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THE HEART CHAKRA
(Part 5 of a free online chakra course for beginners)
Greetings and welcome to Part 5 of this free online Chakra Course for Beginners. If you have not read the introductory post, you can find it here. The introductory post helps to familiarize the reader with new terminology and explain concepts and terminology that will be used and addressed throughout the series. Each post introduces new vocabulary, concepts and ideas. For that reason, if you have not read any of the posts prior to this one, I highly recommend it - especially if you are someone who is wishing to learn more about chakras and how to work with these powerful energy centers.
Though I do call this a chakra course for beginners, I think most people (who are interested in the subject) can find something of value in this series. Because we have already established Sanskrit words, terms and concepts in the previous four parts, I will not elaborate on any vocabulary used in Parts 1 - 4. I will however, include a vocabulary section at the bottom with links to the posts (in this series) in which all italicized vocabulary appears. Words will only be italicized the first time they are mentioned and not thereafter. New vocabulary will be in bold italics - like this, and will be defined for the reader.
The Temple of the Flame of Life
The heart is where the love and light of our inner self resides, for this reason it is recognized as “The Temple of the Flame of Life”. Our heart gives us access to the most holy within us in an attitude of gratitude, awe and wonder. “It is symbolic of discovering the Divine within, and the mysteries and awesome powers of the mind. The inner courtyard then, represents the manifestation of psychic energy.” (Kundalini Yoga for the West, by Swami Sivananda Radha)
Like love, the heart chakra is also infinite. “When our heart opens to divine love, our love becomes infinite. Self-Realisation, also known as God-Realisation, involves the recognition of our own Self, the Ātmā. “In the centre of the body there is a little shrine surrounded by a wall with eleven doors.”
“Hidden within the shrine a Lotus blossoms, and within this there is a tiny, little room.”What does this tiny room in the heart of the Lotus mean? It is the Ātmā, our true Self. The Ātmā is a part of God. It is pure, unchanging, Infinite Consciousness. It is Eternal, Unborn and Immortal, and exists in every living being. Just as the whole tree is already contained and present within a seed, the essence of the entire cosmos exists in the centre of the Heart Chakra.” (Source)
The twelve petalled lotus: “We find a Lotus with twelve petals in the Anāhata Chakra. The petals represent the five Prānas and the five Upa Prānas (or expressed another way – the five Gyāna Indriyas and the five Karma Indriyas ), together with Manas and Buddhi. In this context Manas denotes the disposition and Buddhi the intellectual capacity.”
“The twelve petals also depict the twelve most important qualities that we are able to develop in the heart centre:Joy, peace, love, harmony, bliss, clarity, purity, compassion, understanding, forgiveness, patience and kindness.”
The upward and downward pointing triangles: “The six-pointed star is formed by two intersecting triangles. The triangle with the tip pointing upwards symbolises the energy (Shakti) that offers us the possibility of raising our state of consciousness. The inverted triangle implies that we can also very easily slip back into the lower Chakras again from the Heart Chakra. The triangles also highlight the inner battle that takes place within the heart between spirituality and emotion. When we purify our emotions we raise ourselves above earthly emotions and the spiritual love that rises in the Anāhata Chakra is the first radiation of the Divine light within us. But this enlightenment does not last because we still have to struggle with contradictory inner tendencies until our spiritual feelings are strengthened sufficiently.”
The seed syllable: YAM (pronounced “ yum”) is the seed syllable or bidja of the anahata or heart chakra. Seed syllables are sounds that strengthen the positive aspects of each chakra. You can see the Sanskrit syllable. “yam” represented in the illustration above. It sits in the middle of the two triangles. As you repeat the seed syllable over and over it becomes a mantra. Mantras are self generating energies that purify the mind.
The anahata chakra is also called the Anahata Nada. Anahata means unlimited (or infinite) and nada means sound.
Nada is the Sanskrit word for "sound" or "tone." Many yogis believe that nada is the hidden energy that connects the outer and inner cosmos. Nada yoga, or nada philosophy, is based on the premise that the entire universe consists of sound vibrations called nadas. The words, nada yoga, can be translated to mean "union through sound." This ancient Indian system follows a science of inner transformation through sound and tone. There are two types of nada: ahata, which is external sound perceived by the body/mind, and anahata, which is internal sound that is perceived by the heart chakra. (Source)
“Some say that anahata nada, or the sound of silence, is perfection. According to yogic teachings, this sound is necessary for all other sound to exist because it is the canvas upon which other sounds are manifest.” (Source)
The heart chakra is associated with the air element and the sense of touch. It’s organ of sense perception is the skin and it’s organ of action is the hands (associated with the principle of giving and receiving). It’s location or kshetra is the center of the chest. The associated endocrine gland is the thymus. The guna or quality of the heart chakra is rajas. Rajas is associated with activity, vitality vigor and will.
