Meditation for balancing heart chakra

The heart chakra, or anahata, represents the center of love, compassion, empathy and forgiveness. A healthy alignment of heart chakra will make us feel surrounded by love, compassion and joy. We are open to all experiences in life. We can see all the goodness and love around us. We can truly accept and connect to ourselves and others.

On the other hand, a blocked heart chakra will bring dysfunctional relationships in which the person may find it hard to develop and keep healthy relationships with oneself and others. Other signs of the heart chakra being blocked include excessive social isolation, frequent feelings of loneliness and jealousy, being overly defensive and difficulty in trusting others.

Keeping a balanced chakra is important for our physical and mental well-being. To balance the heart chakra, we can practise chest-opening yoga poses such as camel pose (Ushtrasana) and upward bow pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana). On a daily basis, we can also practise gratitude and meditation to change our mental habits. In this blog, I would like to share with you the loving kindness meditation exercise that I have learnt from the book “Search Inside Yourself” written by Chade-Meng Tan.

 

Just like me and loving kindness meditation

(adapted from “Search Inside Yourself”)

  1. Sit in a comfortable position. Start with 2 minutes to rest the mind on the breath.
  2. Bring to mind somebody you care about. Visualize him or her.
  3. Begin “Just like me” meditation on this person as the object:

This person has a body and a mind, just like me.
This person has feelings, emotions and thoughts, just like me.
This person has experienced sadness, disappointment, anger or confusion before, just like me.
This person has suffered physical and emotional pain before, just like me.
This person wishes to be free from pain and suffering, just like me.
This person wishes to be healthy and loved, and to have fulfilling relationships, just like me.
This person wishes to be happy, just like me.

Now, practise loving kindness by allowing some wishes to arise:

I wish for this person to have the strength, the resources, and the emotional and social support to navigate the difficulties in life.
I wish for this person to be free from pain and suffering.
I wish for this person to be happy.
Because this person is a fellow human being, just like me.
Now, I wish for everybody I know to be happy.
(Long pause)

End with 1 minute of resting the mind.

This practice is useful to heal relationships in any situation. I like to use this practice to manage my relationships in life. For this to work, I have also consciously made some changes in my mental habits.

  • Choose kindness

Remind myself I have the choice to become a kind person. When you give people kindness, it is more likely for you to receive kindness from others. I choose to be kind because I want to make the world a better place to live. There is no need to judge or harm others. Everyone has their own struggles and difficulties in life. We come to the world to help each other grow to become a better and kinder person.

  • Surrender your ego

When interacting with people, I always remind myself to put away the ‘self’. Forget our ego, our interests and even our own problems. Instead, choose to focus the attention on the person in front of us, listen to understand them, talk to offer our empathy and kindness to them.

  • Practise gratitude

Remind myself to be grateful for every person I have met and every experience that has occurred in my life. Without the rain, I wouldn’t have learnt to appreciate the sun. Learn to see the goodness in every person and experience. The unpleasant people or experience are there to teach us life lessons, to serve as a mirror for ourselves and more importantly, to help evolve ourselves to become a better person.  

  • Success from other people only shows us what is possible

Jealousy is one of the sins that prevent us from attaining happiness in life. Do not get jealous over other people’s success because each of us has the opportunity to rise and shine in our fields by hard work and determination. Other people’s success only shows us what is possible within us. This is something to inspire us and to motivate us.

Lastly, it takes time to transform our mental habits. As long as we are willing to take the first step to change, be aware of each of our thoughts, actions and words, we will slowly evolve to become a better person.

