Chakra Imbalances

The ChakrasMuch of the work I do with clients is based around the chakras, the energy system of the body first described in ancient yogic texts. In this system, there are seven main energy centers in the body that govern different parts of the body and different energies in the body. As life circumstances arise that impact us negatively, our energetic system can also be impacted negatively. When the energetic system is out of balance, this can map to the physical body making us susceptible to injury and disease. Because many of us are unaware or just beginning to learn about our energetic system, it can be challenging to know if and when our energy is out of balance.

Here are some simple questions you can ask yourself to ascertain if a chakra may be in need of your attention. Remember, it can be easy to feel that all of these apply to you, but feel for which one or two resonate with you strongest. Whichever you find yourself answering with a resounding yes to, this will be the chakra for you to explore:

  • 1st Chakra: I have difficulty feeling stable in my life situation. I may feel that I am lacking in resources, safety or have difficulty feeling “at home” anywhere. Conversely, I may horde my resources or have very rigid boundaries.
  • 2nd Chakra: Expressing emotion is difficult for me. I feel stuck creatively and may have difficulty expressing myself sexually. Conversely, I have no boundaries with expressing my emotions and find I may overshare personal things that are up for me.
  • 3rd Chakra: I am quick to anger and may have an inflated perception of my own self worth. Digestion may be an issue for me. Conversely, I have little to no confidence in myself. I may feel week and lack direction.
  • 4th Chakra: It is difficult for me to express or receive love. I may have difficulty connecting with others. Conversely I may over give and exhaust myself helping others.
  • 5th Chakra: Communication is challenging for me, whether it is speaking my own truth or listening to what others are sharing with me.
  • 6th Chakra: I feel overloaded when I am around a lot of people and feel that I am too empathic. I may find myself constantly being pulled out reality and into daydreams. Conversely, I find it difficult to meditate or do visualization exercises.
  • 7th Chakra: I have difficulty feeling connection to others on a broader scope. I may feel as though I am not like anyone else. Conversely, I may be so connected spiritually that I am unable to engage in day-to-day activities.

Did you find a chakra that was out of balance? Scroll back through my blog for yoga practices that will help you address these imbalances and bring more balance to the system.

The Chickpea

This week in class we are back to the 3rd chakra. As a focus this week, we started working with the fire element of the chakra. I brought to class with me this great poem by Rumi:

Chickpea to Cook

A chickpea leaps almost over the rim of the potboiling
where it’s being boiled.

“Why are you doing this to me?”

The cook knocks him down with the ladle.

“Don’t you try to jump out.
You think I’m torturing you.
I’m giving you flavor,
so you can mix with spices and rice
and be the lovely vitality of a human being.

Remember when you drank rain in the garden.
That was for this.”

Grace first. Sexual pleasure,
then a boiling new life begins,
and the Friend has something good to eat.

Eventually the chickpea
will say to the cook,
“Boil me some more.
Hit me with the skimming spoon.
I can’t do this by myself.

I’m like an elephant that dreams of gardens
back in Hindustan and doesn’t pay attention
to his driver. You’re my cook, my driver,
my way into existence. I love your cooking.”

The cook says,
“I was once like you,
fresh from the ground. Then I boiled in time,
and boiled in the body, two fierce boilings.

My animal soul grew powerful.
I controlled it with practices,
and boiled some more, and boiled
once beyond that,
and became your teacher.”

I invite you to sit with this poem. Where in your life are you this chickpea? Where have you chosen to throw yourself into the pot and be boiled? And where can you sit in two seats in you life, one as the chickpea and one as the cook. In actuality we are both, and it is only in our separateness that we don’t realize that we have not only chosen the path but that on some level we already have the knowledge we are seeking. Its through the fire of the 3rd chakra that we have the opportunity to get closer to the wisdom of these places of growth in our lives.

