A few weeks ago one of my closest friends and I had a misunderstanding that quickly blew into a big, fat storm of an argument. Over what, you may say? Neutral pelvis, and how to find it. Talk about a punch line let-down. This is what nerdy yoga teachers argue about, I guess.

We were at odds in the moment the argument arose, and as sunk into where the hurt really was, it became more clear to me that I hadn’t felt like she had heard me, really heard me. Soon we spoke. We came at each other with our usual defense mechanisms, trying to out-right each other. It was no longer about neutral pelvis, or anything like that, but the fact that we both needed to know that we shared mutual respect and love for each other. In short, we needed to get out of our heads and into our hearts.

In our culture, we can spend a lot of time caught up in our heads. In Pilates and yoga, there’s even an a term for someone who’s posture has shifted such that his or her head is literally forward of their body–taking the lead in all matters. Called simply enough, forward head. On the other hand, coming into your Mountain Pose, or Tadasana, and leading from the heart, embodying one’s self surrounding the heart…well, that’s just called good posture.

Dropping into the heart isn’t always as supported culturally as it is to reside in one’s head. “Wearing your heart on your sleeve,” being “soft-hearted” isn’t a great thing to all people, in all circles. Sometimes we need to be reminded that to tap into our heart, to our heart chakra (also called Anahata) we first need to bow to ourselves, to our inner guru and ultimately…to our hearts.

So, in this, the fourth installment of a seven-part series here on MindBodyGreen, I'm taking a closer look at each of our chakra centers. The chakra centers can easily sound inaccessible, regulated to people living in communes and not bathing for several weeks at a time. And hey, if that is your thing–absolutely go for it! But I was raised in union halls in the Midwest among beer-drinking firemen (like my Dad), so my take on the ethereal is to bring forth what is practical, what works in real life, and speak from that place.   
 
When you look at the chakras, and the psycho-spiritual questions that each center asks us to consider, what you really have is a practical way to figure out what it is that you want to create in your life and, importantly, what might be blocking you from getting there.   

If you missed the first three installments in this series, about the root chakra, Muladhara; the sacral chakra, Svadhistana or the solar plexus chakra, Manipura, click to catch up.

Color associated with Anahata: Green 
 
Mantra: YAM

Element: Air

Location in the body: At the sternum.

Considerations: At the heart chakra, we find our connectivity to all that surrounds us, both nature and other beings. We find love and the ability to offer and receive it. Once we have fired our will in Manipura (solar plexus), we can allow the fire to quell a bit and instead we turn inward toward our hearts for a cooling bath of the waves of love. Here is the place where we hope to transcend our egos, and send our uniqueness out into the world from this, our loving center.
 
Out of balance: When our energy in Anahata is stuck or deficient, we may hold tightly to grief, have trouble forgiving others, feel disconnected from the world and the people in your life or have difficulty accepting others as they are. If this chakra is overblown, we may feel overly attached to approval and love found outside ourselves.

In balance: When Anahata is in balance, we are brimming with Ojas—the very sap of life. We can accept and (gasp!) maybe even love ourselves and others without effort. We feel connected and a part of the macrocosm that is the Universe.  
 
Anahata-supportive meditation 
 
Bring your hands palm to palm, connect the base of your thumbs to your sternum—Anjali Mudra. Breathe into your belly and lightly close your eyes. Turn your focus to your breath.

Next, rub your palms together vigorously. Bring your right palm to the center of your chest at Anahata and place your left on top of your right.

Feel the warmth and radiance of your heart and chest. Visualize the green, radiant glowing light emanating from your heart, in all directions.

Release your palms to face up on your lap. Direct some of your lightness and heart energy to someone in your life in need of healing. Finally, inhale your arms overhead and exhale your arms down to connect to the Earth before completing your practice.

Don’t be afraid to feel YOU. And if you are, spend a moment or two just leaning into it.
 

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