This year's winter solstice marked the darkest day in over 500 years. For many of us, this feels like an accurate representation to what we're
both in our outer and inner worlds. There is a sense of darkness that feels insurmountable and unshakeable. I have spoken with many people who feel overwhelmed by our current political and social climate and feel immobilized by their feelings of sadness and grief. And yet others I have spoken to have been mobilized by their anger and struggling with where to direct that energy.
It feels like many of us are looking for tools and frameworks of how to work with what we're feeling. For me, I have turned to my yoga community and its teachings to help me bridge the gap of action with intention. And yet as I’ve started to watch what is unfolding in the community I've seen a lot of interesting dialogue around "being positive," "focusing only only on love" and I have seen many teachers and students alike coming down on one another for negativity or the righteous anger they are expressing. I have to say say, as student of yoga and human being I am troubled by this.
"The real voyage of discovery consists of not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust
As we traveled through the lower chakras, we explored the elements associated with each. The first chakra is associated with earth, the second water, third with fire and the fourth with air. The throat chakra is often spoken of as being associated with the element of ether, which has a very light and etheric quality, but moving out of the throat, we leave all traditional element behind (a note here, that sometimes the throat is considered to embody the element of sound). The sixth chakra, is sometimes spoken of as embracing the element of light. While light is not an element in it the most traditional sense, it certainly has elemental qualities and given the 6th chakra association with sight, light makes perfect sense in this context.
As a society we tend to have unbalanced throat chakras. Advances in technology and social media have lead to an over-abundance of "communication" but communication that is inauthentic and doesn't provide true connection. You can see this physically manifested in the over-stretching common in so many people who spend their days at the computer. The neck is long in the back and constricted in the front, the cervical curve is lost. Energetically this speaks to a blockage in the front of the chakra (the giving side of the chakra) and a weakness in the back of the chakra (the receiving side of the chakra). We can all benefit from a little throat chakra work!
"Just as we open and heal the body by sensing its rhythms and touching it with a deep and kind attention, so we can open and heal other dimensions of our being. The heart and the feelings go through a similar process of healing through the offering of our attention to their rhythms, nature and needs. Most often, opening the heart begins by opening to a lifetime's accumulation of unacknowledged sorrow, both our personal sorrows and the universal sorrows of warfare, hunger, old age, illness and death. At time we may experience this sorrow physically as contractions and barriers around our heart, but more often we feel the depth of our wounds, our abandonment, our pain as unshed tears. The Buddhists describe this as an ocean of human tears larger than the four great oceans. As we take the one seat and develop a meditative attention, the heart presents itself naturally for healing." -Jack Kornfield, A Path With Heart
Direct access tp the heart center can be intimidating and scary. After heartbreak and loss in our lives we build protective barriers and shields energetically (and sometimes even physically through tight muscles in the chest) and blowing right through these can actually create more protective layers rather then letting them gently fall away. This week, we again explore a "side door" to the heart through the 4th chakra's element of air. The quality of air is lightness, movement and openness. As we explore air in the body we look for these elements and move stagnancy and heaviness out of the body through the breath. Below are some practices for accessing air and the 4th chakra in your own body.
As I mentioned in the previous post, 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. These practices are excellent for accessing the 2nd chakra and can also be utilized during the moon cycles each month.
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:
"When we live in exile from our sensate reality of the body, we live in exile from the source of our aliveness. The only place that we can reconnect with this aliveness is in the body. Of course we all have bodies, yet few of us truly inhabit our bodies. We may live a short distance from the body divorced from our feelings, sensations, intuitions, and instincts. The body may seem like a foreign land that we have read about but never personally visited. And just as we may come to know a foreign land through the stories we've heard and the pictures we've seen, the actual reality of the place can never be known until we have walked, eaten smelled, touched, and been there ourselves. When we begin to live in the body again, we take of citizenship in our personal residence. In this way we come home to the body." -Donna Farhi
"Those who dwell among the beauties and the mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life." ~ Rachel Carson
The governing element of the 1st charkra is Earth. The 1st chakra rests near the base of the spine at the perineum. And the exploration of the element of Earth through the 1st chakra brings 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. 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. Rather than having an expectation of what your experience will be open up to all the possibilities. Truly we are our own masters and have the best knowledge about our own energetic systems.
The 1st chakra, also known as the Muladhara chakra (or root chakra) is located at the base of the sushumna nadi. The nadis are energy lines running through the body, much as we speak of meridians as energy lines in the Chinese Medicine system. The sushumna is one of the the three most often discussed in yoga as it is the channel that runs up and down the spine and feeds all of the major chakras. The sushumna begins at the perineum and runs all the way up to the crown of the head. The 1st chakra is located at the perineum, at the beginning of the nadi.
In my study and experience of the 1st chakra, I have found to be that it is very much about grounding, stability and structure in our lives. It is our sense of being grounded into a place, and into our own bodies. It is very much about our relationship to our physical bodies and because asana is a physical practice, can be very much rooted into our asana practice.
Yoga teacher, sound healer and explorer of the inner landscape. Join me!