by Kara-Leah Grant
It’s all good and well to do these wonderful heart-opening or heart-balancing yoga practices, but without a proper understanding of all aspects of the heart chakra, we can easily hit a wall of resistance that stops our practice cold.
The heart chakra is about our ability to love – which requires that we open to the possibility of grief, sorrow and disappointment as well as the wonderful sensations of love, joy, fulfilment and compassion.
Working with any heart-opening practice means you are more likely to experience all of those emotions – not just the great ones! And it’s wise to know this in advance…
Case in point.
It was Day 19 of my Forty Days of the Heart-Opening Kriya. I sat down to practice, and my mind kicked in immediately.
This is stupid. I don’t want to do this. What’s the point? This is a waste of time.
Wow? Really? I saw these thoughts and I almost listened to them. But, being on a forty day committed practice and all, I didn’t. Instead, I ploughed on through my practice for the day, and afterwards wondered why on earth my mind was churning such negativity about a practice that was, in general, making me feel great.
The next day, I found out.
Unexplained grief arrived, set up camp, and made its presence known. I felt heavy, sad, depressed, and just plain awful.
Oh… so this was why I’d had such serious mat resistance the day before – I was about to break through to some old feelings sitting there in my heart.
And this is why a forty day practice is so valuable. If I’d just been doing a regular daily practice, it’s likely that those thoughts about the heart-opening kriya would have been enough for me to change my mind about that practice.
I might have done something else instead because I ‘felt like it’. I wouldn’t have noticed, and wouldn’t have known that my mind had just derailed me at a crucial moment in my practice.
This happens to us all the time.
Just when we’re about to hit the good stuff, just when we’re about to go somewhere in our practice we’ve never been before, just when we’re about to go deep… our mind distracts us. Something comes up. We skip a day. We change our practice. We just stop.
Fortunately for me, I was committed, I ploughed on through and hit the gold. Because while the grief was intense, and felt awful, I knew it necessary to clear out and release old emotional holding patterns in the heart. I knew this had to be gone through as such.
This is the nature of emotions. When they arise – energy in motion – we need to feel them and allow them to move through us. Then they’re gone. That’s it. No big deal.
When emotions arise and we block them, they cease to be energy in motion and instead become stuck – in our bodies, in our psyches, in our body/mind interface.
Three things happen as a result of this – one we strengthen the pattern in our body/mind that blocks, avoids, or denies emotions, thereby cutting ourselves off from the truth of our emotion. Two, those stuck emotions have to go somewhere, and they affect our body in some way. (Think illness in years to come.)
Finally, blocking, avoiding or denying emotion and allowing it to remain in our body affects how we interact with life down the line. We’ll seek to avoid situations that create more of the same kind of emotion. We begin to avoid life.
Doing a heart-opening practice like this particular kriya is my way of undoing years of avoiding and denying emotions. It’s like a spring-clean for the heart. And I know that means I will have to finally face the emotions I never faced years ago.
But I’m up for it – I know it’s worth it because it clears me out, it builds my ability to sit with emotion, and it creates a new pattern for engaging with life.
I’m learning to welcome life as it arises – all of it. Not just the joy and happiness, but also the grief and sadness.
That’s wholeness. That’s why we do our practice. That’s why we commit to our practice.
So if you haven’t yet done any kind of committed yoga practice for forty days in a row, I urge you to consider the idea. It doesn’t have to be a long complicated practice – this particular heart-opening kriya I’m doing takes me ten minutes. You could choose something different – you might just do five sun salutations every day. That’s enough.
The key aspect is you do the same thing every day – that’s an anchor for your practice, you might do additional practice on top of that, but each day, the anchor is the same.
That daily practice gives your body/mind time to assimilate the practice, and time for the practice to work on you – I’ve noticed that I usually hit a wall around Day 19 to 23, emotional stuff comes up after that wall, and once I move through it, it’s plain sailing all the way to Day 40.
Oh, except in this case, on Day 40, I decided I was going to continue my practice for 90 Days. Yes, that’s right, I’ve turned my Forty Day practice into a Ninety Day Practice.
Kundalini Yoga explains the significance of the length of practice in this way:
- 40 Days: Practice every day for 40 days straight. This will break any negative habits that block you from the expansion possible through the kriya or mantra.
- 90 Days: Practice every day for 90 days straight. This will establish a new habit in your conscious and subconscious minds based on the effect of the kriya or mantra. It will change you in a very deep way.
- 120 Days: Practice every day for 120 days straight. This will confirm the new habit of consciousness created by the kriya or mantra. The positive benefits of the kriya get integrated permanently into your psyche.
- 1000 Days: Practice every day for 1000 days straight. This will allow you to master the new habit of consciousness that the kriya or mantra has promised. No matter what the challenge, you can call on this new habit to serve you.
After forty days, I felt like I’d broken the negative patterns of avoiding grief, but I also felt like there was much more I could learn from this kriya – hence continuing on.
When I get to 90 days, I may decide to continue to 120… who knows, maybe even 1000 days?!
Regardless, I am so glad I made it through those three days of intense grief at Day 19, 20 and 21 because staying the process trained me up. It helped me release feelings from my childhood, and with the release of the feelings came new insights into my experience. Another layer of ego had dissolved.
Finally, facing squarely into the grief that arose as a result of my practice helped me create a new positive samskara around grief.
That meant when it happened in my life just three weeks later, I was able to squarely face into the reality of my experience.
I knew I could handle it, and in handling it – staying with the feelings as they arose, I discovered that it wasn’t so bad. That actually, there was a sweetness to the grief as it brought me sharply into the present, into the now, and into life.
Who’d have thought?