The Fourth Chakra
The fourth chakra is the seat of compassion, generosity, and ecstasy.
When this chakra is functioning in a healthy way, it is easy to recognize yourself in others. Their struggles become yours, their faults are the kind you can forgive, and their well-being is as important to you as your own.
Anahata, meaning “unstruck,” suggests non-violence and an unwillingness to inflict harm of any kind. When life force is flowing abundantly through anahata, you are buoyant and caring. If, however, it is blocked and stagnant, you’ll feel a hard separation between yourself and others. You won’t easily forgive their shortcomings, and you won’t have automatic empathy for their way of being. There’s an inner and outer tension. Life can feel constricting, with joy just beyond reach.
Luckily, even the physical act of opening your heart can have a dramatic mental-emotional impact, brightening this chakra and enhancing your good nature.
Location The center of the chest
Seed Sound (Bija Mantra) YAM
- compassion, empathy
- identification with “other,” so that other becomes self
- generosity, giving, kindness
- subdued ego
- joy, abundance, ecstasy
When in balance
- You are not likely to judge.
- It is easy to accept others for who they are.
- Compassion comes readily — not just for others’ struggles but for their flaws.
- Kindness and graciousness flow naturally from you.
When out of balance
- You are closed off. There’s a wall between you and other beings.
- You border on stingy and cranky.
- People can easily annoy you, and it won’t come naturally to be understanding.
- You’ll indulge in little violences — from road rage-style bird flipping to grumbling under your breath to lashing out.
Yoga to stimulate anahata
Heart openers are everywhere in yoga! Backbends are the obvious choice, but heart expansion can be built into nearly any yoga shape.
Spread your collar bones, send your shoulders onto your back, inhale into your chest. Allow your heart to grow spacious, symbolically expanding beyond your own ego-bound mind/body construct.
Poses & their energetics
Peaceful Warrior – Shanti Virabhadrasana
- Perhaps no pose offers access to ecstasy as readily as peaceful warrior. Use all foundational chakras, from root to solar plexus, to put your heart up on a pedestal.
- Lift and spread the heart in all directions.
- Remember Care Bears? Call upon your inner Care Bear to become absorbed in the great human effort to unite the forces of love and goodness. Watch your own ego dissolve as you spread your consciousness outward, enveloping all life in the warm cloak of shared experience.
Wild Thing – Camatkrasana
- Wild Thing is another superlative heart opening. It is physically demanding, but once you have the strength and openness to execute it comfortably, it can really feel like the bad juju is moving through you, being properly metabolized, leaving only pure-love vibes behind.
- Since this isn’t a totally conventional shape (You won’t find it in the Pradipika, for instance), you have some freedom. Express that freedom! It will only enhance the heart-opening effect. For instance, play with the angle of your top arm. Does it feel better to open it wide, making room in the chest? Or to lengthen it above your head? Or to place your hand behind your head?
- Let each arrival into Wild Thing be totally new and a genuine expression of your heart’s capacity for expansion.
Pigeon Variation – Bear Hug
- In many classes, your teacher will bring you to one-legged pigeon and then cue to come up and create a heart opening. This can take various forms. One simple way to access anahata is to bring the arms out wide. Imagine embracing someone (or the whole world) with the biggest bear hug there ever was. When the intention is there, the body can follow.
- Other variations include interlacing fingers behind the low-back, lifting the arms above the head, or finding mermaid or king pigeon position.
- What’s important is the spirit in which the shape is approached. Is it the ego that wants to rock an impressive backbend? Or is your shape the genuine bubbling up of a giving and joyful spirit?
Anahata Awareness… Self Study
In those moments when you’re feeling less than generous and open-hearted, how is your posture? Does it help to draw awareness into the center of your chest? Take a couple of seconds to get centered in your spiritual heart.
Operate from the belief that your feelings of separation, judgment, toxicity (and all things not anahata) are always coming from you and not an outside source, no matter how convinced you are in the moment that the impetus is external. This empowers you to come back into your own heart — a place of limitless love that cannot be touched or tainted by any dark force — no matter what is happening.
Ask yourself: In what ways have I closed myself off from another person or group of persons or animals? In what ways does my separateness perpetuate my suffering or the suffering of others? How can I create connection?
May you know the ecstasy of unbounded appreciation for All That Is.
in abundant love,