Last week in our chakra series we learned about the solar plexus chakra (svadhisthana), our chakra of individuality and personal power. If you missed that post, check it out here! This week we’ll learn about the fourth chakra in our energy system, the heart chakra. We’ll continue to reference a book by Anodea Judith called Eastern Body, Western Mind, available here.
So far in our chakra journey we’ve developed our sense of safety and trust in the world with the root chakra, discovered our emotions in the sacral chakra, and established ourselves as individuals in the solar plexus chakra. Our heart chakra or anahata, is all about love.
The heart chakra serves as the bridge or middle point between the lower and upper chakras. The three lower chakras deal with our relation to the world and ourselves. They are all about our worldview, including our core opinion of ourselves. The remaining four chakras deal with the way we relate to others and the Divine.
Attributes of the Heart Chakra
The heart chakra is located in the center of the chest and is associated with the color green and the air element. It is our chakra of unconditional love, compassion, and empathy. From this chakra comes our ability to love others, and to relate to them on an intimate and spiritual level. It shapes our relationships with family, friends, and partners.
It is a common saying that one must love themselves before they can love others, and nowhere is this truer than in chakra development. To be able to love others and feel compassion, we must first have those feelings toward ourselves. That’s what the three lower chakras are all about, and from this foundation stems our ability to empathize with others, friend or foe.
“Through knowing the self within, we can honor the self that lives within another.”
Judith says that the heart chakra develops somewhere between four and seven years as we begin to form relationships with family and friends. During this time, we learn to take the love we’ve manifested for ourselves in the lower chakras and apply it to other people.
Things that Affect Heart Chakra Development
Development of the heart chakra depends upon how we were shown to love and accept ourselves and others. It is at this stage, however, that we have more influencers. Up until now, children remain mostly with their parents or primary caregivers. A child might go to a daycare or have a nanny, but their primary relationships are with parents.
During the time this chakra is developing, we expand our relational horizons to peers and begin to see a more diverse array of people as we spend more time away from our parents. We start to collect experiences in our psyche and learn to give love the way we received it, and the way we witnessed it shown to others.
Did we see someone giving money to a homeless person, or judging and criticizing them? Was self-care promoted in our home, or looked at as an undeserved luxury? What types of relationships did we witness growing up? Was our family tight-knit and supportive, or was there tension and separation?
Judith lists a few more situations that can contribute to heart chakra imbalance:
- Conditional love
- Grief, loss (like of a parent or significant person in one’s life)
- Abuses to any other chakra
How to Know if Your Heart Chakra is Blocked
“Without knowing what healthy love looks like, we have a hard time creating it in our lives. We hang on to mere shreds of love, sacrifice ourselves on its altar, run in fear when we find it.”
Someone with an imbalanced heart chakra will deal with issues in relationships and have difficulty finding balance in life. On one end of the spectrum, we could be cold and aloof, keeping ourselves isolated from intimacy. On the other, we could be codependent and needy, or we might have a tendency to be overly open with our emotions.
The key in this chakra is to find balance. A healthy fourth chakra will exude self-love, compassion and empathy for others, and balance in pleasing others and staying true to oneself.
Since the heart chakra deals with relationships, we can look to our own relationships to determine whether or not we have balance in this energy center. We can examine our family, friend, partner, and work relationships to see if any patterns emerge, and if any of them can be traced back to a lack of love either for ourselves or for someone else.
We can also look at our we treat ourselves. True self-love is when we love and care for ourselves the way we would a best friend or family member. It’s when we acknowledge and respect the needs of others, as well as our own needs.
Here are a few more characteristics of a blocked heart chakra:
- Difficulty being intimate with others
- Tumultuous relationships or, cold, surface-level relationships
- Lack of compassion/empathy
- Jealousy, especially in romantic relationships
- A feeling of being outside looking in
Yoga Poses for the Heart Chakra
There are so many things you can do to promote balance in the heart chakra. Try rosewood, lavender, or mandarin essential oils; use them in whatever format works best for you and have an intention of what you’re trying to manifest. You can also find a reiki healer and discuss with them beforehand that you feel like you might have an imbalanced heart chakra so they can focus specifically on that energy center.
At Inspiring Actions, our favorite method to rebalance the chakras is yoga! Below are a few poses you can try at home, but we welcome you to our studios in Hudson and River Falls, Wisconsin, as well as online to try them out in a class setting.
Sharing in the healing energy of others can be powerful. Our classes and special events offer opportunities to come together to learn from and with each other and most importantly, learn about ourselves in the process. No experience is necessary to practice with us; visit our schedule here to see our full list of classes for all levels. We’d love to see you there; read on next week as we learn about the fifth chakra, our throat chakra or vishuddha.
To do cat/cow, start in tabletop pose. Align your shoulders with your wrists, hips with knees. On an inhale, drop your belly and pull your heart forward to come to cow pose. From here and on an exhale, pull your belly in and arch your back for cat.
Repeat this using your breath as your guide. As you exhale and come to cow, focus on opening your heart by pulling your shoulders away from your ears. For both parts of this pose, focus on your heart and how it feels. Notice if it’s beating fast or slow, and see if you can direct your life energy there.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
To do bridge pose, start our lying on your back with feet on the mat. Align your knees with ankles and bring your arms along your side. To make sure you’re lined up correctly, check that your hands reach almost all the way to your feet; you should be able to graze your heels with your fingertips.
From here, lift your bottom of the ground and clasp your fingers together behind your back. Stretch your midsection up to as far as you feel comfortable, and hold. Unclasp the hands as you return to the mat and try to switch up your grip when you do the pose again. For supported bridge, slip a block at medium height under your lower back and rest your arms at your side.
Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
To do locust pose, start our face down resting your forehead on the mat. Bring your arms alongside your body, palms facing down. On an inhale, lift your head and upper body to a level that feels comfortable. From here, stretch your arms back as if you were reaching for your feet, and begin to lift the feet and lower legs off the mat.
If this is not available to you, focus on lifting your front body and reaching back. This opens up the heart and allows for life force energy to nourish and replenish this chakra. As you hold the pose for however long feels comfortable, imagine green energy radiating in and around your heart center. It helps me to think of spring, things like fresh green grass and green leaves on the trees.