The Chakras and Lent – Weeks 5-7

We are a product of nature. The things we do, the thoughts we have, and the habits we gain or lose mimic the physical world around us.

I would liken trying to do something or working toward a goal to climbing a mountain. At first it is very difficult. The road is all uphill. Once you reach the top you can pause and take inventory of what is around you. The road down is easy and faster.

I have really, really, really slacked on the past few weeks of keeping up with the 7 weeks of lent. I posted the last blog for the 4thweek and the heart chakra 11 days ago already. Palm Sunday is only 4 days away.

I have been blogging about the journey toward shedding old habits for lent and relating the journey to opening the 7 chakras during this 7-week period; while on my own sobriety journey.

While the chakras themselves are aligned from dense to light, so is the work. The motivation varies. My writing has reflected the motivation. I can explain further.

At first when making the firm decision to give something up like many Christians do for lent, there is a lot of motivation to do this. The will is there and it is something we think about constantly. As we start up a long mountain road one step at a time, it seems like a really huge task that will require a lot of work to get to the other side. Each step feels momentous.

As we continue up the mountain and toward the habit we can see the progress, but the road ahead is still long. 

As the weeks go on, the actually shedding of the habit could be as difficult as the start of the journey up the mountain. At some point we reach the top and are able to look around and see the beauty of our work. But it is not over – we still need to go back down. Going back is so much faster and easier. 

I took most of this time to get to the summit. 

Last weekend my husband came over to where I am staying. I hadn’t seen him in nearly 6 weeks. We talked and caught up on all that we have missed. We enjoyed one another’s company. We went out for dinner and had tapas. We had breakfast the next morning and we spent much of Sunday talking and walking the dog. We decided to put our rings back on and see where the next few months takes us. We will continue to live apart and came up with a living arrangement that works for the both of us. I’m excited about this journey with him. As excited as I have been about my own individual recovery. 

From that point the last few days have seemed easier. Akin to coming down the mountain. I’ve slept better than I have in over a month. I’m more focused. I’m more determined than ever to stay on this new path. I’m on the other side of the mountain now. It is a new place I have not seen before. I do not know what it will bring or what other mountains I need to climb, but I’m excited and I really don’t want to know. Discovery is part of the fun. 

To wrap up this chakra series I will write about the last 3 in one blog. 

The 5th Chakra is Vishuddhi. It is also known as the throat chakra. It is blue and located in the region of the throat. 

The 6th Chakra is Ajna. It is known as the Third Eye. It is Indigo or in some places it is shown as violet. This chakra is located right between the eyebrows. One of my teachers often quotes that we have two eyes to look out, and one to look in. 

The 7th Chakra is Sahasrara or the Crown chakra. Depending on what material you read this chakra is violet, white or crystal – meaning it contains all the colors of the spectrum. It is located at the top of the head. 

The three below symbols are in order from 5, 6, and 7. I painted these in January of this year.

Throat chakra 

In this area we use our voice. We speak up and communicate what we believe in. Similar to the Root Chakra, the triangle points upwards. In this location it symbolizes “the gathering of knowledge toward enlightenment”. The Vishuddhi chakra has 16 petals. There are also 16 vowels in Sanskrit. The number of petals symbolize the light, breathy sounds of vowels and liken this to the quality of air.

The element associated with Vishuddhi is air. We communicate through air either through voice, audibly with vibrational or radio waves, written language that see with our eyes through the medium of air, or even telepathy. 

The throat chakra is associated with truth, self-expression and communication. Communication not only with others, but within toward our own self and our higher power. When in balance it is easier to communicate with others and to be honest with ourselves. When this chakra is not in balance, we may experience a communication breakdown. We may not be able to allow ourselves to be effectively heard or able to really listen to others or our own higher self. All that passes through this area can either help or hinder the opening of this area be it love and truth or lying, gossip, smoking, drugs and overeating. 

Third Eye

The seat of intuition. The downward facing triangle here “represents the knowledge and lessons of the lower six chakras being gathered and expanded into your divine consciousness” There are only two petals on this symbol Lens Eye writesthis “ transparent lotus flower with two white petals, [is] said to represent the nadis (psychic channels) Ida and Pingala, which meet the central Sushumna nadi before rising to the crown chakra, Sahasrara” These two nadis from my understanding are major energy changes that run through the body. They are similar to the Yin Yang in that Pingala contains Yang qualities and Ida contains Yin qualities. They help to keep us in balance. 

