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.

6th Chakra: The Art of Seeing

After two weeks off of writing this blog, I returned with explorations for the 6th chakra. It seemed appropriate that the week of this first class in this chakra was the week of the elections. I spent Tuesday night and some of Wednesday plugged in to the radio and computer and even found myself watching a bit of TV to catch the updates. It was an information overload and was a good reminder for me of all the information we bring into our physical and energetic system through the eyes, and, especially in our “plugged in” society, how rare it is that we turn all of that off.

The 6th chakra, sometimes known as the third eye…though I find this to be a misnomer as the third eye is an energetic center in its own right, but doesn’t actually represent the location of the 6th chakra. The chakra system lies along, and is fed by, the sushumna nadi which runs along the spine and then continues that pathway up through the center of the throat. As we leave the 5th chakra at the throat, the sushumna does not jut forward in the head but continues straight up through the center of the brain and up through the crown. The result, is that the 6th chakra is located in the center of the brain, near the pituitary gland. The 3rd eye, while an important aspect of energy that flows in and out of the 6th chakra is not the 6th chakra itself.

All this talk of the 3rd eye, brings us to the function of the 6th chakra: to see, both internally and externally. We take in information from the outside world through our eyes and process it through the 6th chakra, but we also turn inward and explore our personal landscape processing this information and drawing on our own internal wisdom and intuition. As we have moved well out of the lower chakras, the practices become less and less about the physical body and more connected with the mind and spirit, particularly through meditation. Our practices this week focused on the art of seeing both outwardly and inwardly.

Cleaning the Mind’s Eye

art by Dominique Falla

At the beginning of your practice close your eyes. Notice the darkness behind your eye lids, notice how you feel as you slip into the stillness and silence of your closed eyes. As you sit, first notice what kind of pictures the mind creates for you that rise up to take the place of the darkness. Then as you begin to notice these thoughts and pictures arise, release them one by one with the breath. Each time a thought arises offer it up to the inhale and release it with the exhale. As the thoughts start to slow, revel in the void behind the closed eyes. We spend our days taking in information through our eyes. Give yourself this opportunity in which you don’t have to take in information. Observe how it feels and, if you like, use this opportunity to know open up to intuitive wisdom and guidance and see what arises for you. This is the perfect time to set an intention for your practice.

 

Exercising the Outer Sight

Close the eyes, take a moment to let the eyes rest. Next open the eyes and focus your gaze center. Without moving the head, take your gaze to the left on inhale, center on exhale, right on inhale and center on exhale. Close the eyes again and allow the eyes to rest. Open the eyes and repeat that same movement center, left, center, right and then close the eyes. Now open the eyes, without moving the head look up on inhale, center on exhale, down on inhale and center on exhale. Close the eyes and rest and then repeat again. On the next round, open the eyes and without moving the head look to the upper right corner of the eye on inhale, bottom corner of the left on exhale, upper right on inhale and bottom left on exhale. Close the eyes, rest and when you open the eyes, repeat, but now starting in the upper left and moving to the lower right. Close the eyes. Finally open the eyes and make two circles in each direction, counter-clockwise and clockwise again without moving the head. Close the eyes and keep them closed as you rub the palms of the hands together. Once they are warm, bring the palms to cover the eyes and allow the warmth to sink into the eyes.

Working the Inner Sight

art by Alex Grey

Close the eyes. In your mind’s eye, see the sushumna nadi, the central channel, running along the spine. Visualize it traveling down to the base of the spine and up through the brain to the crown of the head. Draw your awareness up to the region of the 6th chakra, at the center of the brain. As you bring your focus there, visualize a glowing orb of amethyst purple light. Take several deep breaths here, narrowing your focus and sharpening the image in your mind’s eye. Now begin to direct purple light to shine forward from the 6th chakra toward the front of the head. Direct the beam of light to shine out between the eyebrows at 3rd eye center. Notice any sensations you feel on the forehead as you continue to direct this light out of the head. After several breaths, start to visualize an eye between the two brows. See this eye with your inner vision and once the image comes into focus, now visualize yourself opening your 3rd eye. As the eye blinks open, look outward and see what you notice. What information comes to you? Sit with this. After a few minutes, imagine the eye could rotate around and focus inward, inside your own mind. With the eye opened to your inner mind, now notice what information arises. Do you receive intuitive guidance or wisdom? After several minutes drop your awareness from the third eye down the sushumna nadi to the base of the spine. Take several deep breaths into your sit-bones before you open your eyes.