 

With love,

Wei Li

Yoga-to breathe

That’s it, there’s no hiding it – you’re alive and yoga-to breathe.
Seriously though, have you ever stopped to think about how important breathing is? One could probably survive a few days without food and water but die or suffer permanent brain damage within a few minutes of not breathing.
Breath is mentioned throughout every part of yoga. I mean, there’s even a whole part of yoga just dedicated to breathing techniques (pranayama). But even in meditation or physical practice, there’s so much attention given to breath. And it’s even more apparent after attending this teacher’s training course.
There’s so much emphasis on knowing when to instruct “inhale” and when to instruct “exhale” as a yoga teacher. It’s quite annoying when you’re trying to memorise it from a manual, but it makes a lot of difference for the students. I say that from experience – it’s so much easier to inhale into a backbend, and so much easier to exhale as your chaturanga. It just makes sense. And it’s also a good reminder to any practitioner to keep breathing. As a dancer, it’s actually very common to be so caught up with the steps and forget to breathe; and it really doesn’t help with our stamina or our appearance, it actually makes our movements look very stiff. But now, I’m guessing that it’ll only be natural for me to start matching movements with my inhalations and exhalations, and be more aware about breath in general.
Throat breathing (ujjayi, a type of pranayama), thoracic breathing, stomach (diaphragm) breathing and clavicular breathing. I’ve only thought about breathing as inhaling through your nose and exhaling with your mouth. But it’s so much more than that. “In yoga, breath is equally as important – sometimes even more important – as the physical pose” (Frothingham, Scott. “Benefits of Ujjayi breathing and how to do it”. 17 December, 2019.) One of the very first things I learnt in this course was throat breathing (Ujjayi) while performing different asanas, which was obviously very new to me. This breathing technique improves concentration, helps to release tension throughout the body and also regulates temperature of the body. I think it’s a great tool to use during physical practice as it keeps the practitioner in a meditative state, helps to deepen the stretch in certain poses and keeps the core warm throughout practice.

Better than the gym

I signed up for a gym membership about a year ago. Oh how I wished I had spent it on more yoga classes. Not that gymming is bad, I’m just saying that yoga seems way more efficient to me.
You see, upon arriving at the gym, you still have to warm up and start your reps with a low weight, then gradually increase the weight. Typically, I’d say I used to spend at least 2 hours in the gym to work out 2 muscle groups. A yoga class is about an hour’s long – including warmup up, and you get to work your whole body. It’s efficient and it gets the job done. Even in a simple sun salutation, I can increase my heart rate to supply more oxygen to my muscles, mobilise my joints to get it to produce protective synovial fluid and ease my body into stretches. As for the gym, I would probably have to run to get my heart rate up, then do some stretching and joint articulations at the side before finally moving on to a station.
Another reason I find yoga to be more appealing than the gym is simply because it’s a “kill two birds with one stone” situation. With yoga, you gain flexibility and strength. In the gym, all you get is strength and tight, chunky muscles that would probably make you scream when massaged. Well, if that’s the aesthetic you’re going for, you do you honey. But… wouldn’t it be a better flex to be strong AND flexible at the same time? Look, there’s a reason why someone could look really buff and have 6 pack abs and still not be able to do what we do here in yoga; and I’m not just talking about flexibility. Yoga targets the deep muscles of the body, or what you call the true muscles of the body. These muscles are the muscles that stabilise you and allow you to do some pretty cool party moves to show off (rather than just lifting your shirt and flexing your bicep).
And now the best for the last – yoga caters to everybody and is suitable for even the elderly, or people with injuries and medical conditions.

Planet Ohm

What’s the first few things that come to your mind when you’re asked to think of yoga? For most people, they’d probably think of flexible people with colourful mats, lululemon or cotton on leggings and the famous “ohmmmmmmmmmmmmm”.
Well, I used to be one of them. And I used to think it was pointless.
Then I learnt that the sound “ohm” isn’t just some random sound that someone 5000 years ago came up with – it’s the very sound of everything. It’s a primal sound – it’s everywhere. It’s the vibrational frequency found throughout everything in nature (432 Hertz). It’s ohmmmmmnipresent! (I hope you laughed)
More importantly, it represents being away from the past, present and future. If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, you’ve probably heard your instructor saying something like, “relax your mind”. That’s because yoga believes in the removal of consciousness, mind and thought (Chithr Vriti Niroda). Wait… how is that even possible?
Honestly, I don’t know. But here’s how I like to think of it – you are now on planet Ohm. On this planet, time doesn’t exist, it’s just space. When time isn’t known in your vocabulary, it’ll then be possible to be away from your past, present and future. In other words, your mind won’t be able to associate yourself with any memory or knowledge. You would be removed from your mind, your consciousness, your thoughts.
So while this may seem completely impossible here on earth, it’s all possible on planet Ohm. The mind does wonders…so how about letting it wander off (no pun intended) to planet Ohm and away from everything?nn