The element associated with the Ajna chakra is ether. Or space. Or Light. It is something lighter than air that connects us all with one another and the unseen. It is an element that remains more of a mystery because we know it is there but it’s not as tangible as the others. This element and the third eye are the gateway between the known and unknown.

The qualities of this chakra are intuition, inspiration and inner vision. When in balance we are able to trust our intuition and tap into our creative imagination. When out of balance it may be difficult to channel our energy toward goals.

Crown Chakra 

The Sahasrara Chakra is the divine connection to all that is. The circle holds the risen energy and there are innumerable petals of the lotus. 

There is no element associated with this chakra. It is pure consciousness. 

The qualities of the Crown Chakra are divinity and limitless wisdom. It helps us to recognize our true nature and our connection to all that is. When in balance we are able to connect with the world around us and partake in the serene understanding that we are all one. When out of balance it is difficult to see through the chatter of the mind and we may be consumed with the accumulation of stuff and other distracting activities that cut us off from our true nature and connection to everything else. 

Similar to Maslow’s triangle, the top is smaller and easier to transverse. The qualities associated with the upper chakras are where we begin to understand ourselves and how we fit into the universe and can use our gifts to aid in it. At the top part of the Hierarchy of Needs we find, morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, and acceptance of the facts. 

It is if all the chakras are clear and the connection from the base of our humanity is directly in contact with the celestial world where we accept things as they are and use our tools and gifts to navigate the cosmic waves. 

I love this quote. We cannot control the sea, but we can control what we do in it. Once we accept the world as it is and people as they are, we can learn to use our own tools to not be afraid and navigate with ease. 

I have been writing about the koshas for the past several weeks. The 5th and inner most kosha is the Anandamaya kosha. It is known as the “bliss body” or the “bliss sheath”. It is where we connect to our higher self that is always here within us in a central, calm, harmonious state. This serene, still place cannot be affected by outer circumstances. 

All three of the higher chakras (throat, third eye and crown) are associated with the Anandamaya kosha. 

Only the Throat chakra and the Third eye have seed mantras. 

The Crown chakra’s sound is silence. 

The seed mantra for the Vishuddhi chakra is HAM.  

The seed mantra for the Ajna chakra is AUM or more commonly said as OM. 

Chanting HAM when creating a new habit would assist with the desire the hear your inner voice more clearly to make better decisions. Chanting AUM would assist with connecting to your intuition to do what is right. 

Of the three higher chakras, only the Throat chakra has a prana vayu associated with it. Udana is known to govern speech, growth, and upward movement. It helps to promote mental clarity. The triangle pointing upward in my artistic version above symbolically pulls the energy up from the lower body to the higher parts of the self. 

As we reach the summit of molding new habits or breaking old ones, it becomes easier. We tell ourselves more truths, it is more difficult to make excuses and easier to listen to our intuition and higher selves when an old craving starts to creep around. That upward moving energy of the three higher chakras makes the end easier than the beginning where every step was an effort. Similar to how it would be coming down from a mountain.

Today is day 42 in my sobriety. Lent is almost over and all of those who have chosen this sanctified time to give up a habit have almost hit their sacred 40 day mark. In my first blog I wrote about the sanctity of the number 40 and why it is a marker in many religions and texts. 

Living without an old habit should be easier by now and hopefully a new lifelong practice is in place. If you have gone over your own big mountain as I have, you are in a new place too. I’m thrilled to be here. It’s a place I have not gone before. There is a new path to navigate, new unknown places to check out, and undoubtedly new mountains to climb. With the knowledge and lessons learned from finishing this recent climb, we now have some firsthand tools to make the next one a bit easier. 

Hopefully you learned a thing or two about your energetic system and the chakras along the way and can keep them open and flowing for your upcoming life’s adventures. 

Some poses to keep these last 3 chakras open are:

  • Throat chakra: Neck stretches, Shoulder stand, Bridge, Fish 
  • Third Eye chakra: Forehead to ground – as in Child’s pose
  • Crown chakra: Inversions, particularly head stand

My last 3 short videos cover a few more basics and are not particularly aligned with the suggested poses above.

I cover Downward facing dog in Week 5, the Half-lift in Week 6, and finally Tree in Week 7. Tree to balance it all out – because hey… who doesn’t need some more balance in their lives?

So grab a mat and let’s do a little tune up on these basics.

Thanks for taking this journey with me.

Namaste! 

