This month we’ll continue to move up to the fourth Chakra the Anahata which is also known as the Heart Chakra. It is located in the centre of the chest at the same level as the heart. Anahata is a Sanskrit word meaning “Unstruck” or “Unhurt”, it is that place of unconditional love, our centre of love and compassion. The heart Chakra is the bridge between the 3 lower physical chakras and the 3 upper spiritual chakras therefore it connects our physical and spiritual bodies. It is the part of us that experiences love and the beauty of life, it’s not only about romantic love but love and understanding of all things. The heart Chakra governs our sense of trust, courage, and peace (even if things don’t turn out how we would’ve liked), it’s the place from which our generosity arises and where our sense of gratitude and connection to ourselves and others live.
The element of the Anahata Chakra is Air, just like love the element of air can move through all things and is both within us and around us, we cannot live without air, although technically we can live without love, a life without love is very lonely and unhappy. We need the feeling of connection and belonging to thrive in life. Caroline Myss in The Anatomy of the Spirit says ” The fourth Chakra is the central powerhouse of the human energy system, The middle Chakra mediates between the body and the spirit and determines their health and strength.” Effectively it’s what makes us human, the kind, loving thoughtful kind of human that doesn’t take life or nature for granted.
” The fourth Chakra is the central powerhouse of the human energy system, The middle Chakra mediates between the body and the spirit and determines their health and strength.”Caroline Myss (Anatomy of the Spirit
The element of air is connected with the breath and its movements the coming and going of the breath, like the giving and receiving of love. The heart chakra is associated with the heart, lungs, and thymus. The thymus gland is in the centre of the chest between the lungs and is important for our immune system and endocrine (hormonal) system. This makes sense when our hormones are all over the place it can affect our mood and perception, how we see things can greatly affect how we feel and behave.
A healthy heart Chakra and balanced hormones help us to experience unconditional love and happiness. We have a greater sense of love for ourselves and others, we have healthy and happy relationships both romantic and platonic. We experience compassion, empathy, forgiveness, and acceptance. It’s a sad truth of life that we will all experience heartache and loss, but a balanced heart Chakra gives us the ability to grieve and reach peace.
Signs that the Heart Chakra is Out of Balance
When the heart Charka is out of balance emotionally we may experience:
- Feeling unworthy
- Inability to trust
- Feeling lonely
- May hold grudges
- Feel jealous alot
- Role of the victim
- May isolate oneself
- May adapt maniputive behaviours
Physically you may experience:
- Ailments or disease in the heart, lungs, chest, arms or hands
- Poor circulation
- High or low blood pressure
How Can We Help Keep the Heart Chakra Balanced
The colour of the Heart Chakra is green so eating green foods like kale, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, etc, and wearing green can be helpful to nourish this energy centre. When we think about the Anahata meaning unstruck, despite being hurt or experiencing loss, there is still that place in us that is unhurt by it so Love is always present, practicing gratitude by keeping a gratitude journal is a nice way to tap into this place of unconditional love and peace, simply write down 3 things that you are grateful for every day as a reminder that life is still beautiful.
Because the element of the Anahata is air, breathwork and meditation can be useful to help bring harmony to this Chakra as well as spending time outdoors in the fresh air. Do activities that you enjoy and if you like using essential oils you can diffuse them around the home or use them during your meditation. Essential oils for the heart Chakra include bergamot, jasmine, geranium, lavender, and rose to name a few.
After a break-up or loss of a loved one, allow yourself time to withdraw from the outside world to process all the emotions you are feeling. It can be hard to function after a heartache so permit yourself to shut down for a while. However, it is important to find a way to invite love back in and slowly introduce yourself back into the world by accepting invitations from friends and seeing the beauty and love that is still all around you.
Yoga’s Part in Bringing Harmony to the Heart Chakra
Working with the Heart Chakra can be a delicate and emotional experience for many depending on what is happening in a person’s life at any given moment so we must be mindful of this in a yoga practice. We can do this by offering a soothing and comforting pose at the beginning of a heart-opening practice, one where we feel safe and secure a place where we can return to if we need to, something as simple as a child’s pose can be a safe place that’s very protective of the heart.
Back-bends are of course heart-opening, they can range from big expressive back-bends such as:
- Urdhva Dhanurasana – Wheel Pose
- Dhanurasana – Bow Pose
- Ustrasana – Camel Pose
- Camatkarasana – Wild Thing or Flip Dog
To smaller but still effective back-bends like:
- Bhujasana – Cobra Pose
- Urdhva Mukha Svanasana – Upward Facing Dog Pose
- Marjariasana / Bitilasana – Cat / Cow Pose
Opening, stretching, and strengthening the muscles around the heart, i.e, chest, shoulders, and arms is a really nice way to work with the Heart Chakra. We can think of the arms as an extension of the heart, they are how we hug and blow kisses to our loved ones, they can be used in a way to express reaching out and taking in.
Including time for meditation at the beginning or end of practice can support the 4th Chakra a loving-kindness meditation or the Bija Seed Mantra “Yam” can help to fine-tune this chakra, bringing harmony and peace to the heart.
Pose Focus For The Heart Chakra
Virabhadrasana 1 – Warrior 1
Vira – Hero | Bhadra – Friend | Asana – Pose
Virabhadrasana 1 offers many opportunities for opening up the Heart Chakra, in its most traditional form it offers a gentle back-bend, therefore, opening up the heart space. We can include many different arm variations that help stretch and strengthen the muscles around the heart by using our arms as an expression and extension of the heart. The meaning of the pose Warrior really is about a spiritual warrior, fighting the universal battle of overcoming our own ego and inner battles, helping us to cultivate compassion, and realising that at our very essence we are strong enough and brave enough to face lives challenges with love, compassion, and clarity.
Mental and Emotional Benefits
- Helps increase confidence
- Evokes feelings of being strong and brave
- Opens the chest and lungs
- Streches the shoulders, neck, abdomen and psoas (groin)
- Strengthens arms
- Helps to open and creates strength and stabiity in the shoulder joint
- Tones the abdomen and outer hips
- Strengthens and elongates the back, glutes and hamstrings
- Strenghtens and stretches the thighs, calves and ankles.
- Helps to improve balance
Cautions and Contraindications
- High blood pressure or heart conditions. Keep arms below the heart in this case.
- Shoulder issues. You can keep your arms shoulder width or wider apart. If you suffer from frozen shoulder keep you hands on your hips.
- Neck issues. Keep your neck in a netrual position by looking straight ahead instead of up.
- Vertigo. Keep your feet wider than hip width for balance and keep your gaze forward.
- Pregnancy. Give yourself a wider stance for balance and avoid going into a deep back-bend.
- Hyper-extended knees. Be mindful of not over straightening the back knee, try thinking about softening the back of your knee towards the kneecap.
Hints and Tips
- As the front knee bends, the front of the pelvis tends to tip forward causing the lower back to over arch causing discomfort. To avoid this think of lifting the pubic bone towards your belly, not only does this help to support the lower back it also helps tone the abdominal muscles.
- If you find it difficult to keep the outside edge of the back foot grounded, you can place a wedge or rolled up sock under the heel to give your heel something to press into. This can be a difficult option in a vinyasa practice, in this case, lift the back heel and square the hips so you’re more in a high crescent lunge.