A Beginner's Guide To The Heart Chakra (How To Balance + Activate It)
We’re continuing our series on healing and balancing the Chakras, and that now brings us to the Fourth Chakra--the Heart Chakra. In Sanskrit, the Heart Chakra is known an Anahata or “unstruck, unhurt, unbeaten."
When you think of the heart, what images and connotations come up for you? Primarily, we think of love. The heart chakra is home for the in-and-out, the exchange of the compassionate energy of relationship--love. And in this love, we are talking about self-love and love for others. This is where we find breath, unity, balance and healing from grief. And when we do the work of unlocking and instilling the secure, yet semi-permeable boundary of compassionate love, we are unstruck.
Moving from the fiery Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura) which serves as a maintenance center and is crucial to the action, movement and manifestation of life, we move into the heart space of integration. The Heart Chakra integrates the lower energies of self (below-- not less than) with the higher energies (above--not greater than) of spirit.
Anodea Judith shares that the Heart Chakra is where (in Hindu tradition) Shakti and Shiva unite in their eternal relationship of creation. Author Caroline Myss of Anatomy of the Spirit writes that the fourth chakra represents the sacrament of marriage and the “heart of the Divine--an endless pouring forth of the nurturing life-force.” That being said, one doesn’t have to be married to examine or activate the Heart Chakra. The point, as Myss explains, is that our emotional responses to our personal thoughts, attitudes and inspirations directly impact our ability to form and be in healthy relationships with others.
It is important that we differentiate love within the Heart Chakra and sexual passion in the Sacral Chakra. While the passionate Sacral Chakra is object oriented and results in creation/reproduction, the compassionate love of the Heart Chakra comes from within--it is a reflection of stillness within one’s spirit. It’s a state of empathy and connection that doesn’t require receiving, but it does require releasing judgement of self and others. The love of the Heart Chakra is a place of acceptance and joy.
The Heart Chakra symbol is two intersecting triangles which form a six-pointed star (the Star of David). One triangle pointing down--the descent of spirit into the body; the upward pointing triangle symbolizing matter rising up toward spirit. The center of the star is the heart energy and each point around it the other six chakras, all of which connect back to the central Heart Chakra.
If you want to work on restoring the health, balance or activating Anahata, then read our following intro guide for practices you can try to revitalize and engage this vital energy center and consider investing in our Heart Chakra Care Package with self-care tools to support your journey and healing of your Heart Chakra.
AFFIRMATION: I Am Love
The Fourth Chakra is all about love. The love we cultivate heals us. The act of cultivating requires work on the lower chakras before moving into the expansiveness of love. The lower chakras --the foundation of security and trust (Root Chakra), the emotions tied to our ability to creation and express (Sacral Chakra), and the courage/willpower to move into action (Solar Plexus Chakra)--ALL these steps are important to the release of grief, fear and detachment. Clearing that space is necessary for LOVE. For how we engage internally through the stories we communicate to ourselves over and over is what is reflected outwardly.
Sound vibration is important--just consider how you react to different sounds. Different songs impart feelings of joy or sadness depending on the key in which they are played. The tone in which someone speaks tells us if we are hearing good or bad news.
The Bija Mantra for the Anahata vibration is “Yam” (pronounced “yahm”--close to YUM). To get the greatest benefit from this mantra, focus on the vibration. Vocalize “Yam” at a slow and steady pace, feeling the sound coming from your throat rather than your mouth. Try sitting in a quiet place with a mala and repeating YAM with each bead until completion. Watch Tony Samara’s interview with Lilou Mace for insights into the benefits of chanting and tips for enhancing it.
GEMSTONES: Emerald, Rose Quartz, Jade, Tourmaline, Rhodochrosite, Aventurine, Amazonite
There’s a long list of great gemstones which can be used to help cleanse, activate, heal, and balance the chakra. Of course, the ideal stones for your Anahata will depend on factors like the nature of your chakra imbalance, your intentions with what you are aspiring to be or achieve, etc.
Crystals with a mystical rep for the fourth chakra include two of my favorite, Rose Quartz and Rhodochrosite (to soften harsh feelings and support self-love), Jade (to balance emotional well-being), and Green Tourmaline (to open and stimulate healing).
If you want to learn more about the energetic characteristics of crystals to determine what stones best fit the needs of your own energy center, Judy Hall’s The Crystal Bible and Philip Permutt’s The Crystal Healer are two great books to get you started.
For our Heart Chakra, we paired the mantra I AM SERENE with the mala bracelet, with New Jade for for clearing blocked energies, Green Jasper for restoring harmony, and Lava Rock to aid in grounding compassionate energy in a trustful way.
