Our physical bodies are just the beginning, or more aptly put, a part of who we are. Our energetic bodies comprise parts of us that are affected by stress, spiritual depletion, and these, often unseen, un-felt parts of us are often where shifts occur, where abuses are felt most profoundly and what leads to feelings of disconnection and ultimately disease and injury. In this thesis I plan to explore the effects of stress, spiritual depletion and emotions on our body, koshas, and the chakra systems. I will give an overview of these systems, and discuss how we use tantra, yoga and massage to facilitate the healing and balance of these systems. I have had a personal yoga practice for years, and for the past 7 have taught yoga and practiced as a massage therapist and reiki master. I have seen personally and within my students and clients, and fellow practitioner how these practices can be life affirming, life changing.
As we become more balanced we are able to see the world from a more peaceful, connected place and this facilitates healing and balancing the whole world....we are microcosms of the macrocosm....as the Upanishads, an ancient Vedic text tells us
“The little space within the heart is as great as the vast universe.
The heavens and the earth are there, and the sun and the moon and the stars.
Fire and lightening and winds are there, and all that now is and all that is not."
Disease first appears in our energetic bodies and there are a few components we need to be aware of when discussing this. Our chakra system and our koshas....these ideas come from ancient Vedic wisdom and are used as templates in much of energetic medicine. I will be discussing these systems, and then move on to discuss how we can use yoga, tantra, sound and bodywork to help clear, balance and heal these systems to help us live a more full, life.
Let's first look at the chakras:
Our chakras are our connection between our energy bodies and our physical bodies. They are seen as wheels of energy and are located along the sushumna nadi, which corresponds energetically to our spinal column. Each chakra extends outward from us to help create our aura, is concerned with certain attributes, emotions, a color associated with it, a demon that expresses itself when out of balance, and a period in our lives when they are developing.
Beginning with the first chakra-the muladhara:
This chakra sets our base, it deals with our sense of trust, our right to be here, safety, its color is red. Our auric field starts with this chakra extending out about 2 inches from the body.
The muladhara is our foundation and forms when we are in utero in the second trimester through our first year of life. This is the chakra that helps ground us, deals with our issues of trust and helps us to set appropriate boundaries. This developmental challenge coincides with Erik Erikson's trust vs mistrust-”[this] trust or mistrust is the basic element of your first chakra program, which is a foundation for all the other programs to follow” (Judith 2004). Around 6 months of age, when we sit up “an amazing changes takes place. [we] become vertical on our own for the first time. The chakras are now stacked up on each other, and the energy begins to flow upwards. Parents often notice the increase in brightness and presence....sitting up expands the field of visual perception, and consequently the size of the world, marking the beginning of the second chakra.” (Judith 2004)
The demon of this chakra is fear.
Caroline Myss relates the 7 sacraments in the christian church to the development of our chakras, the development of self and notes that the timing of the sacraments is important and helps solidify what is going on developmentally, that these sacraments give an energetic boost when we need them. Corresponding to this first chakra is the sacrament of baptism. A welcoming into our tribe, a merging of our energy with the tribes (our family and traditions and the community at large), a sense of gratitude is given for the child and his part in the community and in this way there is a sense of belonging, safety and security given to the child.
When this chakra is balanced, we feel comfortable in our body, we are able to relax and be still, knowing that we are safe, and we have a sense of trust in the worlds around us.
When this chakra is out of balance we may feel fearful, worry much too much about our prosperity- feeling there may be not enough, or we may feel a feeling of disconnect from our bodies.
Physically this chakra deals with our legs, feet, the areas that connect us to mother earth.
Moving up our spine we come to the second chakra-the Swadhistana Chakra:
This chakra is located near our sacrum, just above the muladhara, and a few inches below the naval, its auric qualities joining with our first chakra's and extending out to about 3 inches.
