How To Fully Open Your Heart Chakra (Beautifully And Effectively)
Updated: Dec 15, 2019
Opening the heart is quite possibly the most emotionally transformative event one could ever surrender to in life, as it comes with a great, unbeknownst abundance of alleviation. If you were to search “how to open your heart chakra” (which might be how you got here) chances are you'd run into a wide variety of suggestions and techniques on how to achieve this. These could range anywhere from wearing the color green to working with stones and crystals all the way to reciting mantras and guided meditations. These methods in and of themselves are absolutely valuable and beneficial to those looking to open the heart, however, in this post we’re going to dive several layers deeper on the matter in order to find out exactly how to encounter an authentic physical nervous system feeling of having an open heart in the body.
Some have asked “Why is it important to open the heart? What does ‘open’ actually mean in this case?” To properly answer this question, it may be helpful to understand what the heart is actually capable of, other than simply pumping blood throughout the body. In the Heart Sutra we read that “form is emptiness, emptiness is form”. Similarly, in the post-Copenhagen view of physics, we discover that the universe itself is made out of condensed emptiness. In other words “Ex nihilo...nihilo” (Out of nothing…more nothing: the universe is fundamentally empty). At a sensory level, the main goal in opening the heart chakra should include achieving a feeling of pure openness and emptiness in the chest and lungs. A light heart is pure heart, as it is no longer weighed down by the memories of yesterday, nor the concerns of tomorrow. A heart “light as a feather” is indicative of a clean conscience, as the heart, in this case, could also be viewed as the entire subconscious complex itself. Could it be true that our hearts act as storage units for our memories?
I often refer to the heart as the “manifesting void” which brings about all life’s events, eventually delivering them right before us on the world stage. It's a vortex of creation I would liken to a mother’s womb. When the head (the head having a penile symbolic value in this case) is getting along with the heart (the heart, having a feminine, vaginal symbolic value) we then in turn create events on the stage of life which reflect that loving internal cooperation. As Lincoln stated “A house divided against itself cannot stand”, yet I may go a bit further to include that “a house in full integration and agreement within itself cannot only stand, but can stand healthily on two legs.” In order to create our lives as beautifully and wonderfully as possible, we must focus on developing a loving relationship between both our conscious, waking minds and our hearts—there lies our true creative power.
"—my heart center was completely closed off and the blockage itself, which was obstructing the full potential of my internal communication, was made from the memories of desires and fears."
It was December of 2016 when I found myself living in Kerala, India. My friend who I had been traveling with at the time was forced to depart immediately due to an emergency, which left me traveling alone. Leaving Kovalam I decided to make my way north to the cliff-clad beaches of Varkala. It was there that I discovered a community of Ayurvedic doctors and healers. Soon into my stay I began booking appointments with different massage therapists in the area. In Varkala I found access to all types of authentic panchakarma massage techniques and packages, but there was one specific day when I opted for something quite a bit different. Intuitively I knew I needed a treatment which offered something more intense. I found a man who practiced Japanese shiatsu. Within only a few seconds into the session I could tell that this was something I absolutely needed. He was discovering hidden pain and soreness in my body which I was completely unaware of. Towards the end of the treatment I came to discover exactly what I had been looking for by going to him in the first place as he began to locate emotional traumas stored in my body, especially all around my rib cage and chest area. As he eventually made it down to my lower ribs, the deeper pain he was targeting became so excruciating that I finally told him he had to stop. I apologized. Looking back, I’m still uncertain if he understood what he had uncovered within me. I said to him “The pain in these areas is too unbearable for me right now. Is this something I could slowly ease into and work on at my own pace?” He confirmed that I could develop this into a solo mission. If there was anything I appreciated more than the treatment I received that day, it was the knowledge I encountered through the profound realization which had occurred to me—my heart center was completely closed off and the blockage itself, which was obstructing the full potential of my internal communication, was made from the memories of desires and fears. These memories were being stored and held in my chest area which was starting to seem more like a hard drive to me. I had discovered my weakest areas and was now equipped with the imperative knowledge to move forward and actually do something about it.
