While the solar plexus chakra is generally considered the center of the physical body, Anahata, the heart chakra, is the central point of the chakra system. Through connecting to what we value, what is truly important to us, we can bring meaning to our actions and merge matter (lower chakras) and sprit (upper chakras). Here we find the seat of love, compassion, gratitude, and acceptance.
Anahata means "unstruck" and by cultivating the heart chakra, we touch on the very part of ourselves that is unable to be harmed, that is beyond hurt, yet that is still capable of vulnerability and tenderness. To do this, we begin to transcend the ego as the duality realized at the second chakra finds unity and oneness. We recognize that "the other" is merely a reflection of ourselves, and that deep sense of interconnectedness is really what love is all about.
Physical practice: You probably hear a lot about "heart openers" in yoga classes. But what's the point, you may as? Heart openers typically refer to backbends of one degree or another, and they are not only good for counteracting all of the time we spend hunched over our keyboards and phone, but they can offer a chance to tap into to the vulnerability that is such an integral part of connecting with our fellow humans.
We'll be entering into a supported backbend for this practice, so you will need two blocks (or thick books) and an optional blanket. Place the first block on its medium setting so that when you lay down it will be situated across your back with the bottom edge of the block at the lower tips of your shoulder blades. If you are feeling any strain in your lower back, then the block is too low. If your shoulders cannot release towards the ground, then it is probably too high. You'll have to experiment to find the right position. The second block will go under your head on its lowest setting, or use the blanket as a pillow for a deeper backbend. Lay yourself down onto the blocks; loosely extend your arms away from the body palms facing up. Legs can be outstretched or soles of the feet touching for supta baddhakonasana. Stay here for 3-5 minutes taking slow deep breaths.
To come out of the pose, draw the knees in, roll off of the blocks to one side, remove the blocks and come onto your back once again. Place one hand on the belly and one hand on the heart. As you breathe, notice the chest and stomach rise and fall, and feel the contact of your touch against your front body. Feel the contact of the earth beneath you and the support it provides. Bring to mind something (or someone) you love beyond all doubt. See if you can become aware of the vast strength behind those feelings of love. Know that this concept or person or place is reflecting back your own beauty and giving you the gift of unity, even if only for a moment.
Essential oils: There are so many oils and scents that serve to soften the heart chakra, but those I come back to again and again are Geranium, Grapefruit, and Clary Sage. I find that these provide the perfect mix of emotional support, uplifted spirit, and clear seeing, all qualities so imperative for giving and receiving love.