This is our center for our emotions (if you have ever taken a yoga class I am sure you have heard the teachers say, we hold our anger in our hips, we hold a lot of emotions there-in fact I have a friend and fellow yoga teacher who affectionately calls our hips the junk drawer of our emotions), sensuality, desire, movement, and sexuality. The element associated with this chakra is water, whereas the muladhara chakra forms our base, it's element being earth, the fluid nature of the svadhisthana is contained by our, hopefully, healthy first chakra. You see these systems build on and feed off one another. Our emotions need to be able to flow just as water flows, and at the same time need containment of the first chakra, almost like a glass contains the wine.
This Rumi poem reminds me of the fluidity that is needed in this chakra
Life flows out; he pours you another cup.
The wine? Eternal love.
His wine in me sings this:
His wine flows between us like blood.
- Jalal-ud-Din Rumi
The Swadistana chakra is developing from around 6 months to 2 years old, coinciding with us sitting up, and starting to move on our own, this is one of the ways movement is associated with this chakra as well, again reminding us to flow.
The color associated with this chakra is orange, and it is developing in our early lives, from about 6 months old through about our 2nd birthday corresponding with our developmental tasks of locomotion and sensate exploration of the world.
The demon of this chakra is guilt.
When this chakra is balanced we have grace in our movements, emotional intelligence, the ability to experience pleasure, we are able to nurture ourselves and others, change and flow with the situation and have healthy boundaries. If we are deficient in this area we are rigid in our bodies, fear change, have excessive boundaries and lack desire and passion. If we are excessive in this area we may have an addiction to pleasure, wild mood swings, be over sensitive and invade others boundaries.
All aspects of our lives can be sensual and enjoyable, just sitting and letting the sun wash over your face on a lovely fall day, eating a delicious peach, full of sweetness and nectar qualifies as a sensual experience. In your daily life try to find those pleasurable moments and savor them. Take the time out of your day and just be with and relish the pleasure you have all around you.
Communion is the Sacrament that is associated with this chakra, this is the chakra that we form unions with others, intimately and otherwise. Communion allows us to formalize the union with others, to join the group, and to know that “everyone in your life plays a role in your development” (Myss 1996). This is the chakra where we connect with others and our emotions.
Physically this chakra deals with our hips, our abdomen, our reproductive and excretory organs.
Continuing to move upward-towards the navel-the third chakra-The Manipura Chakra:
In Sanskrit Manipura means lustrous gem
This is our chakra for transforming, it is our center for personal power, our center for the digestive fire.
Located in the solar plexus it's color is yellow, and its sound is ram, and energetically also overlaps it's preceding chakra and reaches out about 8 inches.
It's demon is shame.
When this chakra is balanced we have good self esteem, are warm and self confident and have appropriate self-discipline. We are able to meet life's challenges and have a sense of our own personal power. It is interesting to note that this chakra is the only chakra that is not held up and protected by bones, we must really keep this area active, and strong with our will.
When we are out of balance in this chakra we may experience low energy, low self esteem and poor digestion, our mid section can be collapsed and we may be attracted to stimulants. If we are excessive in this chakra we tend to be aggressive, controlling, power hungry and perhaps attracted to sedatives.
This chakra is developing from about a year and half to about four years old. And as you can see the chakras are developing together and alongside of each other, it is definitely a system that works in concert. As we grow into our adult selves these centers of energy build on each other, as we grow and develop, the balance moves up... in the case of the manipura We take this fire and self confidence and it helps to open our heart, to hold us up, and help us to love and be loved with balance and confidence.
The Sacrament associated with this chakra is comfirmation, Caroline Myss states that this is an “espression of grace that enhances one's individuality and self esteem” She reminds us that we need to keep our promises to ourselves and value ourselves at this level too.
Physically this chakra deals with our digestive systems, our core muscles.
Moving to our heart center-The Anahata Chakra :
"The heart has its own language.
The heart knows a hundred thousand
ways to speak."
The heart chakra our center for love, universal love, giving and receiving love, and extends out about 6 to 12 inches past our bodies. As our devotional practice of yoga develops, our hearts open and we are more aware of the love in our lives. This chakra involves love and also balance as it is the mid way between the lower three chakra (which deal with more earthly traits) and the upper three (which deal more with ethereal qualities). This chakra also deals with our devotions, reaching out and taking in and our relationships and self love (again often a balance).