Four Elements & The Chakras

"Four Elements" by Paul Roden + Valerie Lueth

“Four Elements” by Paul Roden + Valerie Lueth

As we explore the chakra system as a whole we have the opportunity to access the flow of energy currents that move up and down the central channel and feed the chakra system. Much focus is brought to the ascending current in many yogic traditions (moving out of the physical body of the lower chakras and into the spiritual plane of the upper chakras). Yet much is to be said for working with the descending current, particularly at this time, when planetary energy is shifting and we have the opportunity to pull that energy into our bodies and manifest it through the lower chakras. The four lower chakras (heart to root) are associated with the four elements and represent the steps down the chakra system toward bring though, idea, intention and spirit into the physical plane. Honoring these elements as part of our experience, our bodies and our energetic system, opens up the ability to bring this energy not only into our consciousness, but into our entire system and the world around us. I offer the following piece below as a meditation on the four elements and their dance in our bodies and in our existence.

“What are you? What am I? Intersecting cycles of water, earth, air and fire, that’s what I am, that’s what you are.

Water—blood, lymph, mucus, sweat, tears, inner oceans tugged by the moon, tides within and tides without. Streaming fluids floating our cells, washing and nourishing through endless riverways of gut and vein and capillary. Moisture pouring in and through and out of you, of me, in the vast poem of the hydrological cycle. You are that. I am that.

Earth—matter made from rock and soil. It too is pulled by the moon as the magma circulate through the planet heart and roots such molecules into biology. Earth pours through us, replacing each cell in the body every seven years. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, we ingest, incorporate and excrete earth, are made from earth. I am that. You are that.

Air—the gaseous realm, the atmosphere, the planet’s membrane. The inhale and the exhale. Breathing out carbon dioxide to the trees and breathing in their fresh exudations. Oxygen kissing each cell awake, atoms dancing in orderly metabolism, interpenetrating. The dance of the air cycle, breathing the universe in and out again, is what you are, is what I am.

Fire—fire from our sun that fuels all life, drawing up plants and raising the waters to the ky to fall again replenishing. The inner furnace of your metabolism burns with the fire of the Big Ban that first sent matter-energy spinning through space and time. And the same fire as the lightening that flashed into the primordial soup catalyzing the birth of organic life.

You were there, I was there, for each cell of our bodies is transcended in an unbroken chain from that event.”

– John Seed and Joanna Macy

Music for The Chakras

This month we have been wrapping up our chakra journey through full body chakra practices. Its been so fun to take the specialized work we’ve done in each chakra over the course of the last six months and now see that unfold in a full  practice. One of the key elements to a chakra practice can be finding music that helps you connect with that element. Whether its music that resonates with the emotions and issues of that element, or in the case of the lower chakras, music that reminds us of the element itself. Below you will find some musical recommendations for each chakra to continue your journey.

1st Chakra: Root (Earth)

chakras

  • Chigumbo by Ben Leinbach & Geoffrey Gordon
  • Inion by Afro Celt Sound System
  • Kothbiro by Ayuba Ogada
  • The Rhythm is Not Mine (Instrumental) by John de Kat
  • Earth Album by Alex Theory

2nd Chakra: Sacral (Water)

  • Watermoon by Bernard Scholl
  • Orcadrift (Remix) by Adham Shaikh
  • Natural Healing by Shajan
  • The Yearning by Kamal
  • Samadhi by Shaman’s Dream Project
  • Down Temple Dubs: Waves Album by Desert Dwellers

3rd Chakra: Solar Plexus (Fire)

  • Nomad by Niraj Chag
  • Durga Shakti by Shaman’s Dream Project
  • Dreamcatcher by Bhramja & Maneesh De Moor
  • Down Temple Dubs: Flames Album by Desert Dwellers

4th Chakra: Heart (Air)

  • Geometry of Dreams by Gretchen Yanover
  • Cedar by Gretchen Yanover
  • Gobinday Mukunday by Shashara
  • Shiva’s Flute by Shaman’s Dream Project
  • Sun Will Set by Zoe Keating

5th Chakra: Throat (Sound)

  • Radiance: Prayer to the Goddess Saraswati by Jai Uttal & Ben Leinbach
  • Guru Brahma by Shaman’s Dream Project
  • Mala by Ty Burhoe
  • Invocation to Water by Cynthia Bourgeault
  • The Healing Waters by Kamal

6th Chakra: 3rd Eye (Light) 