The heart is like Pandora’s Box, and upon opening that box we have the potential to unleash love, fear, and everything in between. There’s a very good reason as to why every single client I’ve ever worked with, along with my own self in the past, has dealt with heart blockage—we were all attempting to avoid digging up old heartache and uncomfortable emotions. This is understandable. The ego will do whatever it can to keep the body from experiencing pain. The things the ego has the most difficult time understanding, however, are indeed the ways of the heart. We draw people to ourselves on a heart level. “Similarity attracts similarity. Misery loves company. Smile and the world smiles back at you.” Take a look around at your current circle of friends or colleagues. Try to gauge where you are on a personal, emotional, heart level and see if you catch the mirroring effect occurring between them and yourself. Do you share similar perceptions about the world? Does their quality of life seem to match yours?
Before someone were to enter into therapeutic heart work, something I feel obligated to point out is that once the box is opened, what you’re seeing in life could drastically change, and it could change very rapidly. Your circle of friends may be completely different two to three months after you begin this powerful journey. Your family members will most likely begin to respond to you differently. As you let go of the past and enter into a new vibrational state, some people in your life may be very supportive and responsive to you, yet some (especially those who hold on strongly to fear and aversion) may begin to feel a bit uneasy around you. It’s important that one not take such things personally, but instead see them as vibrationally phenomenological. Everyone will get their turn and their time to grieve.
I find the hands-on, self massage approach of opening the heart chakra to be both the most practical and most powerful because it tends to accelerate the process, a process which could otherwise turn into a long, stretched out event. Allow this be your guide to help avoid confusion, drama, or lengthy delays during your experience. The techniques I detail below are reserved for those who are ready to face their subconscious fears head-on, drop the pain body, and move their position of focus into an expanded dimension of love, appreciation, acceptance, forgiveness and gratitude within themselves.
How I Did It
1. Locate Your Heart Button
At the bottom of your sternum’s body, locate the first indentation directly above the xyphoid process. This indentation will be running parallel to rib number five. Once you’ve located that notch, press into it firmly with your middle finger. If you detect little to no soreness upon that initial pressing, use the pressure of both hands to push your finger more strongly into the notch. Most people I’ve worked with discover immediate soreness when pressing into the “heart button” as I call it. This soreness is indicative of work to be done. Take long, deep breaths as you press into the heart button. Close your eyes as you breathe slowly in and out and make note of any areas around the chest cavity which reveal any pain or uncomfortableness. Many will notice a sharp pain wrapping around to the back of the body or rays of soreness shooting out from this central area, reaching different places in the chest area. Continue to make note of any sensitive areas you find. The knowledge you gain from pressing into the heart button can be used later to focus on the target areas you’re looking to heal.
2. The Slow Dig
Now that you’ve begun to locate some of these target pain areas, you’re ready to start focusing on finding more, working with them one at a time. You’ll be using different hand formations to accomplish this. A great place start is directly below the clavicle (collar bone). Use your fingertips to press firmly into the muscle tissue of the pectoralis major. Notice any minute soreness or tenderness you encounter. Now make a fist and allow the metacarpal of your thumb to stick out. Rub your protruding thumb joint into the fascia and muscle tissue underneath the clavicle. Once you find a sensitive spot (one where it hurts the most) hold your thumb directly on that spot. As you hold that spot with your thumb, take a deep breath, hold it, then apply pressure onto your fist with your other hand as you continue to hold your breath. Press firmly, allowing the pain to intensify. You’ll know you’ve located the right place if you detect a numbing sensation beginning to arise as you continue to apply deep, strong pressure into the soreness. When you feel that you have had about all you can take, exhale as you continue to press on the tissue, rubbing firmly as you massage the surrounding area lovingly with the tips of your fingers. The intention here is to tenderize these areas and to provide alleviation. This digging method is what you will continue to use around your entire chest and rib cage as you continue to locate target areas. Once you move down into the sensitive lower ribs, you’ll most likely want to switch from using your thumb to using the tips of your fingers instead. More than anything, utilize your intuition to help guide your attention to the most painful points. To recapitulate:
1. Use your fingertips to gauge soreness and tenderness in the target area.
2. Depending on the area, use your protruding thumb or fingertip to dig slowly into the sensitive spots, applying extra pressure from the other hand.
3. Take a deep breath and hold as you apply more and more pressure into the isolated area.
4. Continue to hold the breath until the sensation of numbness begins to arise.
5. Allow the numbing sensation along with the application of pressure to remain until the feeling of alleviation begins to arrive.
