Chakras and energy.
I am a yoga teacher and a professional interior architect. I see parallels between architecture and the physical, spiritual and energetic body. I like to compare ashtanga yoga to modern architecture; there are no decorations, no elaborate details like in rococo or gothic architecture - ashtanga yoga is pure in it’s expression and in it’s form.
Less is more. In my many years of experience as a student of ashtanga yoga and in the past 5 years as a teacher, I have noticed that the subtle body is seldom talked about in an ashtanga class or even with ashtangis after practice, it’s more of a feeling within the body. But having stated that, the subtle body doesn’t go untouched in the ashtanga practice. Yoga helps the subtle body become balanced and finely tuned.
You may be asking yourself the question right now - the subtle body? What is that? I refer to the writings of Anodea Judith, a leading expert in the chakra system. In her book Wheels of Life, she explains that the subtle body is the nonphysical psychic body that is superimposed on our physical body. The subtle body consists of energy centres called chakras and meridians in the body that transport energy up and down the spine through each chakra. Anodea Judith refers to chakras as organising centres for the reception, assimilation and transmission of life energies - a coordinating network of our mind/body system.
If we do a run though of activities throughout our day, we will probably be surprised that most of us spend our time focusing our attention outward. We focus our attention on getting to and from work, performing our tasks at work, checking our social media on our mobile phone, our kids’ activities, cleaning the house and so fourth. Even in our yoga practice we may slip into the habit of focusing on the outer form - our alignment, mastering an asana or moving too fast or too slowly from one asana to the next that we forget to pay attention to what is happening inward. In teacher trainings and in advanced workshops that I have attended, the practice of asana and technique seems to get the most attention. Perhaps because asana can immediately be experienced, it is tangible and concrete -the eyes can see it.
But have you ever wondered what the practice of asana is doing on a deeper level? An energetic level? Over the years I have become more and more fascinated by this topic and have come to learn that an understanding of the chakra system is a useful tool to read and understand what is going on in our bodies on an energetic level.
The word CHAKRA has origins from India and means wheel. A wheel of energy located at seven points in the physical body, the frontal body - along the axis of the spine. We have 7 chakras in our body and each chakra is located at along the central axis of the nervous system, the spine. Each chakra influences bodily functions near its region of the spine and interact with the body’s ductless endocrine glands and lymphatic system by feeding in good bio-energies and disposing of unwanted bio-energies. They are also linked to the nerve ganglia (plexuses) of the body and influence nervous functions as well. Chakras are influential at every level of our functioning and well-being. They are responsible for keeping the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health of the body in balance. Chakras are seen through visualisation and sensitivity.
I will give a short overview of the chakras as I refer to the writings of several experts with in this field: Anodea Judith, Michelle Fondin, Deepok and Tias Little
The first chakra, the root chakra, Muladhara in Sanskrit represents everything solid - it is the earth element. It represents our foundation - the place we all come from. Our life experiences and social programming are interconnected to how we feel within our physical body. The first chakra questions are around the idea of survival and safety.
The root chakra is where we ground ourselves into the earth and anchor our energy to manifest our world.
Asanas to balance your first chakra: poses that incorporate pushing downward, extending roots, surrendering to gravity.
The second chakra, the, Svadhisthana in Sanskrit means one’s own place. Our desires, needs. longings, and urges are said to arise from this chakra. It is associated with the emotional body, sensuality, and creativity. Its element is water and as such, its energy is characterized by flow and flexibility.
When the sacral chakra is balanced, the relationship with the world and other people is centered around nurturing, pleasure, harmonious exchange.
Asanas to balance your second chakra: Inward rotation of thighs, balancing polarities, rooting down/lifting up and opening to flow, fun and play.
The third chakra, Solar Plexus chakra -the power chakra. Manipura in Sanskrit. Matter (first chakra) and movement (the second chakra) combine to generate the elements of the third chakra which is fire. The main function of this energy center is to provide actual momentum to move forward and realize personal desires and intentions in the world.
It plays a fundamental role in the development of personal power. It feeds one’s direction in life and the actions taken in order to reach your goals. It influences preoccupations about social status and self-image.
Asanas to balance your third chakra: Balance, warriors, torso toners, twists, plank
The fourth chakra, The heart chakra -the chakra of love. Anahata in Sanskrit. The heart chakra colors our life with compassion, love, and beauty. Driven by the principles of transformation and integration, the fourth energy center is said to bridge earthly and spiritual aspirations.elements of the third chakra which is fire. When open, we may feel being deeply connected, the harmonious exchange of energy with all that is around us, and the appreciation of beauty. However, when there’s a blockage, we may experience difficulties in relating with others, such as excessive jealousy, codependency, or being closed down, withdrawn.
Asanas to balance your fourth chakra: chest openers, shoulder openers, breath openers, backbends.
The fifth chakra, The throat chakra, the chakra of communication. Visuddha in Sankskrit.
Sound, rhythm, vibration and words are powerful rulers of our lives that we often take for granted. Communications connects and makes life possible. The throat chakra contains the anatomical regions of the thyroid, parathyroid, jaw, neck, mouth, tongue, and larynx. To be open and aligned in the fifth chakra is to speak, listen, and express yourself from a higher form of communication.
Dr. David Simon suggests three gateways we should cross before speaking.
1. First, ask yourself, “Is what I am about to say true?”
2. If so, proceed to the second gateway and ask, “Is what I am about to say necessary?”
3. If the answer is yes, go to the third gateway and ask yourself, “Is what I am about to say kind?”
Speaking our highest truth doesn’t mean we allow ourselves to be hurtful or critical. The truth from our spiritual essence will come across as kind and compassionate.
Asanas to balance your fifth chakra: Shoulder openers, shoulder stands, headstand. handstands.
The sixth chakra, The third eye chakra, the chakra of communication. Anja in Sankskrit.
It encompasses the pituitary gland, eyes, head, and lower part of the brain. An invisible yet powerful third eye, this is your center of intuition. A spiritual chakra, which means “beyond wisdom,” Ajna leads you to an inner knowledge that will guide you if you let it. An open sixth chakra can enable clairvoyance, telepathy, lucid dreaming, expanded imagination, and visualisation.
Asanas to balance your sixth chakra: Shoulder openers, shoulder stands, headstand. handstands.
The seventh chakra, The crown chakra. Sarhasrara in Sankskrit. It is our source of enlightenm
ent and spiritual connection to all that is. It is a connection to our higher selves, to every being on the planet, and ultimately the divine energy that creates everything in the universe. True opening of Sahaswara means the realization that you are pure awareness. You are pure consciousness, undivided, and all expansive. Like a drop in the ocean, you are a part of that ocean that contains and encompasses every aspect of it.
Asanas to balance your seventh chakra: inversions, pranayama and meditation
CHAKRAS can become unbalanced by an excess of or a depletion of energy. The chakras are like rooms of a house - each one has a function, a form and a color. When the chakras are in balance we feel like all is right. When they are out of balance, we are off. A regular practice of yoga can help to balance the chakras. I like to compare my yoga practice to flossing my teeth, it is like flossing my body on an energetic level and helps to remove the stagnant energy that naturally builds up in the body thoughout the day.