Nirodhaḥ Yoga Blog
Balance in The 7 Chakras
Yoga is the path, and the chakras are the map.
- Anodea Judith
One of the best aspects of yogic philosophy for me is the integration of the head and the heart. Having spent so much of my early life “trapped in my head,” delving deeper into yoga both challenged me to get out of my head and into my body (or heart) and liberated me from experiencing the world in only one dimension.
By that I mean yoga is a pathway toward more heartfelt living but is grounded in real, physical experience. As westerners, we sometimes forget how much knowledge the western medical world has only learned relatively recently, has been passed down in eastern medicine for centuries.
It is always a big treat to talk shop with other eastern medicine practitioners, such as Chinese medicine, shiatsu, etc., because so many of the concepts overlap with the traditional Indian view of medicine and the body. I am always flabbergasted by how similar the energy channels in Chinese medicine are to their Ayurvedic representation.
Now, in western medicine, we are learning that there are subtle channels of communication in a living body that have been unobservable in cadavers. Only recently has western medicine started to realize the wisdom that comes from eastern traditions.
It is this way with the Chakras too. It would be understandable if a person thought that the Chakras were woo-woo. It’s true that some unscrupulous people pretend that simply placing the correct rock over the area of a chakra will act as a panacea. These people do eastern medicine a disservice by simplifying what should be the personal study of a lifetime to something you can pay someone else to unblock in a few hours.
So let’s demystify the Chakras a little bit this month. Because the Chakras are not mystical. Although they are a part of the subtle body, they correspond to physical locations in the body and are eminently practical.
Chakras have been described traditionally as wheels of energy in the body (chakra means wheel). They are associated with areas of the body where many nerves converge, which is called a nerve plexus. In this way, they are places where the body and the nervous system are in close contact.
If some trauma, such as a physical injury happens to the site of a nerve plexus (or to a nerve, which affects a nerve plexus), this may have an effect on the nervous system. Similarly, if a person’s nervous system experiences a trauma, this may affect specific nerves and/or nerve plexuses.
One example that is commonly used within yoga is the effect of stress on the vagus nerve. When well-balanced, the vagus nerve will downshift the nervous system when the body is under stress. If the vagus nerve is overstimulated we may faint. If it is understimulated, we may crack under pressure. The vagus nerve in turn regulates the functioning of many internal organs and their physiology, such as heart rate, digestion, and respiration.
Similarly, the nerve plexuses of the body that are related to various Chakras regulate a symphony of experience from the physical to the downright emotional. The four primary nerve plexuses in the body (sacral, lumbar, brachial, and cervical), along with the coccygeal plexus, the heart, and the brain, are all represented within the Chakra system.
This system goes beyond the physical explanation of these sites - that specific plexuses innervate specific areas of the body - and into the emotional. Again, combining the head and the heart. This idea may be where some think the Chakras devolve into woo-woo, because more subtle aspects of ourselves are at this point, unprovable.
But isn’t it true that we talk about feeling ungrounded when describing issues related to the coccygeal plexus? That sexual urges come from our loins? When we feel powerless, doesn’t it often feel like a punch in the gut? Or when we are in love, we feel our heart flutter? When we don’t know what to say, doesn’t our voice catch in our throat? And when we feel confused, our head feels cluttered?
So while I can’t say that practicing Ustrasana (camel pose) will resolve any and all issues related to our throat and heart chakras, doesn’t it make sense that if tight, opening this area may improve not only the physical manifestations of such a block but the emotional ones as well?
If that sounds like a reasonable hypothesis, I invite you to try a little experiment in your body. Laura is leading a seven week series on the Chakras starting January 23rd. We’d love to welcome you to one or all seven of these classes in order to explore the effect of yoga on these seats of innervation and inspiration, the Chakras.
1/4/2022 04:13:06 pm
Can you tell the cost and the days offered?
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Just some thoughts about yoga as I go...
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