Saint Patrick and the Heart Chakra

by Sammi Contarini

Next Tuesday is Saint Patrick’s Day and throughout the UK we will celebrate the life of the man who travelled throughout Roman Britain as a Christian missionary, introducing the shamrock to the pagan Irish in the fourth century CE as a way to explain the Holy Trinity. However, this year I find myself wondering, aside from the shamrock, why is green the colour for Saint Patrick’s Day?

Well, Saint Patrick and the heart chakra/area have always been closely connected. There are also clues to be found in texts from the medieval period and in Hinduism, where green is portrayed as the colour of the eternal heart. Renaissance stories describe it as the representation of true love – think of Henry VIII’s love song Greensleaves, or Jan van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait.

Meanwhile in Hindu books including the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika the Heart Chakra (the fourth Chakra) is always represented by the colour green. Traditionally we think of red as being the colour of the heart, but green is also frequently linked with stories and images of love.  In the Chakra energy system the fourth Chakra lies at its centre; acting as a bridge between the three chakras below it and the three chakras above – forming a link between the conscious and the subconscious. It also has enormous healing powers and protective qualities which us yogis can connect into and use powerfully if we stay centred in the limitless energy of the heart.

One of my favourite poses at the moment is bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) and I love it because it represents the connection between the head and the heart area. Throughout the day we are very mind-dominated; our mind is in charge and while we often know what we think about a certain situation, it can be difficult to know how we feel about it.  But when we are in bridge or wheel pose the most amazing thing happens – our heart becomes higher than our head, and we can close our eyes and become aware of the sensations in the heart area, connecting into our emotions, and creating balance between our mind’s desires and our heart’s dreams.

So in the classes in the three studios on Tuesday we will be focusing on heart opening poses, ways to open the chest area, and techniques to find a little more space for the ribs, the intercostal muscles, the scapula and the thoracic vertebrae.  And if you come to bridge or wheel in your practice on this day, remember to press down through your feet and lift the heart a little higher!

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