When it comes to the physical body, the center of gravity–and thus balance– is a bit different for everyone, depending on the architecture of the body in question. Yet, typically, most of us think of that center as occurring somewhere in the core: the hip, belly, and low back region. The energetic center of the body, however, lies within the Fourth Chakra, or Heart Center (Anahata).
Think of the ways we refer to heightened moments of emotional energy: “My heart leapt out of my chest;” “My heart sank:” “My heart was in my throat;” “Is your heart in the right place?” These locational errancies reveal that when the Heart wanders from its centered home, imbalances throughout the chakra system can occur. Without the mediating, calming energy of the Heart, the vibrational tone of the Upper and Lower Triangles becomes dissonant.
To properly situate and stimulate the Fourth Chakra, the upper back, chest, and arms require attention. Because the Heart meridians (two primary and two associates) run through the arms, an open bridge between them is vital to the optimal function of Heart energy: thus, the area between the armpits needs to be clear and flexible.
For today’s practice, begin with traditional Cat/Cow on all fours. After 8-15 rounds of this overall spinal flexion and extension, sit back on the heels: As always, a pillow between the feet and bottom provides support. Place the hands on the shoulders, thumbs behind, fingers in front. Inhale deeply as you pull the elbows back, as if to touch each other; keep the upper arms parallel to the ground. Exhale and bring the elbows forward to touch. Begin as slowly as you need to; as the body warms up, move quickly and fluidly, increasing the power and pace of the breath to match the movement. Continue for 2 minutes.
Now, shift into a different seated pose, if you like (or remain as you are, if comfortable). Inhale the arms overhead, arms hugging the ears, palms facing, and then exhale them 30 degrees away from the head. Continue this straight-up, 30-degree-open movement rapidly as you inhale up, exhale open, for 1 minute. The rhythm of the nasal breath should be quick and vigorous, matching the arm move, almost like a Breath of Fire.
Next, rise onto the knees for a variation of Camel Pose. (Again, use a pillow to protect the knees if they feel sensitive.) Reach the hands back to the heels; be sure to keep the thighs perpendicular to the floor. If this is too much of a stretch, place the palms on the back of the thighs. Inhale deeply, then exhale as you move the torso back about 30 degrees; inhale back to the start. Continue this back-and-forth, up-and-down movement for another 2 minutes.
After a brief rest in Baby Pose, come into your preferred seated position for Nadi Shodhana prayanama. This is the classic balancing breath, bringing both sides of the brain (i.e., the overriding nervous system) into a state of equanimity; it can be called on to restore calm and steadiness during any emotional upheaval. Here, I suggest attention to the Heart as you practice the breath.
Before you begin, massage the center point of each palm for about a minute each; use the opposite thumb tip to make small, small, clockwise circles to rub the points. When you have finished, place the awakened palm center of the left hand on the Heart Center. Bring the right thumb to the right nostril, and close the opening.
Inhale through the left nostril, then press the aperture closed with the right ring finger. Exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril, close the nostril with the thumb, and exhale through the left. Continue this alternate nostril breath for 5 minutes. With the eyes closed and focused on the Third Eye, simultaneously maintain sensory awareness of the connection between the left palm and Heart Center. This will guide the balancing pranayama to the chakra that creates harmony among all energy centers.
When you are ready, slowly move into Svasana to deepen the flow of the Heart’s energy throughout the body, mind, and spirit. Rest for as long as you like in this calming vibration.