6. Exhale and lovingly massage the general area with your fingertips.
3. Pay Attention To Sensations
It’s very common to experience minor convulsions in the torso or even slight nausea once your target area has begun to feel the early sensations of relief. This is a natural part of the process as stored energy is now being allowed to flow. You may begin to feel emotions arising instantaneously or find yourself becoming highly emotional in general around this period. These are extremely healthy signs, indicative that you’re opening up and flushing out old memory storage in the body. If at any point you feel the need to take a rest from the activity, please do. Listen to your body. Going into child’s pose or laying out in shavasana are highly encouraged if you need to take a break.
4. Thymus Thumping
This technique is referred to as “thumping”, but I’d describe it as more of a pounding when I do it. The thymus gland is responsible for making white blood cells called T-lymphocytes which ward off illness and infection. The term “thymus” comes from the Greek “thūmós” expressing courage, vitality, spiritedness, soul, and a desire for recognition. This is the region where the ancients saw the soul and spirit conjoining—the bridge between reason and desire. Incidentally it’s where the heart chakra meets the throat chakra. Working in this area is highly gratifying because the results can be felt instantly. Begin by making a fist. Place the first metacarpal bone at the base of your thumb against your thymus area. Pound on the area swiftly. Increase the amount of pressure you’re striking upon yourself as much as you can and then stop to take a rest after about 30 seconds. You may feel a noticeable tingling sensation inside the chest followed by a feeling of alleviation in the lungs, the entire upper body, and even in the head. These signs indicate that you’re doing things correctly.
Two of the most effective poses which help maintain good heart hygiene are reclined thunderbolt (septa vajrasana) and camel pose (ustrasana). While any yogic practice can reveal expansive benefits to the chest area of the body, these two poses in particular tend to empower the torso in extremely noticeable ways. Other than simply helping you feel amazingly powerful, listed below are many of the benefits they offer:
-The ribcage becomes completely dilated and stretched out helping the lungs achieve maximum air intake
-The functions of the endocrine glands improve
-Spinal flexibility improves
-The adrenals become regulated
-Bodily relaxation improves
-The legs are loosened up and strengthened
-Anger and aggression tend to decrease
-Lower back pain is relieved
-The thyroid gets stimulated
-Apparent emotional release occurs
6. The Rumble Roller
If there’s one essential device to purchase for regular upkeep of the heart chakra, it’s the Rumble Roller. I didn’t find the Rumble Roller; it found me, and I’m glad it did. This is an amazing, lightweight tool to add to your yoga practice. There are two different levels of firmness which the Rumble Roller offers (I use the extra firm black roller). Similar to the “slow dig” technique, the Rumble Roller offers a Shiatsu style self massage experience which you have the ability to control at your own pace. Depending on your anatomical nature (basically whether or not you have breasts) you can use the Rumble Roller on the chest to experience an extremely high level of alleviation and lung expansion. This is an advanced method for those who are ready to work on removing the final dregs of psycho emotional pain areas of the torso. Beginners may want to consider trying this first on the bed (a mattress is much more forgiving) in order to work your way up to the pressure felt by dropping your entire weight onto the the Rumble Roller. I first started using the this device vertically underneath my chin, in-between my pectorals, laying face down on a yoga mat, palms on the floor, rocking extremely slowly from left to right, and allowing the firm spikes to dig deep into the problematic areas down the center of my chest. In pushup position and working with the breath, I found an opportunity to gauge exactly how much weight I felt ready to drop onto the spikes. The roller can also be utilized horizontally across the chest (again, those with breasts or a substantial amount of fat cells on the chest may need to resituate and experiment with the roller accordingly). Slowly rolling the spikes into the target areas combined with slow, deep breaths brings forth a monumental feeling of alleviation upon pushing back up. The first time I did this it felt like I was surfacing after being trapped underwater, gasping for air as I came up off the device. The Rumble Roller can be used on the entire body, but one more important area I’ll mention is along the outer rim of the scapula. The Rumble Roller is the perfect tool for penetrating this highly sensitive area. It can be addressed while rolling on your back and also while laying in “Cleopatra” position (on your side, elbow on the ground, head propped up by your hand). In this position you can dig deep into your outer scapula or “wing bone” area as you may begin to feel a distinct numbing feeling pulsating through your arm. It’s almost hard to believe the intense amount of relief this little roller has given me. It is a true game changer.
