Cathrine Mathiesen

Padadirsasana – emotional purification

by Cathrine.

The focus of my yoga class today was the heart chakra, the Anahata, located in the middle of the chest and associated with unconditional love, compassion and empathy. The class was soft, mindful, restorative. We did a lot of work lying down on our mats and on all fours. Mostly chest openers, such as rolling shoulders back through wide arm circles and mobilizing the thoracic spine through cat/dog, and twists. I was feeling tired, heavy, introvert. I did most of the class with my eyes closed. Towards the end of the class we sat up in Sukasana for pranayama (breathing) and meditation.

The teacher introduced a pranayama technique that from a tantric perspective brings emotional purification, Padadirsasana. We all carry unresolved, painful feelings that weigh us down, create instability in the heart center and thus prevent us from experiencing unconditional love. Through using the breath we can start to let go of these feelings. Such is the technique: Inhaling, draw past emotions from the heart to the crown of the head, silently using the mantra ‘sat’. Exhaling, releasing these emotions into space, letting go completely, using the mantra ‘yam’.

Instinctively, I felt the presence of two of the most important people in my life. Emotions big and scary were pressing in my chest. Breathing in I visualized these emotions travelling up through the chest, throat and head, reaching the very top of my scull, internally humming ‘sat’. Breathing out to ‘yam’, I visualised them fly off and disappear into space.

I had a strong, immediate and surprising reaction. After only a couple of rounds of this breathing my eyes welled up and tears started streaming down my face. My throat felt thick and occasionally released sobbing sounds. I wanted to lie back on my mat and cry loudly, uncontrollably. I wanted to get up and leave the class. I wanted to stop this craziness and resume normal breathing. But I did none of that. I stayed with it. I sat quietly and kept breathing the negative feelings out of my chest. I kept repeating the mantra. I let the tears come. I felt them fall on my heels. I accepted the noises escaping my throat. I said to myself: these are my emotions, they come and they go, they are temporary, passing, they are not me. I am more than my emotions.

Also, my mind was racing to find solutions to the challenges I have in my close relationships. I expected some kind of clever output, to understand how I could make things better. Then I heard my teacher say: feel the emotions. Feel them. Not solve them. And then something happened. It was as if I really let go, realizing for the first time that I cannot intellectually heal my body. This is yoga. Accessing the mind and the spirit thought the body and the breath. Appreciating that the body has its own wisdom and its own memory. Learning to accept what is, without rushing to change, solve, improve. Learning to sit with pain, your own or others. Recognizing that emotions, good or bad, really are short lived, passing states of awareness, and that they do not define us or our well-being.

The crying gradually faded. I felt light, clear and clean, my spine straight, my chest open, head floating on top of my shoulders. I sat effortlessly.