The fourth chakra, Anahata Chakra, is the heart chakra, and unites the lower and higher chakras. It is our centre of love, compassion and joy. Since it's located in the heart centre, the beneficial yoga poses are those opening the chest, the heart space and shoulders. To balance your Anahata chakra, enjoy these following heart-opening yoga poses.
1. Cat / Cow pose
To warm up the muscles in the chest and upper back, the cat / cow movement is a good place to start. When our intention is to open up the heart, we also need to focus on the shoulders and upper back muscles to make sure they are released and supportive of opening up the chest.
Start by coming on your hands and knees. Keep your shoulders above your wrists, and hips above your knees. On an inhale start lifting your head and tailbone towards the ceiling. On an exhale, arch your back, press through the shoulder blades and drop your head. Focus on bringing the shoulder blades as close together as possible on the inhale, and as far away from each other as possible on the exhale.
Repeat for 6 rounds, before moving on to the next pose.
2. Anahatasana - Melting heart
This Yin yoga pose is great for opening the shoulders and softening the heart. It also creates a mild back-bend for the upper back.
Begin on your hands and knees. Start walking your hands forward, and allow your chest to drop to the floor. Your hips should be above your knees, and hands shoulder width apart. Stay for 2-3 minutes, and come out to a Child's pose for a mild counter pose.
If you have any issues with your neck, avoid this pose. If you feel any tingling in your arms, adjust the arms and bring them further apart. Tingling could be a sign of a compressed nerve, which can damage the nerve if left longer time. You can also rest your chest on a block to make the pose more gentle.
3. Bhujangasana - Cobra pose
This pose strengthens the entire shoulder area, and provides an opening for the chest.
To start the pose, lie on your stomach and place your feet hip width apart, the tops of your feet pressing against the floor. Place your hands underneath your shoulders, and draw your pubic bone towards the floor to stabilize your lower back. With an inhale, start lifting your chest off the floor until you feel you cannot go higher without compromising the steadiness of the pose. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Take two long and steady breaths here, and with the following exhale lower yourself back onto the ground.
Avoid this pose if you are pregnant or have undergone abdominal surgery. If you have problems with your wrists, stay on your elbows (Sphinx pose) and elevate the elbows with a block to get a deeper back bend.
4. Ustrasana - Camel pose
Powerful heart opening pose, the Camel pose is a great counter pose for modern life, where we tend to hunch forward. If we have been hurt in life, we tend to protect the heart area by closing the chest and rounding the upper body.
Start with kneeling on the floor, legs hip width apart. Press down on your shins and feet, and place your hands on the back of your hips, fingers pointing down. As you inhale, lift up your heart, draw your shoulder blades together and arch your upper back. When you feel ready, place your hands one at a time on your heels. Make sure your hips remain above your knees. Drop your head gently if this feels comfortable for your neck. Stay for 3 long and steady breaths. Come out slowly by placing your hands back on your hips. Take a few moments in Child's pose again as counter pose.
Leave your hands on your lower back for a more gentle back bend. You can also tuck your toes under your feet to elevate your heels, making the pose more accessible. If you suffer from lower back or neck injury, avoid the pose.
5. Setu Banshasana - Bridge pose
The bridge pose builds lower body strength at the same time as it opens the chest.
To start, lie on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet close to your hips, your hands next to you palms facing down. While exhaling begin lifting the hips up, starting from the tailbone and slowly rolling the spine off the floor. Press your legs against the floor and lift up your hips. Press your shoulder blades against your spine, and if you feel comfortable, place your hands underneath your back, interlacing the fingers while the shoulder blades are close together. Stay for 2-3 long, steady breaths, release your hands and slowly lower your hips back onto the ground.
If you have neck injury, avoid this pose. For additional support, you can also place a block or a bolster under your sacrum.
While opening your chest with these poses, focus on energetically opening your heart to love and compassion. Remind yourself
"I am open to love. I feel compassion and connection to other beings. I am open to receive love."
Feature image credit: Ashley