The heart chakra, located in the center of the chest, is the fourth chakra in the Hindu chakra model. It is known by the name “Anahata” in Sanskrit, which translates as “unstruck, unhurt, unbeaten.” Not surprisingly, Anahata (heart) chakra embodies the energy of connection and love (for the self as well as others.)
Each of the lower chakras are represented by a different element—the root  with Earth; the sacral  with Water; and the solar plexus  with fire. Thus, the heart chakra is embodied by the element of air, as in the energy of the breath, movement, and spaciousness, which is in connection to all things. “Because Anahata is related to the element air, it is accessible through the breath. The Hindus call the breath prana, which means “first unit,” and they believe it contains the essence of all vitality and nourishment, being the point of commonality between the mental and physical worlds. Opening up the breath, unloosening whatever tensions are constricting it, is a way of accessing the heart chakra.” 
The physical functions of Anahata (heart chakra) are directly linked to the cardiac system, lungs, and breathing, as well as the Thymus Gland, which controls hormone production and regulates the immune system. The non-physical functions of the heart chakra are associated with experiencing compassion, empathy, forgiveness, acceptance, personal transformation and growth, as well as the ability to grieve and ultimately achieve peace. The heart chakra is the very center chakra in the seven chakra model, therefore merging the physical (lower chakras) with the spiritual (upper chakras.) This is why the heart chakra is known as the bridge between the earthly and the spiritual.
When Anahata is open and in balance, we feel a deep connection to everything and everyone around us, appreciate and see beauty in all things, and are able to give and receive love easily. Gratitude, appreciation, and compassion (for the self, as well as for others,) are states of being associated with a healthy, open, and balanced heart chakra. 
Blockages in Anahata (heart chakra)
When the heart chakra is closed, you may experience mental or emotional symptoms of jealousy, greed or stinginess, overly defensive tendencies, thoughts of suspicion (in both friendships and romantically,) loneliness, social anxiety, or withdrawing from others. If you have a tendency to hold grudges, or struggle to release or forgive past experiences, you likely have a closed or blocked heart chakra.
Another very common symptom of a closed heart chakra is a fear of emotional intimacy, which is entirely different from physical intimacy. Emotional intimacy is “allowing someone in,” letting someone know “the real you,” and being emotionally vulnerable with someone. A fear of emotional intimacy may also be related to a lack of humility, which often results from an overpowering ego. 
Overactive Energy in the Heart Chakra
An overactive heart chakra which is ruled by emotions, often manifests as an inability to control one’s emotions, or let go of past pain and grief. Someone with an overactive heart chakra may lack healthy boundaries in friendships and/or intimate relationships. Your heart chakra may be open too wide if you have a tendency to neglect your own emotional self-care needs for the needs of others, leaving you to feel as if you are too drained to care for yourself.
Another common symptom of an overactive heart chakra is codependency in relationships, which may manifest as losing your own sense of self or relying too heavily on someone else’s approval or attention. 
Physical manifestations of imbalance in the heart chakra energy are most commonly related to the respiratory and circulatory systems. Lung or breathing issues, such as bronchitis, and circulation problems, heart palpitations, or high blood pressure are all common physical manifestations of imbalanced heart chakra energies. Certain substance addictions may also indicate imbalance in the heart chakra, including:
- Ecstasy (the drug)
- Sugar, sweets, & false sugars, such as saccharin or aspartame (Subtle Body p320) 
Restoring Balance to Anahata (Heart Chakra)
First and foremost, bring your awareness to the energies of your heart chakra to determine if you have excessive or blocked heart chakra. It is important to note here, that an overactive chakra is often the result of blockages in other chakras. Therefore, in healing an overactive heart chakra, it is important to check in with the other chakras to see if you may have blockages there as well.
Oftentimes imbalances in the heart chakra result from avoidance of our own emotional vulnerability–that is to say, we avoid the more intense emotions that need to be felt within ourselves. One solution for beginning to open the heart chakra, is to engage in activities that connect you to that intense emotional vulnerability. Volunteering with a local charity; having a needed, honest heart to heart conversation with a loved one; or even simply watching or reading books that open you up to those hidden, intense feelings, can begin the process of opening your heart chakra.
Remember the connection between the heart and the element of air. Practicing meditation, mindfulness, and breathing exercises—particularly by getting out in nature, fresh air, and greenery—are all very helpful ways to open up Anahata’s energies. You can also open the windows in your house or at work, to get the air moving freely, refreshing the energy indoors. 
If you struggle to see beauty or connection with all things, cultivate appreciation and mindfully practice finding beauty in and around you—whether it is seeing beauty in nature, other people, the arts, or yourself. Be mindful of any negative self-talk, so that you can develop deeper love and appreciation for yourself. Pay attention to whether or not you are valuing yourself as much as others, and remember to honor your own needs and boundaries. Oftentimes, those who struggle to see beauty in others, also struggle to see beauty in themselves. It is important to be aware of both, and nurture appreciation for the self as much as for others.
Heal tendencies of greed and stinginess, by mindfully giving back to others, whether it be in charitable monetary donation or by giving your presence and time to those in need. Equally important is to practice gratitude, both silently in meditation and mindfulness, as well as out loud, by taking the time to express heartfelt appreciation to someone else.
Forgiveness is one of the greatest practices for opening the heart chakra, and also one of the most challenging. If you ruminate on emotional pain from your past, or hold on to grudges, it has the effect of hardening or choking the energy of the heart chakra, even when you are not thinking about those experiences. Without the ability to forgive and move on, you become susceptible to that heart chakra obstruction every time those memories, frustrations, or past feelings come rushing back to you. Over time, this will cause you to avoid focusing on the energy in your heart chakra altogether, completely closing it.
There are many different methods for achieving heartfelt forgiveness, and it is essential to experiment to find what works best for you.  My personal favorite methods of forgiveness include utilizing empathy to understand who or what I need to forgive. The “Gestalt Empty Chair Technique” is a very practical tool for achieving particularly challenging forgiveness, and getting closure in a safe space where feelings can be expressed out loud in order to work through them.  For especially traumatic past experiences, such as physical or emotional neglect or abuse, it is important to find a professional whose training and focus are in forgiveness.
By seeing beauty in and around you, connecting to your inner emotional vulnerability, giving back to others, and practicing gratitude, compassion, and forgiveness, you will begin to open the energetic flow back into your heart, encouraging your own personal transformation and growth, and transcend the limitations of the ego.
As a Certified Behavioral Health Educator & Holistic Health Coach, I emphasize both Eastern & Western approaches to help my clients reach personal mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual life goals. In my holistic health practice, I use the Eastern Chakra system as a model, along with the latest approaches in Western Psychology, Neuroscience, and Nutrition. My intention is to help you access inner resources of strength, insight, growth, and healing, and I view myself as a partner to assist in your life journey. If you would like more information about how the Eastern Chakra model and holistic health/lifestyle support options, please feel free to connect with me! I would love to hear more about your needs and how I may be able to help you!