This chakra's color is green, its element is air, and its demon is grief. This chakra is developing in our early childhood years, around the time between 4 and 7 years old. This is the same time we are forming our social identity, our gender roles and our peer relationships.
It is also interesting to note, that when we leave home, when we start out on our adult lives our chakras begin developing all over again (starting with the first chakra-re-establishing our ground and stability and moving up through all of the other 7), and in our mid life our heart chakra has a surge, a revisiting of growth and this is when we re-examine our lives, our relationships, our paths, and what is often seen as a midlife crisis, is truly just a re-assessment of life and love and devotion to our paths and our dharmas.
When this chakra is balanced, we are compassionate, loving, self-loving, peaceful and balanced, and have a good immune system. On a physical level this chakra deals with the hearts, lungs, shoulder area, so when it is off kilter we see issues dealing with these areas:
issues with the heart and lungs, asthma, circulation problems, shoulder issues, sunken chest...we also may see fear of relationships, narcissism, lack of empathy, poor boundaries, jealousy...
The Sacrament Myss attributes to this area, is marriage...a union with another, stated publicly, and made in love, the ultimate connection. But she warns us that we must first view ourselves with the same love, commitment and devotion to have that great union. We must keep our promises to ourselves too.
Moving even higher-to the throat- theVissudha chakra:
This chakra deals with communication, self expression, truth and creativity. It is developing in our grammar school years, from about 7 to 12 years of age. This chakra of communication reaches out to about 24 inches from the body.
It's color is bright blue and it's demon is lies. This chakra has to do with our truths, speaking them and being able to differentiate the truth around us. If we were dealing with lies, mixed message,verbal abuse and criticism growing up we may have an imbalance in this chakra.
When this chakra is balanced we are good listeners, have a resonant voice, and communicate clearly. When this chakra is balanced we are in touch with our creativity and live our lives creatively.
When we are off kilter in this chakra we may have a small weak voice, difficulty putting our feelings into words, a fear of speaking...on the other side of a fifth chakra inbalance we may find that we are excessive talkers, we have trouble listening and hearing what others say, we may gossip or we may have disorders of the throat, ears, neck and jaw.
"To fully live our truth as individuated beings is to live life as a creative act." Anodea Judith
Myss feels that this is the chakra associated with confession, and allows us to “cleanse one's self of negative acts of will” she goes on to say that this was our first form of talk therapy, that it is so important for us to have this available to us, to help us work through our issues, and find our truth.
Our third eye- theAjna Chakra:
This is our chakra for perception and intuition
Located at our eyebrow center, this chakra is responsible for pattern recognition,
imagination, visualization, dreams and insights.
The color associated with it is Indigo-the color of a deep blue pair of blue jeans.
This chakra develops during adolescence and helps to establish our personal identity. As you can imagine this chakra's demon is illusion. Aurically this chakra reaches out to about 2 to 2 and a half feet from our physical body.
When we have a balanced ajna chakra we are in touch with our intuition, our perception and imagination. We have a good memory, good dream recall and are able to visualize things.
When we are inbalanced here we may have hallucinations, delusions, obsessions, nightmares and difficulty concentrating or we may have poor vision, see things in a monopolarized way or poor memory.
Since this chakra is located between the third eye physically, we may experience headaches, and problems with our senses when it is out of balance, or when we fail to see the truth and patterns around us/not being open to the messages that we are receiving.
As you can imagine as we move up higher in this system, the chakras are dealing with less grounded areas, more spiritual, thought filled, ethereal areas finally and as we will see when we discuss the seventh chakra more and more connected with the divine.
Myss says the Sacrament associated with this is ordination, choosing and making a commitment to your path of service. This does not necessarily mean that we are ordained as women or men of the cloth, but that we make a commitment to the path we are on, and our contribution to the world around us.
And finally our crown chakra- the Sahasrara Chakra:
This chakra is located at the crown of our head, or just above it. It's element is thought, it is our connection to the divine, it's purpose is understanding. This part of us reaches out into the environment about 30 to 42 inches.
