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The Chakras: Psychic Physiology of Yoga

If you have been practicing Yoga with me over the past month (September 2021), you may have realised that the themes of the classes were indeed the Chakras. I've tried to provide as much information about the Chakras during the 45-75 minutes classes, but I suppose it's nicer to take a moment and fully soak into the magic of these points of energy.

I would like to start by explaining why I chose the Chakras as this month's theme and there are a couple of reasons:

  1. I love the fact that at first glance, the Chakras appear as something mystical, perhaps even a bit magical or abstract, but the more you dig into the history and the knowledge around them, there is actually so much correlation to the human science and the body's systems.

  2. I strongly believe that Yoga shouldn't be only about physical postures because there is so much tradition, history, philosophy and knowledge and it's only fair that we carry it on, generation to generation.

  3. This time of the year is a period of change, of transition from hotter days to cooler ones, from social interactions to moments of quiet and introspection, so I think it's nice to take a moment and acknowledge how our bodies, minds and spirits are doing and what we can do to realign and feel more in-tune while everything else around us evolves and transforms.

Definition of Chakras

So what does Chakra mean and where does it come from? From Sanskrit, the word chakra literally means 'wheel' or 'circle', but in the yogic and Ayurvedic tradition, it is often translated as 'vortex' or 'whirlpool'. The chakras are points of vital energy, located in specific areas of our body which control the flow of life force, prana, around the human system. On a physical level, chakras are associated with the major nerve plexuses and endocrine glands in the body. This is why we also use asanas (yogic postures) to realign or unlock the chakras, as they have powerful and beneficial effects on these glands.

Traditionally, Chakras are represented with the lotus flower, which symbolises the three stages that we must pass through spiritual life: ignorance, aspiration and illumination, It represents the spiritual growth from low awareness to the highest state of consciousness.


What do Chakras do?

Imagine a Chakra being a pinwheel, which keeps on spinning and it stems patterns of behaviour, thoughts, or emotions which may be unconscious in our everyday life.

Each chakra relates to a specific area of the brain and in most people, these psychic centres are often inactive. Unless you are a yogi of course, and in that case, we work on stimulating the flow of energy through the chakras and help awaken them. By activating our chakras, we are able to tap into experience planes of consciousness which are normally inaccessible.

Whilst there are many chakras in the human's system, we identify there to be 7 major points of energy, which are located along the sushumna, an energy channel that travels through the centre of the spinal cord.

If like me, you are a visual person, imagine a long pathway with 7 roundabouts. Each of these roundabouts is a chakra. Now to get from one to the other, there are 2 main roads, one going up and one going down (the nadis). Not sure if it makes sense to you, but it does in my head.

Anyways! The sushumna starts at the perineum and ends at the top of our head, just where angels have their halo. Whereas the nadis, the psychic channels, correspond to the nerves.


Mooladhara chakra: the root chakra

From the word mool, which means root and adhara, meaning place, this chakra is located at the bottom of our spine (precisely in the cervix in the female body and in the perineum in the male body). It is associated with the element of the earth, hence why it is aligned, we feel grounded and calm.

Mooladhara chakra is the seat of primal energy, kundalini shakti, the source of all energy of humankind and the universe, whether sexual, emotional, mental psychic or spiritual.

Traditionally, it is associated to the colour red.


Root Chakra meditation I shared in class:

I am connected to all that is around me. This connection gives me a strong foundation and does not hold me back. Security and stability in life both allow me to move with confidence and connection to who I am.


Swadhisthana chakra: the sacral chakra

It is located about two fingers' width above mooladhara chakra, in the spine. It is associated with seeking pleasure and security. In swadhisthana the emphasis is on overcoming fear, releasing ourselves from the past and the future, and allowing ourselves to fully enjoy the pleasures of life (including sexual interactions).

When this chakra is active, you may feel particular cravings and desires becoming overwhelming. It is the centre of all our deepest instincts and past imprints of the humankind.


Sacral Chakra readings and quotes I have shared in class:

When we let go of fear, magical things can happen.

Sometimes it's hard to admit, but fear is what holds us back a lot of the time. Fear of not being liked, fear of failing, fear of disappointment, fear of regret, you name it.

Fear lives in the future, not in the present. We spend a lot of our present time worrying about things that haven't even happened yet, but not enough time preparing for success.

What is your biggest fear? Is it holding you back from becoming a better version of yourself?


"Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realise that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvellously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones."

- Thich Nhat Hanh


Manipura chakra: the solar plexus centre

It is located in the spine, just behind the navel, and it is traditionally translated to the 'city of jewels'. It is the centre of our power, radiant with vitality and energy. This chakra is associated to the colour yellow and the fire element. It is the centre of self-assertion, dynamism and dominance. On the negative side, it is attached to the ego, wanting to gain personal power and satisfy personal needs.