In previous posts in this series we have discussed the five koshas or vayus. This kosha in particular, I feel is pivotal, which is why I want to delve more deeply into it. The heart chakra is connected to the Manomaya Kosha or mental body. The first two chakras are associated with the physical body sheath (or kosha) while the third chakra is associated with the energy body sheath.
“Manomaya kosha (mind) - Manomaya is the kosha that contains and controls thoughts and emotions. Various aspects of yoga practice affect this kosha. For example, meditation and alternate nostril breathing can calm the mind. Manomaya kosha is the mental sheath, composed of manas, meaning "mind." Instinctual consciousness, thoughts and perception are all linked to manomaya kosha.”
"Manomaya kosha is considered to be a large part in what constitutes the yogic concepts of personality and ego. It is said to be manomaya kosha that creates the illusion of a separate “I” and “you.” Manomaya kosha is governed by thoughts in the mind, which are considered to have the power to both construct and destroy. Within manomaya kosha, thoughts and actions happen automatically, without conscious control. It takes care of our basic needs and desires, such as those for safety, security and protection.”
“Manomaya kosha, like all the koshas, is interactive and dependent on the other layers of the body. Because the mind is powerful, it can dominate the outer sheaths of annamaya kosha (third chakra) and pranamaya koshas (first and second chakra). This is said to be especially true for yogis in the Western world who tend to be mind-orientated. One way of working with manomaya kosha is to release or transcend the two outer sheaths through yoga nidra. This is said to allow the programming of the mind to be penetrated and negative patterns to be released.”
Note: All material in this section comes from various articles on the Yogapedia website. If you would like to delve deeper, you can go to the website and enter, “the five koshas” into the search bar and you will find multiple articles. You can find the link here.
Vyana Vayu (a.k.a Vyana Prana)
Previously in this series I have discussed the five pranas or vayus. Vyana Vayu, or Vyana Prana is the prana associated with the heart chakra. “Vyana vayu, one of the five subdivisions of the life force, prana, empowers the distribution and communication systems of the body. It integrates and coordinates the other four prana vayus, keeping them balanced and nourished. A pervasive and expansive force, vyana governs the movement of prana through the nadis (subtle body energy channels); the movement of energy through the circulatory system and the nervous system; and the free flow of thoughts and feelings in the mind.”
“When vyana vayu is deranged, both body and mind become disintegrated and weakened, resulting in disjointed efforts, various physical maladies, and alienation and anxiety at the mental level. The practices of hatha yoga can maximize the functioning of all aspects of vyana vayu: distributing energy throughout the body; enlivening the physiological functions of the circulatory system, the lymph system, and the nervous system; and removing obstacles to the circulation of nutrition, energy, and information throughout the mind and body.” (Source)
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In the previous posts we have discussed the importance of endocrine glands, hormones and emotions. This is very important, because the hormonal secretions of endocrine glands affect our body mind and spirit. This is why in the process of self cultivation and mastery it is important to know your way around the endocrine system and the associated hormones and chakras.
Located just in front of the heart, between the lungs is the thymus. Its name comes from the Greek word Thymos - meaning soul “ The thymus is in charge of controlling and regulating the energy current of the body, and maintaining the harmonic balance of vital energy. It is where our divine spark resides. : the thymus captures the sound of the heart and resonates with it. Although it is said that it contracts with age, what really happens is that it stops vibrating because of the emotions emitted by the heart.” It is activated by love and happiness and shrinks when we are sick or stressed. It is the main gland of the immune system and is responsible for the development and maturation of T lymphocytes. (Source)
The thymus is a part of your lymphatic system (the lymph acts as a filter of the blood). This is important considering your heart circulates your blood. Your spirit is anchored in your blood according to Chinese medicine. Your lymphatic system is made up of a network of tissues vessels and organs such as the tonsils, spleen and appendix. In Chinese medicine the heart is the paired organ of the small intestine - where your appendix is. The heart is fire element which is the mother of earth element (the spleen).
I say all of this to demonstrate the interconnections amongst the chakras, organs, endocrine glands and bodily systems. As naturalist John Muir said “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world”. As within so without. It is in our body as it is in nature. Ayurveda, Tibetan Medicine and also Chinese medicine are all built on foundations that recognize these interconnections. In allopathic medicine this view is not recognized, and it is this myopic framework that leads to huge blind spots, the biggest of which is not taking into account the connection between body and spirit.
Besides the seven main chakras, we also have minor chakras. I would consider the thymus to be a minor chakra - some call it the high heart. A chakra is comprised of nerve bundles and subtle body channels (called nadis) that converge along the spine (though minor chakras exist throughout the body, not solely along the spine).
