According to the Hindu Yogic, Shakta and Buddhist Tantric traditions, Anahata or heart chakra is the fourth primary chakra located in the central channel of the spine near the heart. There are three chakras below Anahata Chakra, and three chakras above it. The chakras below constitute the stage of animality, while the chakras above are reflective of divine and or spiritual propensities. Anahata chakra is that crossing point between animality and divinity – essentially the stage of humanity.
We can draw a parallel between the chakra system with the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where the Anahata (Heart Chakra, 4th chakra) represents love, compassion etc. In Anahata chakra, we have the capacity to make a decision, to choose our path. When the mind becomes sentient, we have the capacity to discern between the “wrong” and the “right”, to choose to love and harmonize with the help of this chakra.
Table of Contents
- The Science Behind Anahata Chakra
- The Philosophy Behind Anahata Chakra
- Anahata Chakra And The “Air” Element
- Vritties (Propensities) of the Anahata Chakra
- How to Strengthen the Anahata Chakra
The Science Behind Anahata Chakra
On the physical level, the Anahata chakra is connected with the thymus gland and has an effect on the functioning of our heart and lungs. Hence, a healthy functioning Anahata Chakra is crucial for our immune system and our overall state of health and well-being. The blood cells in thymus gland are trained to have the ability to discriminate between right and wrong- they find many pathogens within the body and can distinguish about one million pathogens, microbes, viruses, and inner anomalies, inner troubles, such as cancer cells. On the one hand, there is a positive selection wherein cells that have not learned to find and destroy harmful cells are destroyed. On the other hand, cells have to show the ability to see their own organs, their own body, and their own immune system, and not attack the good ones. If they didn’t learn that, they would also be destroyed. Similarly, our conscience also works to understand both the right and the wrong.
Anahata chakra exercises a great amount of influence on our immune system. Some doctors believe that 90% of our diseases are mental, or psychosomatic diseases. If we truly believe we are sick or going to be sick it is likely to happen. The reverse is also true.
For instance, there was a patient with lymphosarcoma or cancer of lymphatic nodes. Doctors thought he won’t survive more than a few days. Initially, when he was given a placebo or experimental medicine called Krebiozen his health improved miraculously as he believed it will cure him. After 4 months he read an article on how useless the medicine was, which shook his faith and the tumours reappeared. Following that he died.
There was another patient having multiple personality disorder wherein one personality was diabetic and all the tests would show the high blood sugar but the moment he would switch back to his healthy personality, all the blood sugar, all the parameters, would normalize. Both the examples show the unquestionable link between the mind and the body where the mind cures the body.
Hence, we must attempt to understand the mind and change it. People in cancer support groups have a much higher chance of survival and cure, in comparison to those who do not join any support group due to the influence of mind and emotions.
An emerging field- Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), studies connections between the nervous system, endocrine system and the mind, which makes the chakra system a highly relevant source of information despite its somewhat esoteric nature. For example, thymus gland, shrinks with age and eventually disappears, impacting our body’s immune system. Similarly, it’s no surprise having greater love and self-acceptance serves as an excellent antidote for stress and our immunity.
The Philosophy Behind Anahata Chakra
There are three forces manifested within our bodies: tama guna – passive principle, raja guna – dynamic principle, and sattvo guna – sentient principle, where one exists in a state of balance or harmony. These forces are creative forces of nature.
- Tamaguna the passive principle works in the three lower chakras from the point of Muladhara to Manipura.
- Rajaguna dynamic principle works between the Manipura and Anahata chakra.
- Sattvo guna sentient principle works from Anahata chakra up to Ajna chakra.
When the mind becomes sentient it becomes self-aware. It is capable of making its own choices. Once this stage is reached, the ability of free choice is acquired. Anahata chakra helps us to decide whether to move further, along the path of evolution or turn back and degenerate to the stage of animality. That is why this centre becomes the most essential in spirituality. Humanity becomes Divinity – by progressing further upwards from Anahata chakra, we enter the domain of spirituality. Spirituality, in the heart chakra, is in a very rudimentary stage.
