The fourth chakra, called Anahata, is located at the heart. The Sanskrit word Anahata means unhurt, un-struck and unbeaten. Its function is love. Its element is air. The inner state is compassion and love. The verb for this chakra is “I love.”
When the fourth chakra is flowing and open, we feel deeply connected to everyone in our life. The love we feel at the fourth chakra is felt toward everything we encounter, because it is felt within as a state of being. At the heart chakra, our love is no longer one of need or desire. Love at the heart chakra is one of joyous acceptance of our place among all things, of a deep peace that comes from lack of need and of a radiating quality that comes from harmony within the self.
When the heart chakra is obstructed, we experience loneliness and a sense of alienation.
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 gland associated with the heart chakra is the thymus, and the other body parts are the lungs, heart, arms and hands. When there is a malfunction of the fourth chakra, physical problems such as asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease and lung disease can result.
Two specific problems that we encounter in the Anāhata Chakra are worldly attachment and dependency. Often we feel we are tied to someone but are not necessarily happy about the relationship. A communal bond can be found everywhere in nature and is important for the maintenance of social order. But if we have fulfilled our duties in life and are still unable to release ourselves from the constant worry of family and possessions, this indicates a false sense of attachment. And, apart from the ego, this is one of the biggest hurdles on the spiritual path.
How can we recognize whether our feelings express dependency or genuine love? There is a very simple test for this:
Love brings joy, not sadness.
Love shows understanding and provokes no arguments.
Love provides security and makes no demands.
Love grants freedom and knows no jealousy.
Just like self-interested affection, feelings of resentment and revenge are also types of attachment that bind us. The body dies but the attachment does not disappear and binds us for several lifetimes.
We find a Lotus with twelve petals in the Anāhata Chakra. The twelve petals also depict the twelve most important qualities that we are able to develop in the heart centre: Joy, peace, love, harmony, bliss, clarity, purity, compassion, understanding, forgiveness, patience and kindness.
To live with an open, loving heart means to awaken and cultivate these twelve qualities.
When we are in the Anāhata Chakra our perceptions become finer and more comprehensive. Artistic talents and creative abilities, through which we are able to touch the hearts of others, are awakened within us. These rediscovered treasures awaken infinite love and the desire to open to and communicate with others. Poetry, stories, pictures and sounds that we create from the heart allow the most beautiful chords to be struck within people.
The most important and most beautiful quality of the Anāhata Chakra is BHAKTI. Bhakti means love and devotion. Love and devotion manifest as understanding, acceptance, forgiveness, compassion and helpfulness. If all people developed these qualities there would be no further arguments or wars. Satya Yuga, the age of truth and purity (the “golden age”) where harmony, love and consideration reign supreme everywhere, would again begin. But at present we are a long way from this – often we are not even able to establish peace within our own family.
The first step in self-realization is to recognize your own Self in every living being. Whoever has realized this feels the joy and the pain of others in the same way as their own feelings. We would then avoid eating meat because we are aware of the suffering and fear of the slaughtered animals in every piece of flesh.
Love reveals itself in different ways: One kind of love is the worldly affection that we give to our partner, children or friends. This love is important and beautiful. We need an object for our love and until we are able to find this we feel restless and unfulfilled. Fundamentally we are trying to find someone whom we are able to love, not someone who loves us. Everyone wants to be able to give their love and feelings. When we lose a loved one we feel deep sadness and pain within our heart. Sometimes we feel a pressure on the heart, the reason for which no medical diagnosis can be given, as this feeling has no physical cause. It is more a psychic blockage that impedes and interrupts the flow of love from the heart.
Keeping Anahata in balance requires a deep and ongoing commitment. It can be difficult not to let your heart harden when a loved one leaves this Earth, when a partner or friend hurts or betrays you or when you unleash negativity on yourself. But that only invites isolation and more pain. By seeking freedom in the heart chakra, you remain open to finding true connection with those around and with yourself. Here are some suggestions for making that happen:
Nādī Shodhana - Alternate Nostril Breathing
Both flow in our Nādīs and have a significant influence on our physical and psychic state of health. Prānāyāma is an important and valuable practice for harmonising both these aspects. Breathing through the left nostril, which is connected to the moon principle of the Idā Nādī, quietens the emotions, while breathing through the right nostril, which relates to the sun principle of the Pingala Nādī, clarifies our consciousness. Nādī Shodhana - Alternate Nostril Breathing unites and harmonises these two main Nādīs and brings the emotions and intellect into balance. This regulation of the breath is an extremely beneficial technique, especially for the Anāhata Chakra, because it is possible that here we will oscillate between clarity of consciousness and emotional weakness for a long time. Painful memories continue to rise from the heart. If our ego is unable to digest rejection and insult they will lie like stones within us and we become “heavy of heart”.
Ustrasana - Camel Pose
This heart-opening pose stretches the muscles of your chest.
Matsyasana - Fish Pose
This deep backbend opens the intercostals muscles between the ribs, creating more physical space in your heart center.
Urdhva Dhanurasana - Wheel Pose
Improves spinal flexibility. Stretches the shoulders and chest. Strengthens the arms.This is a full backbend. If you are new to this pose, a Bridge Pose is a good alternative.