See earlier articles – Awaken Your Elemental Self: Essential Oils and Your Yoga Practice at https://www.ancientwaysbotanicals.com/2012/10/awaken-your-elemental-self-essential-oils-and-your-yoga-practice/ for introduction to using essential oils in your yoga practice, the Earth Element, and safety guidelines. See https://www.ancientwaysbotanicals.com/2013/02/awakening-the-water-element-essential-oils-and-your-yoga-practice/ for blog on water element and your yoga practice. See https://www.ancientwaysbotanicals.com/2013/05/awakening-the-fire-element-essential-oils-and-your-yoga-practice/ for blog on the fire element and your yoga practice.
The air element in the body refers to both the breath and creative space in the body. Air is everything that is a gas. Air is responsible for all movement, including expansion, contraction, and suppression. The breath is the basis of all yoga, since without breath, yoga (or life, for that matter) does not exist. Air is what carries the vital energy or “prana” (“chi” in Chinese philosophy) throughout the body and the universe. It is the essence of all life and can be focused on in yoga practice by literally bringing space or air into specific areas of the body in the postures (such as increasing the spaces between the vertebrae of the spine…lengthening). Through the heart chakra, we open to and connect with harmony and peace. The health of our heart center registers the quality and power of love in our life. In Sanskrit, the heart chakra is called Anahata, which means “unstruck” or “unhurt.” Its name implies that deep beneath our personal stories of brokenness and of the pain in our heart, wholeness, boundless love, and a wellspring of compassion reside.
Air is the element representing the fourth/heart chakra.
The Fourth or Heart Chakra (Anahata)
The fourth chakra is located in the region of the heart and upper back and influences not only the circulatory system, but the pulmonary system and immune system (through the thymus) as well. Known as the Heart Chakra, this energy center vibrates in the color of green and on the higher octaves, in pink and gold. It is represented by the 12 petal lotus and is connected to the element of air and the sense of touch. The seed mantra is Yam. When balanced the heart chakra radiates love, emotional warmth and generosity. It is the energy of Venus, of self-love, self-compassion as well as love and compassion for others. There are two associated compassion points located ¾ of the way to each arm pit from the heart that are sub-chakras that when connected with the heart form a triangle, representing all forms of the trinity in union under the love/compassion frequency. This area is where the 12 petal lotus opens to generate and send healing love out to the world. It is also where we pull in love from the higher sources to self-nurture and self heal our inner being.
The heart chakra is the center of the chakra system in that it connects the 3 higher chakras to the 3 lower ones. It is the balance point of the higher self to how we manifest here in the mundane world. It is also the pivot point of the expression “As Above, So Below”. In the heart chakra we learn to get in touch deeply with our core being and our core truth. The heart’s voice is one of the voices of our Soul and when we are still, and listen intently, we can hear our true heart’s desire. The fourth chakra gives us skills to intimately love, to reach out and touch others, and to invite Spirit’s love to flow through us. As it is associated with the circulatory system, Spirit’s love feels like a deep river coursing through the veins and pulsates energy out to the world in an expression of compassion and heart felt kindness. We are able to pull the energy in from a higher source and channel it through the heart in a healing capacity to others and ourselves.
When imbalanced or dysfunctional, the heart chakra energy becomes muddied and stagnant. When this happens we can often feel jealous, petulant, indifferent and lonely. Instead of flowing energy out, we become needy, grabbing at others energies, demanding attention and asking others for love instead of looking within for self-love. Fear, despair, hate, longing, dispassion, condemnation, “heartlessness” and envy are all negative expressions of a dysfunctional heart chakra. We become incapable of accepting other’s love, unable to receive, and therefore more unwilling to give. Life becomes guarded and love becomes greedy. We pretend we don’t need other people and that we can cope alone, when actually inside we are desperate to feel wanted and accepted.
The heart chakra teaches us that first we must love ourselves. How can we ever expect anyone else to love us if we have no self-love? The laws of karma suggest that we can only reflect back to us what we feel about ourselves. If we are capable of self-love and appreciation, then we will attract someone who will support us in the kind of love we offer ourselves. If there is no self-love, and we begin to demand others to love us and fill the vacant hole we have created within, then we begin to build karma with that person, and at some point, there will be a pay-off time. When we can love ourselves, love flows out to others. Others who are able to love themselves gravitate to us and, in a balanced union, partnership is created karma-free. We each sustain self-love, and as a reflection, are therefore loved by others.
Air Element and Our Yoga Practice
Pranayama, or breath control, sometimes means prolonging or restraining breath, but always requires a mindful awareness and all-encompassing focus on the breath. To practice breathing techniques is to initiate changes in the psychological, physical, neural and cerebral areas, increasing memory and creativity. It will strengthen your willpower and steady your mind.
Of all the elements, air is perhaps the most powerful to cleanse the body of toxins. This is partially because it fans the fire in our body-mind. It is also because air is prana, the life force. When it is made to circulate through the body and the other elements, it automatically purifies us. Teaching the proper use of breath during asana and incorporating pranayama practice into our daily routine increases both our lightness and our inner power.
Certain pranayama techniques can be used to identify where imbalances lie in the elements of the body, and to consciously rebalance these.
One of the best ways of doing this is to learn the natural order of the elements in the body. Earth and water are at the base, below the navel, fire is in the middle of the torso; air and space reside in the upper body. Maintaining awareness of this when we practice asana, pranayama and meditation aids the proper distribution of the energy into the elements. As the prana moves up and down in the body, we awaken certain parts of the body with consciousness and energy, coaxing the elements into balance.
Signs that your heart chakra is depleted or in need of care are, depression, excessive loneliness and feeling grief stricken. Asanas that open the heart chakra and help it receive more fully include passive chest openers in which we arch gently over a blanket or bolster, shoulder stretches, and backbends. (See chart for specific asanas.)
Some signs that the heart chakra is overpowering your life can include co-dependency, selfishness, jealousy, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Forward bends calm the heart chakra, because they are grounding and foster introspection, allowing the heart chakra to feel nourished from within.
Essential Oil Connection
Essential oils for balancing the heart chakra are:
- Rose (most highly recommended)
- Ylang Ylang
Essential oils that help to balance love of self and others are rose, geranium, palmarosa, neroli, hyssop, chamomile, ylang ylang, and jasmine.
Essential oils that ease heartache and calm the circulatory system when there is tightness or palpitations are marjoram, hyssop, lavender, neroli, rose, chamomile, ylang ylang and jasmine.
Often when there are emotional heart issues we sometimes find difficulty in catching our breath. Stress, heartache, feelings of rejection, jealousy or fear can cause a tightening of the chest, a shortness of breath, and a shallow airy breathing pattern. Essential oils that might help the respiratory system when shortness of breath or a feeling of tightness occurs are eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary, rose, chamomile, marjoram, sandalwood, frankincense and hyssop.
Vulnerability is often seen as a weakness in this modern day society, so we have learned to close down the heart chakra and become wary of our fellow man. We are so imprinted with the negative that it is often hard to remain open to the positive. And yet, if we are to have an open heart and a free flowing heart energy center, it is imperative to trust, to open, and to love, regardless of the possibility of being hurt. Remember, if you can truly learn to love yourself, others will reflect back that love. Then vulnerability is no longer an issue and love pours through and returns back to you.
Here is to deep, cleansing breaths of air with the scent of rose to heal your heart! Kim
Information on chakras and essential oils supported by Suzanne Bovenizer cmt, cst