Matters of the Heart: The Heart Chakra
We’ve looked at the first three chakras—root, sacral and solar plexus. Each one correlates with an element found in nature: earth, water, and fire. With the fourth, comes the element of air or ether. Anahata, the heart chakra, is our center of love, balance and connection. Anahata’s task is to integrate and balance the multifaceted aspects of our being. It is the place where the physical and spiritual meet.
Where is the Heart Chakra?
Anahata is located at the body’s heart center and extends through the arms and hands. Home to the cardiac nerve plexus, it includes the organs of the heart, lungs, breasts and thymus gland. The thymus gland is the largest organ of the lymphatic system. As part of our immune system, the lymphatic system protects our bodies from illness-causing invaders and removes cellular waste. Depicted as a twelve petal lotus, the heart chakra is associated with the color green and the element of air.
What Are Its Key Characteristics?
Anahata, from the Sanskrit word meaning “unstruck” or “unhurt,” implies that beneath the hurts and grievances of past experiences lies a pure and spiritual place where no hurt exists. The heart chakra, therefore, is responsible for regulating the energy associated with self-love, compassion, openness, and unconditional love of others. When open, we are filled with love and compassion, quick to forgive, and accepting of others and ourselves.
The heart chakra begins its development between the ages of 3-7 years. This is a time when children create a social identity or persona. Familial relationships become the model for interactions outside of the family unit. Through these interactions, a child learns how things and people relate to one other. They begin to wrestle with questions, such as “who am I?” and “what makes me different from others?” Successful formation of a child’s healthy social identity during this stage depends on self-acceptance and a sense of belonging.
What Happens When Anahata is Imbalanced?
As the central point in the chakra system, Anahata also represents our spiritual center. It is the place that unites forces from above and below as well as within and without. When out of balance, we can experience physical maladies involving the heart, lung or chest region. These may manifest as asthma, high blood pressure or poor blood circulation.
On an emotional level, an imbalanced Anahata takes the form of grief, anger, jealousy, fear of betrayal, and hatred toward others and self. Additional signs of imbalance include the following:
- Feeling disconnected from others (even those closest to you)
- Poor boundaries; codependent relationships
- Withdrawn; tendency to avoid socializing with others (social anxiety)
- Fearful of being alone; clinginess; people-pleaser
- Unforgiving; tendency to hold grudges; jealous
- Bitter and/or angry thoughts; self-critical; demanding
- Constantly replaying or reliving prior trauma; adopt role of victim or martyr
- Suspicious or mistrusting of other people; emotionally distant
Practices to Balance Anahata
Learning to love yourself and open your heart to others is key to having a strong, clear heart chakra. Begin by courageously opening your heart and mind to those closest to you. With practice, you will feel empowered to risk sharing your authentic self outside your close inner circle. Then, consider adopting these other heart-nurturing practices:
It can be easy to jump to conclusions and judge others harshly. The next time you feel yourself becoming angry towards someone, try to put yourself in their shoes. Perhaps they just lost their job or had a fight with their spouse. You can also practice loving-kindness meditation.
The heart chakra is ruled by air, so learning how to breathe deeply is essential. Try coherent breathing in which you take five breaths per minute. You can also explore other breathing techniques such as three-part breath (aka Dirgha Swasam) or alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana).
Eat Heart Nourishing Foods
As with the other chakras, eating foods that correspond with the color of the chakra help with balancing. In the case of the heart, green foods, particularly leafy greens like spinach, kale, lettuce, swiss chard and cabbage, serve to support a happy, healthy heart. Other good choices include kiwi, green apples, pears, broccoli, avocados, zucchini, grapes and celery.
One of the best heart chakra healing practices is to simply acknowledge your blessings. You can keep a gratitude journal in which you daily record three to five things for which you are grateful. Alternatively, write a brief note of appreciation to someone who has offered you support or encouragement. Expressing gratitude results in positive, long-term effects on your physical and mental health.
Heart-Healing Essential Oils
The emotional center of the heart chakra readily benefits from a supportive perfumed oil applied to the breast bone or massage into the middle back area. Rose or neroli essential oils open the heart chakra, while lavender and sweet marjoram will quiet it down. Try regular applications of geranium essential oil to calm your nerves and relieve stress.
Heart Opening Yoga Poses
Yoga poses that create space in the chest and ribs facilitate freer breathing and an internal sense of spaciousness. Consider practicing poses such as Cobra, Cat/Cow, Bridge, Camel, and Reverse Warrior. Also explore restorative poses, like Supported Fish or Supine Bound Angle pose, which also have a calming affect.
Open your heart by repeating self-supporting phrases to reprogram your unconscious mind. Here are some examples:
- “I embrace and love who I am”
- “I live in harmony with others”
- “My heart is filled with joy and gratitude”
- “I forgive myself for my mistakes and grow from them”
Our next chakra, the throat chakra, moves us deeper in the spiritual as we seek to express our truths, creativity and emotional needs honestly and openly. Be well!