The Chakras and Lent – Week 1

The Chakras and Lent – Week 2

The Chakras and Lent – Week 3

The Chakras and Lent – Week 4

If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog

https://esterinaanderson.com

The Chakras and Lent – Week 4

This is another week I have been very hesitant to write. An even more emotional week as I journey through sobriety. The emotions I am facing are difficult, but when I truly accept in my heart what others are telling me out of love, it is uplifting and feels like years of emotions are spread.

I hit one month of sobriety this week and was given a one-month coin electronically. 

Week 4 of lent. Perhaps many days into giving up an old habit that no longer serves you. It may be a time when the new habit or letting go of the old one is really taking shape and we start to feel the rewards. We may question why we were doing what we were doing in the first place. We may feel like beating ourselves up for doing something stupid, waiting so long or not even seeing the harm it was causing. 

The fourth chakra is the Annahata chakra or the Heart chakra. It is green. Unsurprisingly this chakra is located at the heart. 

Below is my painting of the Anahata chakra.  

The heart chakra is right in between the 3 upper and 3 lower chakras. The two triangles that are upside down from one another symbolize this connection. According to Learn The Meaning Behind Each Chakra, Anahata “Fuels your compassion towards yourself and others…. The six-point star in combination with the 12 petals in this symbol represents your 72,000 energy channels, or nadis (6,000 x 12 = 72,000). This is also representative of how Anahata is the central chakra that connects the whole system”.

In a way I feel as if this week I have been able to start to move away from the focus of myself to how I have related to others. This is not a new expedition, but it is one that I am looking through a new lens. A lens that does not involve alcohol. A lens that doesn’t get blurred when I don’t like what I see and drown it away. Without a mind-numbing substance, it’s far more difficult to not feel all of life’s emotions, the good/bad/ugly. My heart is there and feeling as it never has before and the sludge of inebriation doesn’t cover all that the heart is trying to tell me. 

Someone who asked me to not mention them in their blogs had a very difficult and honest conversation with me last weekend. This person never told me the things they had before about ways in which I had hurt them. The things they said sounded familiar – as other family members have told me the same thing before; but due to circumstances I would rather not get detailed about; I was unable to take them seriously. 

I apologized profusely. I heard & acknowledged their pain. But I was shocked and very upset that this person never told me this before and was now quite angry with me. I was immobilized for hours and cried non-stop. My heart actually hurt and was undulating waves of pain. As it started to get dark out several hours later, I felt like I had to get out of the place I was staying. I went for a drive and cried some more. I had a strong desire to write, but I had nothing but my phone with me. I went into Walgreens and bought a notebook. I sat outside and started to write, and write and write. Pen to paper, like I haven’t done in years. I wrote about how hurt I felt. About why this person and seemingly everyone else around me are deciding now to tell me what they don’t like about me as I’m working my way through these early days of sobriety. I was feeling sorry for myself. 

At some point I somehow made my way into just writing things I did not want to admit that I don’t like about myself (my shadow side). I was digging deep to keep finding more things after I exhausted what was at the surface. As I took them from my mind onto paper, I was surprised and also relieved to see these in a tangible manner. My first instinct was to destroy this paper afterward, but I kept looking at what I wrote. 

Slowly I was able to look at these “things” and make a connection about what people have told me they worried about. It propelled me to begin writing all the things I have remembered they said that I didn’t believe or acknowledge before. Sitting out in the cold, I realized with both surprise and relief that I do these things. I do them, they are not ok and I have justified them. 

As long as I could remember I did not even understand that certain things were not ok. There was a point in my not so distant past where I did realize they were not ok by other’s standards and did what was needed for everyone else’s sake; but in my heart I still felt they w ere ok. That evening my heart too understood what was not ok. I was overwhelmed with grief at this realization. I wanted to run and apologize, but it is going to take a long time down the sobriety path for those who were close to me to grasp that I really am finished with alcohol. 

What may have happened to me last weekend as I wrote and felt sorry for myself and then compassion for others was where the heart chakra joined my higher and lower self. 

I’m visiting with my aunt in Florida at the moment I am writing this. A few nights ago over dinner she told me something about how she understood my husband. When I woke up in the middle of the night (as I always do these days), in the twilight of my consciousness I thought about her words; and again – like a veil being quickly lifted from my eyes this time; I was able to see something else that so many people have told me. People who love me dearly and others who are quite neutral. I started a separate blog about this. I did not cry but I was overcome with emotion. I actually stopped and decided to lay there in the dark and just allow my heart to feel and process the emotions. I remembered to do some of the grounding techniques that I have learned over the years while I just let myself feel and process. It was exhausting to be honest. I fell back to sleep (which is unusual) and woke up feeling like I understood something new. 

