Hridaya: The Heart & Mind

brain and heart

The heart is a place focused upon in many different aspects of life: from the physical attention given to heart rate variability within an athletic context, to the heart as a romantic standpoint, to the heart explored within the realms of Yoga and other eastern practices.

The word heart can be used in a lot of different ways too; ‘the heart of something’, ‘listen to your heart’, ‘heart-felt’, ‘a cold heart’. We speak of the heart being broken, full of love, beating, being operated upon and being torn apart. The ‘heart’ we speak about is both the physical beating organ within the chest, and the feeling, the essence of what the word ‘heart’ actually means.

The Sanskrit language – as you may have heard being spoken at your yoga class, with words like ‘virabhadrasana’, ‘tadasana’ or ‘padmasana’ – is unique in the fact that the words

Chakra_Heart
Symbolism of The Heart Chakra

are not just simply ‘words’ or nouns, they contain the essence of what the very word means. For example; the word ‘hridaya’ is the earliest Sanskrit reference to both the heart and the mind. The meaning or feeling of the word ‘hridaya’ though, is the ‘centre’, ‘essence’, or the ‘heart’ of something. In classical Yogic teachings, the heart is thought to contain the spirit of a being.

Why is it that we place a hand on the heart when we’re speaking from a place that is honest and true? Because it’s a natural reaction, almost as though we’re connecting to that place of truth in the centre of the body before speaking.

The heart is both physically in the centre of the body, wrapped by muscle, blood, bones and fascia, and at the centre of who we are too. There’s a reason people say “listen to your heart”, or “follow your heart”, because when the mind and heart connect and work bottomlogotogether rather than separately, we are able to listen to our intuition and therefore make decisions from a heart-felt place. Rather than ‘getting out of your head’ the next time you’re about to practice physical asana or meditation then, why not consider connecting the head to the heart, so that everyone works in co-operation? After all, the word ‘Yoga’ comes from the word ‘yuj’ or ‘yoke’, meaning ‘to bind together’, ‘to unite’ or ‘connect’.

Courage & The Heart

Anything to do with the heart is often thought of as feminine, and someone who ‘wears their heart on their sleeve’ as vulnerable. As you may well have seen however, Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on vulnerability, explores the fact that it actually takes a huge amount of courage to act from the heart, that a life worth living is one lived from a place of truth and authenticity, not from a place that is false.

heart-clearThe Heart Line

In China, the word hsin also denotes both the heart and the mind, calling it the ‘king’ of the organs, because it ‘The heart commands all of the organs and viscera, houses the spirit, and controls the emotions.’ [1] The rest of the body depends upon the heart for circulation of blood and oxygen, while just in front of the heart is the thymus gland, which controls the immune system and much of our mood and energy levels.

During the summer, the heart must increase circulation throughout the body in order to cool the surface temperature down, and the season of Summer is closely related to the heart. Regulating and maintaining the body, the heart is also said to govern ‘intelligence, wisdom, and spiritual transformation’. [2]

It seems as though we in the West seem to be the only culture to have separated this heart-mind connection. Perhaps it’s time to have courage, practice yoking or ‘connecting’ to the heart, and living more in line with the truth that lies at your centre.

 

 

 

[1] Internal Medicine Classic

[2]  The Yellow Emperorʼs Classic of Internal Medicine

 

 

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