The color associated with this chakra is violet, and it is developing when we are young adults and into our adulthood. This is a period often marked by us trying to find our path, our purpose in life, something larger than the mundane. Remember back to the time when you were graduating high school and a few years beyond....that feeling of connection and searching for something larger.
When we are balanced in this area, we are able to perceive, analyze and assimilate information. We are intelligent, thoughtful, and aware, open minded and able to question and are spiritually connected.
Imbalances in this chakra can show up as spiritual cynicism, learning difficulties, rigid beliefs or can go the other way and show up as overintellectualization, spiritual addiction, confusion and dissociation from the body. Due to this chakras location, imbalances will manifest on the physical plane as migraine, amnesia, cognitive delusions to name a few. To help heal this area we can reestablish physical and emotional and spiritual connections, engage in meditation, seek psychotherapy, and study.
In Kornfiels and Siegel's discussion on mindfulness and the brain, they tell us that we can make new pathways with intentions, that in the past scientists believed that once we were adults, our brains stopped developing, and if anything closed down sections, but in reality it is the opposite. That we can actually change the way our mind is structured with persistent meditation practice. That we can shift the way we think.
Myss goes on to tell us that the sacrament associated with this chakra is extreme unction, aka last rights, merging with the divine and finishing any unfinished business, not in the sense of doing this before you die, but as a part of daily life, staying present, loving and living in the present moment. Which is a recurrent theme in meditation practices and eastern philosophies.
It is interesting to note that chakras, and the 7 energy centers are not only found in hindu/vedic systems. The Tibetans speak of them, as do the mayans, and the Cherokee, and the Incans. There is an understanding of these energy systems through out the world's cultures.
Things to nurture our chakras
All types of bodywork help us clear and balance our energy. Reiki is a very gentle for of healing that helps to bring balance to our energetic body, and peace to our mind. It gives our life energy a boost. Rei means universal and ki means life force.
Lomi Lomi massage works in the same way, a flowing massage that treats the whole body, the Hawaiians believed that we must treat the whole person, because we do not know where the blockage might be? There are a lot of down strokes in this massage, to clear the energy off the person.
Thai massage works in the same fashion and both lomi lomi and thai use a lot of stretching to help loosen joints and the body.
Ayurvedic medicine has many tools to help us purify our bodies, starting with the breath, through massage with oil to draw the toxins out, to digestive treatments, all work together to purify our bodies and koshas. Even sound healing is used in treatments.
Tantra teaches us to embrace each experience as holy, bringing us peace to move through life. Tantra is a unification of the duality of male/female, yin/yang...it unites shiva and shakti through yoga, breathwork, mantra, sound and at times hallucinogens, and sex. It does not tell us to not do things, to be renunciates, but encourages us to embrace our longings and experience it all to find our true balance.
Some other things to help heal our chakras and move us through our koshas:
As we discussed the muhladhara chakra is our base, our connection to the earth and our security. Things that help nourish this area are yoga, massage, being bare foot in nature, and reclaiming our right to be here.
Some affirmations you can use:
It is safe for me to be here
The earth supports me and meets my needs
I love my body and trust it's wisdom
The world is an abundant place
Some yoga poses to nurture this chakra are: (for a detailed description of these poses see the book listed in the review -Asana, Pranayam, Mudra, Bandha)
cat and cow rolls
and so many more
poses and walking with a feeling of being grounded and supported by the earth is very nourishing to this chakra center
For our second chakra movement is the key, as are poses that focus on the hip regions such as:
flowing movements such as:
dancing or any other free flowing movement that allows you to move your body in the ways it needs. One of the best workshops I have been too, is Dance of the liberation. This is a wonderful shamanic ritual, where the participants are cleansed with sage and with global music, we dance, and the “gatekeepers” do mini healing sessions on you towards the end. There was something so freeing about dancing blindfolded. It allows a flow that we may not access otherwise.
Some affirmations to help this chakra are:
I deserve pleasure in my life.
I absorb information from my feelings.
I move easily and effortlessly.
I know from personal experience, that hip openers can release a lot of emotion. During teacher training I got in a double pigeon, and cried all day....was good to get it out!
