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The heart chakra is the seat of love and compassion in the body. When open, this chakra allows you to love others and to accept love in return. When out of balance, this chakra can cause significant issues, from anger and bitterness to co-dependency and possessiveness.
Learn how to understand your heart chakra and how to determine if it is blocked or overactive. You can use yoga and other techniques to restore balance and bring love and kindness into your life.
Chakras are energy centers in the body. Chakra means wheel in Sanskrit, which is a way to visualize the chakras as spinning with energy. The idea of the chakras comes from an ancient Hindu text called the Vedas. They are important in Ayurvedic medicine and some types of yoga and meditation.
There are seven chakras in the body, according to modern western practice, although this can vary. Each chakra is associated with part of the body as well as aspects of physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being.
Root Chakra (Muladhara): Located at the base of the spine, it is associated with grounding, survival, and the feeling of being safe and secure.
Sacral Chakra (Svadhisthana): Located in the lower abdomen, it is associated with creativity, sexuality, and emotional expression.
Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura): Located in the upper abdomen, it is associated with personal power, self-confidence, and the ability to make decisions.
Heart Chakra (Anahata): Located in the center of the chest, it is associated with love, compassion, and connection to others.
Throat Chakra (Vishuddha): Located in the throat, it is associated with communication, self-expression, and authenticity.
Third Eye Chakra (Ajna): Located in the center of the forehead, it is associated with intuition, perception, and insight.
Crown Chakra (Sahasrara): Located at the top of the head, it is associated with spiritual connection, enlightenment, and awareness.
A healing energy called prana flows through the chakras. Each chakra can get blocked, stopping the flow of prana. A chakra can also be too open. A balance of energy through the chakras is essential for overall wellness and balance.
If you can learn to connect with your chakras, you can sense when one is out of whack and use strategies, like specific yoga poses, to rebalance.
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The three lower chakras—root, sacral, and solar plexus—connect with matter, things like physical security and sex. The three highest chakras—throat, third eye, and crown—are associated with the non-material aspects of being, like intuition, purpose, and spirituality.
Right in the middle, serving as the bridge between the material and spiritual worlds, is the heart chakra, also known as anahata chakra. This fourth chakra connects the body to the mind, physical sensations to emotions and spirituality.
The chakras are aligned along the spine and the heart chakra is right in the middle of the chest, close to the heart center. It corresponds to the heart, of course, but also to the lungs, the thymus gland, and the cardiac plexus nerves.
In addition to the physical parts of the body, the heart chakra corresponds to colors, minerals, elements, feelings, behaviors, and traits:
The ability to love and be loved
Compassion for others
Empathy and understanding
Self-love and self-compassion
Joy and inner peace
The color green
The element of air
A six-pointed star and 12-petaled lotus flower
Jade and rose quartz
Centered near the heart, the fourth chakra is sometimes referred to as the love chakra. When prana flows through it, you feel at peace, radiate compassion, are empathetic to others, and can freely accept and give love.
A blocked chakra occurs when energy cannot flow through it or at least not fully or in balance with other chakras. Because they manifest in all aspects of wellness, signs of a blocked heart chakra can be physical, emotional, and spiritual:
High blood pressure
Lowered immunity and more frequent infections
Anger and bitterness
Loneliness and depression
Refusal to forgive others or oneself
Inability to open up and connect with others
Inability to trust people and fear of relationships
Fear of betrayal
Unkindness to others and inability to empathize
In other words, a blocked heart chakra manifests as the opposites of love and compassion, both for yourself and others.
A chakra can also be the opposite of blocked. An overactive chakra has too much energy flowing through it. It is too open. In the case of love and compassion, this might not seem bad, but too much of a good thing always has consequences.
Being too loving and too giving can backfire. You might have too much energy in the heart chakra if you depend too much on your partner or others. You might feel negative emotions and become needy and jealous in relationships. You might be possessive and have poor boundaries with others, letting them take advantage of you. You give too much of yourself.
In the philosophy of yoga and the practice of Ayurvedic medicine, both of which recognize the chakras, body, energy, and spirit are all connected. By moving and posing the body in specific ways, you can change energy flow and affect your spiritual well-being.
Aligning and balancing the body is one way to promote chakra healing. Specific poses are useful for unblocking each chakra. For a blocked heart chakra, use these asanas:
Sphinx pose. Start with this simple pose by lying on your stomach on a mat. Place your forearms and hands on the mat with your elbows under your shoulder. Press down into the mat and lift up your chest. Press all the way up into your hands to turn this into an even more opening cobra pose.
Camel pose. This chest-opening pose is great for opening the heart and creating a balanced heart chakra. To do this pose, kneel on a mat with knees and feet hip-width apart. Lean backward to stretch and open the chest. You may be able to reach back all the way to your feet. If not, rest your hands on your hips as you stretch.
Bridge pose. Lying on your back, bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the mat. With your arms straight and pressed into the mat, lift your hips up, moving your chest toward your chin. Roll your shoulders back to get even more opening of the chest.
Wheel pose. For advanced practitioners, the wheel pose really opens up the heart chakra. To do it, lie down on the mat with knees bent and feet flat. Place your palms on the mat by your shoulders, fingers facing toward your feet. Press down with your feet and hands to arch the spine and lift the body off the mat.
Bow pose. If you’re not quite ready for the wheel pose, try this similar asana. To do the bow pose, lie on your stomach and reach back to grab your feet as you arch the spine. This doesn’t require as much strength as the wheel, but you might need to work up to the flexibility it takes.
Here are more chest-opening yoga poses that are great for posture too.
Yoga is just one way to open your heart and unblock the love chakra. Another great practice that can be adapted to any chakra is meditation. Try heart chakra meditation and use self-affirming and loving mantras. Some examples include, “I am wanted and loved,” “I love and accept myself as I am,” and “My heart is open to love.”
Loving visualizations can also be beneficial. Sit quietly and picture something that makes you feel compassionate and full of love, for instance, a loved one being happy and fulfilled. Envision love and kindness as a green light radiating out of your body and toward others.
Finally, spend time actively showing love for others. Spend time with family. Volunteer to help those in need. Laugh with friends. Do something nice for a friend. Any action that comes from positive energy and love will open your heart chakra.
You can’t see the chakras, but you can feel them and their repercussions. Learn more about chakras to deepen your yoga practice and the connection between your physical and spiritual well-being.
ISSA Yoga & Wellness Academy offers a Yoga Alliance approved Yoga 200 Online Teacher Training course. Take your practice to the next level with this certification, or become a yoga instructor!