The chakras are psycho-spiritual centers located throughout our body. They are similar to old CD-ROMs because they are said to be spinning disks that record our life experiences. This post is the third in our Chakra 101 series. To learn more about the chakras, please visit this post.
The fourth chakra is the heart chakra. In Sanskrit, its name is Anahata chakra, which means “Unstruck”. The heart chakra is located at the center of the chest. Its domain includes not only the heart, but also the chest, upper back, shoulders, arms, and hands. When physical difficulties arise in this area, working with the heart chakra can help us address underlying spiritual issues so that our physical healing will be more efficient and effective.
The lower three chakras are primarily concerned with the care and keeping of our incarnated selves. The upper three chakras are most involved with nourishing our spiritual selves. Anahata chakra, the fourth chakra, bridges the lower and upper chakras. This chakra represents the depth of our humanity and the relevance of our divinity in the physical world.
Anahata Chakra: unstruck, unbroken.
The chakras are psycho-spiritual realities. We may not be able to physically see them, but we can feel them in our body. Somatic symptoms indicate the chakra or chakras involved in our emotional and spiritual experiences. Many people have clutched their heart upon receiving bad news. When we are sad or depressed, we often feel a heaviness or sinking sensation in our chest. Perhaps this is where the concept of a “broken heart” comes from.
Our hearts are strong and resilient. They cannot be broken. However, when we are hurt, we may choose to close our hearts. The work of the heart chakra is to remain open, “unstruck”, even when we are hurt. We do this by practicing kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.
Most of us have some difficulty with forgiveness. Forgiving someone does not mean that whatever happened to us was okay. In fact, forgiveness is not about anyone other than ourselves! Forgiveness is a process where we fully feel the pain of a given situation, accept it occurred and caused us pain, and we choose to keep our hearts open anyways. Thus, our pain does not fester, becoming bitterness, resentment, and pessimism. Forgiveness is a radically empowering act.
Nourishing Anahata Chakra.
It isn’t easy to keep our hearts open. We don’t always feel like being kind, compassionate, and forgiving-especially when we are hurting! Fortunately, there are heart-opening practices we can do no matter our emotional state. These practices heal and fortify our hearts no matter what we are going through.
In our asana practice, we can incorporate heart-opening postures. These are poses where our chest is fully expanded. This includes poses such as bhujangasana (cobra pose), salabhasana (locust pose), and dhanurasana (bow pose). Because of its association with our hands, poses that connect our hands to the earth such as bakasana (crow pose) also support this chakra.
Gratitude is a practice that nurtures the heart chakra. Being grateful is different than being thankful. We are thankful when something good happens. It is wonderful to be thankful! Thankfulness is a feeling. However, like any feeling, it is fleeting and dependent on the circumstances we find ourselves in.
Gratitude is a choice. It requires our active participation. We seek out things we can be grateful for. Our entire attitude shifts when we consciously notice the good. That does not mean that we deny negativity. We simply do not identify with it. Our hearts remain open when we acknowledge and hold space for the entirety of our experience, both darkness and light.
One way to practice gratitude is to have a gratitude journal. Place a notebook and pen at your bedside. As soon as you wake up, write down three things you are grateful for. No matter how simple or profound those things are, you will have primed your brain to look for things to be grateful for throughout your day.
Metta meditation, or loving-kindness meditation, extends good-will to those we love, those we don’t know, those that we do not even like, and to ourselves. This is a wonderful practice for keeping our hearts open and available to love.
To practice loving-kindness meditation, come into a comfortable seated position. Close your eyes. Visualize someone you love. Silently or aloud say to yourself, “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be at peace.” You will be repeating this practice three more times: imagine someone you don’t know very well, someone you don’t like, and then imagine yourself. Each time extend this desire for each person or group of people’s well-being. “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be at peace.”
We may feel some resistance when we do this practice. That is okay! We don’t have to worry about how we feel towards the people we are sending loving-kindness to. Our work is simply to do the practice. It is in the practice itself that our healing occurs.
Helpful Mantras for Anahata Chakra:
I love, forgive, and accept myself. I am a human being doing my best, just like everybody else.
I courageously open my heart to love unconditionally.
My heart is strong and resilient. It cannot be broken.