In Yoga traditions the practice of Chakra Yoga allows the mind to have supreme control over the body. The process ultimately leads to the optimum performance of the various vortexes of energy within the body, leading to a human being to perform at the peak of his physical and mental abilities. An unstable work condition or a household that has frequent fights or a love life that is not at its best or an impending downsizing and the associated fear of losing one’s job are just few of the external stimuli that can cause an individual to undergo deep stress and upset the functionality of one of the related chakras.
A Word on Chakra in Hinduism and Buddhism
Before you can dig deeper into the concepts of Chakra Yoga and its immense positive effects over your mind and body, it is imperative that you also have an understanding of and appreciate the meaning of the word Chakra.
The term Chakra Yoga has been derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Chakra’ which means wheel. The austere appearance of the wheel has a significant and powerful underlying meaning in two of the largest religions of the world – Hinduism and Buddhism. It signifies the start of something new, the turn of a new page. In fact, in Buddhism the word “Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta”, which literally means “Turning the Wheels of Dharma in Motion” has also been taken from the Sanskrit word Chakra. In Indian yogic traditions the human body is conceptualized as a vessel for holding energy vortexes. These vortexes are what is known as Chakras in yogic context. Thus the word chakra is a significantly important word in Asian cultures.
Chakra, or the Vortex of Energy in Indian Yogic Traditions
Chakra in the Yoga traditions is referred to the energy points inside the human body. An interesting thing to note is that these energy points are not physical but metaphysical. However, having said that, these energy points coincide with the major parts of the body, either a major nerve or a major artery or a major organ. Yogis believe that there are a total of seven such chakras or energy points inside the human body. These are (moving from the top of the head to the base of the spine) –
Sahasrara (or the Crown, top of the head region)
Ajna (the third eye)
Visuddha (or the throat region)
Anahata (the heart region)
Manipura (navel / belly button)
Svadisthana (hips / genitals)
Muladhara (root coinciding with the large intestine)
Like spinning vortexes, these chakras control some of the most vital bodily functions. Some schools of thought also believe that these are the points where the human body interacts with its immediate environment and most importantly the mind, absorbing energy and then transmitting it throughout the body. The first chakra is the Muladhara. This is the repository of an internal energy also known as Kundalini. The spine is the connecting line between each of the Chakras from the base to the tip of the head. It is also referred to as the Shusunma. It is the ultimate goal for every Yoga enthusiast to awaken the Kundalini energy and to unite it with the Paramshiva or the eternal consciousness. It is a difficult and hard learnt process that takes years of practice and deep dedication to attain. Learn more about the Kundalini energy and how to raise it by joining this online course. You can additionally read more about the benefits of meditation and the concepts of Kundalini in Swami Vivekananda’s book Raja Yoga.
Over periods of time due to lifestyle issues, work related tension, ambitions, failures, expectations and other bodily allures, these chakras or the energy points, become blocked. Chakra Yoga teaches the methodology whereby it is possible to break open these blocks and re-harness the power of the chakras. Much like all the other Yoga sutras, Chakra Yoga deals with the unification of the mind with the physical body, wherein a complete control of the mind over the body is practiced.
What are the Symptoms of a Deficient or Non-performing Chakra?
As explained above, an individual who has a non-performing or deficient chakra will find it difficult to absorb life energy through that chakra. The human actions governed by that chakra will be unbalanced. Let’s assume, an individual works under a boss who is unappreciative of his performance. Even though this person is hard working and is quiet intelligent too, over time as he keeps getting ridiculed and mistreated by his boss, he develops a sense of low self-esteem. His shoulders begin to droop and his self-confidence hits an all-time low. The tell-tale signs are indicative that his heart chakra is not in the best of conditions.
On the contrary, the over-dominance of any of the seven chakras would also be a detrimental thing for an individual. That individual may not be able to control the dominating traits displayed by that chakra in his behavior. Let’s say an individual has a dominating Visuddha chakra. This chakra or vortex controls the speaking abilities of an individual. While every individual must have some amount of speaking abilities, this individual who has a dominating Visuddha chakra will be a non-stop talkative character. Such an individual will have trouble keeping quiet when he is required to. He will also be unable to listen and take inputs from others because he will be too busy speaking. He will be a nuisance too, getting chided at school or office for being a constant chatterbox.