The heart is the only part of our body that makes its own electricity. That electricity gives us life and connects us to the energy in the world that we interact with. We don’t know precisely where energy comes from. It is as if the heart connects the physical world to the spiritual. In the same way it connects the 3 lower chakras (basic survival & human connection needs), with the 3 upper chakras that provide a deeper understanding of the cosmos and our role within them. 

What truly connects us to everything else is love and acceptance. There is a reason why we equate love with the heart. When we open our hearts, we feel the universal love that is all around us. As we allow it to penetrate our own being, we become more accepting of the world around us just as it is. 

Of the 5 elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether), the Anahata chakra is associated with the mobile, light, cool, dry element of air. Air is what we breath in. It is how that life force of prana I wrote about in week 2 moves about. The heart and the breath are what sustain life. When those ultimately stop, so does the life energy. The body is still physically there, but the conscious life that propelled it to move, think and act in the physical world is no longer. 

The quality of this chakra is love. To accept and love all that we encounter as it is; to accede that life is oneness. It is nearly impossible to love and accept if we are not comfortable and love ourselves first and foremost. If we can’t forgive ourselves and understand our own human nature, we cannot give that gift to others. Our hearts are ultimately blocked from living life in an open and fulfilling way. When we open the heart chakra and experience self-love, we can then be open to the unconditional love of all else. 

I think on Maslow’s triangle this chakra falls between last week’s layer of friendship, intimacy, sense of connection and the next layer of the triangle where respect, self-esteem, strength, and inner freedom reside.

Self-esteem. I always thought I had self-esteem. I now question if I do, because I am not sure if I love myself. While I lived about in the world as I have most of my life and no one challenged my behaviors, I felt good with myself. Now that I have been challenged, I have to take a step back and question why I couldn’t see what I see now. Why was I confident? 

This is a tricky part. I know I should still love myself. I did not intend harm, in fact almost every intention I have had in life was out of love unless I felt under threat and reacted as if my life were at stake (oh the lovely tribulations of PTSD). But it’s difficult to take a step back and acknowledge that I hurt people that I love and/or think very highly of. It’s challenging to accept that I did harm (unintentionally of course). I love the saying, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”.  Having an intension and carrying out love are not the same. I do ultimately love myself, but it’s a little shrouded with surprise and wonder about how blocked I was. My self-esteem has dwindled. 

I can’t help but think of the line in the Lords Prayer – “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. If we can’t forgive ourselves, if we can’t forgive others, we cannot receive it back; because it means we truly do not understand it and the power of freedom that it possesses. Love and forgiveness are in a way very similar. 

There is no way I can move about the world with love and acceptance of others, until I love and accept everything about myself. Just as it is.  I will get there. I just need a little time to process how I have lived my life until this point. Just on the other side of acknowledging the discomfort of this, is love and freedom. 

It’s important to move past this when shredding old habits or building new ones. There is a reason we usually want to give up something we don’t like. Although it does, it shouldn’t come to a surprise when we do let something go or create something better that we can learn how the previous behaviors were causing damages that we were unaware of. All the previous self-esteem or self-love in the world could knock someone down with a harsh realization of the harm one has done. Either to themselves, the environment or others. Accept it, process it, and move on (easier said than done…).

When the Heart or Anahata chakra is in balanced and open we feel the universal connection to love. Our heart feels both full and content. We express our outer selves with our inner values. There is nothing blocking that direct connection. Not substances, habitual actions or habits, addictions, excuses, blindness to how actions hurt… Just a direct flow of what we intend from inside to the outside. 

When this chakra is out of balance we feel withdrawn, lonely, possessive, jealous… It is difficult to understand ourselves & others. Without that that balance we cannot forgive. We hold grudges. We try to keep the heart safe, but we are really hurting it by limiting its potential to love and to be free. 

I have been writing about the koshas and how they are like 5 sheaths that are layered in between our own individual light or soul and the outside world.  The 4th sheath is called Vijnanamaya. It is known as the wisdom sheath. The Yoga Sanctuary writes “Vijnanamaya encompasses intuition and intellect. It can be thought of as the witness mind, or that aspect of our consciousness that is not entangled in what we are doing or thinking, but rather, acutely aware of what we are doing and thinking. Vijnanamaya kosha is awareness, simply put.”    

