“The heart is the place where we live our passions. It is frail and easily broken, but wonderfully resilient. There is no point in trying to deceive the heart. It depends upon our honesty for its survival.” ~ Leo Buscaglia
The fourth chakra or Heart Chakra is the seat of unconditional love, compassion, joy and emotional wisdom. In Sanskrit it is known as “Anahata Chakra”, meaning, ‘Unbeaten,’ ‘Unhurt’ or ‘Unstruck’.
It rests in the center of the chakra system at the core of our spirit, integrating the world of matter (the lower three chakras) with the world of spirit (the upper three chakras).
Our spiritual growth, the nature of our relationships with others, the feeling of peace, contentment and harmony, all these aspects of everyday living are integrated within Anahata chakra.
Related to the element of Air, a balanced Heart Chakra is the reason for the free flowing prana in the body and smooth blood circulation. An imbalanced Heart Chakra on the contrary, is the reason for heart problems, emotional instability, and inability to express love or repression of love.
We have trouble loving ourselves, and we are therefore paranoid and afraid to love others. Many issues of love, grief, hatred, anger, jealousy, fears of betrayal, loneliness, as well as the ability to heal ourselves and others are centered in the fourth chakra.
Here is a quick guide to the Anahata Chakra:
Colour: Green with secondary colour Pink
Glands/Organs: Heart, Thymus gland, circulatory system, arms, hands, lungs
Gems/Minerals affecting it: Emeralds, Green and Pink Tourmaline, Rose Quartz, Ruby, Green Jade, Malachite, Green Aventurine, Chrysoprase, and Kunzite.
Foods: Green fruits & vegetables
The yoga poses to expand the feminine Heart Chakra usually includes shoulder openers, passive chest openers, arms positions and backbends. Empowering us with the ability to surrender and let go with trust, practicing the yoga poses mentioned below dissolves fears and ignites love.
How to: Lie in prone position, place the elbows on the floor and the hands extended forward with the feet joined. Inhale & lift the torso up, while the hands pressed down. Gaze upwards and elongate the neck. This is Ardha Bhujangasana or Half Cobra for beginners, if you want to challenge yourself further, follow the instructions below for the complete pose.
Begin lying prone position, and bend the elbows with the hands placed flat on the floor beside the chest. The legs are extended, joined together, pubis, thighs and feet pressed on the floor. Inhale, lift the chest up while pressing the palms into the floor.
The shoulders are pressed back, gaze upwards and neck elongated. Ensure that the belly button is on the floor. Hold here for 5 to 7 breaths, exhale slowly and return to the starting position. Repeat two more times.
Why to: Opening and strengthening the shoulders, your back muscles and arms, Cobra pose allows prana to flow freely. Expanding the Heart Chakra, it draws energy in and automatically brings focus to the chest. Focusing on the Heart Chakra during this pose can be highly beneficial.
Ustrasana or Camel Pose
How to: Kneel down on the yoga mat with feet hip width apart, the sacrum is tucked in, not swinging forward or backward. First, place your hands on the lower back, the elbows bent and fingers facing downwards (Refer to Image on the left).
Exhaling, bend the shoulders backwards, chest open and hips slightly forward and gaze backwards. (Refer to image in the centre). At any time, the neck should not be left hanging. Stay for a few breaths in the pose. If you feel dizzy, the gaze should be fixed forward.
Now elongating the spine, once more, push the hips forward, the shoulder blades back while you bend backwards. Slightly tilting towards the right, place the right hand on right heel, lean slightly towards the left and place the left hand on the left heel.
The fingers are pointing towards the toes. The head comes last, lifting the chest into an arch, look backwards. Hold for 5 to 7 breaths, slowly contract the abdomen to lift the chest forward, bring the hands on the lower back and return to the initial position.
Why to: Camel Pose clears blockages created by past incidents, and strengthens the spine, shoulders and arms.The opening of the chest cavity stimulates and opens the heart chakra.
Marjariasana or Cat pose & Bitilasana or Cow Pose
How to: Come in a table top position and ensure the knees and hands are positioned in one line & the shoulders and wrists are positioned in one line. As you inhale, raise your chin and tilt your head back. Raise your tailbone, creating an arch in the back and hip out.
Follow this by a countermovement: as you exhale, drop your chin to your chest, scrunch the back, looking downwards in Cat pose; relax the buttocks. Hold this pose for few seconds and return to the initial table top position.
Why to: The movement of contraction and expansion helps to soften and release the tension in the entire back and neck that keep you from letting your heart open.
Supta Baddha Konasana or Supine Bound Angle Pose
How to: Sit in butterfly pose, i.e. join the base of both the feet and allow your knees to fall down. For additional support, you can place bricks underneath both your knees. Now gently fall back on the yoga mat with the palms facing upwards.
If you feel the need, you can also use a bolster underneath to rest the whole back and head on the bolster. Beginners are suggested to use props initially. Close your eyes and rest here. This pose can be practiced before or after a session.
Why to: Relaxing the whole body, this pose increases the circulation of blood in the lower body and allows the Heart Chakra to work freely. We can also imagine green colour energy moving in and out, with every breath, to enhance the effect of the pose.
Matsyasana or Fish Pose
How to: Lie down in supine position, hands facing down and placed underneath the buttocks. Press the hands down, lift & extend the legs with feet pointing outwards. Slightly bend your elbows to lift the head. Tilt the head back and place the crown of your head on the floor. The majority of the body weight is resting on the elbows here and not on the head. Hold the pose for as long as you comfortably can or for 5-7 breaths, taking gentle long breaths in and out, and release.
Why to: Fish pose is a deep backbend, it opens the intercostal muscles in the rib cage, creating enhanced space for the heart to pump blood smoothly. Also it strengthens the chest muscles, opens the shoulders and improves overall posture.
Seed Mantra Meditation
“Mantras are powerful spiritual formula that when repeated silently in the mind, have the capacity to transform consciousness.” ~ Eknath
YAM (pronounced as YUM) is the seed or beej mantra of the Heart Chakra. Sit cross legged or lotus pose away from any support and take deep breaths. Focus on the heart chakra and start chanting ‘YAM’. Imagine the chakra opening with the energy flowing in a horizontal movement.
Chant YAM three times, then chant ‘OM’ three times out loud, and feel the flow of the energy vibrating vertically from head to toe. Now repeat the chant silently; first YAM then chant OM. This is one set. Continue to chant YAM and OM, till you wish to.
Why to: The seed invocation is a form of a charged mantra. The sound when chanted resonates and reaches directly to the centre of the heart chakra and immediately activates it. The beej meditation will increase the circumference of the chakra and balances it. The expansion of the heart from the “I” into the cosmic energy is a wondrous transformation.
Some other poses to harmonise and expand the Heart Chakra that can be practiced under expert guidance or only by an advance level of practitioner are: Urdhva Mukha Svanasanaor Upward Facing dog, Mermaid Pose, Two Foot Inverted Staff Pose, Urdhva Dhanurasna or Wheel Pose and Anjaneyasana Crescent moon pose.