Okay. The truth is out. I’m an avid Elvis fan…
However, I suspect that Elvis didn’t know about the seven major chakras located in his (and everyone else’s) spine while he was singing those songs. Nevertheless, he – and we – feel the effects of them. In this case, we feel the effects of ANAHATA chakra every time we fall in love or get “dumped” (“broken” heart) by a spouse of lover.
It’s Anahata that’s operating when you feel that overpowering love for your children. That feeling of deep empathy you get when you see pictures of – or hear about – the plight of people devastated by war, or earthquake or some other disaster comes from Anahata chakra, not your physical heart.
Your heart is an organ made of muscle. It usually does a great job of pumping blood around your body, providing the body with oxygen and nutrients, and helping to remove metabolic waste. It is located just a little to the left of the middle of the chest, between the lungs.
It does not literally feel the pain of a “broken” heart, or the excitement of seeing your sweetheart or partner. That feeling is Anahata chakra at work.
Anahata chakra is related, in the physical body, to the thoracic (chest) area, including heart, lungs, breasts and parts of the arms and shoulders. It’s related to the cardiac plexus of nerves and to the thymus gland. As it is related to the circulatory and respiratory parts of the body, people who suffer from asthma and bronchitis may like to concentrate their attention of Anahata chakra.
On the non-physical level, Anahata is related to relationships, possibilities for giving and receiving love, and opportunities for helping others. 1
Although the New Agers like to represent the colours of the seven chakras as the seven nominated colours of the rainbow, yogis often see them differently. In this case, Anahata – although seen by New Age people as green – is seen by yogis as light blue – the colour of the sky. Its corresponding element is air, which represents freedom and expansion. 2
The symbol for Anahata is a BLUE lotus with twelve petals representing twelve qualities of the heart: bliss, peace, harmony, love, understanding, empathy, clarity, purity, unity, compassion, kindness and forgiveness. 3
While a balanced chakra is likely to be expressed as some or all of these qualities, an unbalanced Anahata chakra can drag our consciousness down to emotions that are confused and unbalanced. Desire, jealousy, sadness and despair may overwhelm us; we may be perceived as being indifferent, cold or heartless; we may suffer from depression. Conversely, we may be incapable of accepting love and/or feel embarrassed by shows of tenderness and softness. 4
The animal which represents this chakra is the antelope, which represents alertness and attentiveness.
The sound mantra for Anahata is YĀM (pronounced YAR-m). 5 When you are chanting this mantra, it will be easy to use a low tone and feel the vibration rumble through your chest. As you feel that vibration inside you, you may find it easier to focus on the Anahata chakra near your spine.
Because the chakras are part of ancient yogic tradition, there can be some discrepancy between how they’ve been explained in the old teachings, and how we are interpreting them now, in our modern globalised and eclectic world.
For example, I have had it explained to me by New Age friends that those three bottom chakras (Mooladhara, Svadisthana and Manipura) are only related to how we function in the physical world; whereas the top three are all about the spiritual, with the heart chakra a connecting force between them.
For me, I think this is a very Western oversimplification. I think the physical and the spiritual connection for all chakras cannot be ignored, especially with Anahata – it is about the love and devotion that we feel for ourselves, our loved ones, our planet, the Divine. I don’t believe that love can be relegated to either the physical or the spiritual – it is both. Just like all the chakras show their energies in the physical and the spiritual.
There are a few ways we can harmonise our heart chakra.
A quiet walk in natural surroundings can be very beneficial, espoecially if choosing to be observant – noticing the colours of the trees and flowers. Gazing at a sunrise or sunset, allow yourself to enjoy the beauty.
Sitting quietly and meditating on the heart centre can make you feel peaceful.
Give thanks for all the good things in your life: your family, your health, the blue sky, the sounds of birds, your food and shelter . . . and many other things.
The yoga practices that are helpful for stimulating and harmonising the heart chakra are:
- One-legged prayer pose (eka pada pranamasana)
- Shoulder pose (kandharasana)
- Half camel pose (ardha ushtrasana)
- Double angle pose (dwikonasana)
- The snake (sarpasana)
As I read through different texts about each of the chakras – newly-written books, and ancient yogic words – I begin to feel all kind of chakra-hypochondria come upon me. As I read about the ways we can can express disharmonious Anahata energy – being over-protective of our heart, not sustaining deep reltationships with others, or expecting to be rejected whenever we open up, and withdrawing from the affections of others – I become worried and so down on myself. This is me!! This is what I do!!!
… and I need to cut myself some slack!
I am not just a bundle of disharmonious heart energy wandering around in the world. I am also hoping that I express the more positive qualities of Anahata in my life too – with friends, family, students and animals. But when I let my mind sneak in, I can only see the problems … a great reminder to step out of my mind, and slip into my heart chakra!
This week, as you focus on your heart chakra and chant YĀM and meditate, consider: how much of your interactions in the world do you do from this Anahata space? Do you only respond to world with your mind, calculating and logical? Or are you letting yourself express your love in the world?
1. Dr Rishi Vivekananda, Practical Yoga Psychology (2005), Yoga Publications Trust, Bihar, India. P.95
2. Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda, Yoga in Daily Life: The System (2000). European University Press, Vienna, Austia.
3. Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda, Yoga in Daily Life: The System (2000)
4. Shalila Sharamon & Bodo J. Baginski, The Chakra Handbook, Lotus Light Publications, Wilmot, USA, 1997
5. Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda, Yoga in Daily Life: The System (2000)