7. Emotional Release
Manifested psycho-emotional pain points in the body could easily be likened to getting wood splinters, yet many of these emotional “splinters” we have taken on were lodged into us during times of shock or during periods of our lives where we were too young to detect their entry. As we mature into adulthood, developing our careers and moving forward with our lives, most of us remain completely unaware of the depths of the pain we carry. For many, our point of awareness has moved into the skull and remained trapped between the ears for years. In the U.S., it’s a well-known fact that heart disease remains the leading cause of death. Something doesn’t appear to be working too well here. Often times in allopathy, we look to treat the mere symptoms of what ails us, thwarting off a direct confrontation with the cause. But what is the cause? The wise Indian sage Nisargadatta Maharaj was once asked about suffering. His reply: “All you need is to stop searching outside for what can be found only within. Set your vision right before you operate. You are suffering from acute misapprehension. Clarify your mind, purify your heart, sanctify your life - this is the quickest way to change your world.” Notice the phrasing “your world”. We each see the world subjectively through the lens filters of our current heart’s condition. These filters have a tendency to compound over time. When clinging to the memories of pleasure, and warding off the memories of pain, we often get our focus stuck inside feedback loops of status quo consciousness. Maharaj: “The future left to itself merely repeats the past.” If we are to break our bodies and minds free from these cycles, we must take radical steps of advancement at times. When we make a conscious decision to move into an emotional purging process, we have most likely arrived at a firm conclusion that whatever program we have been running in the background leading up to this point has not been serving us or allowing us to develop our highest potential as creators. When undergoing this work, the emotions coming out can be unbearable. You may break down sobbing in the shower, the kitchen, the car—anywhere really. Allow yourself to grieve and to grieve well. This is an important part of opening up as your tears become your greatest strength.
8. Synchronistic Events
Up until the point in which I had fully opened up my heart, the answer as to how I had been creating my life’s events was still enshrouded in mystery. Some of the first symptoms of an open heart would be noticeable synchronicities. Be prepared to be met with periods of confrontation, but also with moments of both grace and love. Memories which have been stored in the body, now that they have been unleashed, may restructure and appear as new events or circumstances. A story which may help explain this involved a traumatic incident from my childhood at the age of twelve when I endured a dog attack in my front yard, as a vicious stray came and took the life of my family dog in front of me. Thinking back to that time, I felt a great deal of guilt and remorse, since the family dog was under my care and responsibility during the moment of the attack. As a child, I held in my feelings, never allowing myself to fully grieve. There were many occasions when these held-back feelings eventually morphed into physical illnesses. Upon opening my heart nearly twenty years later, this unhealed wound with my dog, along with many others, eventually began to resurface. I didn’t see any distinct visions of the attack appear in my mind. I had no memory recollection of the event whatsoever, but what did in fact resurface were the blind, stored up emotions connected to it. Once those emotions were dislodged, along with many other emotions relating to past events, and as I deeply entered into my own grieving process, this was about the time when the synchronicities slowly began to unfold. There was one night during this phase when I was getting out of my car in a parking lot. As I stood up and turned around, waiting for its owner in the back of a pickup, I was met face to face with that same breed which had taken away my family dog. In the past, seeing that breed would have left me feeling a strong aversion or uneasiness, but this time, even caught off-guard like this, I barely flinched. Another confrontation happened a couple months later. This time I was out for a run in the hills near my neighborhood. As I came around the bend, there it was—that same dog at a dead halt, possibly the largest of that breed I had ever seen, staring directly at me. For a split second I thought about retreating, but “No” I said, “I’m staying on the trail” as I continued to advance closer. The dog began to run towards me. We got closer and closer until eventually crossing paths, breezing past each other. Nothing happened. I kept running. In that moment I felt a slight shift into a new lifeline—a “rite of passage” if you will.
A New Dimension
In the Tao Te Ching (I know, we’re not supposed to talk about it) Lao Tzu states “Thoughts weaken the mind. Desires wither the heart. The Master observes the world but trusts their own inner vision.” Whoever Lao Tzu “the old man” really was, he clearly understood the powerful language of the heart. We could even go so far as to perceive the human heart is the physical manifestation of the Tao itself, that “darkness within darkness, the gateway to all understanding”. When the heart is completely open and your chest area feels clear, strong, and resilient, there becomes less of a tendency to overthink things. Rather, at times you may find yourself taking bold action without thinking much at all. The strongest mind is a clear mind, and the most powerful heart is “open as the sky.”