A chakra is believed to be a center of activity that receives, assimilates, and expresses life force energy. The word chakra literally translates as wheel or disc and refers to a spinning sphere of bioenergetic activity emanating from the major nerve ganglia branching forward from the spinal column. Generally, six of these wheels are described, stacked in a column of energy that spans from the base of the spine to the middle of the forehead, the seventh lying beyond the physical world. – Anodea Judith
Chakras have bad press. Say the word ‘chakra’ and observe the inner cynic roll their eyes up. Chakras are not visible, but rather felt in the subtle realm – that of energies, prana (life force) and intuition. It is said that Kundalini the serpent who helps us attain bliss awareness sleeps in our pelvis (base chakra) and rises up these churning wheels of energy, when and if they are all in alignment, as the serpent rises she joins the individual with the universal. So we see the bigger picture, experience inner fireworks and/or just feel pretty darn good.
I decided to study and teach the chakras in my classes recently and have found it incredibly interesting and challenging. To achieve harmonious energy flow in each chakra what is initially needed is physical alignment. That’s not too woo woo. From there each chakra symbolises aspects of our lives and consciousness, I’ve found reading and contemplating these aspects fascinating. The cynic in me too balks but remember in the East philosophy is discussed with the body as the analogy – not necessarily in an anatomically correct way. Ah yes, anything spiritual is not literal (please tell that to the fundamentalists). It is a scientific art.
By studying our patterns and processes of moving, feeling and thinking and how they tie together is a way of creating more awareness of our programming. It’s like a computer or smartphone – the better you know the system the better you can fix any malfunctions that might occur – the more you get out of it. So it is is with our body and mind. We study ourselves so we get better functionality, so we are happier and healthier.
The study of the chakras is like a ‘subtle body’ manual for our body-mind and energies. You discover things you like and dislike about your hard-wiring. And it’s subtle and deep for sure. Do you have times when you feel utterly exasperated with yourself, your life or complete lack of energy? You can shift that with chakra yoga. The more I practice and study, the more it astounds me.
How? Start from the bottom up. This is a STRONG note of caution. The serpent lies in our pelvis. You need to start your balancing work from the ground up. You need to find stability and grounded-ness before you move your way to the more subtle work, and you need to keep your feet on the ground – otherwise you will become one of those crazed bliss addicts.
Bring awareness to pelvis and feet, find alignment in pelvis and feet. This is your starting point and the foundation you need to keep returning to. Then keep an open mind, but keep your questioning and discerning hat on. That’s always a good hat to wear.
There are many great teachers and writers on the subject, here are a few resources I recommend: Eastern Body Western Mind by Anodea Judith and Chakra Yoga by Alan Finger & Katrina Repka. If in London this month check out Jo Ibbett’s Chakra workshop on 9 June at Indaba Yoga (Jo often works with the Chakras so basically check out anything she does!) and/or yoga masters Katrina and Alan are co-teaching at YogaCampus this November.
Find your feet first:- alignment in the feet brings alignment to all the chakras and particularly helps balance the base chakra. Start your practice by simply massaging your own feet, this is a wonderful way of getting grounded and bringing awareness to feet. Once you have given each foot a good rub, flow through some simple asanas (e.g. down dog, warrior 2)
and keep awareness in feet – notice that if you lift your toes up your arches ignite. See if you can release grip of toes and keep the arch elevated. At any stage during your practice or week lift toes whilst planting four corners of the sole of the foot firmly down.