Our heart knows better. It is the other layers of the koshas and the strong human/animalistic pull toward base emotions and survival (lower chakras) that prevent us from clearly hearing what our inner goodness is communicating to our mind. 

The seed mantra for the Anahata chakra is YAM. One way to harness the power of this sound would be to chant it with the intention to be aware without judgement or emotion of how we and others are interacting with the world. I justified all kinds of reasons about why I was drinking. I was not looking from a neutral role at my situation. Only when I accept that the reasons I used to justify drinking were because I did not want to stop yet, will I have the power to stop. I believed my own reasons and was entangled in what I was doing and thinking. YAM helps to clear that entanglement and just see things as they are. 

As I have written in the earlier weeks, the Prana Vayus are the 5 ways in which energy or life force moves throughout the body. The prana vayu associated with the root chakra is called Prana. The Prana Vayu is centered in the chest around the heart and is known as “forwarding moving air”, it is directed inward and upward. This vayu directs the other four. It makes a good case for how life should flow from the heart region. And how life (prana) is connected within and around the heart space. 

As we are in the thick of lent and hopefully conquering whatever we gave up , use of the Prana Vayu can help to propel us up and forward to a new and better future. One that we are in charge of and are directing. 

Yoga poses that aid in opening the heart center are ones in which the heart is open such as sphinx, cobra, locust, bow, camel, fish, puppy pose, upward facing dog, cow, reverse table, flip dog, dancer, low & high lunges with an arched back, wheel, bridge, and warrior 1 to name a few. Cow is one of the easier ones to do because there is a lot of support while you are on all fours. It is important to ensure you come into your cow and push the heart out and open from a solid table foundation. 

This week’s back to the basics pose is Table Top pose. Table is mostly a transitional pose but there are many poses that are built directly from it such as cat, cow, sunbird, rainbow, gate, and childs. Before moving into any of those it’s important to have the start from table down pat. So… grab a mat & let’s practice some table. 

Until next week! 

The Chakras and Lent – Week 1

The Chakras and Lent – Week 2

The Chakras and Lent – Week 3

If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog

https://esterinaanderson.com

The Chakras and Lent – Week 3

I am late this week in writing this blog. I am having a difficult time moving past the sacral chakra on an emotional level. I do feel like I have moved along habit wise. Nothing can be forced with these types of things, so this week I will write about how I feel with both the emotion and leaving the habit behind while I describe the next chakra to keep on track with the weeks of lent. 

Last week I described some qualities of the Svadhisthana chakra and ways in which it can be blocked. It is related to the water element. When open, it is easy to go with the flow and surrender to your true feelings. It is equated with sexuality, creativity, power of choice, and a sense of belonging and relation with others. I likened it to the second level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

I am stuck here emotionally with all but the creativity aspect. For the past few weeks each morning and evening I sat to meditate. At first it was lovely. I quieted my mind quite easily. I envisioned a healthier life without alcohol in it. I saw myself never missing it and having control over my emotions. Then around the time my husband told me he doesn’t want to live with me any time soon and later he’d like to file for legal separation, I was unable to quiet my mind easily. Almost impossibly.

Since then I sit for a few minutes and cry. I do a round of mantra with my mala beads and try to stick with keeping focus on the mantra. But the term citta vritti from the Yoga Sutras comes to mind. I have thoughts that are cluttering. Static. It’s very difficult to get them to stop. Like waves during a storm. If you wait it out long enough the storm will pass and the water will be calm again. The only thing is I’m not waiting. I’m getting frustrated and getting up and moving about my day or reading to fall asleep. My days are full of work, exercise, eating extraordinarily well, and doing creative things. I’m drawing, knitting, and writing more than ever. Some emotion comes out through those, but the mind is not calm.

This morning while attempting to meditate but allowing thought to rise to the surface I was thinking about how I was putting off this blog. It occurred to me that I’m stuck in the qualities of last week’s chakra when it is blocked. I’m not taking my own advice by doing hip openers or anything that would help this. Then I thought of Maslow’s hierarchy and how relation with others and sense of belonging is an innate human need at lower levels of growth. I can’t move past my husband shifting so quickly from what he said daily was the happiest he has ever been to where we are now, and then my mind – my subconscious mind throws in images from my childhood where I felt my mother should have been protecting me during some of my darkest hours, but instead she sided with my father to keep peace. That is why I cry. I feel alone. I don’t feel like I’ve ever gotten the help I need in any serious way and no one anywhere has noticed or encouraged me to go get serious help. I’m missing that human connection and relation that I’m loved no matter what. I have no sense of belonging to anyone. I feel disposable. I know I would never let my children feel like they did something that was unforgivable. Love knows everything is forgiven. My parents did not give that to me.

