Chakras have always seemed to me the candy of yoga. In a practice that sometimes seems in danger of becoming chronically virtuous, turning my attention to the chakras always feels like it’s time for dessert.
Not to say that the study of chakras is always pleasant. The messages they offer and the meditations they encourage can be unwelcome, or address areas of our lives and bodies that we would prefer to ignore. But, rather than introducing these subjects in an abstract way, they bring them up in a way that I find easily grasped, held, played with.
Chakras are the organs of our energy body. In Hatha Yoga, it is suggested that we are composed not just of a physical (gross) body, but also an energetic (subtle) one. These two bodies are intricately connected, and influence one another, but are not the same.
The chakras are energetic centers of the subtle body that bridge this gap – where the energetic body can most clearly be “seen” to be influencing the physical, and vice versa. In most current, mainstream chakra theories, there are considered to be seven main ones, aligned along the spinal column from the tailbone to the crown of the head.
If this is where you’re starting to feel like chakras might be too hopelessly woo-woo to be of interest to you, let me tell you something else I like about them: the study of them still works even if you don’t believe in them. You can approach the study of chakras organically – accepting that there are colorful, spinning wheels of light within your energy body, and then exploring what they might mean in your life – or – you can approach the study of them logically – using them as an elegant organizational system to better understand experiences that make up a human life. Even if these are ideas pulled out of thin air, they can still function as mirrors that sharpen what you do in fact believe to be true about yourself.
For an example, let’s start at the base.The first chakra, Muladhara, or “root” is said to be located at the tailbone, or the pelvic floor. Of all the chakras, it is considered the “densest,” or most physical. It extends down into the earth, shining like a flashlight into the cellar underneath us. The parts of life that it might be said to govern are basic issues like safety, money, your right to be in the world and take up space. The areas of the physical body associated with Muladhara include the legs and feet, the very low back.
So, let’s say you have a physical issue like sciatica, what I would call a pretty classic first chakra imbalance. (If you’re continuing to wince at the woo-woo of such a statement, stay with me a moment longer…) The organic, or “from the ground up” perspective might take the inquiry to the mat. We might notice in yoga asana that our timidness or low self-esteem causes us to tuck the tailbone, curling the area of muladhara chakra underneath us in an attempt not to be noticed (the right to be here and take up space) which causes energy to get stuck here instead of flowing freely. The logical, or more “top down” perspective might instead point out that sciatica would be a natural side effect from working, say, three jobs that are hard on the body (the right to financial security).
Whether you think these are entities or simply ideas, they are still helpful jumping off points for reflections on where your life is functioning optimally, and where it’s not.
If your curiosity is piqued by these energy centers, I’m offering my fifth annual chakra workshop on Saturday, January 28th, 2-4:30. This year’s theme is “Chakra 101” – an introduction to all seven major centers of the body. We’ll do some yoga together, and explore ways, logical (meditation, journaling) and lighthearted (belly dancing, karaoke) to address and balance these areas, both on and off the mat. It will be a swirl of color and sound and movement, a real yoga lollipop. Hope to see you there!
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