The vrittis of Anahata chakra like in the Manipura chakra, Svadhisthana chakra, and Muladhara chakra are primitive mental expressions and most of the time they also act as negative forces in our lives. The chakras above- Vishuddha and Ajna chakra, contain very advanced expressions of the mind and they are positive forces. But in the Anahata chakra, the vrittis are undecided, whether to be positive or to be negative. If the mind is goaded towards spirituality, the expressions of Anahata chakra are valuable but if the mind moves towards physicality, to the mundanity, those very emotions become very mundane and finally they lead to degeneration. For instance, one could become overly attached and direct all of one’s love to an abusive partner, leading to one’s degeneration. While the love which is directed towards all living entities i.e. universal love could help us progress spiritually. Hence, the health of Anahata chakra is extremely important.
Anahata Chakra And The “Air” Element
“Anahata” – refers to “Anahata” nada which is a mystical experience of subtle flute like sound. Anahata controls the air element of the body. “Air” element means subtle energy that works within the body, it is unseen, and it is performing a number of vital functions such as function of breathing, function of hunger, it puts us to sleep from wakefulness, and so on. There are 10 vital airs with different functions- Praṇa, Apana, Samana, Vyana, Udana, Naga, Kurma, Krkara, Devadatta, Dhanainjaya. The collective name of all those 10 vital energies is called Pranaha. It exercises great amount of influence on the mind. If the pranaha is restless, irregular, the mind becomes restless. The mind loses all its higher capabilities. The mind cannot think, cannot concentrate, cannot memorize, cannot remember, and then intuition also becomes absent. When it becomes calm, then the mind becomes sharp.
The animal symbolism of Anahata chakra is antelope or deer with the horns. It is a beautiful, nice, gentle animal with no barbarism in it but it is also very cautious, it moves and doesn’t stay at one place like wind. Similarly, Anahata chakra is constantly taking complex decisions about our actions and thoughts. The mood of Anahata chakra changes all the time. It is very mobile, it is trying to adjust with the changing environment, and trying to find the proper path.
Vritties (Propensities) of the Anahata Chakra
Anahata on the mental level contains 12 propensities including both positive and negative. If these propensities are connected with spirituality, they become positive, and if they are moving towards physicality, they become negative. William Enckhausen defines half of these vrittis as spiritual ignorances and half as spiritual developments. “Half the 12 vrittis of the Anahata are ‘positive’, growth-promoting vrttis and the other half are ‘negative’ or at most neutral, self-justifying defence tendencies that perpetuate the ego’s limited boundaries instead of expanding and refining them. There is still a limited and bounded sense of self, but with the potential to discriminate between vice and virtue. There is also still the boundary of self and not-self to be overcome, although not as marked as in the Manipura and Svadhistana. Harmony, balance, and proportion are key elements in this fulcrum that is the Anahata to help determine what is growth-promoting and virtuous (self, or good for the self) and what is vice, or inappropriate for spiritual self-growth (not-self).” The vrittis that are “negative” for spiritual growth may still be essential for holding boundaries and protecting us in the material realm, ensuring that our relationship with self is in balance with a relationship with the others – so that we do not give to the point of exhaustion nor do we become self-absorbed and conceited. This is also why, the heart chakra is considered to represent the stage of humanity and not divinity unlike the throat chakra, ajna and sahasrara chakra.
If the propensities of the mind are tuned into the higher centres and get inspiration and momentum from the higher energy then they become good. If they are getting momentum from the lower energies, lower vrittis, and lower chakras, they become negative. For instance, heart-broken people often experience pain in the heart, also called the “Broken Heart Syndrome”.
These propensities (vritti) of the mind are:
Viveka is the ability to discriminate between good and evil, right and wrong, physical and spiritual, temporal and eternal. Another name for that ability is conscience or dharma in yoga. This ability is placed in Anahata chakra. If you are able to hear your conscience very strongly, then all other vrittis working together with that ability move towards spirituality and they become positive, mixed with the subtle intellect and subtle intuition, it becomes determination, and ability to make an effort to evolve, to complete yourself. However, if it is goaded to physicality, mundanity, it becomes stubbornness and stupidity.
To develop viveka one must follow moral principles of yoga- Yama and Niyama. These principles represent that subtle equilibrium that should be practiced and applied to life. First you start to accept the principles of morality. Once you verify it in your heart and start following them, slowly you start moving towards morality. Here comes the importance of a Guru as you need someone to guide you to understand your heart.
Cesta is the ability to make an effort, to endeavour. The difference between the animal mind and the human mind is that the animal mind is reactive. It moves only by the pressure of external circumstances and it doesn’t have its own will to move. On the other hand, the human mind, according to American psychologist Stephen Covey, is reactive and proactive. In its proactive sense, it means that the mind will move on its own. It will decide, “it is my own decision, that’s why I am doing this. I am doing this not because of you. I am doing this because I believe this has to be done”. Here comes the main difference between negative thinking and positive thinking. In negative thinking, you blame others for your failures and are completely dependent on the environment. But at the level of human psychology, you are shaping your own environment. This particular human quality is strong when the Anahata chakra is strong. That is why we say, ‘He has a lion’s heart’ because only with the heart we are able to endeavour, to fight, struggle, and finally succeed.
“Asha” means hope which gives us strength. Without hope, we have no strength to go on with our lives. The success of every endeavour, and ability to make an effort depends on hope. For instance, “I am going to build this house, I am going to get this education. I am going to marry that person. I am going to practice and then finally achieve liberation, etc.” These are the drives, the motivations that are pushing us to move ahead but the hope is often misguided. For example, in case where you need to wake up and struggle, but you hope everything is going to be okay, the hope is connected with the “vritti” (propensity) of lying which is in Anahata chakra. If the hope is linked with physicality, mundanity, it always comes with a worry because when we place our hope on something which is not eternal, our intuitions tell us that it is not working makes us worried.
“Chinta” means Worry. The expression of worry crawls in when we think, we create a picture and try to calculate all the different options. If the hope is working with the vritti of Viveka, the voice of the heart will become faith. Faith is inner knowledge wherein you just know – this is the right thing even if everybody else may convince you otherwise. All the great achievements happened through faith, by visionaries, and by dreamers. For instance, Steve Jobs while addressing the Stanford students said, “Don’t be afraid of anything. Do what your heart says”. When doing what your heart says you may not understand why, but if you connect the dots, you will see your path and find a purpose in life. For instance, Martin Luther King, in his famous speech said: “I have a dream.”- with that power of the heart you inspire people, bring the people together, goad the people on the path of their freedom, their progress.
It is about love with a feeling of belonging. The mind grows in magnitude and unfolds. First, it is encapsulated in a tiny shell, and then it unfolds and spreads. In Svadhisthana chakra there is no interaction with the world, there is just you enclosed in a shell. You come out of your shell only for pleasure and don’t establish any link with the world. In Manipura chakra, you come out, and you make a bond with the object of enjoyment. You expand a bit but you are still dependent on those objects. In Anahata chakra you become self-contained and happy from the inside. you don’t want to receive from the world but you want to give. This feeling of giving is mamata. When you are giving, when you are serving, you start to feel that affection and oneness with the world.
Mamata is developed through the feeling of service. When you start to serve, you start to love. One can know if the person is developing spiritually or not by the periphery of his love. If one’s heart can encompass the entire creation with love, then he is spiritual. We speak many times about ‘love’, but we don’t actually know what is love. Real love means giving and is developed through service.
It means depression and it originates in the artificiality of your life. You are destined to become great, to attain self-realization, but instead, you chose to be in your comfort zone. Depression is very useful because it gives us a signal. Of course, depression has many factors, but the main factor is not knowing the path of your heart. For instance, once an old lady who was suffering from depression was invited to feed the homeless. It made her feel better. Serving others with your heart overcomes the negative vritti of Anahata chakra. Another way to overcome depression is through exercises, that will activate the Anahata chakra such as Kaosiki dance, running, Tandava dance, yogic dances and certain asanas.
Severe depression over a long time is so painful that it can even kill you. It can open the doors for all kinds of diseases because the thymus gland becomes depressed. Doctor Lawrence LeShan examined the stories of 300 patients suffering from leukaemia, the cancer of the blood. He found that these people suffered depression in childhood, but later on they found something meaningful in life that developed their faith. But with the time that precious thing was also lost, be it a job, career, wife, property, etc. This loss shook them so much that later within a few years they developed cancer.
It means repentance. If you do something wrong which later on you start repenting tortures the heart. In yoga as well as in Christianity, people are encouraged to confess their wrongdoing. Repentance comes, when we have a conscience, when we hear the conscience, but we do not follow the conscience. Anutapa directs us to the right path but if we neglect it, it can further develop diseases within us.
There are some more egoistic vrittis which are discussed as follows.
It means to be in love with yourself. Self-love can be positive for us because when we try to please others and be good to them we may actually become good beings as the public praise can give us strength to more efforts. But on the contrary, if one is criticised one’s heart gets affected. Anahata chakra is connected with the hands, and also with the sense of touch. If the Anahata chakra overflows with power, hands will go up, whereas powerlessness in Anahata chakra is reflected in falling hands. Vanity helps us to socialize but it also makes us dependent on the environment for praise and approval. We become imprisoned in our own selves. This is why mystics and spiritual aspirants try to avoid this feeling and surrender themselves to the Divine Consciousness. The feeling that I am nothing but the instrument of divinity is the cure for this vritti. Dhambha may overgrow and turn into nadha vritti, which is called ahamkara.
It means Ego- the feeling of righteousness. It can be negative where you do not give enough respect to someone else’s views but can also be sometimes positive as when you understand and know something for sure you have to arrive at certain convictions and have faith. That can also be considered ego but is saturated with spirituality. If you have no ego then it may seem that you do not have conviction in yourself but it must be flexible at the same time. And if in case you find that you may be wrong you must also be ready to renounce your mistakes and correct the path.
10. Lohata or Avarice
There is a difference between need and greed. Alexander the Great said, ‘This Universe has so many worlds, and I haven’t conquered yet even one.’ Expansion, when it’s directed to physicality becomes greed. The feeling of having it all is rather negative vritti. But like others, it may be inspiring too. If it is saturated with spirituality, it becomes vistara, the thirst for infinity. “I want to become infinite. I want to sense the taste of infinity. Nothing less than infinity will satisfy me.”
It is an extremely negative expression and you cannot agree with anybody. Even if someone is right you will just argue you simply cannot agree. It spoils relationships because it originates thoughts like ‘I just cannot accept that you are right. I have to be right.” It comes from the ego and is extreme. It may also be less extreme where it may act more positive as an expression of the ability to share- you can express your inner thought, and feeling.
It is a beautiful feeling to be understood when you can share your inner feelings and thoughts. This kind of talk is called ‘Satsanga’ – a spiritual company. When you agree upon something and you move together in a positive direction, that is good for your spiritual path. In the middle of all the arguments, negative and positive, one may talk without the awareness where one may start to boast, expressing the vritti of vanity through that excess talk. This makes you a very boring person who may not be heard or liked by others. By becoming spiritual you get rid of that argumentativeness and excess talk.
The final vritti is called kapatata or hypocrisy or an ability to lie. Hypocrisy is to show the world your fake self. You may pretend to be someone you simply are not. You lie to the world and to yourself. The supreme being is infinite truth and so, the more you lie, the more you become far away from that truth and become weak. The positive to this can be seen in situations where telling the truth can hurt someone. This vritti, when it is connected with viveka, with discrimination, with conscience, it becomes satya. But if it is connected with ego, it becomes a lie, the worst of the worst vrittis.
