The 7 Chakras: A Guide for Modern Yogis
Chakra No. 4: The Anahata or Heart Chakra
The Fourth Chakra is most commonly known as the heart chakra. The Sanskrit word for this chakra is Anahata (pronounced – “ahn-ah-ha-ta”) defined as “Unstruck,” in reference to a sound or chord, or “Unhurt” alluding to our heart energy as an ever-present source, not needing to be struck or sounded to beat and give off its energy. In this article, we will dive deeper into understanding the heart chakra, its energy and how we can utilize the energy of our hearts in our day-to-day lives.
Where is the Heart Chakra located?
The heart chakra is located in the upper torso and envelopes our most vital organs, the heart and the lungs. This chakra is also related to the body in the areas of our chest, shoulders, arms and hands. You may have heard phrases such as “arms are the wings of the heart” or “your hands are an extension of your heart.” This is an example of using or connecting with our heart chakra through the arms and hands. A great way to tap into our heart chakra is to use or be sensitive to our chest, arms and hands and how we use them to connect with the people and things in our life. Additionally, the sense touch is associated with this charka which is most often given and received with our hands and arms. Being mindful of the ways you give and receive touch in an important lesson within the heart chakra.
The fourth chakra’s location also has a special importance as it relates to the chakra system as a whole. The fourth chakra sits in the center of all the seven chakras. It lies between the lower three chakras and the upper three chakras creating a bridge or connection between our bottom three chakras and upper three. It’s symbol is the image of a lotus flower with two triangles intersecting one another.
Symbolically, the fourth chakra is where we move from our physical self and our individualization to our higher consciousness of love, intuition, and spiritually. The lower the chakras govern our survival, creativity and personal power or our aspects related to “me” while our upper three chakras are associated with truth, intuition, boundlessness and enlightenment or our aspects related to “we.” It is said that through the bridge of the fourth chakra, with love and compassion, we as human beings move from a state of “me” to “we” or from individual to collective. Many offer that the fourth chakra is where enlightenment begins.
What is the significance of the Heart Chakra?
As we touched on above, the fourth chakra is all about the transformation of our small “self” to our greater collective identity. Within the chakra system, we learn that this “bridge” of transformation occurs at the heart chakra and is result of love and compassion for ourselves and others. The heart chakra is the full embodiment of love, not solely the kind of romantic love that we see in Hollywood, but rather an unconditional love for all beings and all things. It is this chakra and energy that we feel when we form true authentic relationships with ourselves and others and when we are compassionate and of service of our greater good or purpose. The fourth chakra is rooted in strong self-acceptance and is the start of our awakening to spiritual transformation.
What are the elements of the Heart Chakra?
Color: Green – the color relates to love and self-love. The color green connects us to unconditional love and is most found in Nature or Mother Earth. Green helps relax muscles, nerves and thoughts and cleanses energy to give a feeling of peace, harmony and renewal.
Essential Oils: To balance this chakra, use essential oils that promote balance, relaxation and renewal. Some examples are lavender, rose, ylang ylang, jasmine, neroli and sandalwood although there are many more that may fit your needs for balance for the fourth chakra.
What is it like when the Heart Chakra is out of balance?
As you can image, our heart chakra can easily move out of balance when we are experience the effects of a broken heart or a loss in our lives. Our heart chakra is greatly tied to our relationships with others and ourselves and so a loss of love or a relationship can sway this energy center off track.
We can look for signs such as illnesses of the heart or lungs, specifically colds that are stuck in the chest or more serious sickness such as pneumonia or a heart attack. Overtime, a closed heart chakra can create tightness in the chest, shoulders and upper back and the individual may develop a sunken chest. A closed heart chakra may also create shortness of breath, asthma, immune deficiency and circulation problems. For individuals with an unbalanced heart chakra it tends to be difficult or uncomfortable to do heart opening postures such as camel pose.
Energetically, an excessive heart chakra may show up as overly dependent on others for happiness, poor personal boundaries, jealousy or being a martyr and or pleasure. Those with deficiency in their heart chakra may be withdrawn from other or social situations, critical, intolerant, lonely or isolated, lack empathy and or fear intimacy.
What does it look when the Heart Chakra is in balance?
A person whose heart energy is flowing and balanced is a person who is at peace and is compassionate. They exhibit empathy for others and are open in their heart and upper back and chest. They tend to have a stable core and are healthy with a strong immune system. This persons natural state of being in unconditional love and they radiate an inner flow of calmness, clarity and content. They have healthy boundaries that allow them to receive and give to others equally and most importantly, they use the power of love to be a source of transformation and healing for themselves and others.
What poses awaken the Heart Chakra?
The fourth chakra is opened and activated by backbends, deep forward folds, arm extensions and balances and inversions (where your heart is above your head). Examples of back bends that open the front side of the heart are wheel, camel, bridge, cobra, dancers and variations of those postures. Forward folds open the back side of the heart and include poses such as standing forehead to knee, rabbit, or plow pose. Additionally, any arm balancing or inversion postures, especially handstand, are great movements to awaken and uplift the heart chakra as well as your heart rate!
What other practices heal the Heart Chakra?
These below practices, paired with a heart opening yoga practice, can powerfully help balance your fourth chakra:
- Mantras – repeat any of these out loud or in your head
- YAM, pronounced “yAH-UM”
- I am worthy. I am worthy of love.
- There is an infinite supply of love.
- I live in balance with others.
- I give and I receive.
- I am loving to myself and others.
- I honor the power within me.
- Right now, I am whole and complete.
- OR create your own mantra that inspires love and compassion in you!
- Breathing exercises and pranayama
- Arm balances
- Aerobic exercise
- Journaling and self-discovery work
- Wings of the heart kriya exercise
- Touch Therapy
- Gurmukh with Cathryn Michon. The 8 Human Talents, 2000
- Judith, Anodea. Wheels of Life, 1999
- Judith, Anodea. Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System As a Path to the Self, 2004
- Myss, Caroline. Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing, 1997
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Mary has completed multiple Teacher Trainings with CorePower Yoga and found great purpose and joy in sharing yoga with others. Mary loves creating thoughtful classes that provide an inspirational atmosphere for students to explore their bodies and minds. Mary is trained in power vinyasa, hatha, a restorative yoga techniques. A dancer from the age of 12, Mary specializes in vinyasa-style yoga classes that combine breathe with movement and flow like a dance.
Mary's intention is to teach people that “yoga is not about touching your toes, it is what you learn on the way down.”