There are three ways to practice authenticity in yoga. The first is to learn how to connect with your heart. The second is to connect in with your heart every day. And the third is to honour the wisdom of the heart by taking appropriate action. How to do this? Let’s find out.
1. Connect With Your Heart
Getting in touch with your inner self is the first step to a more authentic practice. Get comfortable (lying or sitting is fine) using cushions and blankets and anything else that makes you feel warm, safe and nourished. Make sure you’re in a peaceful place, and won’t be disturbed.
Once there, close your eyes. Start to notice the breath, and begin to sense the body. Start with a quick body scan, and notice each part of the body, one at a time, start from the crown of the head, and moving all the way down to the feet. Notice the sensation of each body part, any warmth or coolness, any sense of disconnection, or numbness, and any heaviness or lightness. This is a form of yoga nidra, and can help you feel deeply relaxed. (If you’d prefer, take a gander at some free downloads!)
Once you feel deeply relaxed, take your focus into the heart space. Start to imagine you can take your energy from your head, down to your heart, as though it was in a lift going from top floor down. Start to greet your heart. Hello. How’s it going? Any messages for me today?
What happens next?
What your heart replies can be anything. You might get a really clear stark message, like better care of yourself. Or you might just get a sense of an emotion, like love, kindness, compassion, empathy. You might not get anything, apart from the awareness of the steady beat of your heart.
This can feel really strange when you first start to do it. We’re so used to living in our heads, to being told that we must think rationally, make logical decisions, and be reasonable. The thing is, our hearts don’t work in this ways. Our hearts are full of love and passion, which — if you’ve experienced either of these — you will know are neither logical, reasonable or rational. Don’t worry if it takes time to feel as though you are really connecting. Be curious, explorative, and most of all, learn to listen.
See Also: Anahata: The Heart Chakra
2. Make This Your Ritual
Like everything else in yoga, it’s all about the practice. Consistent but effective practice. There’s no point in doing exactly the same routine everyday if you become numb to its effects, if you feel yourself going through the motions, or if you find yourself doing it to fulfil the ego, because you start to get addicted to feeling stronger and fitter, for example.
Having a journal to hand can be a great way of getting to the heart. Either after you’ve done the ritual above, or simply at any time that works for you be it first thing in the morning, or last thing at night, start to dedicate a little bit of time every day. Don’t worry if you don’t actually do this every day. I hear people try to start something new, do it every day, and end up missing a day or two and get disheartened and give up. Don’t sweat it. Your heart ain’t going anywhere, and we all know life is busy. Just find some time when you can, and start the habit up again.
It can be interesting to notice when we have resistance come up. When we feel impatient, or suddenly we have a million other more important things to do. Try to sit with this resistance, and let it melt away. Resistance is powerful, and it may have protected us in the past, but there comes a time when we can just let it go. Try it, and see what happens.
3. Take the Right Action
So you’d think by doing the first two steps you’d be pretty clued up, right? If we’re caught in patterns of ‘doing’ or acting in a certain way, and we start to realise that these ways aren’t honouring our heart, we’ll just change the way we’re acting, right? Well, actually no. The chances are, even when we start to feel as though something really needs to change about the way we live, for most of us, those changes won’t happen overnight.
Why do we get so stubborn, why do we find it so hard to change? These are big questions, which can’t be answered simply, but in my humble view, it’s hard to change because familiarity is safe. We might complain about our money situation, our job, our love life, our body and much more, but at the same time we might feel safe inside our comfort zone complaining about these things. We might tell ourselves that this is how the world is, that there’s no point in expecting anything else, everyone feels like this etc etc. These beliefs can be strong and deeply rooted and not likely to change quickly or easily.
But trust me, if you keep listening to your heart, every day, slowly those beliefs will start to shift without you having to do very much apart from relaxing, connecting and responding to your heart.
Leading an Authentic Life
Without connecting to our heart, we are too often led by our egos. We can make changes – to our diet, our lifestyle, our yoga practice – but if we’re making these changes with the head (because everyone else is vegan these days, or because Ashtanga will make you stronger) that we’re still not being authentic. We think we are, but we are feeling the subtle yet enormous power of energy that comes from an authentic practice.
Without connecting into our heart, into our deeper selves, and into the spirit which surrounds us, very quickly our yoga practice will become nothing more than beautiful acrobatics. Authenticity comes from being true to you. If you don’t know what you need — and yes, your heart DOES always know — how are you going to get it?
Sounds too good to be true? Give it a go. What are you doing for the next five minutes? Can you grab a pen, a journal, and do the ritual described in step one above? And then can you do it every day for a week? Without us taking the first steps into the unknown, into the world of practicing new things, then we’re simply not going to progress in our yoga practice.
Honour your spirit. Honour yoga. And listen to your heart. It won’t let you down.