the head or the heart?


If you follow what I write, you’ll have seen this picture before and then I linked St Valentine’s day and yoga.  A red heart in that context can been seen a symbol of romantic love.   In reality, this red heart actually hangs on a wall in our home and I’ve decided to use the picture again as it fits my theme.

My last offering was about making decisions and how yoga can help in doing that as I was struggling with a decision.  You may probably have guessed that most of things I write about are in some way reflections of what is going on in my life.  My yoga too and how I teach it reflect that too.   Yoga teachers talk a great deal about teaching from the heart and that explains why our styles and, indeed what we teach, can be so different.

The picture of the red heart is also a representation of the physical heart that we all have within us.  Physically the heart is a pump that maintains the flow of oxygenated blood through the organs of our body and returns the deoxygenated blood back to the lungs for the expulsion of waste.  It’s a continuous process necessary for life to be sustained.

The heart is also linked in our psyche with emotions, primarily with love and compassion.  For thousands of years, the heart was considered as the centre of guiding wisdom and a source of love.  Then along came the philosopher, Descartes, sometimes described as the father of modern western philosophy, in the seventeenth century – “I think therefore I am” – and, since then, the notion that our thinking (our brain) rather than our emotions (heart) drives our existence has largely prevailed.

I leave it to you to form your own views and opinions.  As I grow older, I know that the best decisions I make are not just those that are made with the thinking mind from a purely rational perspective.  Our world teaches us to value education, rational thinking and objective decisions and there is nothing wrong with them.  However, perhaps it is also helpful to us as individuals to consider how much value we place on the feelings in our heart as we make our decisions.

Logic and objective understanding can be wonderful, but an awareness of how we feel and the effect of our behaviour upon those feelings can, in my view, not be under-estimated.  We are whole beings, body and mind (and, also for these purposes, heart).   What happens in our body can affect our mind and vice versa.  We cannot deal with one in isolation and then not expect to feel consequences in the other.  There seems these days to be a growing awareness and understanding of the benefits that a holistic approach to life can bring and that is to be welcomed and encouraged.

My decision a couple of weeks ago had been playing on my mind and was affecting how I was feeling.  And I didn’t feel good.  My decision had been made on a logical, fair and reasonable basis, but it took me several days to realise that the emotional effect was not working for me.  When I did, I fairly swiftly came to the conclusion that I needed to listen to the feelings in my heart.  You may ask why I didn’t do this in the first place.  Well, I did the best I could at the time as I’m only human!  So, yes, I’ve changed my mind, backtracked, done a U-turn – or whatever turn of phrase some people may choose to use.  If you consider all those words, most of them have negative connotations and, for me, this is part of the problem.  Depending on our nature, implied criticisms can be difficult to deal with.  We’re not all tough nuts or a sensitive souls, but we may appear to be one when actually we’re really the other.

If I’m rambling, please forgive me.   Yoga has taught me to listen to myself better.  I have learned that perfection does not exist: of course, perfectionism can set its trap and, if I fall for it, I will get caught each and every time.   Only I can really decide the things I want or “have” (who says apart from me?) to make.  We set our own boundaries which we can change or unmake when we realise they no longer work for us. I am not talking about living outside the law or being unkind or criminal.  At the “heart” of yoga (there’s that word again) is the principle of ahimsa (taking care of and not harming).

I’ve also realised that I don’t have to beat myself up when I don’t get it right first time.  I’m a work in progress and, underneath it all, we all are too.  Yoga helps me to access a little bit of peace and harmony in my life. In teaching from the heart, not the head, my intention is to help others access the same for themselves.  I’d also like encourage you all to consider the heart as well as the head as you make your daily journey through life.


© Sarah Swan (3 May 2017)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *