The heart chakra, or anahata chakra, is one of the seven major chakras—energy centers that run up the central axis of the body. Chakras are not physical structures, but their locations are typically given in reference to corresponding areas of the body, from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. The heart chakra is fourth from the base of the spine, as well as fourth from the crown of the head, making it central to the seven major chakras. Its location is said to correspond to the chest cavity where the heart itself resides.
The heart chakra is associated with love, compassion, and self-acceptance. As the center point of the seven chakras, this energy center is said to be where the physical and spiritual meet. in Sanskrit, the word anahata means “unstruck,” and when this chakra is properly “aligned,” past hurts are said to no longer harm us. When balanced, we are filled with love, compassion, and self-acceptance. When imbalanced, we can be angry, jealous, sad, and untrusting.
The following is a gentle 60-minute Yin Yoga sequence designed to draw awareness to this chakra. Ideally, by drawing attention there, this practice will allow you to become aware of the energy that flows through this space so that you can connect with your heart chakra.
You will need two to three blocks, a bolster, and a blanket or a towel.
Loving-Kindness Meditation and Green Color Visualization
Find a comfortable seat—whatever that may be for you. Elongate your spine and close your eyes. Relax your body: Allow your legs to become heavy, soften your shoulders away from your ears, and release any tension you may be holding in your jaw. Tune in to your breath and deepen it.
Visualize the color green, which is the color of anahata chakra. This can be done by picturing something that is iconically green (grass or an apple, for example), or simply by seeing the color itself in your mind’s eye.
Bring your attention to your heart center. Think of someone you love deeply. Send all your loving-kindness to this one person. Repeat the mantra, “May you live with ease, may you be happy, may you be free from pain,” as if speaking to this person. Next, think of someone toward whom you have neutral feelings. Focus on them, sending all of your loving-kindness to this person while repeating the same mantra, focusing on them. Then, think of someone with whom you struggle. Repeat the mantra and send that person all of your loving-kindness. Then think of yourself. Repeat the mantra and send all of your loving-kindness to yourself. Finally, think of all living beings. Repeat the mantra as you send loving-kindness to all beings everywhere.
Sit with these feelings for a few moments.
Anahatasana (Melting Heart Pose) Over Blocks
Make your way from your seat onto hands and knees. Align your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Then, place your hands on blocks on their medium setting (with the blocks lengthwise and parallel to the sides of your mat). Release your elbows onto the blocks and walk them forward until they’re at the very front edge of the blocks. Bring your palms to touch in a prayer position.
Keep your hips aligned over your knees. You’ll need to walk your knees back as you soften your chest toward the floor. Deepen the bend of your elbows and draw your thumbs toward the nape of your neck, pointing your fingers toward the back of your mat. Rest your forehead on another block, a blanket, or the floor. Soften the space between your shoulder blades and surrender into this release. Keep your awareness on your heart center as you hold this position for three minutes.
Heart Meridian Subscapularis Release
From this variation of anahatasana, bring your prayer hands back overhead, walk your elbows back, and press your forearms firmly into the blocks. Engage your core to draw yourself back up to hands and knees. Move all but one block off to the side.
Place the one block in the top quarter of your mat on its medium setting, this time horizontal and parallel to the short edge of your mat. Place a blanket or towel over the block. Make your way onto your left side, with your right leg stacked over the left and knees slightly bent. Place your left elbow on your mat just past the block. Place your right hand or fingertips on the floor in front of your heart, and soften the left side of your upper rib cage onto the block. Rest your head in your left hand.
Mindfully move over the block, pressing different areas below your armpit into the block. Stop when you find a “sweet spot” that feels like a (potentially intense!) release. This is a trigger point of the subscapularis muscle of the rotator cuff. Resting your body weight over the block can facilitate a myofascial release of this muscle. Soften into this space and surrender your weight into the block.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this “sweet spot” is said to be a point on the meridian, or pathway, to the heart organ. Relax here for five minutes, breathing into all the sensations and emotions that arise. Then, using your right hand, gently press the floor away from you so that you lift off the block, roll over, and repeat on the right side.
Note: This posture is contraindicated for any injuries to the subscapularis. Err on the side of caution and avoid this one if you’ve experienced any injuries to any part of the rotator cuff, as it may be a bit too close for comfort.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Move your block to the side of your mat and relax into a wide-legged child’s pose for two minutes, softening the space behind your heart center.
Draw your knees toward each other and slowly roll up to sit on your heels. Scoot forward to the top quarter of your mat. Place two blocks behind you—one block closer to you on its lowest height, and the other farther away from you on its tallest or medium height. Position your bolster lengthwise on top of your blocks so that the end of the bolster touches your sacrum as you kneel in front of it. You may need to play around with the placement of your blocks in order to find the best support system for your bolster.
Lift your seat off your heels, bring your big toes together, and take your knees mat-width apart. Release your seat back to your heels and elongate your spine. Lean back and place your hands on the mat, slowly walking them back as you lay your spine onto the bolster. You can rest your hands by your sides, open your arms into a T, or stretch them overhead (taking hold of the opposite elbows with your hands). Choose whichever variation feels best for you and remain in the pose for five minutes.
If need be, you can decrease the intensity by raising the height of your blocks, creating the degree of slope that works best for you.
Supported Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
From saddle, use your hands to press the floor away from you, and come to rest on your sit bones with legs extended. Move your bolster off to the side. Place both blocks on their medium or lowest setting horizontal to the short edge of your mat—one at the very back edge of your mat, and the other about a foot and a half away from the back of the mat.
Bend your knees, and place your feet flat on the floor about hip-distance apart. Let your knees fall in toward each other, creating an internal rotation of your femur (thigh) bones (to allow for more space in your sacrum and lower back).
Lengthen your spine and place your hands behind you. Slowly walk your hands toward the back of your mat, allowing the first block to support your back just below the tips of your shoulder blades, and the second block to support the back of your skull. Make sure that your thoracic spine (not your lower back) is supported by the first block, sending your heart center toward the sky, and that the back of your head (not your neck) is supported by the second block. You may need to readjust the spacing of your blocks to allow this to happen.
Again, you have options for your arms. You can rest your hands by your sides, open your arms into a T, or stretch them overhead (clasping opposite elbows with your hands). You can leave your legs as they are or stretch them out. Choose whichever variations feel best for you and breathe deeply here for five minutes.
If you need to decrease the intensity, you can lower the height of your blocks or place a rolled-up blanket (instead of a block) under your heart.
Supported Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
Release your arms by your sides (if they’re not already there). Press into your forearms to lift your head and chest off the blocks. Move the blocks off to the side and lower your back onto the floor.
If you’ve straightened your legs, bend them again and place your feet hip-distance apart on the floor. Make sure you have a block within reach. Elongate your neck and press your sitting bones ever so slightly into the floor to create a gentle curve in your lower back. Press down evenly into your shoulders and your feet and lift your hips off the floor. Place your block (on any setting you’d like) directly under your sacrum (i.e., the fused triangular bones between your lower back and tailbone). Allow the weight of your pelvis to rest on the block, and soften into your heart center as it very subtly lifts skyward.
You can stay as you are or straighten your legs to find more stretch in your hip flexors. However, if this causes pressure or pain in your lower back, keep your knees bent. Wherever you choose to be, hold for five minutes.
If your legs are straight, bend your knees and place your feet onto the floor. Press equally into your shoulders and your feet to lift your hips off your block and move the block off to the side. Slowly lower your spine to the floor one vertebra at a time—releasing first your upper, then middle, and then lower back to the mat.
As a counterpose to the previous backbends, walk your feet apart as wide as your mat. Release your knees to one side and then to the other, moving your legs for one minute as if they are windshield wipers. You can move as slowly or as quickly as you’d like.
Release your legs to one side and roll over onto your belly. Walk your feet mat-width apart and point your toes straight behind you. Place your forearms on the mat with your elbows either under your shoulders or slightly forward of them. Broaden your chest and draw your shoulder blades toward each other. Reach your heart center forward. Relax your lower body completely.
You can either stay as you are in sphinx pose, or walk your hands out about as wide as your mat and externally rotate your arms very slightly so that your fingers point toward the corners of your mat. Lift your forearms and press your hands into the floor to create a deeper backbend. Your hands can be as close to you or as far away from you as you’d like (Note: The closer they are, the more compression you will create in your lower back). Choose the backbend that feels appropriate for you and hold for two minutes.
Release back onto your belly and roll over onto your back. Pause here for a minute in savasana, allowing your spinal column to decompress.
If you have tight hamstrings, you may wish to move to a wall, lying down with your head about one to two feet away from the wall. Then, bring your legs together and release your arms by your sides with palms down. Activate your core to lift your hips and swing your legs up and overhead. Allow your back to round as you release your feet either onto the floor or to the wall behind you. You can support your lower back with your hands or keep your arms extended on the ground. If your feet are on the wall, you may wish to walk them down slowly to find a deeper forward fold.
Breathe here for three minutes. This is a counterpose for all the heart openers you’ve done—allowing your heart to metaphorically rest in an inversion, in which your head is below your heart.
Slowly come out of snail. Bend your knees and hug them into your chest, holding onto the pinky-toe side of each foot with your hands. If your feet are out of reach, you can clasp your ankles or hold onto the backs of your thighs. Open your knees wide and draw them toward your armpits. Keeping your knees deeply bent, flex your feet so that the soles of your feet face the sky, gently tugging on them with your hands. Lengthen your entire spine, reaching your sitting bones toward the floor.
If it feels good, you can gently sway your hips from side to side. Hold here for three minutes.
Release and extend your legs, taking them as wide as your mat. Allow your legs to relax and rotate outward naturally. Release your arms by your sides with your palms facing up as a symbol of surrender. Relax the weight of your body into the mat. Close your eyes and relax your mind as you release into final resting pose for 10 minutes.
To come out of savasana, begin to deepen your breath, wiggle your fingers and toes, and hug your knees into your chest. Roll over to one side and use your hands to gently press the floor away as you come up to a comfortable seated position (perhaps returning to the position you took at the beginning of your practice).
Notice any changes (physical, emotional, or both) that may have taken place in the past hour. Bring your palms to meet at your heart and leave the base of your palms, your thumbs, and your pinky fingers pressing together as you fan the rest of your fingers out and away from each other, creating the shape of a lotus flower with your hands. Visualize a glowing ball of green light filling this energetic seal with love.
Acknowledge the time you’ve spent honoring yourself during this practice. Breathe into this space of love and self-acceptance as you take a deep inhale with humility. Exhale as you bow forward with deep gratitude.