  • Untitled by Chinmaya Dunster (from Buddha Moon)
  • Horizon of Gold by Ben Leinbach
  • Khumjun by Ben Leinbach
  • Walking into the Himalaya to Meditate by Nawang Khechog
  • The Heriophant by Ben Leinbach
  • Celestial Abode by Todd Norian

7th Chakra: Crown (Akasha)

  • Silence

Awakening to 2012: Finding the Bridge

by Waelad Akadan

by Waelad Akadan

The winter solstice represents a huge time of transition, a threshold between two times. Not only are we marching up to this transitional time of the solstice, but we are also drawing near the end of 2012, a time long thought to be another broader threshold. As we stand on this precipice, there are many who foretell an “end times” and there are many who disregard any mention of change or shift. While I find no benefit in getting caught up in the fear being generated by those predicting apocalypse, I do feel that there is a change building. It feels as though things have accelerated and that shifts are happening physically, emotionally and energetically at a much faster rate. One need only look around at world events and weather patterns to these energy unfolding in real time, palatable and intense.

I feel we have a great opportunity at this time to harness this heightened energy and awareness and move forward consciously into the next manifestation of the world and in our own lives. This time is rich with transformative energy and anyone who is ready to make change in their life need simply open up to receive the energy that is starting to come through. And while I say, “one need simply open up,” this is a tall order. As it involves releasing the old paradigm: our limiting beliefs, the wounds we have carried around with us for so long and our negative self talk. If we can open and up and release these things we can become a powerful channel for this heightening energy.

As we move forward, a groundedness in intent and openness to change become truly important. Preparing the body, mind and spirit is all important and time should be taken for nurturing self-care, internal exploration and energetic expansion. I offer the following meditation as a way to begin to open to this energy and start to connect with what blocks might still be in our system as we move forward.

Energetic Bridge Meditation

Ensure you are somewhere where you will be uninterrupted for at least 20 minutes. Come to lie on your back, on a bed or on the floor. Make sure you are comfortably supported using props such as a pillow under the back of the knees or a pillow under the head. Also ensure that you will be warm, perhaps covering yourself with a blanket or donning extra layers.

Once you’ve settled in, allow yourself a few minutes to watch your breathing and to come into your body. Gradually allow the breath to deepen and lengthen and as it does so, invite your body to relax. Scan from tips of the toe to crown of the head and as you find places of tension or holding in the body, direct the breath into those places. As you feel yourself relax, become aware of the heaviness of the head and the sensation of gravity pressing down upon your whole body.

As you’ve settled into the pace of the breath, begin to direct it along the spine. As you inhale, pull it from base of the spine to crown of the head and as you exhale pull it back down the spine. After several rounds of breath, imagine an orb of light traveling with the breath. As you inhale, pull a golden orb of light up the spine, tailbone to crown. As you exhale, pull that golden orb from crown to tailbone. Continue with this visualization for at least five rounds of breath.

Next bring the orb of light up the spine to the heart center at allow it to come to rest there. Take several breaths into the heart center and watch the orb shift from golden light to a deep emerald green. After some time with the focus on the heart, drop your awareness into the back of the body and envision the space between the shoulder blades, the back of the heart. On an exhale drop a cord of emerald light from the heart down into the floor send it deep into the earth and as it reaches the earth watch it spread out in an intricate root system, like that of a tree or plant. With each breath send it wider and deeper. Once the roots have sunk deep into the earth, reverse the flow of energy and like a plant drawing nutrients up from the soil, begin to draw earth energy up your root system. As it rises, the earth energy turns the roots from emerald green to a deep crimson red. Breath by breath the energy rises until eventually it returns to the back of the heart and rises up into the orb at the center of the chest. As this energy fills the heart, it turns the orb in the chest from emerald green to red as well. As you take each breath, the light at the heart grows more vibrant and deeper in its reddish hue.

