Dear Beautiful Yogi,
From the fire of transformation located at the naval center (the 3rd chakra), we move up to the “power of the heart”. The 4th chakra is called anahata and it means “unstruck”. The yogic seers described a sound coming from the space of the heart which is inherent in each individual, it emanates and does not come from two things striking, hence the name “unstruck”.
The 4th chakra is as important as the 3rd chakra in yoga science because the power of this center (love) is incredibly strong. Not romantic love, rather unconditional, universal and healing love. Love transforms as well as fire. This chakra is the middle chakra, with three below and three above. Because of its location and innate power, it can potentially subvert the issues of the lower chakras and bridge us to the higher chakras. Located in the chest and specifically the region of the heart, the anahata chakra is the element of air, called vayu in Sanskrit. This makes perfect sense as the lungs are part of the chest region. They literally fill with air, regulating breathing and the movement of prana (energy) in the body. This specific prana moves in and up and is therefore elevating and uplifting.
The color is emerald green and the seed sound is YAM.
Physically, keeping the chest and shoulder area open and strong is very important. Especially because in our modern lifestyle, we spend a lot of time sitting, using computers, phones and driving, all of which can make us round the back and collapse the chest. Back bends, which target the thoracic spine (upper back) are essential to keeping this area open and functioning well. Good breathing is also essential to the harmony of the 4th chakra. The use of pranayama practices (breathing exercises) give us direct access to our lungs and thoracic region in general, and also to the control of energy.
Here are three practices to help you access the anahata chakra: one for the body, one for the breath, and one for the mind.
- One of my favorite ways to open the chest is very simple. I use a pranayama bolster, positioned like a T against the upper back. Lie down across it with the bolster placed against the shoulder blades and the arms in a “cactus shape” to the sides. It should feel like a chest and shoulder opener, not a stretch for the lower back. Just relaxing over the bolster or breathing deeply, will gently open the chest and counter tension or tightness in the upper back!
- My favorite pranayama for the heart is called Bhramuri. It is referred to as “humming bee breath” because of the sound it makes. It is said to be healing for the heart and has no contraindications. Place your thumbs on the tragus (outer ear) to shut out sound. Place the other fingers along to skull creating a cradle like position. This is called yoni mudra. Inhale slowly through the nose and hum the entire exhale with a soft sound. You will slightly hear the hum and feel the vibration in the heart. Try 10 rounds to start with, add more later. It feels soothing.
- There is a very old and simple Vedic meditation on the heart which connects us to universal love. Establish a comfortable seat either on the floor or in a chair with the spine tall and aligned. Settle and relax without slouching, allow the breath to be completely natural. Bring awareness to the chest and heart region and visualize a light in the heart. Hold your attention on this light in your own heart as it glows and expands. Stay with this inner focus as long as you can – 3 minutes, 5 minutes or more. Each of us has this inner light. It is the light of the soul.
A balanced heart chakra means we are open, strong, courageous and able to give and receive love. May we learn to live from the heart, to gather the immense energy and power of the heart to light our path forward.
Only Love & Yoga,