Chakras for Beginners: The Heart Chakra
In the fourth in this series (scroll to the end to see the first three) we're talking about the heart chakra. This is the chakra you're most likely to feel familiar with as it's the most commonly referred to in regular yoga asana classes.
As mentioned before, chakra means ‘wheel’ and in yogic philosophy a chakra is a point in the body where energy comes together on its journey through the body (from bottom to top); a meeting point, if you like. We cannot see them, or feel them with our hands, but each is responsible for a different part of our mind, body or soul. Yogis believe that all of your chakras must be unblocked/aligned/opened in order for you to reach the state of 'Samadhi' or 'transcendental bliss' through meditation. If you have a blocked chakra you will never be able to leave the physical world (i.e. your body) through meditation.
In practical terms, think of the chakras like Maslow's hierarchy of needs; you cannot feel completely satisfied, happy or healthy if your chakras are not aligned/fulfilled.
In this series of 7 posts I'll be covering the basic elements of each of the chakras and how knowledge and awareness of those chakras may be able to help you in your day to day life.
So let's get started:
The Heart Chakra
The fourth chakra is the heart chakra, located at the centre of the chest at the breastbone/sternum. This chakra is related to your sense of inner peace, love and service of others, empathy and self-awareness. When we talk about love and the heart chakra we are not talking about the emotional, romantic love of the second chakra, instead this is the kind of love that allows us to show compassion to others, help others, accept others for who they are and see all beings as equal.
Those with a balanced heart chakra will be loving, kind, compassionate and calm. They will feel at one with the world around them, peaceful and open. They will be giving, but not so much so that they negatively affect their own sense of well-being. They will have clear boundaries and will be rational in ensuring they do not engage in toxic relationships.
If you struggle with being needy or feeling like a victim, or constantly give to others, draining your emotional resources then you may be too open in your heart chakra and need to re-align to create boundaries. Alternatively if you are overly critical of others, lacking empathy, have strong feelings of disconnect, isolation, selfishness and distrust of others then you may have a more closed off heart chakra which needs opening.
What are the symptoms?
An unbalanced or blocked heart chakra will cause various symptoms, including, but not limited to:
- Respiratory problems
- Tight chest
- Cardiovascular problems
- Lacking empathy
- Feeling withdrawn or anti-social
- Overly critical of others
- Overly demanding of others
- Tendency to play the victim
- No sense of personal boundaries
- Over-extending yourself to help others to your own personal detriment
Most of the physical symptoms manifest in the respiratory or cardiovascular system...things like high/low blood pressure, heart murmurs, tight chest, hypertension, asthma, emphysema etc.
Yogis believe that certain asanas (postures) can help to release tension and blockages in the chakras, just as they do in the muscles. For the heart chakra, this, funnily enough, means ostly working on 'heart opening' poses such as backbends. My advice here would be to take it slowly. Because of the emotions connected to the heart chakra, often these postures can leave you feeling vulnerable, emotional, scared, tense or unstable, so take your time when practising these postures and don't push yourself too far.
- Heart openers such as cobra, bow pose, camel, upwards bow/wheel, bridge pose, wild thing
- Meditating with hands together in prayer at the centre of the chest
- Reclined butterly
So what about off the mat?
According to the science of Ayurveda eating green foods can help (green is the colour of the chakra) as well a meditating on the colour green or on images of trees and nature can help unblock the heart chakra. Getting out in nature often, such as walking in a forest or park, is highly beneficial, as well as walking barefoot on grass as often as you can.
If you're in Brussels and want to know more...I'll be running an Introduction to the Chakras Workshop at Corpus Studios on 27th May 2018. You can book online at www.corpusstudios.com