Monday, February 26, 2007
Function: confidence, strength, responsibility, courage and empowerment.
The third chakra is the energy source of one's individual power, a person’s self-esteem and level of confidence. This energy channel is situated in the solar plexus. It corresponds with the fire element in the body, similar to ayurveda’s (Indian holistic medicine), pita or fire constitution. Fire is needed in the body for digestion and assimilation, both on a physical and mental level. Fire increases one's sense of personal power bringing clarity and confidence into individuals and burns away dullness and stagnation. The third chakra stimulates a sense of individual identity, separated from one's group identity, and allows one to come into their ego.
From the strength of being rooted and grounded in group identity, and from the security of one's relationship and ability to express emotions and creative desires, one comes into their being as a separate person. If there are weaknesses in our first and second charka then this may form a domino effect, due to feeling insecure in relationships and in one's identity then we lose our self-esteem and confidence. When we fan our strengths, our personal ability to complete tasks, take on responsibility and make choices that are not a reaction to our fears and block, then we strengthen our confidence and will power. This in turn may strengthen our roots and relationships.
Over-confidence, pride, and being too assertive indicates imbalance, and does not necessary represent strength. Humility is the key to strength, as strength comes from a sense of honesty. Over-confidence and showing off is a cover-up from our lack of personal power. Individual personal strength allows us to make decisions in our life that are not governed by our fears, but gives one the ability to act without always worrying what others may think. One's confidence is often diminished when there is criticism or fear of being criticized, when there is fear of rejection and making a fool of one self.
When the body energy is stagnant and dull, our mind loses clarity and motivation to act; this often results in depression and a lack of will power. Yoga stimulates ones whole energy system, burning up physical and mental stagnant energy. The prana vayu is the in-breath that brings life force into the body and mind. To fan a fire one need air, then a fire will blaze burning away-unwanted wastes. The prana (in-breath) when it is brought into the body in a sufficient way, will begin to fan our internal fire, that will expel stagnant waste energy, this will be taken away from the body through the out breath which is call the apana vayu (the life air that is responsible for all elimination in the body).
High charge points
Diaphragm, the bell shaped muscle right under the ribcage, and the erectors, the long muscles along the spine. As we grow up from childhood and adolescents our attempt to find our individual self’s, separated from our parents and authorities, are often confronted with disagreements, criticisms, and are compromised. This stunts our individual growth, and the negativity we experience damages our self-confidence. The frustrations and tension ones experiences is stored in the body. When the diaphragm is tight we cannot take a deep invigorating breath, preventing personal growth and expression, nor is one able to exhale and let go. When the erector muscles are tight, this limits the flexibility in the spine, compresses the vertebrae and restricts ones ability to twist side to side. Activating uddiyana bhanda, and practicing nauli targets the diaphragm and deep twists isolates release in the erectors. Other third chakra organs are the liver and spleen, which are also cleansed through twisting poses.
To further stimulate the third chakra in yoga, one can work with kapalabhati breath (breath of fire), which isolates the abdominal muscle, bringing fire and heat there, which in turn radiates into the body as a whole. The practice of Ha (heating) Kriyas are also very effective in cleansing the body from stagnant energy, they empower individuals to connect to one's core as a powerhouse. Moving from the core is the key in vinyasa flow, it is like plugging into a power-socket, when combined with the breath it turns on the heat and energy in the body. As a yoga practitioner and teacher, I have experience practicing arm balances and inversion can really stimulate ones third chakra, the lightness, control and power that ones connect to gives the ego a boost, it infuses the whole body and mind with shakti (power) that enable one to come into the body and into one's personal identity. It definitely fans the solar energy (pingal nadi) in the body.
Twisting half moon
Through the chanting of mantra in yoga, ones taps into divine power. A strength that is greater then oneself. This infuses one with the ability, confidence and strength to take of many task out of ones normal range, but at the same time it keep one humble.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
Function and character: un-conditional love, compassion, trust and faith in a higher power, forgiveness, and kindness.
