Anahata Chakra

Anahata Chakra

The fourth chakra, anahata, rests in the centre of the chakra system, at the core of our spirit. Its physical location is the heart, upper chest, and upper back. The fourth chakra is the balance point, integrating the world of matter (the lower three chakras) with the world of spirit (the upper three chakras). Through the heart chakra, we open to and connect with harmony and peace. The health of our heart centre registers the quality and power of love in our life. In Sanskrit, the heart chakra is called Anahata, which means “unstruck” or “unhurt.” Its name implies that deep beneath our personal stories of brokenness and the pain in our heart, wholeness, boundless love, and a wellspring of compassion reside.

This chakra’s element is air. Air spreads and energizes. Like water, air assumes the shape of whatever it fills, yet it is less subject to gravity than water. When you feel swept up in love, you often need to replant your first chakra in order to stay grounded. Air permeates breath, so pranayama practice helps balance and tone this chakra. All forms of pranayama can help you use more air, more prana, thereby increasing your vitality and enthusiasm for life.

The most powerful way to open, energize, and balance not just the heart chakra but all of our chakras is to love ourselves and others. Love is the greatest healer. In our hatha yoga practice, remembering what we love and appreciate as we practice fourth chakra asanas enhances the power of the poses and our general well-being.

This chakra is the focus point of Vayu Tattva, the power of movement. Vayu means wind and as we know that can manifest as anything from a gentle breeze that cools, to a hurricane that destroys everything in its path. This is the tattva of all kinectic energy be it electrical chemical or pranic. It is quick growth that surges forwards through all obstacles, unpredicatable, random, with the potential to move anywhere.

The parts of the body and organs associated with this chakra are characterised by their actions of expansion and contraction, drawing in and pushing away, the heart, lungs and diaphragm. These processes of expansion, interchange and contraction are reflected in our relationships with the world. The heart chakra  regulates our interaction, making sure that we become neither too involved nor too remote from the world around us. Think of anahatas connection with the arms and hands: they can embrace, enclose, enfold, and draw in, equally they can defend, push away protect. The art of balance is a theme that runs through the heart chakra, and this is never more evident than in loving relationships. For every falling in love there is the risk of falling out of love, and a balanced anahata helps us to accept this ebb and flow in the rhythm of love, and not to become possessive or overly attached.

This chakra governs the formation and impulse of all of the communication systems in the body, particularly the nervous system. It governs our ability to open ourselves to the paradox that our greatest security lies in our vulnerability, in allowing the world to touch us, just as we touch the world.

Here is a brief overview of Anahata…

Colour: bright green, blue or gold
Symbol: 12 petalled lotus, inside a six pointed star, in the centre of the star a flame burns
Element: air
Mantra: YAM

Animal: black antelope (leaping like a heart beat)
Positive emotional states
: passion, tenderness, unconditional love, compassion.
Difficult emotional issues
: : inner child issues, rejection
Associated deities/archetypes
: ishvara, an aspect of Shiva, helps to remove any separation between us and the world around us. Strengthens concentration. Kakini, goddess of devotion, she holds a noose and a skul reminding us that we must ‘die’ to our self, to ignorance and to the ways of the workd, so that we may dance the sacred dance of life.
associated with: nervous system, sense of touch, circulatory system, lymphatic system, immune system

body associations: heart and circulatory system, thymus gland
nerve plexus: heart
pranayama: nadi sodhana

mudra: Anjali mudra.

Non-physical practices to help balance anahata: Buddhist metta

Symptoms of a deficient anahata: feelings of shyness and loneliness, an inability to forgive, or a lack of empathy. Feeling powerless . Alienation, the inner world becoming more and more discordant with the outer world as we slowly ‘lose touch’.

Physical symptoms can include shallow breathing, asthma, and other lung diseases. If the heart chakra is deficient the yoga practice will focus on backbends to help us to open to receive love more fully. If you notice that you are sitting with your head forward, shoulders rounded and your chest collapsed, it’s a good time to start practicing poses to nourish your fourth chakra  and give your heart some breathing space. When we lead with our head and not with the heart, we may be overly focused on thought and tend to cut ourselves off from the emotions and the body. Anahata connects to the arms and hands, and if there is a deficiency here there may be problems with stiffness in the shoulders, arms or hands.

Symptoms of an over-charged anahata: co-dependency, possessiveness, jealousy, impatience, feeling misunderstood, outbursts of temper, lose the capacity to negotiate, insist on getting our own way. Focus on forward folds.

Physical symptoms: heart disease, and high blood pressure.