Day 24 here. 27 days is the longest I have ever gone since 2018 within the past 11 years. I do have hope. I know that I will never drink again. But I have hope alone. Family and friends are helpful, but they have their own lives. There is no one in my life dedicated to me and helping me recover. I so desperately want to hug someone and to be hugged. During COVID at AA meetings and other rare places where I see humans it’s not something we do anymore. The sense of doing something do difficult alone and without solid human connection is a dam that is stopping the proverbial water from flowing freely. 

I do cry as I write this. This is the conclusion I came to while meditating this morning, that my sacral chakra is emotionally blocked. For lack of better words – I prayed to my higher power, in my case I asked the part of me (Atman) that is connected to the universal conscious how to handle this. I know the answers are always there when we look for them. I know I’m not really alone. 

Starting with the very next meditation, I am going to sit longer until the storm calms and the water stills where my mind stills. In the meanwhile while the storm surges I am going to use one of my favorite Louisa May Alcott quotes “I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship”. I’m going to focus on how I’m not all alone and all I need is within. 

Meanwhile I continued to move along in breaking the habit to drink. It did not get stuck with my emotions. I have a fire within me to kick the drink and to be awake and aware of anxiety when PTSD comes creeping around. Fire! So let’s talk about the solar plexis and the Manipura chakra.

The Manipura chakra is yellow. 

This is the painting of the Manipura Chakra I made in January this year.  

From Learn The Meaning Behind Each Chakra This chakra “directly affects your confidence. The ten petals of this symbol connect it to the ten Pranas in your body, or, for simplicity, types of air energy manipulation….The upside-down triangle in this symbol represents the energy of the lower three chakras being concentrated and energetically spreading up to the higher chakras. Think of it as an upside-down funnel of earth energy”.

It is known as the solar plexis chakra due to its location at ­­­­­­­above the belly button and below the heart. From Healthline(Science over the yogic principles) – “The solar plexus — also called the celiac plexus — is a complex system of radiating nerves and ganglia. It’s found in the pit of the stomach in front of the aorta. It’s part of the sympathetic nervous system”. 

Of the 5 elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether), this chakra is associated with hot qualities of fire. It is yellow like the sun. 

The fire within. The gut feeling. The Manipura chakra is the area where these qualities abide. If we go up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we would be in the place where self-esteem and confidence come into play. 

I feel very confident now about my ability to kick the drink and take control of my emotions. When I’m out and about at meetings or with others I do feel self-esteem and confidence in myself too. 

When the solar plexis chakra is balanced or open, we feel empowered in just the right ways. We walk through life assured of our abilities. We feel strong. However, when this area is imbalanced or blocked we may feel we are either under confident or over confident. We either lack energy, or have too much energy. 

On the journey of habit breaking, once there are a few weeks under the belt – the confidence that we could really really do it starts to shine! We do get that fire in the belly to make it work. We are not under or over-confident at this stage. We are really starting to be in the flow. For me personally, despite getting stuck emotionally – my habit breaking is moving along very smoothly. I do have a fire within to never drink again. To never let myself lose control of my emotions and self again. Ever. 

As the description of the symbol above states, the downward triangle along with the element of fire helps to lift up all those other things that are blocking the flow of whatever it is. In this instance it would be blocking the flow of change. We need that inner confidence and fire to really make that happen. 

Previously I explained how the koshas are like 5 sheaths that are layered in between our own individual light or soul and the outside world. The 3rd layer in is associated with the Manomaya kosha. It is the sheath of the mind. We moved from the first layer of skin/food where our physical body touches the outside world, to the second layer of prana or chi – that energy that connects us to the world. That same energy connects the world through us and to the mind. Hence the mind sheath. 

The mind sheath makes sense of the outside world through interpretation. The problem is that it can only make sense out of what it knows. 

The mind talks to us. The thoughts we have are the mind formulating interpretations of the outside world and using previous experience to determine a conclusion about every situation we encounter every moment of every day. All animals have this ability. It is what keeps us alive and safe. It alerts us to danger. 

It is a problem because what it knows will shape our thoughts, beliefs and patterns. If it doesn’t experience anything outside that realm, it will make assumptions that can be one sided. Dangers may not be real, it is only the perception. 