Yoga wifi

We all know it as Yoga. It’s derived from the word, “Yuj” , in Sanskrit – a traditional language that dates back to 5000 years ago. “Yuj” means to yoke, or in other words, to unite.
In my words however, I’d like to think of it as a connection – like an internet connection (because I’m young and having a strong internet connection is important to me and it makes me feel at ease)
Yoga is the union of physical, mental and spiritual practices to build the connection between the body, mind and spirit. Prior to practicing and involving myself in yoga, I have never believed in the importance of this connection. Like, how was this possible in any way? And even if it was, what good would it do for me anyway?
I took this course because I was in a bad place. I wanted to get out of my headspace and get back in shape before my school started (I’m a dance student). So this yoga intensive seemed like an attractive commitment to take up during my holidays, as I knew that committing to it would force me out of bed and stop me from sleeping in the shadows of my thoughts. It would help me to get fit, and possibly get me a teaching certificate, I can’t ask for more.
Somehow, unknowingly, I began to feel better as we practised various pranayamas (breathing techniques), meditation and yoga flows / poses. I never really believed in breathing techniques or meditation, simply because of how impatient and restless I am as a person. But practising the very 3 practices of yoga has captivated me in a way I’d never imagined. This feeling of being so in tune with your own body and just the sense of connection allowed me to feel a way I have never felt before. I’m not saying that I’m happy all the time now, I’m not saying that I’ve really changed as a person. But those who have been with me throughout this journey have also started to see something different about me – some say I seem “brighter” or “lighter”, but most tell me “I don’t know, you just seem different. Like, in a good way”. So while I can’t find the right words to describe my experience in what may just be a glimpse of finding the connection between my body, mind and spirit, the best analogy I can think of would be a teenager, in a room with a good (or at least stable) internet connection. A full 3 bars.

Sirsasana

This asana is often referred to as the King of Asana.  Since this pose is an inversion, it is deeply restorative to the nervous system and can be really grounding.  It strengthen the vertebral, legs, arms and lungs.  It is not about holding anything too tight instead it is about coming into a place of deep relaxation, gentleness and playfulness.

There are so many benefits of headstands are :-

  • calms the mind
  • stimulate the pituitary and pineal glands which are so import.
  • Alleviates stress and depression
  • Stimulates the lymphatic system
  • Strengthen the upper body, spine and core
  • Enhance lung capacity
  • Stimulate and strengthen abdominal organs
  • Boost digestion
  • Prevent headache

However, this asana is not for everyone.  Avoid this if you have:-

  • Neck, shoulder or back concerns
  • Osteoporosis
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Glaucoma
  • Heart condition

Women who are pregnant or menstruating should avoid inversions since it reduces the downward flow in the body, disrupting the natural oflow of menstruation.

Starting to learn to Relax

Most of us find it very challenging to relax. We often think that being busy and completing tasks efficiently is the path that leads us simply take time to vegetate on the sofa or the TV.

Even when we are supposed to be chilling out, we are fiddling, tapping on laptops or competing for attention on social media, we fidget, smoke, drink and our minds rarely turn off and this leads to stress anxiety and often sleeping issues.

Many people are afraid that complementing or reducing these habits with Yoga will be too strenuous and too challenging especially when they see athletic goddesses perform in a class or a screen.

Keep it simple – start with the basics and build slowly. It’s not about what you look like at the beginning but its how you feel at the end. When you feel better about yourself there is far less of a challenge to relax.