In balance: highly motivated, and able to accomplish projects solely motivated by your own initiative. Good leadership skills, resourceful. Respond positively to pressure, never hesitate to act, guard your freedom jealously.  Stand up to oppression whenever encountered.  Able to accept ourelves, other people and all manner of situations as they are.

Anahata and our health: many people in the western world suffer from heart disease and high blood pressure, major causes of death in more affluent societies. It does not just have a physical cause, high blood pressure can be an initial sign of underlying mental strain often caused by bottled up stress, anger or frustration. The health of the physical heart improves if we release past traumas and emotional pain.

Anahata and love: People have many and varied interpretations of what love means, and we speak about love we are talking about something much broader and heartier than “romatic love” an overplayed notion in our society, often without depth or substance, and often characterised by co-dependency and neurosis. M.Scott Peck, the psychotherapist and author of “The Road Less Travelled”  defined love as

“…The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or anothers spiritual growth…”

This would suggest that love is an active process, authored by our own will and always with the intention of leading to growth, either our own, the other persons, or both.

If we find it difficult to make and sustain meaningful relationships with others, we may begin to doubt ourselves, to ask “What is wrong with me?” attracting a dark cloud of doubt towards our energetic body. If these feelings are left unchecked then we may cease being able to appreciate others and also ourselves, and start to feel mired down in our own emotional pain. This pulls the entire chakra system out of balance. In a balanced relationship each person has autonomy.  In an unhealthy relationship love is conditional to the point of being a weapon used to coerce the other person into behaving or responding in a certain way. Sadly, many of us will have experienced the threat of the withdrawal of love as children, and until we mature and balance our heart centre we may continue to play out this pattern in relationships to the detriment of everyone involved.

As the heart chakra matures, repression and restriction become intolerable, and sometimes outright rebellion may be the only way to break free of suffocating patterns. Society as a whole does not tolerate well those individuals who question the consensus, so this can be a lonely journey. But it does lead to us establishing a set of values and ethics that we can live by, involving self-discipline rather than a discipline imposed on us from outside, leading to a state of self-acceptance and freedom.  As we continue to evolve, we have the opportunity to see ourselves and the rest of the world from a very different perspective, and this new view can be unsettling if you previously looked outside of yourself for confirmation and verification of your own worth. The realisation dawns that you can care, love and share with others but you cannot live their lives for them, or live your life through them. It can also be a very lonely moment when you realise that others cannot live your life for you either. They can love you, advise you and commiserate with you, but in the end, everyone is responsible only for themselves.

“Unconditional love” the act of loving without expecting any return, encapsulates the energy of a fully functioning heart chakra. No matter how much you may have shared with, sacrificed for and loved someone, letting them be themselves and make their own mistakes is the greatest gift you can give.  This release allows any possessiveness, misplaced sense of responsibility or dependence to dissipate enabling both people to grow.

Yoga asana (posture work)

To correct deficient anahata: passive chest openers in which we arch gently over a blanket or bolster, shoulder stretches such as the arm positions of gomukhasana and garudasana, and backbends. Being an even-numbered, feminine chakra, the heart centre naturally yearns to release and let go. Doing backbends develops the trust and surrender we need to open the heart fully. When we feel fearful, there is no room for love, and our bodies show contraction. When we choose love, the fear melts away, and our practice takes on a joyful quality. In many backbending poses, the heart is positioned higher than the head. It’s wonderfully refreshing to let the mind drop away from the top position and instead lead with the heart.

Try…….Ustrasana, Bhujangasana, anjaneyasana, vasisthasana, parivrtta janu sirsasana, uttanasan,a halasana, khumbakasana anantasana, janu sirsasana, matsyasana m(it is safer to learn how to do these poses with a teacher, you can however look them up on wwwyogajournal.com in the ‘pose finder’ section to see what is involved)

To calm overactive anahata: forward bends are the best antidote, because they are grounding and foster introspection.

I will leave you with these words from Kahlil Gibran

“Give your hearts but not into one anothers keeping,

for only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together yet not too near together:

for the pillars of the temple stand apart,

and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each others shadow”

References

“Seventh Heaven” by Barabara Kaplan Herring

“Healing Yoga” by Swami Ambikananda Saraswati

“The Power of Chakras and Chakra Healing” by Sue and Simon Lilly

“The Chakra Bible” by Patricia Mercier.

“The Road Less Travelled” by M.Scott Peck

“The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran

Additional material from BWY foundation course notes with Julia Wheatley, and from Yoga Campus Diploma course notes.

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