Without realizing we subconsciously close off our hearts in many ways. It happens through our posture, our mindset and how we perceive and interact with the outside world. Countering this with yoga postures that activate the Anahata (heart) chakra allows us to invite love and compassion into our lives. Heart openers provide us with the strength and willpower to let go of things we are holding close to our heart, which could be blocking our hearts. When we let go and open ourselves up, we are sending those very vibes out into the universe.
Anahata, the heart chakra
Anahata, located at the heart center, is the center for love, compassion and empathy. It is the source of truth, unconditional love and joy. Associated with the element air, it helps us embody and embrace the feeling of love, and keep it free-flowing. It is represented through the color green. When the Anahata chakra is unblocked, you will feel love, compassion and happiness more easily. Everything will feel lighter, less challenging and natural. You’ll be more open to seeing the beauty around you and appreciating everything in its true form. You’ll also cultivate more self-love and acceptance of who you are.
When the Anahata Chakra is blocked, you will feel rigidity and negative feelings of anger, envy and jealousy. Physiologically, you will notice issues with the heart, lungs, blood pressure and chest region. You might not feel like interacting with others, and might feel lonely.
Heart-opening yoga postures
Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
An impactful heart opener that’s perfect for beginners as well as advanced practitioners, this asana allows you to create profound space in your heart. It opens up the entire chest region, releasing congestion and blockages.
How to do Cobra pose:
- Lie flat on the stomach with the legs straight, feet together and the soles of the feet facing upwards.
- Place the palms of the hands flat on the floor, below and slightly to the side of the shoulders, with the fingers together and pointing forward.
- Position the arms so that the elbows point backward and are close to the sides of the body.
- Rest the forehead on the floor and close the eyes.
- Relax the whole body, especially the lower back. Now slowly raise the head.
- Straighten the elbows, using the back muscles first, then the arm muscles to raise the trunk further and arch the back.
- In the final position, the pubic bone remains in contact with the floor and the navel is raised a maximum of 3 mm.
- The arms may or may not be straight; this will depend on the flexibility of the back.
Heart melting pose (Anahatasana)
This asana is a beautiful heart opener that activates the Anahata (heart) chakra. It expands the chest, improves heart and lung functioning and promotes blood circulation. It helps cultivate compassion, elevates mood and induces a sense of calm.
How to do Heart melting pose:
- From all fours, knees a little wider than hip-distance apart. Come down onto your elbows.
- Keep your hips in line with your knees and straighten your arms in front of you.
- Place your chin or forehead on the floor, allowing yourself to soften in the pose.
- If you feel a pressure on the top of your shoulders, bend your elbows, spread them to the sides and place your forehead on your hands.
- Stay here for a few breathes.
Bridge pose (Setu Bandhasana)
This beginner-level posture also helps create space and establishes a connection between the mind and heart. It releases blockages from the chest region and induces calm.
How to do Bridge pose:
- Lie on the back, bend the knees and bring the heels closer to the buttocks. Keep the heels firmly on the mat. The feet should be hip width apart on the floor with the knees and ankles in a straight line.
- Hold the ankles with your hands.
- Inhale and slowly lift the buttocks and hips up. Now lift the back and arch the back upward as you raise the lower, middle and upper back off the floor.
- Now lift the chest as high as possible towards the chin without straining. Ensure that the feet and shoulders lie firmly on the ground. Keep the inner thighs and glutes active and engaged. The thighs should be parallel to each other.
- Gently roll the shoulders and support your weight with the shoulders, arms and feet.
- Stay here for a few deep breaths.
Camel pose (Ustrasana)
A powerful heart opener, it works against gravity to cultivate an openness to love, kindness and compassion. It expands the abdominal and chest region, and provides relief to the back.
How to do Camel pose:
- Kneel on the mat and place your hands on the hips.
- Your knees should be in line with the shoulders and the sole of your feet should be facing the ceiling. Keep the knees hip width apart.
- As you inhale, gently lengthen the spine and bring the pelvis in line with the thighs.
- Now slowly, arch your back and bend backwards. Now place the right hand on the right heel and as you exhale, drop your head back, circle the left hand from forward, up and back to the left heel.
- Gently drop your neck. Do not strain it. You can also keep it in a neutral position.
- Your toes can either be tucked or softened based on your flexibility.
- Stay here for a few deep, slow breaths.
Child’s pose (Balasana)
The posture enhances heart and lung health, relaxes the mind and body, and activates the Anahata chakra. It restores energy and emotional balance.
How to do Child’s pose:
- From thunderbolt pose or Vajrasana, bend forward bringing your forehead onto the head. Stretch the hands out in front or place the hands at the base of your spine.
- If you can’t reach the mat, you can place your palms in a fist and place the forehead on the fist.
- Relax here for a few minutes and try to take deep breaths.
- Now to come out of the posture slowly lift up, come back to Vajrasana and then release the legs by straightening them out.
Crescent lunge pose
As you bend deeper in this asana, the more you open your heart. The posture stretches the back and chest muscles, activates the heart chakra and is a beautiful way to invite unconditional loving energy.
How to do Crescent lunge pose:
- Sit in vajrasana towards one end of the mat.
- Now, stand up on the knees with the knees and ankles slightly apart and the arms by the sides.
- Starting with the right side, take a big step forward, placing the right foot firmly on the floor so that the thigh is horizontal and the ankle is before or directly under the knee.
- This is the starting position. Centre yourself and inhale deeply.
- Exhale and lunge forward smoothly, transferring the body weight onto the right foot.
- The left leg becomes stretched back fully as the trunk comes forward, back knee on floor and back ankle extended backwards.
- Now, inhale and stretch your hands up, exhale, and bend backwards as much as possible.
Other practices to activate the heart center
Balancing and opening up the heart chakra can be done through practices like a gratitude journal, loving-kindness meditation and affirmations meditation. Other yogic practices include:
Hridiya means heart and Mudra is a gesture. Therefore, it is a hand gesture that activates the heart and revitalizes energy from within to the heart. The gesture is effective in nourishing the entire body and mind, through the heart. It directs the flow of prana (life force) to the heart, improving vitality. It also releases accumulated and trapped emotions from the heart. The mudra can be practiced while meditating, specifically while doing the Hridaya Akasha meditation, a practice that focuses on the heart center.
Hridaya Beej Chanting
There are many mantras linked to specific centers (chakras) in the body. The Hridaya Beej mantra “Yam” is for the heart space. When chanted during a meditation it activates the heart center (Anahata Chakra). This helps release blockages, induces the flow of prana (life force) and revitalizes the functioning of the heart.
Practicing backbends are a strong and effective way to open the heart and release blockages. It is a wonderful way to heal and restore positive feelings of love and compassion. It’s useful in overcoming grief, setbacks and loss. It improves the mind-body connection, enables you to listen to how you are feeling and what you need. It even allows you to embrace vulnerability. By opening up the heart, you are touching the safe space within you and connecting with your higher and deeper self. Practicing these postures is a starting point, and along with this, developing the habit of other practices will make your experience more impactful.