Chakras & Our Rights

I spent the afternoon reading Anodea Judith’s book Eastern Body, Western Mind. In it, she provides an exploration of the chakra system through the western lens of psychology. While there are portions she speaks of that get a little too close to the rigidity of diagnostics, I found one portion particularly intriguing. She introduces the 7 rights associated with the chakras. And I found this an interesting way to check in with my own system. About the 1st chakra right, she writes:

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I find the large majority of people have trouble with this right, as basic as it may seem. Without the eight to be here, few other rights can be reclaimed…a corollary to this right is the right to have, especially to have what we need to survive. I may have grasped my right to be here, bit still have trouble allowing myself to have such things as time to myself, pleasure, money, possessions, love, or praise. Not being able to have something is like owning a bookcase without shelves. If there is no place in the system in which to store things, and no effective process for obtaining them, then we find ourselves in a constant state of depravation–even when help is offered.

And as I read that I began to sit with my own life, the belief patterns I have established and my limiting behaviors.  I found that perhaps in a way, I need to restate my right to exist. What right is calling your attention right now?

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.

Resonate: Colors, Sounds and Visualizations for the 1st Chakra

This week marked the second week of Chakra Yoga at 8 Limbs Yoga in Wedgwood. I have truly been enjoying this class as I feel like it gives me the opportunity to present something I’ve been playing with for a long time and its fun to see it reflected back to me in new ways now as the teacher instead of the student. This week, our exploration of the 1st chakra moved into the realm of colors, sound and visualization.  We stayed deeply connected to the Earth element from last week and began to weave some other elements into our practice. Below you will find some highlights from that exploration that you can explore and take into your own practice to continue finding your connection to the 1st chakra:

LAM: The Seed Syllable of the 1st Chakra

image courtesy of centrodharmayoga.it

Chanting LAM, the seed syllable of the 1st chakra can help you connect with and activate the 1st chakra. It can be used at the start of practice, much in the same way we chant the sound of OM, beginning first with a drawn out “L” sound, moving to the “AH” sound and then to the “MMM” sound. We also explored using the mantra as a way to extend the breath in a pose and a way to activate the energy of the 1st chakra while moving into that pose. While chanting LAM and moving into asana, I encourage students to also find Mulabhanda (drawing in and up on the perineum) to further activate the 1st chakra. When chanting LAM and engaging Mulabhanda, two sequences I like to flow between are:

  • Cow → Cat → Prayer
  • Arms alongside ears with belly button lifted, flow from uttanasana to urdva hastasana. If there are considerations for the low back, please put the hands on the hips instead.

Seeing Red

image from serenityexpressions.com

The color red is assigned to the 1st chakra. It is a deep earth red, and the color red, much as the chakra it rules, is associated with life, vitality, strength and the physical aspect of human beings. Visualizing the color red at the 1st chakra is another way to activate the energy of the chakra. When visuazling the 1st chakra, I invite students to do the following:

Close your eyes, visualize an orb of light at the base of the spine, at the perineum. Focus on that orb of light and allow it turn a deep crimson red. Take 8-10 breaths bringing your focus deeper and deeper into the red orb of light. Once that image has become clear for you, envision the orb of light extending red light downward from the perineum through the center-line of the legs. Allow it to travel down between inner thighs, inner knees, inner calves, inner ankles until it extends down below the feet. Allow that light to shine down into the floor, imagining its connection with the Earth below you. Take 8-10 breaths running crimson red light down the legs and into the floor. As you’re ready, release the visualization and take a few breaths to feel your experience of the feet on the floor, the energy in the legs and when you’re ready let your eyes open.

Finding your Foundation

image from wikipedia.com

When you see the image of the 1st chakra, no matter how it is depicted, there is always a square inside the image somewhere. The square is a symbol of structure, foundation and stability, all positive characteristics of the 1st chakra. To connect with this energy, close the eyes and take a few deep breaths. As you breathe, feel the heaviness of your sit bones resting on the floor and start to feel the connection points of the sit bones and that on which you are resting. As you become more aware of the sit bones, visualize a line running from sit bone to sit bone — the top of the square. Drop two lines down from each of the sit bones to create the sides of the square and then see a line connecting these two sides to create the bottom of the square. Breathe into the square, feeling the sit bones resting on this structure. Feel yourself, held up, supported and grounded. Stay here as long as you like.

