Closing our Chakra energy exploration, we focus this week on our pranayama and asana work to reveal differences and changes in energy throughout our body, but also within our mind. Full breath practices with hand mudras (seals) can bring our sensate awareness to notice all parts of the lungs, and where we may feel resistance to opening up the breath.
Expansive poses highlight the need for applied effort combined with a sense of release- a tough combination indeed. We bring these elements into Warrior II with energised arms stretched out wide, effort through the legs and body yet calm gaze, relaxed through face, neck and tops of shoulders. Twists tend not to be associated with space, yet we need to feel lifted through the spine and open at the heart. Front body stretches such as Ustrasana (camel) require strong upward energy (from a firm base) to avoid any sense of compaction through the spine and at the lower back. Many muscle groups are working here through the abdominals, back, and legs. Full breathing can be a challenge which tends to introduce tension, so this must be noticed and countered. Hip openers culminate with Kapotanasana (pigeon pose), giving some students a chance to reflect on mental resistance as well as physical!
We conclude our practice with focus on each Chakra energy centre, using mantras to notice what difference is made by sound and vibration. Some may resonate more than others, which again, can provide clues as to where energy flows more or less freely. So let go of inhibition, and let the good vibrations roll!
We reach our uppermost Chakra, Sahasrara The image of a 1000 petalled lotus flower gives us the sense of an infinite opening upwards and reaching out, whilst retaining all the sustenance needed right down to our roots. The boundaries between our finite selves and the energy all around us melts away. With each inhale, we draw energy from around us and with each exhale, we give back. We sometimes strongly feel that energy connection with others in our yoga classes and in other communal activities.
Located at the crown of the head and the space beyond, this energy centre represents our right to know and learn. In order to do so, we must process information, challenge assumptions, discard preconceptions and be open minded. When we do, we acquire broad understanding and wisdom, the shackles of our life are loosened and the blinders removed. This journey never ends and for those with healthy seventh chakra energy, nor does the wonder of life.
We can feel when we are in the presence of person with well developed Crown chakra energy. They are rare beings who honour us with their interest and attention and genuine belief that we are amazing. They make us feel special and limitless. As we feed on the positive energy they give, it grows within us, and we share it around too, perhaps not even noticing we are doing it. As we begin to comprehend the power in it, it can inspire us to engage more fully with everything around us: to cultivate that sense of joy and curiosity that truly does make the world a better place.
Our lives are often confined by the illusion of packets of finite time. Clocks and calendars reinforce the notion. If we don’t like this packet (or asana), we can look forward to the next or remember a nicer one from the past. But the reality is there is simply the experience of being in one moment and then the next, each unique and fleeting. Each moment is a step in our journey and gives us the opportunity to learn, to connect, to share, to become wiser. We get to choose what energy and mindset we bring to it, whether we are there for that moment, or just check ourselves out.
The more we cultivate being present breath by breath on our yoga mat, the more likely we are to stay present that next moment off the mat, and the one after that. So pause a moment at the end of your practice to feel the energy within and around you, share a smile, open yourself up to the world around you. Make it a great moment.
Our Chakra energy continues to rise with our sixth centre, Ajna- to perceive, to command. Element light, we seek illumination as opposed to illusion. We express our right to clarity: to see clearly, with truth. Located at our eyebrow centre, this space is often referred to in yoga as the Third Eye. It is one of our gaze points, or drishti. As we soften our gaze or close our eyes, our third eye can become clearer: we can better connect to our in-sight when there is less distraction.
Balanced energy at the sixth chakra brings characteristics of perception, trust in our own intuition, ability to think symbolically and recognise patterns, and to visualise. These attributes assist enormously in distinguishing illusion from reality, and along with other chakra energies, give us the courage and strength to see what is, as opposed to what we wish or want.
We all carry with us patterns of behaviour both mental and physical that are shaped by our upbringing, friends, occupations, environment, health, etc. We carry with us our self image, which is multi-faceted; spouse, parent, child, friend, skilled professional, etc. The behaviours we adopt for these roles can become habit. Without insight, we enter the illusion that these roles are who we are. We’ve grasped onto the illusion, invested in it and have become bound up by it. Our yoga helps us to see these patterns. With awareness, comes choice.
In our practices this week, we use Nadi Shodhana to help balance prana energy. We focus on the pattern within simple vinyasa sequences, perhaps experience some apprehension as external prompting fades away and we become our own guide. We make decisions for ourselves: choice of asana, how to work within poses, when to rest, where to take it. We learn to listen to our inner voice, trust in our own wisdom, challenge patterns in our practice.
So empower yourself to make positive changes, to loosen binds, and to experience a sense of freedom. Create space and light for your true self to shine through.
A new year brings our next chakra. We enter the higher chakras with Vissudha, which translates as purification. The element sound, this energy centre resides at the throat with vital air udana. Our journey expands upward and outward, as we find our voice and express our creativity. We explore our right to speak and be heard.
This energy centre is a bridge between our inner and outer experience but also between our mind and body. Through communication we find what resonates with us, and use our voice to help realise our goals. Words help us make sense of our thoughts and feelings, as well as those of others. We feel positive energy when we use our voice to speak truth but avoid hurt. Our energy and those around us is conserved when we communicate clearly and concisely.
To be heard there must be air, so full and free breathing enhances the voice. In classes we explore throat chakra mantra and notice our voice, hear when we run out of air and feel the effects of the vibrations created within us by sound. Asanas work to free up neck and shoulders, as well as activating shoulder stability by deploying the muscles around the shoulder blades, whilst maintaining softness at the tops of the shoulders, the neck and jaw. It can be tricky to isolate work in one area without drawing tension into others, so we notice this and use our breath to assist.
Through our practice we experience the interrelationship of body, breath and mind, influencing and influenced by each other. We create space and time to hear our inner voice as it guides us on our path of well being. So listen, and trust in you.
Ruth is a yoga therapist and yoga teacher based in Cheltenham, UK. She emphasises yoga as a tool for well-being, for individuals and in her classes, in person or via zoom.