The solar plexus chakra has much to do with motivation, willpower, and purpose, which stem from one’s sense of personal efficacy. Self-confidence and view of the self connect to the solar plexus chakra, as well. Furthermore, this chakra governs the digestive system and its respective organs, specifically digestion and food metabolism. As a result, it has jurisdiction over both the gut’s emotional brain and stored emotions.

Manipura chakra is the psychic centre which controls the desires to find food and nurture oneself.


Solar plexus chakra quote I have shared:

“Trust that your soul has a plan, even if you can’t see it completely, know that everything will unfold as it is meant to be.”

- Deepak Chopra


Anahata chakra: the heart chakra

If I had to choose one favorite chakra, this would be it. And I know that it's silly, but it has an emotional meaning: during my yoga teacher training a few years ago, a friend of mine and I were assigned to research this chakra and present it to our class, by preparing something special. We bought everyone green crystals and we had everyone lay down in a circle to do a heart awakening meditation. I can't describe the feeling of that moment, but I can promise you that my heart was full!


This chakra is located behind the sternum, level with the heart - hence the name.

It is associated with the element of air and the colour green, and as well as the sense of touch and emotions, ranging from attachment and jealousy to unconditional love.

On a physical level, this centre is associated with heart and lungs, and their respective circulatory and respiratory systems.


I have recorded the heart awakening meditation and you can try it for free here.


Quotes I have shared in class:

“Our hearts resonate at the same frequency as the earth and the universe. Therefore, we are all valuable instruments in the orchestration of the world and its harmony.”

- Suzy Kassem


Vishuddhi (or Vishuddha) chakra: throat chakra

Located in the back of the neck, behind the throat pit, is the centre of purification. This chakra governs the ears and the vocal cords, the region of the larynx, and the thyroid and parathyroid glands.

It is the centre related with communication. When off-balance, we may feel like it's hard to express ourselves and communicate with others.

Communication, the connection to humankind, is essential for intimacy and growth. Hence why it is so important to make sure this chakra remains aligned and looked after. Words have an incredible power and it is important to choose them wisely, in sign of encouragement and not despair.


Quotes I have shared in class:

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”

Anthony Robbins


“It’s important to make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.”

Barack Obama


Ajna Chakra: the third eye chakra

Situated in the midbrain, right behind the eyebrow centre, sits ajna chakra. The word ajna means command, and it relates to this centre because, in deeper states of meditation, the practitioner may receive commands from the guru, the divine or higher self through this point.

If you are a regular meditation practitioner, you may have experienced your third eye centre feeling warm or heated.

Ajna chakra is represented by duality, two petals of a lotus, the moon and the sun, ida and pingala (the positive and negative forces). The duality converges right at the centre, at the sushumna. We connect this chakra to wisdom and intuition, where our minds can become steady and strong, with full control over prana.

Physically, ajna corresponds to the pineal gland, which has almost atrophied in the adult human being.

Psycologically, it is the bridge between the mental and psychic dimension, hence it's responsible for supramental faculties such as clairvoyance, clairaudience and telepathy. We may or may not believe in this, but I think this is exactly the magic and science I was mentioning at the beginning of this post.


When we awaken ajna chakra, we open a psychic doorway to higher states of awareness, developing all the faculties of the mind including intelligence, memory and concentration.


Quotes I have shared in class: "Your vision will become clear once you look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens."


I trust my intuition, I experience clarity every day.

My thoughts are peaceful.

I am connected to the divine.

I know my own voice.


Sahasrara Chakra: the crown chakra

What I call the 'halo chakra', because every time I think about it, I visualise angels' halos. This chakra sits at the top of our head and it is the representation of highest consciousness. The word sahasrara means 'one thousand' and it is visualised containing fifty letters of the Sanskrit alphabet twenty times over.

In this centre of energy, Shiva and Shakti unite, giving place to a fusion of consciousness and matter and energy. Blending the individual soul (the human) with the supreme soul (god, the highest truest self).

This is known to be the place of pure bliss and once a yogi attains this state, he or she gains supreme knowledge and passes beyond birth and death. So I suppose we'll have to wait a bit for that ;)


"I am a divine being. Everything is connected.

I am connected to the universe.

All is well.

I am at peace."


"My soul honours your soul. I honour the place in where the entire universe resides.

I honour the love, light, truth, beauty and peace within you.

Because it is also within me.

In sharing this practice we are united.

We are the same.

We are one."


I hope you have found this post useful and insightful, but as always, please do not hesitate to get in touch should you have more questions on the chakras, yoga and meditation!


With love,

Marta

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