For our third chakra we want to strenthen, warm and build the body-yoga poses that can help with this are:
torso twist and all twists
as you can see these are poses that strengthen the abdomen, and work our digestive fire.
Some affirmations for this chakra are:
I honor the power within me
The fire within me burns through all blocks and fears.
For our heart chakra we want to strengthen our chest, our breathing, and open our shoulders and collarbones.
To help balance this chakra we can do breath work (pranayama), journaling, working with the arms, forgiveness, self acceptance.
Yoga poses for the heart chakra are chest openers and backbends such as:
up dog (urdhva mukka svanasana)
bridge (setu bandha sarvangasana)
wheel (urdhva dhanurasana)
Some affirmations for this chakra:
I am worthy of love
I am loving to myself and others
There is an infinite supply of love
I live with balance with others
It is important to note, that we must have a healthy strong 3rd charkra for us to be able to open this 4th chakra...this is evident in poses such as up dog, wheel....the third chakra is the only chakra that is not protected by bone, skeletal structure-except the spinal cord...core work is important...
As a yoga teacher, I had a student, Abby, who went through a horrible divorce/custody issues...when I helped her into a wheel, her response was right on...wow, this is a lot of trust...I would never have let a male teacher get me here, I trust you will not let me go...this was a huge step for her...to be able to open her heart and hold her self up.
In my personal life, my god son, Dylan was 4 (the time when this chakra is developing) and one of his grand mothers told him to not cry...you could see his whole body stiffen, his chest close down---what Anodeao Judith calls character armor started building around his heart that day...he began to not be open to his own feelings.
Moving up to our throat chakra, and things to strengthen this center for truth and communication are asanas such as:
some affirmations for this area are:
I hear and I speak the truth.
I express myself with clear intent.
Creativity flows in and through me.
My voice is necessary.
For our ajna chakra, our center for wisdom and intuition we can practice meditation, dreamwork, guided visualizations, and art therapy.
Some affirmations for this chakra are:
*I see all things clearly*
*I am open to the wisdom within*
*I can manifest my vision*
Some yoga poses to help balance and bring energy to this chakra are:
Virabhadrasana 3-warrior 3
These balancing poses help with our concentration and to focus our awareness.
Some affirmations for this area are:
*Divinity resides within
*I am open to new ideas
*information I need comes to me
*The world is my teacher
And finally asanas to nurture our crown chakra are:
*1/2 Moon/ Ardha Chandrasana
The experiences that I have personally had and the observations I have made as a teacher and a bodyworker, are that we need to have this balance in our lives. That we have the power within each of us to adjust our thinking, our lifestyles and nurture ourselves.
As Debbie Ford says “Each of us is given only one temple to be responsible for, and we are living in it. Are you taking care of your temple or ignoring it to care for others? “ and this is a must. We have to take the time to do the introspection, to seek help from others when we need it, be that helper/healer a friend, a therapist, a yoga teacher, a priest, a parent...who ever, but we all have the ability to heal ourselves, and to work through our stuff. As the ancient yogis tell us, it is first through our body (anamayakosha) that we can begin to find this peace and healing. We can calm our bodies, then our breath, then our minds and find that peaceful place.
As we find the thing that resonates us to move the energy around our body we start to feel better, for some of us it is running, walking, yoga, dance....but the ancient sciences of ayurveda, yoga and bodywork work systematically to help release these holdings in our bodies.
One more quick note, whatever path you choose to find balance and healing in your life, must resonate with you. This is part of the lesson of the first chakra....listening to you body. For some yoga works, for others it is walking, running....when choosing a healer to help you, you must feel at ease with him or her, not coerced...and you must find value in what he or she is giving you. I have had clients who love reiki, my favorite of which was a man, who's girlfriend got him my mother's day special (hour massage ending with a half hour reiki session)-he was a single dad, and she felt (as did I) that this was appropriate. He had never had a massage or reiki, at the end of his session he said he felt like a butterfly, when I started doing reiki he quieted down, had been chatting the whole massage, and just went to a peaceful place. He loved it. I have had other clients who just do not resonate with reiki. It is truly a personal thing.
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