Heart Chakra: I LOVE
The Heart or Anahata Chakra is the fourth of the seven main chakras that we will be exploring on our Journey through the Chakras. It holds a unique place in the chakra system as it acts as a bridge between the lower physical chakras and the upper spiritual chakras. It is located at the centre of the chest and governs the heart, lungs, circulatory system, immune system, as well as the arms, hands and shoulders. The word Anahata comes from the Sanskrit meaning “unstruck” and has been referred to as “the sound of the unstruck bell”.
The Heart Chakra is associated with the element Air whose quality is lightness, movement and openness and as the heart chakra also governs the lungs all breathing, or pranayama exercises are great for opening this chakra. The Heart Chakra represents your capacity to connect with the world through relationships with other beings, your sense of caring and compassion, your feelings of self-love, generosity, kindness, and respect and also your ability to forgive. When we open ourselves to love we are reaching to the deepest places within ourselves and reconnecting with our true essence, our spirit, and our soul.
The Anahata is symbolised by the colour Green and by a lotus with twelve petals (image above).
When your Heart Chakra is healthy and balanced and energy can flow freely around this space, you are compassionate, able to love deeply, and have a sense of emotional fulfilment. You are kind, forgiving, trusting, and non-judgmental, both in terms of accepting yourself as well as others. You recognise beauty-in yourself and in everyone, while overlooking weaknesses. It is because of a balanced fourth chakra that you are also tolerant, optimistic, resourceful and humorous. On a physical level you may have healthy lungs, heart, respiratory and cardiac systems, thymus gland, arms, and hands.
Signs that your heart chakra may be blocked include feelings of shyness and loneliness. If you have an inability to forgive or a tendency to lack empathy, then you may be leading with your head more often than your heart. You may find you repress emotions and feelings rather than express them.
So how can yoga help?
When we address the chakras in our yoga classes this manifests in a number of ways: the use of mudras that relate to the individual chakras which will be included when we sit in breath focus or meditation, through the inclusion of physical postures, or asanas, that specifically target the chakra in question and through the use of positive affirmations, visualisations and mantras again all focused on the individual chakra.
Mudras for the Heart Chakra
A key mudra that works to activate and open the Heart Chakra is Gyan Mudra. This is a simple and widely used mudra often used in meditation and at the start of yoga practices and can also be used to open the heart chakra as it offers the bridging of the energy of the lower and upper chakras. To form this mudra, bring the thumb and the first finger of each hand to touch as in the image above. Allow the left hand to rest on the leg, palm facing up and bring the right hand, palm facing the chest, to the chest with the thumb and first finger resting over the heart centre. Give yourself a good few minutes to allow this mudra to work its magic, bringing your awareness to the heart while connecting with your breath.
Physical postures (asanas) for the Heart Chakra
The key element to a heart-opening sequence are backbends as these create space inside the chest by opening and stretching the upper body. It is important, however, to remember to breathe slowly and deeply while in these postures in order to maximise their effects. Some such postures are shown below all of which will work effectively towards opening and expanding the chest area and the front of the body in general. It is important to remember to counter any backbending postures with a suitable forward bend such as Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold), Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold) or Balasana (Child’s Pose).
Ustrasana (Camel Pose):
This is a strong backbending posture, expanding and opening around the chest area to release blockages around the heart centre.
Chakrasana (Wheel Pose):
This is an intermediate backbend that leads on from the gentler practice of supported bridge pose (Setu Bandasana). In this posture the heart is completely open, opening up the chest, strengthening the lungs and creating space around the heart centre.
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog):
This is a great pose for opening up the chest and awakening upper body strength. This is a deeper backbend following on from the gentler Sphinx and Cobra (Bhujangasana) options. Knees and hips are off the floor in this pose.
Affirmations for the Heart Chakra
Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, let your body begin to relax. Now begin to bring your awareness to the centre of your chest, to the area where your heart is located. Try to focus and concentrate all of your awareness on this point. Try to breathe into this area, into your heart. Try to visualise your heart opening and softening. Visualise your breath flowing into your heart, filling up your heart with love and compassion, then visualise your breath flowing out of your heart and allow your body to soften with each out-breath. Allow your rib cage to expand with each in-breath and relax with each out-breath. Breathing in your heart expands, breathing out your body softens.
As you breathe in you might like to imagine breathing a vibrant emerald green colour into your heart centre, filling the heart space as it opens on the inhalation and as you exhale allowing this green to travel out through the rest of the body. Again breathing a vibrant emerald green colour into your heart centre then exhaling, softening the body and allowing this green to expand out into the rest of your body.
Continue with this visualisation for as long as is comfortable and then when you are ready slowly bring your awareness back to the present moment. Take a few deep breaths, wiggle your fingers and toes and slowly open your eyes.
Each chakra has its own seed, or Bija, mantra which are one-syllable sounds that when said aloud activate the energy of the chakras. These Bija mantras have been universally used in meditative practice to harmonise one’s energy and purify and balance the mind and body. When you speak, or chant, the bija mantras aloud you resonate with the energy of the associated chakra.
The mantra associated with the Heart Chakra is YAM (pronounced YUM). Chanting this mantra will work to remove any impurities that may be stored up in the heart chakra and to clear any blocked energy that is being prevented from moving through to the other main chakras.
Sit cross-legged. Let the tips of your index finger and thumb touch. Bring your hands to Gyan Mudra, place your left hand on your left knee and your right hand in front of the lower part of your breast bone. Concentrate on the Heart chakra at the spine, level with the heart. Chant the sound YAM.
I hope you enjoyed this insight into the Heart Chakra, next stop on our Journey Through the Chakras will be the Throat, or Vishuddha, Chakra. Previous chakras include the Root Chakra, Sacral Chakra and the Solar Plexus Chakra.