Hridaya akasha is the Sanskrit term for the psychic space of the heart centre. The word hridaya means heart and akasha signifies space. The hridaya akasha refers not to the physical heart space but to the heart of the subtle body. In Yoga the heart space is the home of the Self where we hold the secret treasures of our inner life. The Chandogya Upanishad describes the heart space as follows:
As great as the infinite space beyond is the space within the lotus of the heart. Both heaven and earth are contained in that inner space, both fire and air, sun and moon, lightning and stars. Whether we know it in this world or know it not, everything is contained in that inner space.Chandogya Upanishad VIII 1.3 [The Upanishads translated by Eknath Easwaran (1987, 2007)]
All yoga practice ultimately aims to bring the practitioner into contact with the vastness of his/her inner Self. This Self is our inner knowing or divine intuition. In other words the Self is our inner guru (guru simply means teacher, or one who reveals the light). The inner Self is vaster than we will ever know and within it exists the whole of humanity and more.
Gift of Covid-19 crisis
It is to the heart space that we turn our attention in order to connect with the oneness of our humanity. During the Covid-19 crisis we have had time to pause and reflect during lockdown. For many this turning inwards can be very uncomfortable especially when much of the time people tend towards extroversion. The opportunity to go within, to be introverted, is rare in our fast-paced modern world. Perhaps the gift of the Covid-19 crisis is the enforced slowing down of our everyday life and the resulting awareness of what is happening around us and within us. There is no doubt that this experience will have brought change into many a heart.
Hridaya akasha and compassion
Personally I found the lockdown time quite fruitful once I had recovered from the shock of finding routines turned upside down. The time of reflection and introversion has been very welcome. As I watched the drama unfold on the news I became more aware of my own heart space as it resonated with the human stories unfolding on screen and in print. During my daily asana practice it helped to listen to the chanting of mantras (mainly Tibetan Buddhist chanting) to maintain concentration in the heart space. Asana practice has never been quite so fulfilling and the ensuing meditation time quite so compassion-based.
This A-Z series of blogs focuses on unpacking the Sanskrit terms used in yoga.