Chakras and Asanas

It is a long held belief or assumption in the Indian tradition that every person on this earth has seven chakras, or energy centers. When all of these chakras are opened and balanced, higher consciousness is obtained. On the contrary, if some of the chakras are blocked or deficient, physical and psychological symptoms may occur.   A deficient chakra neither receives appropriate energy nor easily manifests that chakra’s energy in the world. There’s a sense of being physically and emotionally closed down in the area of a deficient chakra. Think of the slumped shoulders of someone who is depressed and lonely, their heart chakra receding into their chest. The deficient chakra needs to open.   When a chakra is excessive, it is too overloaded to operate in a healthy way and becomes a dominating force in a person’s life. Someone with an excessive fifth (throat) chakra, for example, might talk too much and be unable to listen well. If the chakra were deficient, she might experience restraint and difficulty when communicating.     The chakra system provides a theoretical base for fine-tuning our yoga practice to suit our unique personality and circumstances. Chakra is the Sanskrit word for wheel, and these “wheels” were thought of as spinning vortexes of energy.   The seven chakras are the Muladhara Chakra, Svadisthana Chakra, Manipura Chakra, Anahata Chakra, Visuddha Chakra, Ajna Chakra and Sahasrara Chakra.   The first chakra, the Muladhara Chakra is centered at the perineum and the base of the spine. This energy vortex is involved in tending to our survival needs, establishing a healthy sense of groundedness, taking good basic care of the body, and purging the body of wastes. The associated body parts include the base of the spine, the legs, feet, and the large intestine.   We experience deficiencies in this chakra as “survival crises.” However mild or severe—whether you’ve been evicted, gone bankrupt, or just have the flu-these crises usually demand a lot of immediate attention. On the other hand, signs of excessiveness in the first chakra include greed, hoarding of possessions or money, or attempting to ground yourself by gaining a lot of excess weight.   The asanas that help with the Muladhara are Uttanasana, Ardha Mandalasana and Utthita Trikonasana as they work on the lower body such as hamstrings etc.   The second chakra, the Svadisthana Chakra is located at the pelvis, just above the Muladhara chakra.The tasks of the second chakra include allowing for emotional and sensual movement in our life, opening to pleasure, and learning how to “go with the flow.” Associated with the hips, sacrum, lower back, genitals, womb, bladder, and kidneys, this chakra is involved with sensuality, sexuality, emotions, intimacy, and desire. All watery things about us have to do with this chakra: circulation, urination, menstruation, orgasm, tears. Water flows, moves, and changes, and a healthy second chakra allows us to do so too.   Asanas which help with the Svadisthana chakra are Gomukhasana (cow face pose) and  Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon Pose)   The third chakra, the Manipura Chakra is located on the solar plexus, navel and digestive system. This chakra is involved in self-esteem, warrior energy and the power of transformation. It is the driving force for all actions. Since the manipura chakra is located on the navel, asanas which work on the core would help greatly. They are Navasana (boat pose) and Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Leg Lifts).   The fourth chakra, the Anahata chakra rests in the center of the chakra system. Its physical location is the heart, upper chest and upper back. Through the heart chakra, we open to and connect with harmony and peace. The health of our heart center registers the quality and power of love in our life. Asanas which help are the backbending poses such as the Bridge pose.   The fifth chakra, Visuddha Chakra is located in the neck, throat, jaw, and mouth. The Visuddha chakra resonates with our inner truth and helps us find a personal way to convey our voice to the outside world. People with an active Visuddha Chakra are good orators and influencers. Great Visuddha chakra openers are Sarvangasana and Ustrasana.   The sixth chakra and the seven chakra are the Ajna and Sahasrasa chakras respectively. The Ajna chakra, known as the third eye, is located in between the eyebrows and the Sahasrasa chakra is located above the head, at the crown. The Ajna chakra helps with clairvoyance, telepathy, intuition, dreaming, imagination, and visualization. Asanas that help with the Ajna chakra are those with dristi at between the eyebrows.   One of the ways the Sahasrasa chakra can be opened is through the practice of Kundalini yoga or meditaion. Kundalini is the energy located at the bottom ofour spines and through the practice of Kundalini yoga, one can awaken the dormant energy at the base of the spine and raise it to the crown of the head where the Sahasrasa chakra.   Yoga asanas have changed my life in a way I never knew it could. Take for example, I felt more grounded after working on my muladhara chakra. I did not even know that the hips and hamstrings asanas I am working on actually helped with the muladhara chakra. It was no wonder usually after every yin class, my mind became more still and more peaceful.   Different people suit to different types of yoga. For me, ever since I took this ashtanga course, I realized a slow paced yoga style such as yin or Iyenga yoga pertains better to my liking. More than often my mind is like a warzone, with a plethora of thoughts occupying this little mind of mine. Yin or any slow paced style of yoga helps me to overcome this; focusing inward onto the breath. Ashtanga requires an awareness of the breath too, but when everything is so fast paced and always in flow, I find it harder to focus on my breath. Nevertheless, Ashtanga has been a good experience and maybe my opinion of Ashtanga vinyasa will improve as time goes on.   Lou (YTT 200 Hr Tirisula Yoga)