Yogini Nikki Estrada offers a heart opening asana, pranayama exercise and meditation practice to harness the powerful, healing energy of the 4th chakra, Anahata, the heart chakra.
Valentine’s Day inspires thoughts and actions of romantic love. Yet love, in many spiritual traditions, is a much more universal and powerful concept.
Anahata chakra is the fourth chakra, one of seven spiritual centers in the body. It is located in the chest region, the energy area that governs the heart and lungs. This powerful energy center is the home of unconditional love and when balanced is strong, open and healing.
Anahata means “unstruck” as while there is a sound coming from the space of the heart that is inherent, it does not come from two things striking together.
The fourth chakra is the middle chakra, with three chakras below and three chakras above. Because of its location and innate power, it can potentially subvert the issues of the lower chakras and bridge us to the higher chakras.
Located in the chest and specifically the region of the heart, the anahata chakra is the element of air, called vayu in Sanskrit. This makes sense as the lungs are part of the chest region and literally fill with air, regulating breathing and the movement of prana (energy) in the body. This specific prana moves in and up and is therefore elevating and uplifting. Anahata chakra's color is emerald green and its seed sound is YAM.
Physically, keeping the chest and shoulder area open is very important. Especially as in our modern lifestyle we spend a lot of time sitting, using computers, phones and driving, all of which can make us round the back and collapse the chest. Back bends, which target the thoracic spine (upper back) are essential to keeping this area open and functioning well. So is good breathing, encouraged with the use of pranayama exercises.
Here are a heart opening asana, pranayama exercise and meditation practice to harness the powerful, healing energy of the anahata chakra:
heart opening asana…One of my favorite ways to open the chest is very simple. I use chattra’s pranayama bolster, positioned like a T against the upper back. Lie across it with the bolster placed against the shoulder blades and the arms in a “cactus shape” to the sides. It should feel like a chest and shoulder opener, not a stretch for the lower back. Just relaxing over the bolster and/or breathing deeply will gently open the chest and counter tension or tightness of the upper back.
heart pranayama practice…My favorite pranayama for the heart is called Bhramuri. It is referred to as “humming bee’s breath” because of the sound it makes. It is said to be healing for the heart and has no contraindications. Place your thumbs on the tragus (outer ear) to shut out sound. Place the other fingers along the skull creating a cradle like position. Inhale slowly through the nose and hum the entire exhale with a soft sound. You will hear soft humming and feel vibration in the heart area. Try 10 rounds to start, add more in subsequent practices.
heart meditation…There is a very old and simple Vedic meditation on the heart which connects us to universal love. Establish a comfortable seat either on the floor or in a chair with the spine tall and aligned. Settle and relax without slouching; allow the breath to be completely natural. Bring awareness to the chest and heart region by visualizing a light in the heart. Hold your attention on this light, "seeing" it glow and expand. Stay with this inner focus as long as you can -- 3 minutes, 5 minutes, even longer.
May these few simple yogic techniques help you in learning to live from the heart, gathering the immense energy and power it holds to light our path forward.
About Nikki Estrada
Nikki Estrada has been in the yoga scene for more than twenty years. She lectures, leads workshops, teacher training and immersions nationwide. Nikki began her formal training in India, focusing on Ashtanga—a very physically challenging style of yoga. She is currently a senior yoga teacher and educator in the San Francisco Bay Area. Nikki's Vinyasa-based classes are a synthesis of her years of yogic and Ayurveda study and personal experience, with an emphasis on spirituality, intelligent alignment, meditation, and living life more joyfully. Her videos can be found on www.yogainternational.com. More information about Nikki can be found at www.nikkiestradayoga.com She resides in northern California with her husband and two daughters.