It is said to be why so many people experience stress in our modern world. The body can only handle so much information and make sense of it at once. With computers, phones, dinging alarms, media flashing, etc – there are a lot of moments in most people’s day where it is overwhelming. The fight or flight (gut feeling) of danger kicks in. For most people the human higher brain function jumps in to alert the interpretive part of mind that there is no real danger. But that stress and the adrenalin that started is still there coursing through our bodies as if a lion was just about to attack us. It is normal, but too much of it will shape the mind to create patterns and conclusions that do not fit the situation, and many people live in a constant state of stress.

The Manomaya layer of the mind is needed to keep us safe. It protects those lower chakras of basic needs, safety, security and reproduction. While the fire of the solar plexis will help pull up any blockages so energy can flow, if this chakra is blocked- all will stop with the mind layer at the level the animal brain scans for survival. It becomes more difficult to apply wisdom to situations and live in a healthier, stress free way. 

When I drink my thinking stops here. I am unable to connect with wisdom. My body feels impaired and my gut is scanning at a higher alert for danger to compensate for being impaired. Having PTSD and mixed-up signals to begin with, my gut may feel an emotion and interpret it in only one way. I get stuck there. I’ve had one too many mental episodes right at this point. 

This is where most habits get stuck. The lower parts of the brain that scan for safety take over in situations that are not a real danger. The mind gets stuck on one thing. If you are a shopaholic or a gambler, the mind is telling you that the anxiety will go away if you indulge in the habit. This applies to thoughts too. A situation may not at all be dangerous, but it feels like it. A presentation, seeing someone you don’t like, whatever it is, the mind becomes fixated. Without this chakra being clear and allowing for prana/chi to pass from the outside world past the mind, unwise decisions will likely be made. 

In the earlier blogs I described seed mantras as shortcut words to a lengthier explanations of an intention. Using Sanskrit as a vibrational language connects the energetic vibration of the sound of the intention to the universal energies, and aids in making this intention a reality by conditioning your brain to remember what you really want. 

The seed mantra for the Manipura chakra is RAM.

We can use RAM to clear the solar plexis chakra and the gut brain and to stay open to possibilities. We can chant this word with the intention to remember that all we see and feel is limited to our own experiences. If we quiet the chatter in the mind, we will be able to see past that. We need a bit of the fire element to kick start this because it isn’t where thoughts generally gravitate. It is at this point where we need the desire (fire) to take control and discern what we really need in a given moment. 

I wrote about how the Prana Vayus are the 5 ways in which energy moves throughout the body. Yoga poses assist in moving energy in particular ways. 

The prana vayu associated with the solar plexis chakra is called Samana. Samana moves in a circular direction to balance the two vayus associated with the lower chakras by of Prana that is directed up, and Apana that is directed down. 

The Yoga Sanctuary writes “Samana vayu helps us to take in what we need and release what we don’t in an even balance… It is responsible for the processing and assimilation of all that is taken in—food, emotions, perceptions, and breath. Samana is used to assimilate these energies so that they can be used optimally”. 

On an emotional level, as I wrote above, it’s a stopping point before making a decision. Taking in what is necessary and disregarding the rest. If that is not clear, decisions will be made based on the animal brain which doesn’t always necessarily discern what is really required at the moment. Stopping here and knowing this will help us to make decisions that best support our intentions for new habits as well. 

Yoga poses which aid the physical body in keeping this energy moving are

Sun Salutations, Warrior postures, core-strengthening postures like Navasana (boat pose), and Breath of Fire pranayama.

Little side story: In April of 2014 while gardening I injured my back. Usually the pain would go away within a day or two. This time the pain remained until December of 2015 when I finally went to physical therapy. I had been practicing yoga at that point for a few years, but I did not know how to engage my core to protect my body. 

Much to my surprise at the time, the physical therapy I was prescribed was yoga postures. The therapists showed me how to keep the core engaged while I performed the physical movements. Within less than two weeks the pain was gone and has never come back.

In week one’s video I walked through the core pose of Tadasana or Mountain pose. In that video I described what it is to “engage the core”. Today’s video is of Childs Pose or Balasana in Sanskrit. I chose this pose because it was the basis for many of my physical therapy movements where I went from resting to engagement. Next week I will cover Table pose where I truly learned core engagement during physical therapy. But for this week we will do Childs. It is a pose to help calm the mind, which is also very important to help open the Manipura chakra by tuning out the chatty mind. Additionally, this pose helps increase blood circulation which may help to even out the body’s energy through the Samana Vayu.  Lastly it is a good pose for stretching the hips and thighs. Before we move to the higher chakra’s, these stretches make sense in relation to continuing to open last week’s sacral chakra which is aided by hip openers.

