale.

Where do you think your heart centre is?

After the workshop, I did a little exercise in my own yoga classes to see if others had the same sense of where their heart centre is. I asked the participants to close their eyes and place a hand on their heart centre. They all put their hands on a different part of their torso – some higher up near the collarbones and others lower down near the belly. Everyone had a unique idea of where it was!

Lahari Pranayama

Lahari means ‘wave’ in Sanskrit. To practice this breath, there is no special physical technique. Just breathe naturally and smoothly, you don’t need to force the breath to deepen. If you practice this breath for awhile, you may notice that your breathing will naturally deepen and slow down as you relax and feel more calm. It is called the ‘wave’ breath is because on the surface of the water there are fluctuations as the waves roll back and forth to the shore, but underneath the surface layer it is calm. The focus on the heart centre allows you to smooth out those fluctuations and find calmness.

Nadi Shodhana

This Pranayama allows you to clear out the Ida and Pingala nadis (two of the main energy lines running up and down the central core of the body). Each nostril is connected to one of these lines. With the right hand, fold the index and middle fingers to the palm of the hand, so that there is comfortable space for the nose. Tilt the head down to make it comfortable for your shoulder and elbow. Pranayama should be easy, not forced. The right thumb first closes the right nostril, and the 4th finger half closes the left nostril to guide the breath in smoothly. A slight retention of breath helps the mind to find ease and calm. And then the thumb half opens the right nostril to guide the exhale out. Repeat on the 2nd side and continue as long as feels right for you, focusing on the heart centre.

heart centre

Where is the heart centre?

Why is the heart centre important?

The heart centre is called Hridaya in Sanskrit. It is at the centre of our being, the core of connection to ourselves. It is where the physical body connects to the breath, and through where the Prana (energy lines) converge and flow. Often, it is mistakenly assumed that the heart chakra (Anahata) is where the heart centre is. But Hridaya is not located at any chakra. To find it place a thumb of one hand between your collar bones and the little finger of the other hand in your navel, spread both fingers wide, and where the other thumb and little finger meet is your heart centre.


At English Yoga Berlin we offer small classes for more personalised practice and private yoga sessions. Juli‘s yoga classes in English are a slow Vinyasa yoga / Svastha yoga mix. Contact us here to learn more or check our class schedule to participate in a group class at our Kreuzberg yoga studio or participate in one of our yoga classes live online.

Live Online yoga Classes Continue

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.
They must be felt with the heart.”

— Helen Keller

 

Greetings Yogis,

            Here we are a few months into the Corona virus pandemic, with some time spent in lockdown and getting used to a new way of life. Whether we like it or not, we are going through changes that affect us each individually as well as societally. What this means for our future, we cannot yet say. However,  if distancing truly makes our hearts grow fonder, let’s hope for a kinder, gentler and more just world when we finally come out of this. In the meantime, online yoga is here for a little while longer. Both Juli and Pinelopi continue their regular schedule online through June. With Pinelopi dropping to one class a week through July for summer holidays. Near the end of July we hope to know more about the regulations and peak statuses of Berlin to make a decision whether we return to the studio in August.

 

Hatha Yoga Classes Live Online

Pinelopi’s regular Hatha Yoga classes continue online through June, and will reduce to once a week in July for summer holidays. Here is how to join.

 

yoga online

yoga online

Sunday Yoga Live Online

Juli‘s regular Sunday Yoga classes from 4-5:30pm continue live online through June and July. Here’s how to join.

We continue to be thankful for your practice and your support of our work. Stay healthy, stay safe, protect those at risk by keeping a distance.

 

At English Yoga Berlin, we offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli. Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcome to beginners, as well as people struggling with chronic pain. We also offer Berlin business yoga, and private yoga classes, as well as queer and trans prioritized community classes. We are currently offering all of our yoga classes live online. See our schedule for more info.