The thymus has a connection to the vagus nerve (part of the parasympathetic nervous system), the larynx and the phrenic nerves, and hence is connected to our nervous system, voicebox and diaphragm (respiration) respectively. It originates from the superior cervical (neck) and stellate ganglion. The stellate ganglion is a bundle of sympathetic nerves located in front of your neck near your first ribs. Remember chakras along the spine are all located where there is a nerve plexus. Such is the case with the thymus gland, which is why I see it as a minor chakra.
I mentioned the nervous system, voicebox and diaphragm because when something is heavy on our heart or our emotions are high we can have trouble breathing and speaking. This is usually indicative that we are in sympathetic nervous system mode. Humming (voicebox) and breathing exercises (diaphragm) help us to exit the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight mode) and enter the parasympathetic nervous system by utilizing the vagus nerve.
In conclusion, it is important to make the connection between chakras and endocrine glands. The more you know about your chakras and their associated physiology, the more you can use tools to regulate your physiology. There are mudras, yoga poses, breathing exercises and essential oils that can help bring almost immediate balance to our chakras. Dill essential oil works wonders for the heart chakra as does rose. Bergamot essential oil works wonders for regulating the nervous system. It can bring you from the state of fight or flight to a state of calm in under a minute in many cases.
The Infinite Atemporal Connector
The heart chakra is the bridge between the three lower and three upper chakras. It is the energy center that harmonizes the above and below. As above so below. Here I would like to mention something my mentor shared with me, which spirit shared with him. The heart chakra or Anahata Chakra, is usually considered the fourth chakra. What I am about to share is not a traditional vedic concept. You cannot Google it, read it in a book or find it in a YouTube video.
The heart chakra is atemporal, meaning it is outside of time and space. When you just know something in your heart, that is intuition. Intuition is not logical because it is outside the confines of time and space. The intellectual mind often doubts the intuition for that very reason - because the intellect is logical and bound by the confines of time, space and reason.
My mentor calls the heart chakra the eighth chakra. He assigns one grace to each chakra. In order from the root to the crown, they are: trust, faith, diligence, compassion, courage, patience and gratitude. He also pairs the chakras and their graces. He pairs: trust and gratitude (1st & 7th), faith and patience (2nd & 6th), and diligence and courage (3rd and 5th). Do you see how each of those paired numbers add up to eight?
To explain further, we must go back to the torus or toroidal field that we discussed in the introductory post of this series. Remember a torus is a sphere with a vortex in the middle. Each of our chakras moves outward from our body (both anterior and posterior) and their energy becomes part of that toroidal field. Think of the heart chakra as being located smack dab in the middle of that vortex. The heart is like a junction box that connects all the chakras together. For that reason my mentor calls the heart chakra the eighth chakra - also because the number eight looks like an infinity symbol and the heart being “atemporal” is also the realm of infinity.
Where Science and Spirituality Meet
“The Heartmath Institute has been leading research related to heart-brain coherence. According to Research Director Dr. Rollin McCraty, “Coherence is the state when the heart, mind, and emotions are in energetic alignment and cooperation. It is a state that builds resilience.” When the parasympathetic and the sympathetic system are out of sync from emotions such as anger, anxiety, or frustration, this produces an erratic rhythm or incoherent state. The brain receives this input which affects whether higher cognitive functions can be accessed to self-regulate.” (Source)
“In the womb, the heart forms before the brain. “In fact, the heart has 40,000 neurons and the ability to process, learn, and remember. It also has its own emotions. Thanks to the field of neuro-cardiology, we are learning more about the intuitive nature of the heart and how we can apply this information to the relationship we have with ourselves and others.” (Source)
So here again we are reminded of how the heart, mind, emotions, endocrine glands, chakras and body chemistry are all connected. It is also important to recognize the connection between the nervous system, the chakras and the nadis (or subtle body channels).
“The neural communication pathways interacting between the heart and brain are responsible for the generation of heart rate variability. The intrinsic cardiac nervous system integrates information from the extrinsic nervous system and the sensory neurites within the heart. The extrinsic cardiac ganglia located in the thoracic cavity have connections to the lungs and esophagus and are indirectly connected via the spinal cord to many other organs, including the skin (the sense organ of the heart) and arteries. The vagus nerve (parasympathetic) primarily consists of afferent (flowing to the brain) fibers that connect to the medulla. The sympathetic afferent nerves first connect to the extrinsic cardiac ganglia (also a processing center), then to the dorsal root ganglion and the spinal cord. Once afferent signals reach the medulla, they travel to the subcortical areas (thalamus, amygdala, etc.) and then the higher cortical areas. “ (Source)
In this section, we spent a lot of time looking at physiology, but we were also introduced to the spiritual component of this magnificent chakra. What was attempted (and hopefully accomplished) was to convey that these energy centers are inextricably connected to our physiology, and are the bridge between spirit (our non- physical self) and matter (our physical self - the body). We learned that the manomaya kosha (layer or sheath) contains and controls thoughts and emotions. We learned that while the first and second chakras are related to the physical body and the third to the energy body, that the heart is related to the mental body.
