"Free yourself from all fears" is the first message of the Himalayan sages.8
—Babaji instructing Swami Rama
Yoga is not only a physical practice, but also a rich body of knowledge that flows from a tradition of perennial spiritual wisdom. If you were to distill the essence of the spiritual wisdom that informs this tradition, you would come to a few simple principles that explain the dynamics of a man's existence and his reason for being: Man is trapped by fear. He may have many fears but, ultimately, all fears are a reflection of a man's fear of his mortality. Because of fear, men become trapped and limited in their way of thinking and being. The path of yoga is a path of awareness that leads to seeing our fears as groundless because we are not our fears. We are more than our fears: We are limitless beings. When a man is able to comprehend this basic truth, his soul becomes light and his heart opens. The opening of the heart is one of the best ways to let go of fear. Once the heart is open, a man's mission in life becomes clear: to serve humanity in whatever form that may take. It doesn't mean becoming a renunciant—it can simply mean serving others in the best way you are able, whether you are a carpenter, bank teller, or CEO.
For this reason, yoga has always placed special emphasis on the opening of the heart. Indeed, many of the physical postures of yoga help to open the torso—and, in particular, the chest and heart area. Many of the tantric yoga workshops offered in the West focus on the area of the genitals, aiming to stimulate the flow of energy there. But true tantric yoga practice in the spiritual tradition that was first laid down centuries ago focuses on the area of the heart, aiming to open and soften the heart so that we are free to give and to receive loving energy in perfect union not only with our sexual partner, but with all that the universe has in store for us.
To take the fast track to yoga enlightenment, concentrate on opening your heart. Don't work at it; simply allow it to happen as you surrender your soul. If you'd like to support the opening of your heart with some asanas drawn from hatha yoga practice, try doing some postures that open the chest fully. Poses in "A Complete Yoga Practice Session for Men" that are good heart openers include the back bending Cobra Pose (Fig. YPS.8) and Bow Pose (Fig. YPS.9). Triangle Pose (Fig. YPS.4a and b) also helps to open the heart.
Many men have closed chests, with shoulders that are rounded forward. Prominent reasons for this are poor posture and sitting hunched in front of computers and desks. Even weightlifters that don't combine complete stretching routines with their bodybuilding are working to close off their chest areas. As men develop those much-admired pectoral muscles, they are also tightening the musculature of the chest area and causing the shoulders to round forward. This tightening of the chest area creates armor around a man's heart. The tendency to close off the chest area physically only seems to grow as we get older. So to help open your chest area—and your heart—try the following yoga exercise.
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