This is the first article I wrote on the effects of the Bhavas
Since edited by myself and published on the Yoga Lunch Box
Yoga to Awaken the Heart –Activating the Chakras to enable one to delve deeper into the body’s emotional response, (the Bhavas) to Asana.
In this article I would like to invite you to come on a journey of exploration, as we discuss using the Bhavas to deepen our experience both on and off the mat.
What are the Bhavas many may ask? Bhava is a Sanskrit word, as with many Sanskrit words it can have more than one meaning, but in this context it means emotion, sentiment, state of mind or body. Also, the Bhavas are referred to as attitudes to cultivate yoga.
Duty – Dharma
Knowledge – Jana
Detachment – Vairagya
Self reliance – Aiswarya
As I prepare to teach a class, I will often ask a student “why have you come to the mat today?” Is it just for the physical, the exoteric benefits? To stretch, to strengthen, to breath, or are you looking for more? To grow, to evolve, to transform, to experience more gratitude and happiness?
We Yogis talk about coming to the mat to shift stagnant energy – I certainly talk of this.
Using postures to lift the energy that pools around Muladhara and Swadisthana and encourage it to rise. But before it rises and awakens Anahata, we must be emotionally ready. For it is said that, after awakening and ascension of the Kundalini Shakti to a Chakra, if negative or pessimistic attitudes arise in the mind, the energy then returns to Muladhara.
Swami Satyananda Saraswati tells us that if the energy has only reached manipura it is easily awakened again, but if it reaches Anahata, and then descends, it is very hard to awaken subsequent times.
There is much discussion on whether or not the practitioner should actually work on awakening the Ajna first, so that they are ready for the release from Muladhara and Swadhistana once they are awakened.
Many Yogis strive for enlightenment, for the Prana Shakti to rise and awaken within the higher Chakras, to achieve more than a brief glimpse of what this state of being feels like. All of us that are dedicated to this yogic path have briefly tasted this state, even if unaware at the time. But then the mind and ego return and our energy descends and the work continues. For most of us this is simply because we are not ready, we haven’t spent enough time on the preparatory practises and evolved emotionally and mentally to the required level.
I believe we must look to our hearts. Anahata Chakra is where purity resides and to start to awaken this chakra one should always be optimistic and maintain harmony, inner peace and pure thoughts for all others. This is of course not easy to achieve. We need to work on releasing what is stored in our lower chakras,in our unconscious mind our samskaras, our ego based emotion. Once we realise and achieve this our hearts will be more open and receptive. It will be much easier to be in the space required to awaken Anahata, once this is achieved.
With an open heart, a heart filled with kindness toward ourselves and others, the journey will be brighter.
This is where the Bhavas come into play, this is where we use that energy awakened in Asanas, Mudras and Bhandas to create a state of mind and body that is loving, optimistic and grateful.
Along the journey, what I have learnt, is the importance of my emotional energy. How, to enjoy the journey, we must focus on the heart. I feel that not enough yoga is focused on this extremely important aspect of creating, developing and exploring the emotional ease, joy, gratitude and happiness a session on the mat can bring. Or the openness, optimism, confidence, strength, vulnerability or passion that other sessions will create.
I was fortunate to come to yoga as a child. I practised for years many different styles, experimenting playfully with some more seriously with others. I taught before I was trained, always so eager to spread the word, and passionate about this science of life. But what I came back to every time is the joy that Yoga brings when the heart is awakened and part of your practise.
So I come to the mat and I ask my students – Please today let us explore how we truly feel on the mat, as we move from Asana to Asana, and we do.
Come with us..
We go deep within, whether we are flowing or holding. We investigate how the energy the posture is awakening manifests in emotion.
I believe that each time we step on to the mat for our practise it is a deeply personal journey into ourselves. We are here to release, refill, replenish.
We start with Ajna, we activate this chakra first, then we move to Muladhara, Swadhistana and Manipura. Through a series of Asanas and practises we encourage the Prana Shakti to Ascend. We then move to the Anahata and we remain there through longer, more sustained periods.
To follow is a exert from a class, that we may do once prepared.
As we flow from Vajrasana to shashankasana and the prana starts to rise, we may feel the urge to release, to let go of any dis ease that we have brought to the mat today. As we come to the knees, raising the arms, arching back, opening the Hridayakasha (the heart space), we start to feel the gratitude swell within, as we lower the hands and body into the extended child, with grace we awaken more deeply this emotion of gratitude and devotion, as we strike into shashank bujangasana we continue to open the heart as we send the energy up the spine from Muladhara and Swadhistana. The gratitude deepens and joy starts to manifest as we then settle into holding Bhujangasana, bringing in Shambavi Mudra, we work on transcending the mind and ego as well as activating the intuitive aspect of ourselves. We open the heart to receive, with mental concentration at Anahata, before moving to rest in Shashankasana, where we focus on Ajna letting the energy sit at this higher level.
Moving up into Parvartasana we ground once again. We are aware of the activation of Swadhistatna and the release of negativity at Vishuddhi and as we move into Santolasana, acceptance comes and with this, the powerful emotions of resilience and courage, we know we are equipped for the journey. As we rest in Matsya Kridasana, we feel a deep sense of inner peace, and I often like to think that this is tinged with anticipation and excitement for life.
As we find ourselves once again in Shashankasana, we look within and gratitude sits in this space, as we flow through Ardha Ushtrasana the feelings deepen, the heart opens and joy is abundant, too much to keep within so we send it out, sharing it universally. This time as we come to rest, we feel a deep love, for ourselves. We are full once again replete and with this comes a deep sense of contentment.
This is just a small example of how we can come to the mat to feel deeply. To manifest joy in our lives through our practise and ensure the journey is a happy one. That by following the ancient Yogic practises with integrity, combining Pranayama, with stimulating the Chakras through Asana and Mudra, activating them with channelled prana and direct mental concentration, we can become more enlightened. I believe if we start each session on the mat with an open and grateful heart and let the emotion flow, abundance will come to all aspects of our lives.