Patience, A 2nd Chakra Gift

From cane reeds, sugar.
From a worm’s cocoon, silk.
Be patient if you can, and from sour
grapes will come something sweet.”

~Rumi

This past week I missed teaching my last 2nd chakra yoga class to be a witness to one of my best friend’s births. Her contractions began about 3 weeks before her son was actually born, so we spent a lot of time waiting, thinking that each time things picked up that things were moving forward and when they didn’t, returning to the waiting. As I sat with this experience, I began to realize that patience is truly one of the gifts of the 2nd chakra (or challenges as the case may be!). The 2nd chakra is all about this idea of “going with the flow” of being in the moment of emotions, of sexual expression and of creativity and it is not so much about planning ahead and thinking about the future. Pregnancy and birth are very 2nd chakra experiences in that the baby is carried in the organs of the 2nd chakra, in the element of water and that “letting go” is a 2nd chakra experience and CRUCIAL for the birth of any baby. So while I wasn’t teaching 2nd chakra yoga this past week, I was definitely experiencing the 2nd chakra in all its beauty through the birth of this little guy. And while we had much patience to learn and embrace, the wait was definitely worth it and I am so grateful to have had the experience of witnessing his birth and supporting the amazing woman who is his mother.

To round out some of our 2nd chakra practices, here are a few offerings to access the 2nd chakra:

The Color Orange

The color orange is associated with the 2nd chakra. I like to imagine the orange as a rust, pumpkin colored orange…deep and dark like leaves in fall. I often invite students to imagine this color filling the pelvis, sacrum and low belly.

The Sound VAM

The seed syllable of the 2nd chakra is “VAM”. Chant the tone of VAM three times to start a class or continuously as you flow through a practice. Direct the sound to the lower belly and fill up the bowl of the pelvis as you chant.

Hip Openers

Any kind of hip opening pose will access the second chakra. Poses such as pigeon, thread the needle, squats and bound angle will all access the hips and open up the flow of the 2nd chakra. It is amazing to me how often hip openers will bring me to tears, a release of bottled up emotions held in the body and in the 2nd chakra.

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The Moon and the 2nd Chakra

As we talked about last week, the 2nd chakra is ruled by the water element. Given its rule of the tides and the movement of water, the moon is deeply connected with the 2nd chakra. This week a new moon fell on the Wednesday of our chakra yoga class and so I invited the moon into our yoga class. These practices are excellent for accessing the 2nd chakra and can also be utilized during the moon cycles each month.

Scents

One of the areas of the body associated with the 2nd chakra are the sexual organs. Much of our ideas about sex and our own sexuality, healthy and repressed are held within the 2nd chakra. Sexuality and sensuality are deeply linked and one way to access sensuality is through the sense of smell. During savasana, I have been offering essential oils for students to smell. Depending on the properties of the oil, essential oils can be uplifting, grounding, stimulating and relaxing. Essential oils that help to relax the body during savasna are lavender and chamomile (you can purchase essential oils from many companies, one of favorite companies is Aura Cacia). One of my favorite essential oil compounds is one called Tranquility.

Riding the Tides: Practicing with the Moon’s Cycle

In her book, Making the Gods Work for you, Caroline Casey writes this about the moon: “The Moon also governs our inner tides of feelings and moods. She reminds us that extroversion and introversion—animation and retreat—are both necessary for a complete emotional life.  The Moon goddess provides a time, or phase, for every undertaking…Following the prompting of the Moon, as communicated to us through feeling, provides us with the stability and rhythm of internal seasonal fluctuation necessary for creativity.  The Moon is our caretaker, providing the stable, ,nurturing environment we need to cultivate intimacy with all of creation.” Just like the cycles of the seasons, we go through our own cycles at times feeling grounded and stable and at other times feeling expansive and open. When we practice with this in mind, new moon practices involve spending more time on the floor, practicing in darkness (whether a dark room or practicing with eyes closed), focus on downward moving energy in the body (the apana), and slow, long breathing practices.

Goddess Squat

Because of the location of the 2nd chakra in the low back and pelvis, hip openers are strongly associated with this chakra. One of my favorite hip openers to explore with a lunar based practice is Goddess Squat. This asana invites and opening into the inner groin and hips and can afford some softening in and around the glutes. Proper alignment also invites a length to the spine, including a drop of the tailbone and a gentle drawing up of the pubic bone. As we do this, mulha bhanda is accessible and as when we draw up on the pelvic floor we can more easily access the bowl of the pelvis. As we stand in Goddess Squat, I invite students to visualize a crescent moon resting in the pelvis and as we breathe, we invite the bowl of the pelvis to fill with air.

Opening the Back Body: Lunar Poses

Martin Scunduto

The term Hatha yoga can be divided into two parts “Ha” meaning sun and “tha” meaning moon. Hatha yoga is the practice of dancing between the sun and the moon and finding balance between the two. In hatha yoga there are sun poses and there are moon poses. Our focus being on the moon, we invited lunar poses into the practice. The back of the body is thought to be lunar in nature as it is the part of the body that we “keep hidden” from the rest of the world (we don’t really walk around exposing our backs to everyone we meet). Given this, any poses in which a forward fold is taken become lunar in practice. We speak of these poses as opening the vulnerable, hidden side of ourselves and exposing it to the world.