After several breaths, draw the awareness to the front of the body. Bring your focus to the sternum and pull an emerald cord of light from the orb at the heart up through the center of the chest and toward the ceiling. Take it up into the sky, higher and higher. Eventually the entire night sky expands before you and you see thousands of glittering stars. Look around and find the bright disk of the moon in the sky and send your cord of emerald light toward that disk. Eventually, you connect with the energy of the moon and as you do, you begin to pull the lunar energy down the emerald cord and back toward the body. As the energy of the moon descends, it turns the cord from emerald green to a glowing silvery white. It drips like honey, bit by bit, making its way back down to the body. When it reaches the body it enters through the front of the chest and enters the crimson red orb at the heart. The moon energy begins to swirl with the earth and energy and as they mix the orb at the chest begin to glow a vibrant pink, the color of quartz crystal. Take 10-15 breaths allowing this pink light to fill the heart.

Once this light begins to overflow from the heart center, begin to direct it down the spine toward the tailbone and up the spine toward the crown until you see the entire central channel illuminated a brilliant pink. Remain here as long as you like allowing the energy to course through your body and opening up to the innate intelligence of these two energies. Feel yourself as the meeting place, the bridge, for these energies to meet and co-create and feel your body as the vessel for this energy.

When you feel an expansiveness throughout the entire body, come back to an awareness of the breath and begin to slowly return.

Nurturing the 6th Chakra Through the Moon

The Moon, in Qabalistic tradition, is called the Intelligence of Interrelatedness and is though to have an affinity for the occipital region of the brain (the round curve at the back of your heard). In esoteric metaphysics, the occipital region of the brain is said to be connected to every point in time and space. Through the Moon we are connected to the universe. An idea to entertain (in your occipital) is that this region of the brain is the portal through which images cross from our minds out into the world, where they become real. – Caroline Casey

With this second to last full moon of 2012, the lunar power swirling through the universe held a certain amount of intensity. As I sat with it in preperation for our final 6th chakra yoga class, I began to see the parallels of the energy of the moon and the energy of the 6th chakra. Both the 6th chakra and the moon invite us to dive inside in and explore our inner realms. They both explore the fruits of dream time and our power to be active participants in the world we dream up. As I explored this further, I came across the passage above from Caroline Casey about the moon. It seemed fitting, this idea of the moon’s residence in the back of the skull and that like the 6th chakra it created this bridge between our own mind and the world.

We are gearing up for powerful energetic shifts as we begin the final month of 2012. An open 6th chakra is a key navigational tool for artfully managing these changes and the moon is ushering these shifts. Lena Stevens writes of the lunar energies, “Between now and the winter solstice on December 21 is a crucial time of letting go, revisiting priorities, separating yourself from what is not in your best interest, and reaching for a higher vibration in all things.” I invite you to use these chakra practices as we move forward to continue to open, enliven and enrich your energetic system.

Hakini Mudra

hakini mudraThe practice of hakini mudra helps to balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain. As we bring together the tips of the fingers we invite a balance between the two hemispheres. This balancing of the brain will help bring calmness and equanimity to the 6th chakra and is an excellent way to begin any 6th chakra practice. To practice this mudra bring the tips of all 5 fingers together and place the hands in front of the heart.

Om: The Sound of the 6th Chakra

OmOver the past months we have explored the seed syllables of each of the chakras as a way to access and activate the energy centers. Each chakra has a specific sound, and the seed syllable for the 6th chakra is one we’re only familiar with intoning. The sound here is of the 6th chakra is Om. To activate this chakra a simple chanting of Om directed to the center of the brain or to third eye will help to activate the energy flow in this chakra.

Working Intention with the 6th Chakra

MoonIn her passage about the moon, Casey also spoke about a Qabalistic tradition of setting intention before sleep, allowing it to come to rest in the back of the skull and then drawing it into our dreamworld. We brought the essence of this practice into our yoga class that evening, inviting our intention into the “wakeful dreaming” of our meditation and asana practice. To begin this practice, find a comfortable seat and close the eyes. Bring the awareness to the back of the skull and feel a heaviness there. As you connect with this region in the head, start to see it illuminated with silvery, white light, the color of moonlight. After several breaths, draw up an intention, instilling it in the back of the skull. Feel its extra weight resting there and see the silvery, white light flare as it is ignited by the power of your intention. Meditate on this light and open up to broader reaches of your intention. Then as you take your next exhale, allow the chin to drop to the chest. Feel your intention sliding forward through the 6th chakra and toward the the 3rd eye. Allow your intention to pool up in the third eye, experiencing it as warmth, weight or tingling. Spend several breaths here and on an exhale roll the right ear to the right shoulder. The eyes remain closed as you allow your intention to flow over into the right hemisphere of the brain. Take several breaths and on exhale roll the left ear to the left shoulder, feel your intention wash through the left hemisphere of the brain. Take several more breaths and bring the chin back to the chest. Feel the intention slide, like honey, back to the third eye. Finally, on an inhale, bring the head to neutral. Feel the intention slide back in the skull to 6th chakra and the center of the head. Watch it ignite, glowing purple, and call that intention up one last time deep from your core before you being your practice.

