- Location: Heart
- System: Circulatory, respiratory, immune
- Gland: Thymus
- Associations: Compassion, love, acceptance, emotional openness, relating, giving
- Color: Green
- Element: Air
- Mantra: Yam
The heart chakra, or Anahata in its original Sanskrit name, colors our life with compassion, love, and beauty. Driven by the principles of transformation and integration, the fourth energy center is said to bridge earthly and spiritual aspirations. Explore what makes the essence of this chakra and how to unravel its powerful energy to enrich your life.
Heart Chakra Psychological Meanings
The main meanings or functions associated with the heart chakra are:
- Love for oneself and others
- Relating, relationships
- Compassion, empathy
- Forgiveness, acceptance
- Transformation, change
- Ability to grieve and reach peace
- Compassionate discernment
- Center of awareness, integration of insights
When the heart chakra is open, you may feel being deeply connected the harmonious exchange of energy with all that is around you, and the appreciation of beauty. However, when there’s a blockage in the heart chakra, you may experience difficulties in your relating with others, such as excessive jealousy, codependency, or being closed down, withdrawn.
Heart Chakra Element: Air
The fourth chakra is related to the element of air. As such, its energy is associated to the breath and its movements, as well as the idea of spaciousness and connection with all things.
Heart Chakra Color: Green
Even though most of us think about the pink color when thinking about the heart, this chakra is traditionally associated with the color green. The auric color of an active fourth chakra can also be seen as a pink or smoky pink, hence our popular representation of love as a pink heart.
Chakra Location: The Chest
The most commonly accepted location for the fourth chakra is at the center of the chest, between the breasts. It’s slightly to the left of the actual organ of the heart. That’s why it’s often referred to as the “heart chakra”.
As the fourth energy center, it’s important to remember that it is multidimensional and is energetically represented with a front going through the center of the chest, and a back going through the spine between the shoulder blades.
Because of its location, the heart chakra is associated to the cardiac system and the lungs. These organs are interdependent and rely on air and breathing to function properly. The gland associated with the heart chakra is the thymus, which is in charge of regulating the immune system.
The symbol for the heart chakra is traditionally composed of:
- A circle with twelve petals
- An downward-pointing triangle interlaced with an upward-pointing triangle, forming a six-pointed star or hexagram
The intersecting triangles represent the air element and its all-encompassing quality. They also symbolize the union of seemingly opposite principles or types of energies, such as male and female, spirit and matter. The star that they form evokes the harmonious joining of forces and highlights the function of the heart chakra as a center of integration and connection. The twelve petals are often depicted with the color red.
What does Anahata mean?
The fourth chakra is referred to as:
- Heart chakra
- Chakra 4
The most common Sanskrit name for the heart chakra is “Anahata“, which means “unstruck.”
What role the fourth chakra plays in our lives
The Heart chakra is associated with the following psychological and behavioral characteristics:
- Capacity to love
- Integration, bridge between earthly and spiritual aspirations
- Transcending personal identity and limitations of the ego
- Experience of unconditional love and connection with all
- Heart-centered discernment
- Appreciation of beauty in all things
- Experiencing deep and meaningful relationships
The fourth chakra connects the lower and upper chakras. In other words, the heart chakra acts as a center of integration of earthly matters and higher aspirations. Far from seeing these energies as separate, the experience of the heart integrates them effortlessly and harmoniously.
The Heart chakra is all about connecting and relating. The emphasis here is on love, giving and receiving, and how open we are in relationships. Love is the energy that helps transfigure emotions and experiences. It’s an essential element in any relationship, whether it’s is with others or oneself.
Love experienced through the fourth chakra is not just about romance, but about going beyond the limitations of the ego and personal preoccupations to open up more fully to compassion and acceptance of all that is, as it is. When we live from our heart and our heart energy is opened and balanced, we can see clearly and position ourselves in any situation, no matter how challenging it is, with discernment and compassion.
The heart chakra is also a center through which we experience beauty in life. Seeing the world through a balanced fourth chakra is being in a state of openness and acceptance that brings us in touch with our world and ourselves in profound and fulfilling ways.
Signs your fourth chakra may be out of balance
The heart chakra can become imbalanced as a result of life experiences that have a strong emotional charge, physical illments, or significant changes in your environment. It may manifests as a blockage in the energy flow or, on the contrary, a tendency to become overactive or have an excess of energy.
You can see the following signs of imbalance in the heart chakra :
- Being overly defensive
- Feeling closed down
- Jealousy; fear of intimacy
- Codependency, relying on other’s approval and attention, trying to please at all cost
- Always putting oneself in the role of the savior or the rescuer; or on the contrary, falling into victimization
- Excessive isolation, being recluse, antisocial
- Holding grudges, not being to forgive
At the physical level, it can manifest as:
- Respiratory ailments, such as lung infection, bronchitis
- Circulatory and heart-related issues
When the energy in your fourth chakra is blocked or hindered, you may experience what is sometimes referred to as heart chakra pain.
Simple ideas to balance the heart chakra
To get started, try out these few simple practices:
- Work with the breath to balance your energy; observe it, play with it with breathing exercises
- Cultivate your appreciation for beauty, whether it’s in nature, people or in the arts
- Practice self-care and love your body up, from a good bath with rose essential oil to yoga poses opening the heart area
- Cultivate self-compassion and acceptance, especially with regards to your emotions and body
- Engage in activities that feed your heart
- Focus on receiving if you are naturally inclined to be a giver; and on giving if you’re more inclined to receive all the time
- Reflect on old wounds inherited from family relationships and come to terms with them compassionately; practice forgiveness deep within your heart
- Express your gratitude, even if it’s in silence; you can be grateful for the presence of other people in your life or simply for good things that make your life easier and happier
The Yamas & Niyamas: Yoga’s Ethics
The Yamas and Niyamas come from the Yoga Sutras, which were written by the yogi sage, Patanjali. They offer a moral code, or ethical guidelines, to the yoga way of life. In the Sutras, Patanjali lays out an eightfold path that gives instruction for living a meaningful and purposeful life. This eightfold path is defined as the eight limbs of yoga. The Yamas and Niyamas are the first two branches of this path. They lay the foundation for your yoga practice.
The word “yama” is translated as “restraint.” The Yamas are considered the “outer” observances. They describe restraining our behaviors, our outward actions, and are generally things to avoid doing. There are five Yamas:
- Ahimsa: nonviolence
- Satya: truthfulness
- Asteya: non-stealing
- Brahmacharya: non-excess (often interpreted as celibacy)
- Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-greed
he word “niyama” is translated as “positive duty” or “observance.” The Niyamas are considered the “inner” observances. The Niyamas speak to the inner work we need to do in regard to our thoughts, attitude, and beliefs. There are also five Niyamas:
- Saucha: purity
- Santosha: contentment
- Tapas: self-discipline, training your senses
- Svadhyaya: self-study, inner exploration
- Ishvara Pranidhana: surrender
In the Sutras, Patanjali doesn’t give specific instructions on how to integrate these ethics into your life. The “how” is a personal journey for you to explore. They provide a mirror in which to study your practice and your Self. You get there through practice, contemplation, meditation, and working toward transformation. But, if you align your life with them, they will cultivate harmony in all aspects of your life. Finally, they will lead you to a place of peace, truth, abundance, contentment, love, and meaningful connection to the Divine—the essence of happiness.
If you’re interested in reading about the Yamas and Niyamas more in depth, and how you can incorporate them into your life, Deborah Adele wrote a simple, easy-to-read book called, The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice. It’s written in a friendly way that includes relatable stories that help explain the ideas.