Keeping calm in times of uncertainty

The whole world has been affected, we’re all in this together

Keep Calm in Times of UncertaintyThe COVID-19 pandemic has revealed some unexpected things about our society. In the past, when we’ve imagined through films or literature what the world would look like during a viral outbreak, the current situation is not one we’ve anticipated, one where (unless you’re a medical worker, caregiver, garbage collector, cleaner, bus driver, grocery store clerk, or work in food service or production) most of us are asked to stay home. Those of us with the privilege of comfortable, safe homes, clean running water and access to grocery stores can easily do that. But the crisis is also showing more clearly the inequalities around the world, that most of us live in cramped quarters, abusive home situations, unsanitary conditions, or don’t have access to clean water, a roof over our heads, or are incarcerated. It also clearly shows which demographics have access to proper healthcare. Nobody is as of yet immune to the virus, but we have different positions from which to fight it. In all of this it’s hard to keep calm in times of uncertainty.

Other epidemics in the past have been isolated to smaller parts of the world, but this is the first one that has spread worldwide. Our world has gotten smaller through international travel, dwindling habitats for wild animals, mass production of food and worldwide shipping. All of this has increased and sped-up human contact. One of my favourite guided relaxations includes a visualization of how we’re all connected through the earth, the animals, plants and each other: the butterfly effect. But thinking about all that inter-connection right now, when we’re supposed to be apart from each other feels counterintuitive. So I’ve been avoiding this visualization these days. But it’s also rewarding to see how neighbours are looking out for each other more, like buying groceries for those more vulnerable or wearing masks in public places to reduce the risk of asymptomatic infection. It shows that people are actually acknowledging our inter-connection.

Panic is about things we cannot control

Even for those with the privilege to work from a safe, comfortable home, and with loved ones nearby, there is still a lot of uncertainty about what the future will hold. Going out to the grocery store and wondering if you’ve touched your face while standing in line, or whether you’ve cleaned your vegetables properly can cause a panic attack. Our enemy is microscopic. We don’t know when it will hit, if it has hit, or if we or those we love will succumb to it. We also don’t know what it means for our society and how we will interact once this pandemic is over, how long it will last, or even if it will end. Who will we be once it is over? How will it change us? What new behaviours will we have to take on in the future? Will everyone go out with face masks and latex gloves? How will we go to events while maintaining distance? What about flights and cramped long-distance bus rides? What about our jobs?

Uncertain Times

Strange Times, Cartoon by Leunig

The future is never something that we could ever predict, but there are certain things we can usually count on that will most likely be there tomorrow or a week from now. With the corona times as they are, our normal everyday routine has been disrupted, and there is the feeling that our support system has been pulled out from under us. This is a panic-inducing scenario. Those who didn’t already have anxiety or panic attacks before this will now know what it’s like for those who have that as a regular experience. One thing we can do to manage it is to learn to observe the things we have control over, acknowledge what support we do have right here and now in the present, and act mindfully. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of some tips that can help with keeping calm in times of uncertainty, some of which may work for some, but not others, take care of what you can manage yourself right now:

  1. Meditation or guided relaxation
  2. Listening to Sound Healing music
  3. Breathing techniques, such as the Bee Breath during Pinelopi’s grounding sessions
  4. Practicing yoga, Qi Gong or other calming movement practices
  5. Practicing mindfulness as you walk, noticing your feet on the ground
  6. Chewing food slowly, being mindful and grateful for the food you have available
  7. Taking control of the things you can right now – plant a garden, dive into a new project
  8. Joining a new streaming platform and binge watching obscure movies
  9. Being there for others, helping a neighbour, supporting a friend
  10. Reading about how to overthrow capitalism and planning actions to help re-build a future world
  11. …. What are your strategies to remain calm in times of uncertainty? … post in the comments below …

 


At English Yoga Berlin, we offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli. Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcome to beginners, as well as people struggling with chronic pain. We also offer Berlin business yoga, and private yoga classes, as well as queer and trans prioritized community classes. We are currently offering all of our yoga classes live online. See our schedule for more info.