Envy, hate, and hurt, selfishness and grief.
Open heart means there is a level of transparency within a person. It means you have nothing to hide, no hidden agenda, no personal motives, no deep dark secrets or negative feelings stored within. The heart is the sitting place of emotions, both positive and negative, what we experience in life is transformed into emotions, and is stored in the heart center. When we experience positive emotions, trust and love develops, that results in the body being able to let go and relax. When we have good healing thoughts empathy and compassion grows, but when there is attachment and personal motives then one is unable to empathize or forgive.
High charge points
Pectoralis minor, located top outer chest muscle. Rhomboids located between the shoulder blades. When we experience negative emotions like envy, dislike, and resentment, we don’t want to show what’s within, so the body closes of. The pectoralis (chest muscles) tighten and shorten causing the shoulders to hunch. Deep hurt is stored within the heart; pectoralis minor is like the hinge that closes the door to our heart.
Many times I observe students in a yoga class, especially when focusing on back bends, students often stop breathing or the breath becomes very short. Jaws clench and shoulder muscles tighten. Opening the heart in yoga and in life makes one vulnerable. Due to bad experiences we as individuals do not want to be put in a state of feeling vulnerable out of fear of being exploited or hurt again. There is also a fear of facing what is within, a fear of the truth. Our fear can only be concerned with faith. Faith in the Divine.
*Wheel (variations included)
Eka pada vasistasana (variation with back bend)
*Warrior one with chest opener against the wall
*Reclined side anahata
*Standing back bend
Bound side angel (open shoulders)
Chest openers by the wall
*Shoulder shrugs (warrior one or two)
*Bird wing variation in warrior 1 or 2
Lunge with interlaced arms
Using the power of the breath in a heart opening yoga class, one has to allow the breath to rise into the upper rib cadge, into the front and back of the heart region. The breath is the key to unblock your trapped emotions. The breath is the infused with spiritual energy, it is not ordinary air, so use the breath to cleanse the heart. When tension arises in the body due to fear, release the fear with the power of prana. Move with faith to open the heart. Sometimes going deep stimulates an emotional response, welcome what is arising within, many times we are not even aware what we are holding onto, let it go. You will feel lighter and freer.
Sometimes as much as one may endeavor to breathe, it is still a struggle. That is why I use mantra, spiritual sound vibration. By chanting a mantra while in a yoga pose using the exhale of the breath, the sacred vibration joined with the breath, can penetrate deep into areas that are resistant. Mantra enables one to insistently tap into sacred and divine energy that will give you the spiritual strength to break through both body and mind obstacles.
Opening the heart will allow you to experience genuine compassion and empathy for others. From that compassion develops real love. Love that is not motivated, but that is about giving instead if taking. Love is about letting go of distinctions of friends and enemy, giving form a self-less place.
To be self-less one has to have faith in a higher power, in a divine arrangement. Letting go of ones agenda takes courage; it takes spiritual strength and trust. One has to be able to tap into sacred divine energy, into Gods power to be infused with spiritual strength. So much of our inability to trust the divine, to let go or to have faith is due to a sense of holding on to the ego, a concept of “I” am the doer. We think we have control in our lives, but that control is minimal. We do not recognize that we are forced to move and act according to the waves of time, according to circumstances and providence (karma). Moving and embracing the flow of life, means accepting our limitations with humility, letting go of expectations and opening ones heart to what ever comes in life with gratitude.
Fifth Chakra (vishuddha)
The fifth chakra resonates ones power of choice, and ability to express ones will. Every moment in life we are confronted to make decisions and choose what our next steps may be. The decisions we make in life are expressions of our desires and of our willpower. Although one may acknowledge their inner desires, strengths and emotions, to express what is within, and to make appropriate decisions in life that will nurture and empower growth is a challenge for many. What may be stored in the heart and gut emotions often gets stuck in the throat region, crippling individuals to express their will.
