Just as you can practice heart opening thoughts, you can also practice physically opening up your heart. To wrap up Heart Health Month, celebrating strong, healthy hearts full of love and peace, we will explore Anahata, the heart chakra.
Chakras are centers of energy located in the midline of the body and are connected to major organs or glands that govern other body parts. Chakras are not only associated with our physical health but also influence aspects of our emotional, mental and belief systems. There are seven main chakras: Crown, Third Eye, Throat, Heart, Navel, Sacral, and Root.
In Sanskrit, the heart chakra is called Anahata, which means “unstruck”. Its name suggests that deep beneath our histories of brokenness or despair, lies wholeness and infinite love. Anahata is the center for love, kindness and compassion and when it is open, it enables us to connect with harmony and peace, within ourselves and with others.
Each chakra has a color associated with it, and Anahata is green. Color and light are inseparable and studies have proven that this element physically affects our glands and hormones, as well as influence our moods and feelings. Heart chakra stimulants include nature walks and hikes, spending time with friends and family, eating green foods (I love Naked Juice’s Green Machine), wearing green clothing or gemstones and using green oils like eucalyptus and mint.
Now that we have a basic understanding of the heart chakra’s elements, lets look at a few poses that hallenge our physical bodies to open the chest up.
If you are unfamiliar with these poses, simply click on the links for a picture and step-by-step guide to get into the pose.
- Extended Side Angle Pose: I really like challenging my twist in this pose! Once you feel your weight evenly distributed between the back and front foot and you’ve extended one arm up over your lunging leg (keep that tailbone tucked, bicep lined up with your ear), gently begin to twist your torso, opening your chest and heart to the sky. With each exhalation, twist a little deeper and breathe through any discomfort.
- Upward Facing Dog: After a slow and controlled chatarunga, moving forward into upward facing dog feels amazing! One tip that I learned to help me lift my chest was to firmly press my elbows into my side (near the hips), keep a slight bend in my elbow, then roll my shoulders back and down towards my bum. This allowed me to lift just a wee bit higher and really let my heart shine! For some reason, I visualize a lion when I do this pose, proud and boasting his chest, pushing his heart out to the kingdom.
- Camel Pose: For me, this is the ultimate heart opening pose. One of my yoga mentors told me that if you allow yourself to be vulnerable and really let go in Camel pose, you may experience a rush of emotion and even cry…happy tears of course, of love and gratitude. It happened to her, and she said it was one of the most amazing experiences on her yoga mat! We typically do Camel pose towards the end of class, after our bodies are really warm and we’ve done several back bends to ensure we don’t hurt ourselves. This pose was tricky for me at first, because I really had to trust myself in this pretty intense backbend. Two things that helped me get into Camel pose were 1) have my knees two fists’ width apart to ensure proper alignment with my legs and hips, and 2) relax my neck and let my head fall back first on an exhale; your body naturally wants to follow. Once in Camel pose, let go of everything and let your heart shine!
Try implementing these tips and asanas in your next practice to celebrate Anahata! Until next time yogis…
Peace. Love. Namaste.