So grab a mat & join me in this very short video.

Until next week.

Peace 

The Chakras and Lent – Week 1

The Chakras and Lent – Week 2

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Demystifying Yoga: Movement over Exercise

When I meet anyone and they first learn I either do or teach yoga, for some reason they feel compelled to tell me about their own experience with it. They tried it in the past and it was awful, they love it now, they have a friend or relative who likes it or teaches it… and/or more famously something along the lines of “I’m not flexible” “I had some sort of injury/surgery/etc” “It’s not for me”. One of my favorite funny lines is from the owner of the studio where I used to teach who said something to the effect of Saying you are not flexible enough to do yoga is like saying you are too dirty to take a shower. 

 

If you’ve never done yoga or are a newbie to it, how can you already know it’s not for you? It’s kind of an everybody thing. AND it’s probably not what you think it is.

 

Myth buster:

You don’t have to be flexible or even “in shape” at all. I wouldn’t sign up for anything called “Power Yoga” or the hot yoga classes if you’ve never done it. If you read the description of the class and it says all levels are welcome, they mean it. If it says experience needed (which most don’t) those would be the ones to initially stay away from.

 

So what happens there?

You bend yourself into a pretzel of course… OH I CAN’T EXPRESS HOW MUCH I’M KIDDING. But I do feel like that is what people think when I tell them I do yoga.

 

You stretch and move. Often slowly and mindfully. You breath in a way that you control the breath and can notice and appreciate it. Nearly anyone can keep up. Most of the classes I’ve ever taught were to an older, less flexible population who tends to come back regularly because they start to feel a positive shift within themselves. Micro changes in their body, minds and spirits that become macro changes over time.

 

Folks with all kinds of injuries or past surgeries often attend. In fact, many a student finds yoga after surgery because their surgeon recommended it as helpful and one of the initial few activities the patient can engage in. Unless you are a well-practiced yogi I wouldn’t attend if you are pregnant, have osteopenia or osteoporosis. There are special classes for those students. If you are worried about a medical condition, don’t hesitate to call ahead of time or let the instructor know before class begins. He/she has heard it all before and may often some advice to modify. However the bottom line is always, if it hurts don’t do it.

 

It’s Movement rather than Exercise.

 

Yoga is not really exercise as we know it. It will not be as if you are in a group gym class spinning on a bike or doing aerobics, and if you lose pace you have to work to keep up. The teacher is not going to yell at you to keep it moving (high tail it out of there if they do). Most students in yoga classes understand that everyone is at a different level and will not become frustrated if someone is falling behind – if there was even a way to ‘fall behind’. It’s not that type of thing.

 

Yoga is about listening to your own body. The instructor is providing direction, but you ultimately decide how far you want to go in a pose or stretch. Yoga should never hurt, burn, or pinch in any way. If it does it’s vital to pull back from whatever just created that feeling and either ease into it another way or stay where you were a moment ago. A good teacher will create a space where students are not looking at one another or judging anyone else. Once you understand how the practice works, you will learn there is almost no reason to look past the bounds of your mat (except occasionally to view the teacher). The practice is about you, in your own space, on your own mat – connecting movement and breath.

 

That’s all you need to do. Move and breath. Then magic happens. Just from doing that somehow all types of benefits begin to occur.

 

From The American Osteopathic Association and Yoga Journal some benefits include

 

Physical:

  • increased flexibility
  • increased muscle strength and tone
  • improved respiration, energy and vitality
  • maintaining a balanced metabolism
  • weight reduction
  • cardio and circulatory health
  • improved athletic performance
  • protection from injury
  • improved posture
  • prevention against cartilage and joint break down
  • better bone health
  • increased blood flow
  • enhanced balance
  • decreased blood pressure
  • regulates adrenal glands
  • boosts immunity
  • eases pain
  • supports connective tissue

 

Mental

  • manage stress
  • maintains the nervous system
  • releases tension
  • improves sleep
  • increase body awareness
  • sharpens concentration
  • helps to center attention
  • provides peace of mind
  • gives you inner strength

 

If you already engage it in you likely know this. And if you don’t – give it a try!

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