1st Chakra: Earth Element

“Those who dwell among the beauties and the mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.” ~ Rachel Carson

Yesterday was the beginning of the Chakra Yoga class that I teach each Wednesday at 8 Limbs Yoga Wedgwood. As I mentioned in my last post, we are starting the exploration of the chakras with the 1st chakra and will spend the entire month diving into practices geared toward accessing and exploring that specific chakra. The 1st week, our focus for the 1st chakra was its governing element, Earth. We spent the practice dropping into the connection of our bodies to the Earth and ways in which we experience the Earth element in our bodies.

The 1st chakra rests near the base of the spine at the perineum. Our exploration included a great deal of focus on running energy from the 1st chakra into the earth. This can be done in your seat or standing. In a standing pose, the legs provide a vehicle for that energy to travel downward and connect with the Earth, and vice versa, to travel back upward and feed the chakra. Rather than telling students what they should expect to experience, I opened it up to their own exploration. Truly we are our own masters and have the best knowledge about our own energetic systems. The practices listed below are opportunities to open to Earth energy, and whatever you experience beyond that is true and accurate and represents your own knowledge around Earth in your body.

Below are some practices we explored in class to connect us with the Earth:

Tree Meditation

Find a comfortable seat. Feel your sit-bones resting on the floor. Take a few breaths and feel their weight resting on the Earth. Breathe into the length of the spine and connect with the 1st chakra located a the perineum. Take a few breaths into this space and then send your awareness from your seat into the Earth. Imagine roots growing downward, with each breath sink them deeper. After 8-10 breaths, reverse the travel of energy and just as a tree’s roots feed it water and nutrients, begin to draw the energy of the Earth up the roots and into your body. Let it rise up each root imagining the energy as light, color, sensation or simply envisioning it in your mind’s eye. Take 8-10 breaths drawing the energy into the 1st chakra and feeding it. Before you open your eyes take a few breaths to notice what you feel, breathe into your own wisdom and allow the eyes to softly open.

 

Connecting with Leg Lines: A Block Between The Thighs

Try the following sequence with a block between the legs. Start at the back of your mat and move slowly, as if you were swimming through honey. When you move from Ardha Utanasana to Adho Muka Svanasana, walk the hands forward on the mat to arrive.

photo courtesy of teachasana.com

Tadasana → Utanasana →Ardha Utanasana →Adho Mukha Svanasana → Chaturanga Dandasana → Bhujangasana → Adho Mukha Svanasana → Ardha Utanasana → Utanasana → Tadasana

Focus your awareness through the duration of the practice on hugging the inner thighs into the block and experiencing the activation of energy running down the legs. Take 4-5 breaths in each pose.

 

Prithivi Mudra: Earth Mudra

image courtesy of youngever.com

Find a comfortable meditative seat and close the eyes. Let the hands move into Prithivi Mudra with the tips of thumbs and ring fingers touching. Take a few breaths and breath into the energy being generated in the hands. Let your awareness travel from the hands into the arms toward the center of the chest. Imagine a rose at the center of the chest and as you watch the rose SLOWLY blossoms, then begins to drop petal after petal.  Each petal floats downward in slow motion and comes to rest at the seat. Spend anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes in this seat, as you feel complete, release the mudra, notice what you feel and then as you’re ready open your eyes.

The Throat Chakra: Finding Your Voice

With all this talk of sound I felt it would be important to move into the throat, the 5th chakra, Vissuddha Chakra:

Color: Cobalt Blue
Seed Syllable: HAM
Element: Ether
Rules: Thyroid, jaw, neck, mouth, throat, tongue, larynx
Planet: Mercury

Because the 5th chakra is located in the throat and governs higher communication, speaking, hearing and listening, it helps us to understand our inner truth and convey it with our voice to the outside world. The sense for the 5th chakra is hearing. Chanting, singing, speaking, reading aloud are all good for the 5th chakra. The vibrations of all these things affect the body down to the cellular level.

The element for the 5th chakra is ether/space. It is connected to the cosmos, which consists of these elements. Deficient energy in the 5th chakra can cause neck and shoulder problems, jaw disorders, throat problems, an under active thyroid and a fear of speaking.

On the other hand, excessive energy in the 5th chakra can cause hearing problems, inability to listen, excessive talking and an overactive thyroid.

Here are some yogic suggestions to work with the throat chakra:

Asana
– Matsyasana (fish pose)
– Bhujangasana (cobra pose)
– Setu Bhanda Sarvangasana (bridge pose)
– Neck Stretches

Pranayama
– Ujjayi (conqueror breath)

Bhandas
– Jalandhara Bhanda

Mantra
All kinds of mantra and chanting are excellent for releasing the throat chakra.