Anahata is a Sanskrit word that translates as "Unstruck Sound", so sound that is made without any two things striking, meaning the sound of the heart, which throbs, beats or vibrates with the very pulse of life.
This Chakra is symbolic of unconditional love, compassion and joy and becoming love itself. I also like to see this Chakra as being not just love that we give to others – romantic love, love for our family and friends, and kindness and compassion in general to other beings - but also being open to receive love which for some can be a harder thing to do...it can feel more comfortable at times to just keep giving!
This Chakra is said to be the bridge between the lower, human Chakras – Muladhara (earth, basic needs and being rooted), Swadhistana (water, fertile creativity, sexual and self expression), and Manipura (“Fire in the belly”, outward energy, confidence, career); and the higher Chakras of spirituality and intuition which we will come to over the next few weeks.
The Chakra point is said to be located at the heart centre (rather than the actual location of the heart to the left), the colour is Green and the Bija Mantra is “YAM”. The element is air which like love, is within and all around us.
The air element can be observed as having a connection to the air mechanism connected to the heart – the lungs. So, interestingly, underactive heart Chakra is sometimes linked to breathing problems such as Asthma. But for now, lets focus more on the emotional connections:
An underactive heart Chakra can manifest as loneliness, shyness, being overly critical towards yourself and others, holding grudges, inability to give or receive freely, suspicion and fear, especially in friendships and romantic relationships.
An overactive heart Chakra can present itself as loving indiscriminately, lack of proper boundaries in friendships and intimate relationships, tolerating too much from others, and co-dependency.
If your Anahata is opened and balanced, you will naturally feel love and compassion for others and allow people to be who they are, instead of attempting to mould them to your expectations. A person with an open Heart Chakra is altruistic and respects others. People around them will notice an easy going peace about the person, no matter what else may be going on in the room.
We can cultivate a heart centred quality of awareness in all of our asanas, but especially through practicing backbends, which stimulate this heart opening. Physically, back bends strengthen the back, and are stimulating so can sometimes give you a strong “rush” afterwards and be quite freeing. However, some people find that backbends make them uncomfortable emotionally so shy away from the feelings that backbends can trigger.
From a physical perspective, my experience personally and through teaching is that if you are tight in the back of the body – yes I’m talking about you pesky hamstrings – you generally find back-bending somewhat easy, and vice versa.
Depending on the type of backbend, they can be very strong so you need to go easy, especially if you have any weakness or sensitivity in the lower back. However, with continued, controlled practice they will help to build strength.
1) Bridge pose - Setu Bandhasana. A good, basic backbend that most people can manage and one day might lead to number 3...
2) Bow pose - Dhanusrasana. This is strong, but if you are able to get into it without straining your back (or your breath...) it feels pretty damn amazing!
3) Upward Facing Bow - Urdhva Dhanurasana. This is clearly not for the faint "hearted" but if you have the physical strength and the flexibility in the back and the shoulders, this will truly make you feel alive! If not, just stick with number 1!
Next we arrive at the Throat Chakra – using our voice to express the element of sound, through chanting and throat opening poses.