“To go into the dark, with a light is to know the light. To know the dark, go dark. go without sight, and find that the dark, too, blooms and signs, and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.” – Wendell Barry

6th Chakra & Neptune The Power of Dream Time

“Neptune’s realm is the unhurried, imaginative dream state, which is always available to us through the act of conscious reflection…When we pause in dream time to gather our wits, we are reminded that beauty is ubundantly available to the unhurried mind. Conscious reveries, trance—any portal to ecstatic self-loss, such as diving through a sun-dappled wave—are all forms of worshipping Neptune. Neptune rewards us for these acts of reverence with inspiration.” – Caroline Casey, Making the Gods Work for You

One could easily substitute 6th chakra for Neptune in the description above. The 6th chakra is our portal to dream time and our capacity to dream our world into being and to manifest is often directed by the 6th chakra. The power of the chakra is profound, but it is something we wield unconsciously. Casey goes on to write, “We are constantly summoning and invoking through our imaginings, but often in an inconsistent and confused manner. Our lives, therefore, assume a corresponding design of confusion. One law of the dream world is that our personal lives are expanded or constricted by what we imagine to be possible.” Working in the 6th chakra becomes important work to ensure we are manifesting what we truly desire rather than dreaming unconsciously. Use these practices below to access the dream world of Neptune and the 6th chakra.

Nadi Shodhana

Nadi Shodhana is an excellent pranayama practice for stimulating the 6th chakra. The movement of prana up the nadis (ida & pingala) terminate at the 6th chakra and are accessed through the breath flow through the nostrils. Try this variation on Nadi Shodhana, instead of using the hands use the focus on the mind. Bring your awareness to the third eye at the brow center. Focus your awareness on the third eye and visualize an orb of purple light there. After a few minutes, connect with your breath and take several deep breaths in and out through the nostrils. Feel the breath in both nostrils evenly and smoothly. Now focus on your left nostril and draw the inhale through your left nostril into the third eye region. From third eye exhale out through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril up into the third eye and exhale through the left. This is one round. Do 8 more rounds with the focus on the third eye. Once you complete the pranayama practice, spend several minutes with the eyes closed, and the focus on the 3rd eye and the prana that you have generated there.

Inversions

image from fitsugar.com

Prepare the 6th chakra for an expansive savasana through the practice of inversions toward the end of your practice. Any kind of inversion practice will bring a flow of blood and prana to the 6th and 7th chakras. As the pranic flow increases to the 6th chakra, we open up to its capacity for fruitful dreaming. If possible practice a version of headstand or headstand to ensure an open flow of energy to the upper chakras (inversion like shoulder stand while beneficial in their own right will not bring the same flow of prana to the 6th chakra). Practice the inversion and then give yourself 5-7 breaths in downward dog to transition and finally 5-7 breaths in virasana to absorb the benefits of your inversion practice.

Yoga Nidra

image from dancingthesoul.com

Yoga Nidra is often known as the yoga of sleep. The practice of yoga nidra allows the body to relax while the mind stays awake through a form of guided meditation. Yoga nidra practice allows the body to drop into a brain-wave state that we reach during sleep. This brain wave state is one that takes several hours of sleep to reach, yet yoga nidra can reach it instantly. It is a wonderful practice for nourishing and replenishing the body, but it is also a place where we can actively participate in our dreams. I often encourage students to set an intention when they begin their yoga nidra practice as it is carried with them into their subconscious mind and working with intention on this level can help to powerfully shift behavioral and thought patterns and can open us up to new ways of dealing with issues that have arisen for us. For more information about yoga nidra, please visit my website.