Yoga and Diet

Yoga may give you a toned physique and strong core but to achieve the optimal health, what you eat plays a major part on your well being.  It’s not just eating the right kind of food, it is vital to eat the proper quantity at the right time.  Over eating leads to lethargy while under eating may not provide enough nourishment and will lead eventually to other complications.

The yogic diet recommends eating fresh fruits, vegetables and whole unprocessed food because they are full of nutritions and easy to digest. These are known as Sattvic foods.

Consuming plant based whole food is foundational for nourishing all systems in our body.  Studies have supported that plant based food or vegetarian styles of eating promote a healthier gut microbiomes.   Introduce enough fibres into your regular diet will assist to regular bowel movements.

Low Glycemic Index (GI) food such as whole grains and legumes will fuel your body with energy for longer because they are nutrient dense unlike carbs like rice, potatoes and pasta.  Consuming food high in carbohydrates during the day will make us tired.

Getting the balance right will compliment your physical and mental yogic training and achieve optimal effects for the individual.

The Road Ahead

My journey to yoga has been a relatively recent affair. I have always been an active person and enjoyed sports that gave me an adrenaline rush. When I was young, I was a very active swimmer, I would get up early in the morning and dedicate myself to my sport which made me physically fit and I wasquite mentally strong. As I grew older, however, my interest’s hobbies and social interactions changed – I got married settle down and had two children.

After several years of raising children, doing slightly less exercise and eating and drinking very liberally, I was not entirely happy with my physical and mental shape. When the children were small I became a swimming instructor which meant I could focus on a sport that I loved and combine this with passing on the knowledge which I attained studying to be a swimming instructor. Even then I found that’s my usual state was one of tension both physically and mentally and I was always tired and irritable. With hindsight the most interesting thing about being in this state is that you don’t really appreciate what is going on until you hit a roadblock and create a desire to change.

The passing of my father was that roadblock and it allowed me to reflect on my relationships, my physical state as well as my mental health. It is difficult to pinpoint sometimes when you are unhappy with something. I still would not reflect on that moment and think I was depressed or particularly a little overweight but I do know that once I started to get some sort of semblance of where I was, then I knew that I could achieve a balance which would involve a change in lifestyle which was primarily driven by what I put into my body and what I did with my body.

This is not any easy balance to achieve when you reach a certain age, when you are used to a certain lifestyle and when you spend a large part of your life between homes and family around the world. However now that my children have grown up, I needed a vocation that would enable me firstly to do my physical exercise virtually anywhere I was in the world and secondly that would complement a more balanced diet. What’s this journey started slowly and was really driven by hours ofvideos on YouTube and a few Yoga classes. During the last 18 months of lockdowns, it was no substitute for professional classes with good social interaction. Now having a more balanced outlook, I decided that I would combine what I had recently come to love in yoga with the love to teach especially to children and young adults. I am looking forward to the road ahead.

Prana and Food

Prana in Sanskrit means vitality and life force, and that is why pranayama means the expansion of vitality without movement of thoughts or thinking.

To expand prana in the body, pranayama is not the only technique. What else? Let’s take a look at our daily food choices. Regarding the prana expansion, our daily food choices can be categorized into three groups: Positive Pranic, Neutral Pranic, and Negative Pranic. Positive Pranic food ignites life energy within; Neutral Pranic food makes the body lethargic; Negative Pranic food takes life energy away. 

Positive pranic foods are mild in taste including fresh, whole, minimally processed, locally grown, and organic foods, and they’re not supposed to be eaten in excess. Typical pranic foods include honey, coconut, whole grains, nuts and seeds, fruits, and fresh vegetables.

Negative pranic foods are believed to deprive vital energy including stimulants that give the body instant energy but may lead to a subsequent crash. Over-flavored foods are typical negative pranic foods, in other words, salty, spicy, sour, or pungent foods are said to harm the prana. Common negative pranic foods that negatively affect the prana include onion, garlic, coffee, tea, alcohol. 

Neutral pranic foods, like tomatoes and potatoes, neither increase nor decrease the prana, but they may still make people feel somewhat sluggish.