Our journey through the Chakras continues. In case you’ve missed out, brush up on the significance of the seven main chakras here, take this quiz to find out which of your chakras are under/overactive, and take a peak at our last three studies: Muladhara, Svadhishthana, and Manipura.
Oh, the beloved Anahata (Heart) Chakra. Is there a Chakra more frequently mentioned (or misused/abused) by overzealous yoga people than this one? No, there is not. “Open your Heart Chakra!” is an idiom we’ve all heard, again and again, in the yoga studio. It’s a classic yogaspeak standby. But what does it mean? And why do we need to do that?
This fourth Chakra is located at the heart, at the very center of the body, at the very intersection of our humanness and our spirit-ness. The fire of Manipura (our will and strength) gives way to the air element: our ability to love unconditionally and fearlessly. Every part of our physical body ebbs and flows through the heart, and its very beating is the rhythm of our soul. Working with the fourth Chakra teaches us to be loving, generous, compassionate and uplifted. A truly balanced Anahata Chakra fosters harmonious, forgiving relationships with others as well as with Self.
An under-active Anahata Chakra indicates a closed-off heart. You might tend to be distant, cold, and disconnected, and err on the side of extreme caution in any deep relationships. Physical indications of a closed-off Chakra manifest as slumped shoulders and poor posture. At one time or another in your life, you’ll probably experience (and deeply feel) the workings of an under-active Heart Chakra; in the yoga tradition, we often look to the Heart Chakra first when dealing with depression.
Those who tend towards possessive, suffocating behavior in relationships indicate an overactive Anahata. Jealousy takes over easily and you are quick to anger. You might be too giving of yourself as well, too quick to let love in, without considering wisdom. That fiery passion is commendable, but if it’s not tempered by the calm nerves of a balanced Solar Plexus Chakra and the wise communication of Throat Chakra (more on that next month), this display of overt emotion takes over in ineffective ways.
One of the reasons we talk so much about the Heart Chakra in the yoga world is that most of us have to work on it. It also seems to be a very irascible, volatile Chakra, most easily affected by our ever-changing circumstances — think about what it’s like to fall madly in love with someone, and how easily and quickly it consumes you. Then imagine that time you endured a terrible breakup, and how that consumed you too, in a different way. Opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, both originating from the same center of energy: Anahata Chakra.
Ustrasana (Camel Pose, pictured above) is one of the best ways to work on opening the heart. Most backbending poses are (which also could explain that strange, woozy, emotional rush that we get when we’re in a deep backbend; the ribcage protecting the heart is literally stretching), while soft, calming, seated poses that involve forward folding (Janu Sirsasana, Baddha Konasana) will quiet an overactive heart.
In meditation, visualize pink or green, Anahata’s airy, rose-like colors. Draw your focus to the center of the chest and intuit the ebb and flow of love, giving and receiving it, in a balanced, harmonious state.