Chakra Series. Part 4, Heart
A heart full of YAM
If you've never felt the power of a chant at Kirtan or in a yoga class, well... you're missing out. To know the meaning behind a mantra and to chant it with intention can create an energy so strong and breathtaking. And today we are exploring the power behind the mantra of the heart, YAM. To understand more about the Chakras and the meaning behind the mantras, see Part 1 of this series here.
The Heart Chakra
Sanskrit name, Anahata
Colour, Green (also shown as pink for romantic love)
In Sanskrit, Anahata means to become unstuck or unhurt. This would imply that the challenges of this chakra are teaching us to overcome pain that we endure as part of our life's tapestry. Once we overcome and move through that pain or sense of brokenness, underneath we find what is a flowing and abundant spring of boundless love and compassion.
The heart chakra (fourth energy centre) is located at the centre of the chest - it aligns to the position of the sternum, the thymus gland and energetically this is where the lower and upper chakras meet: the meeting of the physical (matter) and spiritual (spirit) worlds. When it is open and healthy it reflects balance, beauty, unconditional love and compassion. In Tantric teachings, Anahata is represented with 12 red or white petals with a smokey blue central component symbolising the element of air. The air element symbolises what can be flowing, flighty and able to change, it assumes whatever form it takes on. In the case of new love or romance we may find it is necessary to find grounding within the lower chakras. For those who are closed down in their heart chakra, they may find it difficult to allow themselves to get "caught up" in romance or "swept away" in love.
When our heart chakra reflects the colour green, we are loving ourselves and others without judgement and with compassion. If the heart chakra is blocked we begin to show signs of blame for ourselves, unable to appreciate and accept ourselves for the divine child of the universe that we indeed are. This can manifest very seriously in illnesses such as cancer in the breasts, heart and immune diseases, as well as dysfunction within the circulatory system.
Opening the heart
I love focussing on the Heart in my classes. So many of us carry brokenness and pain which is preventing us from living a life that is full and free. In a yoga practice we have the opportunity to focus on healing our heart but also improving our health in areas such as our immune and circulatory systems.
When I ask students to chant together the bija mantra YAM something truely special takes place. When the Paris attacks took place, we chanted YAM for peace and to those who live in darkness. A chill and extreme warmth filled the room. It's in times like these where we find our capacity for love, humane and spiritual compassion and forgiveness.
Heart Opening Yin Yoga Sequence
Beginning in Savasana, we extend the limbs into Pentacle Pose - creating a star shape with the body. This opens the body from the centre out. The heart and lung meridians which run along the arms are unobstructed and allow energy to flow. With each breath we focus on opening the heart in an offering (inhale) and receiving (exhale) of love. Start to visualise the colour green as the heart opens. A vibrant colour representing health.
Coming up to sit, the hands centre at the heart space in prayer pose. Drawing light and breath in from the crown, we exhale out of the heart into our hands.
Holding the intention of sending out love to those in need, take 3x rounds of the YAM bija mantra. Open the arms out to shoulder height, taking them as far back as possible on the inhale. On the exhale, hug the arms back in, opening the back of the heart. Every time the arms open we imagine sending out love, on the closing of the arms we receive love and hug ourselves.
Come into table top and move through cat and lion focussing on the front and back of the heart.
Walk the hands forward to Anahatasana, Melting Heart Pose. Hold for 5 minutes and soften the heart with each breath. Feel the back collapse as the heart melts towards the floor. Breathe deeply noticing any tightness or blockages in the heart space - front and back.
Sit in upright in Saddle (Virasana, Hero Pose). Circle the arms, lead with the right arm into Eagle arms. Hold for 1 minute. Change to left arm leading, hold for 1 minute. Move back into tabletop and then into Sphinx Pose. The forearms are connected to the mat, shoulder distance apart and the shoulders are over the elbows. Focus on lifting from the heart, relax the hips and lower back. Hold for 2 minutes. Rest in Balasana (Child Pose) for 5 minutes.
Come back to sit with the legs extended in Caterpillar Pose (Pascimottansana). Tuck the chin and round from the shoulders. Breathe into tight spaces at the neck, shoulders or back. Hold for 4 minutes. Sit upright and bring the legs into Butterfly (Baddha Konasana). Circle the arms and twist to the right. Hold for 1 minute. Change to left side. Hold for 1 minute.
Move into Reclining Butterfly Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) which can take place over a bolster or block for a deeper opening of the heart chakra. Hold for 5 to 10 minutes. Then move to Savasana, bolster under knees for 5 minutes. Finishing in Sukhasana (Seated Pose) with 3x chants of YAM. Send out love and receive it.
Alternative modalities for healing the heart
- Rose. Rose flowers, rose essential oils or creams. Rose Spagni is a homeopathic formula that is applied topically to bring balance, protection and centring. Start from the hands or feet and work your way towards the heart.
- Practice forgiveness. This doesn't mean excusing someone for what they have done or needing to say "it's ok", it means accepting what has happened and recognising the part within yourself that needs to heal or be dealt with.
- Crystals. Rose Quartz. This beautiful crystal is so graceful and pure and holds the intention to open and heal the heart allowing love to flow.
- Self Reiki. Invite in Universal or God Consciousness into your heart by placing your hands on the chest. Draw in light through your crown as you inhale and exhale that energy into your hands.
If you know of any other modalities or therapies for the Heart Chakra, please feel invited to share your techniques with those seeking healing.
Our next post will be the teachings of the Throat Chakra.