If you think about what expression is & the way people express themselves. It is controlled through the power on voice and sound, facial expressions and body language. Sound is the most penetrating and powerful form of expression; through our vocals we have an ability to express ourselves in a positive or negative way. Our emotions are expressed through sound, when one might be angry then it comes out through the tone in their voice as well as the language they may choose to get their message across in. When there is an emotion of love or compassion then softness prevails in the voice. Our voice, how and what we say mirrors our inner thoughts, desires and emotions. How we express ourselves verbally determines the conscious and unconscious choices we make. It is also easy to make decisions based of our fears, thus our fears may dictate our power on choice. Fears may be overcome by faith.
The jaw also governs expression, there is so much tension held in the jaw. Our control issues are held there, not willing to let go, being stubborn and holding on to a sense of righteousness. For many we are unconscious of what we are holding onto in the jaw. To think that one is in total control is an illusion. So many times we try and control our situation using the power on our voice, in turn the jaw holds onto this concept and locks out. To let go of always trying to control a situation or persons in ones life, takes faith in a higher power and trusting in divine will.
The region surrounding the throat is the midway point from the line of energy that is formed from head to heart. Person who may have blocks in the 5th chakra often cut off their head to the heart, and or head to the rest of the body. To be aware what the body and heart feels, to consciously connect with the body and its needs & takes openness in the 5th chakra. So many times we bottle up our emotions, not allowing them out of our hearts. When one may be upset, the lump that forms in the throat literally stops us from communicating with the rest of our body as well as the situation we may be trying to express ourselves in. The 5th chakra is in essence in communication, not just with others and but with oneself also. Communication means coming together with a conscious connection. How is it possible to really communicate with others and to express ones will if ones is cut off from there own bodies and hearts.
I also like to say that the 5th chakra is the lid to the heart. Opening that lid frees one from all the stored emotions, attachments and desires that may be trapping an individual in their body, as well as their concepts and beliefs. The key to opening that lid is faith.
Having Faith in divine will, and letting go of trying to control. Trusting a greater power in ones life is empowering. We can be constantly on the mental level when making decisions, did I do the right thing or not, but if one is able to open up to divine will then ones choice has no label of right or wrong. It is easy to act and make decisions based on ones personal agenda, “what’s in it for me”, when one is empowered by divine will then one becomes selfless.
One of the most common observations I see while teaching yoga is how students lock out the jaw, especially when faced with an intense stretch or pose. Instead of breathing, the jaw takes control; also most subtlety saying, “I am in control, I will not surrender”. The face is the index to the inner self. The constant holding on to tension around the neck and shoulders stops individuals going deeper in their yoga practice. Also into understanding that life’s challenges are gifts and opportunities to change old reactive behavioral patterns.
Releasing the tension around the neck and shoulders is like flipping the lid open to allow Gods will to come into the body and mind. When faced with jaws clenching, it is good to release with a lion’s breath. This immediately brings oxygen to the head and face and releases the stress that is held in the face and jaw. Then to infuse mantra, power of sound, clears the throat chakra for divinity to enter into the body. The 5th chakra not only blocks what we may need to release from the body, but also prevent what we may need to bring into the body to heal. People are often self conscious at first to chant vocally, but once there is a letting go and they express themselves with full power then one can hear the vibration go deep down, as if it goes into the throat chakra, then the heart, then into the core the belly, the pelvic floor and finally into ones roots and legs.
Another great way to work yoga into the 5th chakra is to do neck releases. This can be done not just sitting, but also in poses like extended side angel, and triangle. Instead of having the arm up over by the ear, allow the arm and hand to float a few inches above the side waist and ribs. Allow the head to draw downwards, instead of looking up; drop the ear toward the shoulder, while at the same time extending down through the fingertips along the side body. Great counter forces are put into play that stretches the neck and releases tension there. Why always look up in poses if that creates tension. Actively look down; play with ways to release that tightness. It is not that you need to fit in what yoga is supposed to look like, yoga fits around the individual persons body and needs.