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Why Shiva Rea wants you to follow your heart [includes a meditation]

Shiva Rea (Photo: Sounds True)
Shiva Rea (Photo: Sounds True)


How often have you been told to “follow your heart?” Or referred to a display of affection as “heart-warming?” According to renowned yoga teacher Shiva Rea, these expressions may not be as figurative as they sound.

“It’s a very central understanding in yoga that your heart has a consciousness and that it is a light, like a fire,” says Rea, who’s known for her rhythmic, soulful Prana Flow classes at Exhale in Venice, has produced more than 25 DVDs, and teaches regularly sold-out sessions at Wanderlust Festivals and Yoga Journal Conferences across the country.

The heart’s energy, or “fire”, as she calls it, is a theme that pervades her first book, Tending the Heart Fire: Living in Flow with the Pulse of Life, released on January 1. The book weaves together knowledge from yoga, Ayurveda, science, and world cultures to describe Rea’s plan for living an optimal, inspired life. It’s one that flows in sync with the rhythm of the world around you—and directly involves the heart.

Tending the Heart Fire“As I looked into all of the world’s spiritual traditions and major cultures, every culture in the world has this same image of the heart as a fire,” Rea explains. (Picture: the flaming heart of Jesus.) “The heart is not only the seat of love and one’s connection to love and god, but there was this perceived intelligence in the heart.”

And its importance is also visceral, she says. “There’s a sensation in your heart, and it’s a heat. When you feel love, strong emotions…you feel your heart light up. We all say things like ‘what does your heart tell you?'”

So how can you harness the energy and make sure its rhythm is in sync with the messages your brain is sending you? Tending the Heart Fire includes a slew of practices, from yoga to incorporating Ayurvedic principles into your diet, to meditations. (There are 108 in the book!) She shared a super simple one, here, to get you started. “I promise you, if you do it for five minutes,” she says, “you’ll feel it in your heart.” —Lisa Elaine Held

Samana-Yyana Mudra Vinyasa—Expanding and Contracting

This meditation cultivates the awareness of the core pulsation—inward (samana) and outward (vyana)—that connects us with the rhythm of life in every cell and heartbeat.

With your hands upon your heart, inhale into your heart’s center. Receive the breath as an offering to your core fire. As you exhale, slowly move your hands away, palms facing your heart, feeling the electromagnetic field radiating into your hands with a palpable quality and slowly expanding outward. Continue to breathe with this inward and outward movement, to move into a meditative heart rhythm.

Adapted from Tending the Heart Fire: Living in Flow with the Pulse of Life by Shiva Rea. Copyright © 2014 by Shiva Rea. Published by Sounds True.