We learned about vyana prana and that it integrates and coordinates the other four prana vayus, keeping them balanced and nourished. While all of the vayus or pranas are important, this vayu seems especially important as it appears to be the conductor of them all. And for the first time we consider one of the endocrine glands (the thymus) as a minor chakra. We also learned a little bit about the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system and the concept of coherence as it relates to the heart, mind and emotions working together in harmony.
As in previous sections, we covered the meaning of the yantra as well as the basic features of the heart chakra and it’s connections to the senses, organs, etc. As the series moves along, I realize it is not as important to include sections on how to distinguish if the chakra is balanced or imbalanced and what the possible remedies and tools are such as breathwork, yoga poses, essential oils, foods, etc. There is a plethora of information all over the internet offering information on those things.
While I will continue to provide links that lead the reader to these tools, I do not find the need to write about it here. This series has a unique format, that I have not found elsewhere and I like that. Here I offer, all in one place what normally you would have to find in myriad places. I wish to offer you what you may not find elsewhere, rather than something you can.
In the first, second and third chakra posts I have included links to websites that offer tools for balancing the chakras. Those same links offer information on balancing each chakra individually. You can also enter how to balance (fill in the chakra) in the search bar and you will be lead to many resources. You now know that you can use yoga poses, mudras, and breathwork etc. to balance your chakras. You can find many videos on YouTube related specifically to the chakra you wish to work with. Try typing “yoga poses for the first chakra”, or “breathwork for the third chakra” or “mudras for the heart chakra”, etc.. Videos are helpful especially if you are a: experiential, kinesthetic, audio or visual learner.
In the Tool Kit section below, I will again share with you a few of my favorite yoga websites as well as links to information on how to balance the heart chakra. As you can probably see from the consistent attention I give them, I consider the vayus and koshas to be the most important part of working with the chakras - as well as a working understanding of the endocrine glands and hormones (possibly my next series). Thank you so much for being here and taking an interest in yourself, your body and your energy. It has been a pleasure to serve you.
Balanced or Imbalanced: How to tell if your heart chakra is underactive or overactive and what you can do to harmonize it. I appreciate this author very much. She has a guide to balancing each of the seven chakras. Here I will give you the link specifically to the heart chakra. However, when you get there you will see links to each of the other chakras as well. You will find it is very comprehensive, and it is geared toward beginners. Enjoy! You can find it here.
Here is another great website offering myriad ways to balance the chakras as well as articles on each chakra and information on mudras, yoga poses and breathwork (pranayama) - great for working with the vayus. This link will direct you to some information on balancing the heart chakra. You can view it here.
Heart Chakra Video (by yours truly and my mentor): This is a rich video. Kevin Snow is always so generous with his wisdom. Next time you have a hankering to watch Netflix, try this instead. You will be grateful you did. Here is the link. This is part of a series on the seven chakras.
Favorites: As you have seen, I quote a lot from other sources. Here I will offer you links to the sites that have helped me the most in piecing together this series.
Chakra.net is a website I highly recommend. It sticks to tradition and a classical understanding of chakras, introduces lots of yogic principles and goes into extensive detail on each of the energy centers. Of all of the websites this is the one that most consistently speaks to my heart as I read about each chakra. Here I will add a link directly to the heart chakra, but again, they have information on all of them. You can access it here.
Yogapedia has been a great source of information when it comes to the koshas and vayus (or pranas). You can tell by its name that it is indeed an encyclopedia of all things of yogic tradition. It is easy to use, vast and informative. Just click here, and away you go!
New in this post
Anahata Nada: It is the name for the heart chakra and is defined as unlimited sound.
Manomaya Kosha: the mental body shealth. The human has five sheaths or layers. These layers are related to levels of awareness and can be seen as veils of consciousness. The five koshas are the :physical body, the energy body, the mental body, the intuitive body and the bliss body. The manomaya kosha contains and controls thoughts and emotions.
Vyana Vayu: vyana governs the movement of prana through the nadis (subtle body energy channels); the movement of energy through the circulatory system and the nervous system; and the free flow of thoughts and feelings in the mind.
Introductory post: chakra, nadi, ida, pingala, sushumna, kundalini, prana, torus field You can find it here.
First chakra post: yantra,bidja, kshetra, kosha, gunas, tamas, apana prana, annamaya kosha, Knot of Brahma You can read it here.
Second Chakra post: vritti, bandhas, apana vayu, samskaras, sattvic You can find it here.
Note: no vocabulary that was newly introduced in the third chakra post was used in this post. However, if you would like to read about the third chakra, that post can be found here.
Yogapedia is also a great resource for exploring Sanskrit words, terms and concepts as they apply to chakras, yoga and yogic practices. You can find it here.