The Forbidden City of the Heart (And How to Open It with Yoga)

Dionne Elizabeth by Dionne Elizabeth | July 12th, 2012 | 1 Comment
topic: Personal Growth, Yoga

Woman doing yoga

Newsflash: Yoga teachers are just as damaged, depraved, sordid, angry, insecure and proud as everyone else. Perhaps the only difference is that some yoga teachers are more aware of their flaws than others. But that isn’t a given; plenty are oblivious to them.

People are people. I’m not excusing abhorrant behaviour; I’m merely observing the fact that we are more similar than we might like to think. We have feelings. We get hurt. Exploited. Taken advantage of. Pissed off. Irritated. Fed up. Lost. Angry. Furious, even. Exhausted. Whiny. Grumpy. There’s a whole range of drama going on within all of us in the wrestle of the upward and downward spirals.

What can make all the difference, though, is connecting the inner to the outer and finding balance between them. Cue the fourth chakra (Anahata) shout-out:

One of the prime areas of balance in the heart chakra is between mind and body. This occurs through learning to decipher the bodys messages. This involves distinct inner listening on the part of the mind to the bodys subtle communications and often leads to recovering memories, working through traumas, releasing stored tensions, and completing unresolved emotional transactions.
— Anodea Judith Eastern Body, Western Mind

What is really going on? Why do you feel that person is exploiting you? Is it because you’re annoyed with yourself for not taking advantage of an opportunity that you had hoped for yourself? Why did you snap at a loved one? Is it because you haven’t cleared the air about a mishap they are not even aware of? Why do you feel teary? Have you made some time to be alone with yourself and listen to what you need? Why did you criticise that person behind their back when they were only trying their best? Are you putting yourself out there and living life in the most truthful, wholehearted way?

Forbidden feelings

The quickest way to have a word with yourself is via the heart. Trust. Feel. Listen. What do you need? Is there something you can do to change your state? Can you put aside pride and ego? Ironically, that requires being selfish enough to focus on your needs rather than tending to everyone else’s for a spell (something we sometimes do to avoid dealing with ourselves). Can you engage with yourself with no screens? Can you sit and be within the confines of your space? Your heart, your centre, your home?

Props to Vilde Braanaas!

What might come up if that were to happen? Generally the reason so many of us avoid the exercise of getting close to ourselves is the taboo and fear of having to acknowledge and address certain feelings and behaviours. Perhaps we will have to get off our backsides and do something about that dormant dream we have been putting off for, well, forever, or have that difficult conversation that has been weighing on our hearts for too long.

By getting closer to ourselves and acknowledging the walls guarding these “forbidden” feelings and reactions, we may well end up tearing them down and actually make changes to improve our lives! Goodness! One of the greatest mantras my poppa taught me is “better out than in.” If you feel it, feel it. Address what’s going on. Acknowledge it. Only then can you release it, and move onward! Anodea has more words of wisdom on this subject:

Self-reflective consciousness is the process of beholding. In therapy, we stop and look at ourselves – at our motives, actions, goals, hopes and fears. While there are many who are cynical about this process, some kind of systematic self-examination is essential if we are to evolve … It requires conscious attention to change patterns, to create something new, in short, to evolve. Without examining what has been, we are destined to repeat it. Without cultivating consciousness, we are caught in repetitive loops, neurotic patterns that we repeat again and again. Self-examination is essential for establishing the balance that is the central principle of the heart chakra.”
— Anodea Judith Eastern Body, Western Mind

Heart-opening yoga poses

If you’re struggling to get past the restrictive walls around the forbidden city of the heart, heart-opening yoga postures are a great way to engage the area in the chest space behind the heart, ribs and shoulder blades. I’m talking Puppy Pose, Half Frog Pose, Fish Pose, Camel Pose — essentially all the animals getting down. Some of us might feel a physical and emotional release which may leave us feeling vulnerable, teary or even scared. It’s okay, though, because, as I said above, “better out than in.” Be reassured that shifts are good — it’s part of letting go, moving forward and fusing the body-mind connection. Breaking down those walls of resistance that keep you from yourself, your truth and your centre.

Teachers and students alike: Remember we are human and meant to feel. This is part of the experience. Let no feeling be forbidden.

So what can you do today to stay in the heart?

Loads of love from my beating heart. Oh, and here’s a Spotify playlist for your hearts and ears!

CFCF – Exercise 4 (Spirit)
Four Tet – She Just Likes to Fight
Pinkunoizu – Time Is Like a Melody
Serge Gainsbourg – Couleur Café
Suicide – Dream Baby Dream, long version
Jose Gonzalez – Heartbeats
Sébastien Tellier – Le Long de la Rivière Tendre
James Blake – Measurements
Jon Brion – Phone Call
Youth Lagoon – Bobby (bonus track)
Fleetwood Mac – Dreams
Sébastien Tellier – Un Narco en Eté
Bahamas – Lost in the Light
The Abramson Singers – Fool’s Gold
Bob Dylan – Girl from the North Country
Benjamin Francis Leftwich – Atlas Hands
Thomas Dybdahl – a love story
Jape – At the Heart of All the Strangeness
Kings Of Convenience – Scars on Land


  1. I needed this today, to remember to let go….thanks for posting. And thanks for the playlist, too!

    MJ | July 17th, 2012 | Comment Permalink

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