Essential Oils: Lavender, Jasmine, Yarrow, Patchouli, Marjoram, Rose, Ylang Ylang
You’re probably already familiar with essential oils and aromatherapy. Some readers may even know about the medical benefits of essential oils. But have you heard of Vibrational Aromatherapy?
Essentially, Vibrational Aromatherapy involves working with energy via vibration (or energy). Essential oils offer high-frequency vibrations which can help dissolve low-frequency vibrations or blockages. Essential oils also possess energetic properties which can further soothe (or aggravate) issues that require healing or restoration.
Determining the ideal oils for your Fourth Chakra will depend on whether you need. For example, there are essential oils that support releasing grief. To put it another way, it will depend on what you need to release to create the space in your heart of compassion. Essential oils with a natural affinity for the Heart Chakra are calming, soothing and opening. Rose, lavender, and jasmine are my favorite floral oils for bringing my awareness to compassion while ylang ylang is helpful to ground that energy and allow you to feel more present.
When you need to lift your energy, mist yourself with our Rosy Disposition Aura Mist, a hydrosol and essential oil blend of pure, organic rose., litsea cubeba, black spruce, bergamot, lemon eucalyptus, and clove to help remind you to actively choose joy. Or try a muscle-relaxing bath with our I Am Grounded Salt Soak to remind you to be present with your compassion.
HERBS: Rose, Yarrow, Lavender, Rosemary, Nettle, Mint
Herbs that support Anahata include: rose, chamomile, lemon balm, mint, motherwort, oatstraw, nettle, alfalfa, passionflower, and rosemary. Herbs that support the heart chakra are encouraging--they encourage peace, calm, clarity. They are supportive of the nervous and respiratory systems.
Our Joyful Herbal Steam is a beautiful heart-opening blend of rose, lavender, rosemary and calendula which can be used as a beautiful self-care and beauty ritual. And our Nourish Herbal Tea is a blend of cooling and tonifying blend nettle, alfalfa, peppermint and spearmint. It is caffeine free and naturally sweetened by the stevia leaf--it is AMAZING as iced tea and so very soothing as an evening tonic to wind down.
You can see the air of the Heart Chakra at work with the breath of the lungs and heart as the corresponding respiratory organs work together to perfuse oxygen through the system while giving carbon dioxide an exit in the breathing process. The thymus gland is the gland of Anahata which supports both the endocrine and immune system. Alternatively, you can see the air of an unbalanced Anahata in ailments like asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure, and respiratory viruses.
The air of Anahata can be felt through compassion, joy, serenity, and affection. However, before moving into the expansiveness of the Heart Chakra, it is important that one cultivates and activates the lower chakras: the Root--security and trust, Sacral--expression, passion, boundaries; and Solar Plexus--willpower and movement. The shadow aspect is expressed by feelings and states of grief, detachment, fear, and anger.
MUDRA: Lotus Mudra
It is said that the hands house energetic points which correspond with an element. Thus the manipulation of the hands — a Mudra — enables a person to activate certain energies. Lotus Mudra is said to help cultivate love and affection. Read Himanshu Kapoor’s Matangi Mudra post for a full breakdown and pictures. For visual learners, here’s a lovely video on the Heart Chakra by teacher and guide Syma Kharal in her talk: Heart Chakra Healing and Opening Powerful Tips. She has some beautiful mudra exercises.
YOGA POSE: Chest Opening
Poses that open up the chest and shoulders support the Anahata energy center and the release of tension, fear and grief. How often you do notice tension in one or both shoulders and tightness in your upper back? What burdens are you carrying and how does your posture "guard your heart?" Check out this short video for Anahata Chakra-specific pose and an easy flow, Heart Chakra for Beginners on the youtube channel, Yoga by Adriene. Adriene’s channel is great for beginners.
A final note on sovereignty and the Heart Chakra--this video by Tazima Davis of Practic Yoga beautifully and succinctly wraps up the importance of healing and adjusting intra-personal relationships in order to give ourselves the greatest compassion and space for love for inter-personal relationships.
That’s it for our list of the many, many ways which we can heal, balance, and activate Anahata.
If you’re feeling the pull to learn even more, be sure to check out Anodea Judith’s book Wheels Of Life: A User’s Guide To The Chakra System. She has a number of books about the chakras that are all outstanding reads, but this is a great one to start with.
Ready to focus on your Fourth Chakra? Check out our Heart Chakra Care Package to support your journey and healing of your Heart Chakra.