Have you ever noticed how powerful it seems and what it adds to your yoga practice when certain words or images are uses in the instruction? Words like “root”, “ground”, “flow”, “create”, “power”, “empower”, “love”, “nurture”, “truth”, “imagine”, “connect”, and “surrender” are all more than just nice to help create a certain attitude… they each are directly related into your energy system and influence you on a deeper level than simply the mind. How? Through the chakras.
The Chakra system has been referenced since the days of the ancient yogis and refers to the subtle energy that we are each made up of in addition to our physical structures, organs, muscles and bones.
The word Chakra literally means ‘wheel’ and it is said that while the energy flows throughout the body within channels called nadis, it condenses within 7 primary energy wheels, chakras, located in specific areas throughout the body. Each of these 7 energy centers relate to different qualities and purposes and are both deeply affected by and influential in our experiences day to day.
Each chakra has the possibility of being more or less open, strong and/or weak, and various patterns, personality characteristics, challenges and strengths may point to where in one’s energy system there is health or dysfunction. These same factors can lead us toward where we might focus attention within the energy system to support ourselves and our movement toward greater health and well-being.
Here is a very basic synopsis of each center:
First chakra – muladhara – root chakra.
This first energy center is located at the base of the spine, around the tip of the tailbone and is related to stability, security and belonging. Our sense of being part of a community and of feeling safe and supported are reflected within the first, or root, chakra. When there are challenges within this center, there may be a sense of alienation, lack of trust or a feeling of un-rootedness.
Second chakra – svadisthana – sacral chakra.
Literally translated, svadisthana, means something like, ‘my own place’ or ‘my own home’. Located in the deep belly or just in front of the sacrum (the bone at the center of the back pelvis) the energy here is related to creation and creativity; to pleasure, sensuality and movement. When there is imbalance here, an individual may feel stuck or not know what their purpose in the world is. They may also have a difficult time receiving and enjoying pleasurable experiences.
Third chakra – manipurna – navel or solar plexus chakra.
The word manipurna means ‘city of jewels’ and refers to the powerful shine of directed and effective action. This energy center, located between the navel and lower ribs at the level of the solar plexus, is often called the “power center” and is related to sense of self, will and manifest action in the world. Difficulties here may show up as a lack of confidence or efficacy, limited will power or a feeling of weakness or lack of drive.
Fourth chakra – anahata – heart chakra.
“Unstruck” the heart chakra rings out with love, compassion, empathy and nurturing. Located at the heart center, it embodies the qualities of self-love and caring as well as those emotions directed outward. One with a troubled heart chakra may have difficulty taking care of her/himself, have poor self esteem, find it hard to accept or express love or have a skewed sense of what it means to be loved causing difficulties in relationships.
Fifth chakra – visshuda – throat chakra.
Visshuda means purity and health in this energy center could show in truthful, clear and direct communication. There is a certain element of self-acceptance expressed here through a feeling of worthiness of being heard and having something worthwhile to say or to offer to the world. Extreme shyness, poor communication and even lying could be indicators of imbalance in the throat.
Sixth chakra – ajna – third eye chakra.
Located in the center of the forehead, or actually deep in the brain near the pineal gland, ajna chakra is the “command” center. Command through deep intuition, inspiration and vision brings about a sense of clarity and the ability to see for oneself. Lack of imagination, the inability to conjure dreams and inspiration for life and/or limited trust in one’s instinct or no sense of deeper knowing can all point to challenges with this “sixth sense” energy center.
Seventh chakra – sahaswara – crown chakra.
This “thousand petaled lotus” is the crown of the energy system. Located just above the top of the head, this seventh wheel is related to divine connection and a sense of the spirit element of one’s being. The ability to truly surrender the fruit of one’s actions and trust in something greater than the individual self come with a strong and open crown chakra. A lack of belief in a bigger force, the universal Self, or a sense of loss in trust or belief in this divine element, may indicate a disconnect within sahaswara.
There are many examples of ways in which people work with the chakras. From esoteric practices to very practical ones, there are myriad possibilities for chakra balancing, clearing, strengthening and opening. You can spin your chakras, meditate on them, clean them, focus on their color, send light to them, journey with them, connect to them, have a healer clear them and so much more.
While I personally have experienced many of these various methods and practices through workshops, work with several different healers and my own study, the very most effective way of understanding and connecting to my own chakra system has been through a focused, intentional asana, yoga posture, practice.
For years I have been bringing this focus into both my yoga practice and teaching and while it often is not “mind blowing”, I have found it extremely effective in creating an overall greater sense of awareness, health, self-understanding and balance.
Through body focus within the specific locales of the energy centers and thematic focus and intention, the chakras, their qualities and their power have become a deep and abiding foundation for my practice. They are ever present in my consciousness both as I practice and as I teach. While I may not always use chakra specific terminology within my instruction, I am always aware of the energetic impact of the way we work in the practice and the way the chakras may both impact our physical expression in the body and also be influenced as we open, strengthen and explore and physical and deeper being.
This summer I plan to lead a group of adventurous students through a fun and exciting journey of the chakra system through asana practice. We will look at some of the potential manifestations physically, emotionally and spiritually of each chakra and experience posture sequences as well as some other practices that can help us to develop greater insight to the powerful support the chakras can lend to a deepening body, mind and spirit based yoga practice.
If you are in the Portland area, consider joining us, Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, 6:15 – 7:30 a.m. for 8 weeks beginning June 17. I know it will be enriching!