February Lesson: The Heart on being "unstuck"
I found out this week that a former student and friend passed away. He actually passed in September, but we (his friend and teacher training buddy) discovered it on Sunday. The story of how she found out is not mine to tell, but let’s just say she listened to her intuition and felt something was not right. After some investigating she got the news and called me. I was in the middle of planning my classes for the month. February is all about love and heart health. The American Heart Association promotes campaigns like Go Red for Women and shares information on how to add cardio into your day and ways to sustain a healthy lifestyle. I planned heart opening yoga sequences, cardio in my fitness classes and even a workshop on the anatomy of the heart. Then I got the news about Andrew. I met Andy when I co managed a studio in Chicago a few years ago. He was on the yoga for trade team and was one of the most dedicated yogis I have ever met. He took class daily and often offered assistance to clean the studio if we needed it, even when it wasn’t his shift. He took different formats and while he may have had a few favorite instructors, he was always open to try new teachers. He welcomed everyone to The Mountaintop (our studio’s endearing nickname) like he was the ambassador. In winter 2016 I led a 200hr yoga teacher training and he wanted to enroll. We were all a little surprised because while Andy was committed to his practice, we never expected he would take it to the next level. He jumped into teacher training and became “ohmies” with everyone. He read all the required books within a couple weeks and his journals were filled with sketches and music lyrics because that is how he best organized and expressed his thoughts. Andy and I were the same age but I often forgot that because he seemed so youthful. In fact, we were enrolled at Columbia College around the same time. Me in the photography department and he in the art department. We probably went to around 20 of the same concerts over the years and he had corrected some concert dates I mixed up. “Annalycia, the Pixies weren’t at the Riviera in 1989, they were at the Aragon!” He was right. He also called me Annalycia. He thought that was how it was pronounced and after a while I let it go. Once he hit his head at the studio and I had to take him to the ER for stitches. (he hit his head on a locker cabinet while enjoying a very hardy laugh with another student.) I waited with him and the nurses thought I was his Aunt Alycia. I guess in a way I was. When I heard of Andy’s passing, it hit me pretty hard. My boyfriend met him several times, he called him a prince among men. Let’s get back to the heart stuff for a moment. Stay with me, it ties together. The heart Chakra, Anahata is the subtle energy body that influences our ability to love, to show compassion and have empathy. It’s Sanskrit name means Unstuck. The element of the heart Chakra is air. The sense is touch. Our heart Chakra now only influences what is happening in the heart and lungs, but the arms and hands. Our need for human connection, for touch, comes from the heart Chakra. Our want for expansion comes from the heart Chakra. It is the bridge that connects the lower energies of the individual (needs, wants, personal identity) to the spiritual, collective, and enlightened Self. Heart Chakra also dictates grief. Over the last year this pandemic has taken from us our most basic coping mechanisms. Even the ability to grieve. We don’t even get to grieve the same way. Heart Chakra energy is the instinct to reach out and offer comfort with something as simple as a hug. Ever experience a broken heart? That’s the heart grieving the loss of a friend or loved one. People who survive heart attacks, literally suffer a broken heart and are grieving for themselves, or some lost part of them. Having a partner who survived a heart attack I’ve seen this grief first hand. Every February for the last three years I’ve made a point of teaching the importance of heart health in my classes and it always includes a study of Anahata. I know many people have thrived over the last year despite the pandemic and I’ve had my share of blessings, but I think many of us are living with this imbalance of this subtle energy body and aren’t even aware of it. Back to Andy. Andy lived truly from his heart. He loved his friends and his yoga practice, and art and music. His favorite band was The Beatles. In his yoga teacher training community class, Andy taught the surrender series (quite fitting). While walking around giving cues on how to relax and waving cool towels over students bodies, he quoted from his favorite Beatles song, The End.
“And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make”
Andy reminded us that what you put in you get back. To take leaps of faith and to love the place you’re at. He was unstuck. My heart is a little broken these days because we lost him. But so much fuller for having gotten to know this wonderful human and for being able to witness his journey.