How to Strengthen the Anahata Chakra
1. Practicing Forgiveness – Forgiveness for the self, for others, and for the universal consciousness is perhaps the best way to heal the heart chakra. Forgiveness helps you rid any burden on yourself and your heart.
2. Acts of Service – Serving others without thoughts or expectations is one of the most effective ways of building compassion in our hearts.
3. Hugging and Cuddling – This helps boost “Oxytocin”, a love hormone, that has a connection with the heart chakra. It empowers your heart.
4. Go out in Nature – As green is the colour of the heart chakra, going out in nature will help your open your heart to love.
5. Allow yourself to feel your emotions more freely, this will help the heart and sacral chakra and improve intimacy in relationships.
6. Allow yourself to receive love to ensure a free exchange of love. People who are chronic “givers” often struggle with receiving love but in doing so unknowingly they are denying others the gift of giving love. Being open to receiving love can bring more harmony and balance into a relationship.
7. Stay Playful – Laugh, smile and stay playful in order to strengthen the heart chakra.
8. Use herbs– Herbs such as rose, astragalus, holy basil, hawthorn, nettle, hops, and angelica open and clear the heart chakra.
9. Yoga Asanas– Asanas are an efficient way to develop Anahata chakra. Asanas such as Cobra or Bhujangasana, Halasana, Shivasana, Ardhashivasana, Tejasasana, Matsyendrasana, Bhavasana, Utkata Paschimottanasana, Karmasana, Padahastasana, Dhanurasana, Chakrasana.
Vayavi mudra is also good for activating the Chakra. For this, you are sitting imagining that while you are breathing in there is a prana the vital force of the Cosmos entering your Anahata chakra and while you are breathing out you are letting it go, and it is merging with an infinite ocean of prana.
10. Physical exercises – All kinds of cardio exercises like running, going into the nature like mountains, etc. are very good for Anahata chakra. Also, full yogic breathing when you inhale lots of prana will immediately restore Anahata chakra. Following Yama and Niyama, moral principles of yoga are also very important as is meditation. “Tandava” dance is good for males for strengthening this chakra.
11. Positive Affirmation – Affirmations such as “I love myself unconditionally”, “Love freely flows through me”, “I love and forgive others”, and “I open myself to love” can be useful.
12. Mantra – Chanting mantras (“Yam”) is good for Vishuddha chakra as well as for Anahata chakra. Talking too much will empty Anahata chakra, so, maintaining maunavrata – the practice of silence is also good. You can also avoid talking especially early morning.
13. Deep Breathing – “Pranayama” or breathing exercises like “alternate nostril breathing”, slow deep breaths can be very helpful.
14. Meditation– Visualising a green light in the centre of our chest where our heart is located can improve the health of this chakra. “Ho’oponopono” meditation, “Loving Kindness Meditation”, and “Compassion” Meditation can also be highly effective.
15. Prayer – The simple act of saying a heartfelt prayer, regardless of language, or religion, can be very effective as well.
16. Gratitude Journal – Taking out time for gratitude for the simplest of things in life can help open up our hearts.
17. Consuming certain foods like green leafy vegetables and green fruits can improve the health of this chakra.
18. Crystals such as jade, malachite, and rose quartz can help with the heart chakra.
19. Aromatherapy – Essential oils such as rose, cinnamon, jasmine, marjoram sweet, geranium, bergamot, tangerine etc., can also be helpful.
20. Watch films and shows that will help you release your emotional energy. Often when our heart chakra is closed, it means that we are repressing a lot of emotions. Crying helps release emotions and helps open up the heart to newer experiences.
21. Shadow Work –Your shadow self is the part of you where all of your rejected and repressed personality traits, thoughts, feelings, habits, and socially unacceptable ego parts are stored. When you start to access these locked away parts of yourself and embrace them, your heart immediately opens a little more, because that’s when you are able to unconditionally accept yourself.
22. Practice some “Letting Go” Rituals – This can especially help after a painful heartbreak and ease the burden on our hearts and allow us to feel better.