Diving into the Waters: The Second Chakra

This week began our exploration of the 2nd chakra. In Ayurveda,  the 2nd chakra is ruled by the element of water. Which, even on a physiological level, makes sense to me. The second chakra is located in the low back/sacral region and in the low belly, below the belly button. It rules the sexual organs and the emotions. All things, very connected with flow and movement in life.

I love working with the second chakra and deeply connect to the energy of water, yet, for me it is place where I have long had holding and I feel this speaks to my tendency (and our tendency as a culture) to shut down emotion. We lock emotion up and it stays held in our bodies, taking the form of tight hips, low back issues and injury and blockages in sexual energy and our ability to release emotionally, muscularly or structurally. Connecting with water helps us find the flow once again, to find movement out of stagnancy and helps us to bring greater health and wellness to our 2nd chakra.

Here are some practices to connect you with breath, the water element and to bring you into the flow:

Ocean Breath

Remember as a child, finding shells on the beach and holding them up to your ear to hear the ocean? This breath practice invites those same principles into the body. Find a comfortable seat and close the eyes. As you begin, connect with the breath. Notice the rise and fall of the breath in the body and notice how the breath is moving through you as you sit on your mat. Bring the hands or fingers up to cover the ears, drowning out any outside noises and amplifying the internal noise of the breath. Listen to the breath, like waves. As you inhale it is like a wave rolling into shore, and as you exhale, it is a wave rolling out to sea. Spend 2-5 minutes listening to the breath, notice how it fluctuates and changes the longer you spend with your focus on it. As you feel ready, lower your hands and notice your connection to the breath. Feel the breath in your body and as you are ready, open your eyes.

This practice is wonderful as a seated meditation, I also like to bring it back into my asana practice as I continue. Pausing in tadasana during sun salutations to take 5-10 ocean breaths or pausing prior to balance poses to engage this practice. It calls us back into the water-like nature of the breath and it also invites us to ground into the deeply calming aspects of the breath.

Audible Exhales: Finding the Flow

If you’ve ever taken class with me, you’ll notice how often I encourage exhaling through the mouth. I’ve found that often times we tend to hold back our breath and hold back our sound, whether we’re embarassed about making too much noise or are simply unable to connect to our breath in that way. The more we can facilitate deep and audible breath, the more we can also let go of other things that are locked down (such as emotions or the physical body). In this class, I invited students to take several different flow practices with an audible exhale through the mouth. It allowed us to all find the cadence of our breath and also to begin to breath together as a class. Some poses I like to flow between are:

  • Table Top→ Cow→ Cat→ Prayer
  • Raising and lowering in Cobra Pose
  • Downward Dog→ Plank→ Downward Dog
  • Tadasna→ Forward Fold→ Half Forward Fold→ Forward Fold→ Tadasna

Supta Baddha Konasana Water Meditation

image courtesy of durgamama.wordpress.com

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but this is one of my all-time favorite restorative poses. I come back to it again and again for is rejuvinative aspects, but also because it feels so lovely! If you’re working with knee or hip injuries, please use two blocks one under each knee or outer thigh, place high enough to give you support.

Take Supta Baddha Konasana with appropriate props and close the eyes. Bring both hands to rest on the lower belly, below the navel center. Breathe into the space under the hands, creating space and opening with each inhale and each exhale. As you breathe, imagine water flowing along the spine as you inhale and exhale. Let it pool up around the pelvis and let the waves of each breath wash over you. As you connect with this movement of breath, connect with other fluids in your body: blood, sweat and tears. Fill its movement in your body and its ability to cleanse, heal and renew. Stay here as long as you like.

And now, I’ll leave you with a little breath focused inspiration from one of my favorite yogis, Rob Lundsgaard, check out his song Breathe (scroll down through the song lists and select “Breathe” to listen to or download). A great addition to any yogi’s playlist!

The 2nd Chakra: Yoga Playlist

This month we begin the 2nd chakra in my Chakra Yoga class at 8 Limbs Yoga. The first week of this class was cancelled due to the July 4th holiday, but I am looking forward to diving into the waters of the 2nd chakra tomorrow evening. In the mean time, I thought I would set the tone with my 2nd Chakra Yoga Playlist, based on the water element. Enjoy!

Invocation to the Water Element: Kerala Dream by Cynthia Bourgeault
Watermoon: Perfect Balance: Musical Healing Volume 2 by Bernard Scholl
Natural Healing: Perfect Balance: Musical Healing Volume 2 by Shajan
Subterranean Sanctuary: Down Temple Dub: Waves by Desert Dwellers
Misty Mountain: Down Temple Dub: Waves by Desert Dwellers
Orcadrift (Remix): Essence by Adham Shaikh
Lotus Heart: Down Temple Dub: Waves by Desert Dwellers
The Yearning: Reiki-Whale Dreaming by Kamal
Let Your Heart be Known: So Much Magnificence by Steve Gold