Please welcome Whole Life Yoga teacher training graduate and instructor Julie Miller to the Whole Life blog today. Julie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Julie, I know you teach classes on Yoga Nidra and the Chakras. Can you tell us a little about the chakra system?
No matter what you may think of Donald Trump you will likely agree that lack of self-confidence is not an area where he struggles. Third chakra in overdrive! Cookie Monster’s addiction may be driven by second chakra issues (especially if the desire is emotionally driven), and one could consider the Dalai Lama’s immense capability for compassion as coming from an open fourth chakra. That said, there are no “good” or “bad” chakras. No one is better or more important than the others. When they are balanced, all work together to support good health in mind, body, and spirit. When they are out of balance, behavior or energy can swing to extremes, i.e. an out of balance fourth chakra might look like someone who can’t act without seeking approval from others first or the opposite extreme of being very guarded and untrusting.
To back up a bit and give a quick introduction to the chakras, they are centers of energy in the body –places where pathways of energy, called nadis, converge. These nadis often overlap with the energy meridians diagramed and used in Chinese Medicine. While you are probably most familiar with the seven chakras that run from the base of the spine to the crown of the head, there are other chakras in the body as well particularly on the palms of the hands (engaged for energy healing) and soles of the feet (absorbing healing energy from the earth). Yoga is just one of the many ways to work with bringing the chakras into balance. Mediation, chanting, color, sound, scent, foods, and crystals are other popular ways to clear, balance, and activate your energy centers. The ordering and synthesis of the chakras has been compared to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs or an elevator from which one gains a wider perspective with each level. Just like with the elevator, it is important to have a strong foundation and stability in the lower levels before moving in to the top floor. Let’s take a quick tour of the seven main chakras that run up the spine.
1st Chakra – Muladara (Root Support). Located at the base of your spine, this is where you ground yourself. Working with this chakra means looking at what makes you feel safe, secure, and centered. It can also mean taking a look at ancestral patterns, these might be inherited habits or tendencies that may have made sense in another time or generation but do not serve your highest good. Practices: walk barefoot, surrender in child’s pose.
2nd Chakra – Svadisthana (Sweetness-also thought of as one’s own base). Located just below your navel, this is where you awaken to pleasure. It is associated with the element water and all that water often symbolizes: emotions, movement, and sexuality. Practices: dancing, journaling, or any other form of art that that allows you to express your emotions.
3rd Chakra – Manipura (Lustrous Gem). Located at the solar plexus, here is where our light shines through. The qualities of this chakra are courage, self-confidence, personal power, and will. The element of fire associated with this chakra is the element of transformation. Focused intention here can help you to get motivated and transform old habits. Practices: candle meditation, twists with the intention to release can be very powerful.
4th Chakra – Anahata (Unstruck, as in the unstruck sound of the sound of the Universe). Located in the center of the chest. The energy of the heart center is that of compassion, tenderness, and unconditional love. Practices: heart opening poses like bridge or warrior 1, especially with hands starting at the heart, loving kindness meditation.
5th Chakra- Vishuddha (Purification). Located at the throat, opening this center clears the way for self-expression, communication, and speaking your truth. As we move into the upper chakras the practices become less physical and more inward focused. Practices: chanting your favorite mantra or kirtan.
6th Chakra- Ajna (Perception). Located between the eyebrows, often called the third eye. The association here is with the mind, imagination, and intuition. This chakra can be utilized to help to visualize your best life path. Practice: one of the best practices to access this chakra is Yoga Nidra.
7th Chakra- Sahasrara (Thousandfold). Located at the crown of the head and symbolized by the 1,000 petaled lotus flower that connects us to our highest self. Opening the crown chakra leads to a path of recognizing the wonders of the Universe and our connection to all living beings. It is the chakra of community. Practices: silent meditation or prayer.
A great way to begin is to start with a grounding practice engaging the root chakra and then working with whichever of the chakras may feel a little out of balance. There are many great resources online included guided mediations or suggestion on colors, foods or scents. Be gentle with yourself and know that it is an ongoing process, like the practice of yoga, working with chakras can be a tool for cultivating self-awareness, mindfulness, and a general sense of increased well-being.
Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, learn about our Yoga Alliance Registered yoga teacher training program, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.