The Physical Benefits of Chakra Yoga
Continuing from the discussion about the metaphysical benefits of Chakra Yoga, Yoga asanas which are used to correct any problems that an individual may have also have a direct physical benefit. E.g., improving the circulation of blood throughout the body through the means of deep breathing exercises. This helps in eliminating the toxins that accumulate inside the body over time. Additionally, Yoga asanas are an effective form of exercise routine. As such they help to reduce muscle tension, soreness and pain.
Yoga asanas that offer a corrective solution to problems of a non-performing chakra are usually selected by an instructor only after speaking with an individual joining the class. Identifying the symptoms and then relating them to the specific problem is the first stage of curing. The instructor who you meet needs to get a complete understanding of your mental and physical condition, your thoughts, your work and any external influences that may be affecting your condition. His correct diagnosis of your condition will allow him to suggest the correct Yoga asana to free the blockage of the vortex and re-channelization of the vital life energy (praan).
In an earlier paragraph an example was cited of an individual who is deeply unappreciated. The result was that he had lost his self-esteem. This directly impacts the Anahata (also meaning undefeated in Sanskrit) Chakra or the heart region. Dropping shoulders, loss if interest, tiredness are some of the symptoms of a non-performing Anahata Chakra. In this condition the Ustrasana Yoga can provide considerable amount of benefit, subsiding the negative effects, slowly releasing the blockage of the Heart Chakra and bringing the person back to normalcy.
Ustrasana (The Camel Pose)
The word Ustra means Camel in Sanskrit. Thus the name Camel pose. Please be aware that this pose should not be attempted if you are pregnant, suffering from lower or neck pain, have insomnia and or abnormal blood pressure. It is always best to consult your Yoga trainer before attempting this asana.
In this pose you will need to kneel on the Yoga mat. Your knees should about a foot apart with your thighs placed perpendicular to the floor. Gently arch your feet so that your legs are perfectly flat to the floor. Now gently push your lower abdomen in a downward movement that will push your hip bones slightly upwards. While doing so, ensure that the hips and buttocks don’t lose their firmness. Next, place your hands on your pelvis. Your wrists should be roundabout at the position of the edge of your buttocks. Fingers should point towards the floor. Gently push your lower abdomen inside so that you can arch your torso backwards. You should feel that the lower spine is slightly stretched as you approach the back arch. Inhale and gently press the shoulder blades against the back end of the ribs. Initially this may be difficult. For those who want to feel more comfortable before moving into the full throttle try this against a wall. The wall can support the tip of your toes and the head lurching backwards. Keep in mind that your pelvis should always be directly over your knees. Now comes the really difficult part. While twisting gently on one side grab hold of the heel. If you are okay with that position, twist in the other direction and grab hold of the other heel. Depending on your comfort level hold the position for about 30 seconds to a minute. Don’t overstrain yourself trying.
Virabhadrasana (The Warrior Pose)
Another asana that helps is the Virabhadrasana. The pose is reminiscent of the extended arched body of an archer about to release the bow from the arrow. If you have a background knowledge of the Mahabharata you could even relate this pose as the arched body of Arjuna, the middle Pandava, the moment before releasing the arrow towards the eye of a robotic-fish. Long story short, this is also known as the warrior pose.
Extend your left leg in front. The foot firmly planted on the floor / Yoga mat. The other leg will be extended backwards. Raise both your arms upwards horizontal to the floor. Don’t clasp them together, keep them at shoulder length to each other. Your body should form an arch from the tip of the fingers to the heel of the right leg. This position places your feet firmly on the ground and this creates a strong feeling of grounded to the roots. Virabhadrasana is a great Yoga pose for people who are suffering from issues of lack of connection with new job or a new place or a new environment.
Many a times an individual who have recently moved find it hard to settle down in a new location. There may be thoughts of insecurity, fear of being rejected by the new community and or any associated unknown fear of going to a new place. Virabhdrasana is a good asana to try and pacify the Muladhara and help one’s mind connect with the roots. For a complete guided Yoga program check this wonderful online course.