Category Archives: Yoga

Sahasrara, the Seventh Chakra

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We complete our study of the chakras with the seventh chakra, known as the Sahasrara Chakra.  Each chakra has been a progressive journey from our connection to self and the world to a union with the more subtle aspects of interconnection.  This chakra, located at the crown of the head, governs our connection with the divine.  Some say that as yogis practice consistently and awaken the kundalini energy within, this travels up the Shushmna, or central channel of energy within the body along which all seven chakras are aligned, and bursts through the crown chakra to complete the union of our earthly selves with the limitless that is the divine within and around us.

Seventh Chakra

This chakra is nicknamed “the thousand petaled lotus,” a name that symbolized the infinite levels available that one can access and experience the divine.  This symbolism epitomizes the beauty of the many paths laid out before us in our journey of the human spirit that lead home.  These paths encompass all religions and philosophies written and unwritten, each path that brings a person further from the illusion of isolation and closer to the truth of the interconnectedness of all beings.

Just as the outer paths of our world all lead to this union and opening of the seventh chakra, so does yoga offer many paths to gain this access.  Whether you are a yogini practicing Hatha Yoga or Kundalini, the path is available to you.  So is it illuminated in the last of Patanjali’s niyamas, Ishvarapranidhana, which translates to seeing the divine in all, or surrendering to the will of God.  The seventh chakra can also be accessed through meditation and the practice of Kirtan, chanting yogic mantra together in groups.

A seventh chakra out of balance can lead to an over-intellectualism regarding the spiritual, an addiction to spiritual, confusion, dissociation, and in extreme cases, mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.  A lack of energy reaching this chakra can lead to learning difficulties, spiritual skepticism, materialism, and apathy.  The demon of the seventh chakra is attachment.  When we attach ourselves to an idea, an object, or to a worldview, we naturally close ourselves off to other options.  Think of the mountain climber who pauses on a comfortable ledge rather than pushing through boundaries to reach the summit of the mountain.  The right of the Sahasrara chakra is the right to know.  This knowledge is experiential, not something that can be gained solely by reading books and engaging with the world only through your mind.  Rather, the practice of placing yourself humbly at the feet of creation, experiencing the awe and beauty, sacred and profane that make up this world and truley feeling that within your heart can lead to peak experiences that open the Sahasrara chakra.

The beauty of the chakras is that we are always in a constant state of grace and transformation.  As one chakra finds balance, another tips slowly out.  This guide I’ve posted can help you find tools that will bring each chakra more into alignment.  As you study and work with the chakras, your knowledge of yourself and the human experience will grow, as will your compassion and awareness of the subtle energies at work within each of us.  There is so much joy available on this journey!

One of my favorite resources for chakra work is the invaluable book Eastern Body Western Mind by Judith Anodea.  This is an amazing reference book with many exercises given to help find alignment in the chakras as well as a detailed analysis of how the chakra system synchs with various western psychological philosophies.  If my series of chakras peaks your interest, this book is a fabulous place to continue your studies.

 

Other Posts on Chakras:

Ajna Chakra

Vishuddi Chakra

Anahata Chakra

Manipura Chakra

Svadhisthana Chakra

Muladhara Chakra

 

Ajna Chakra

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The sixth chakra is located between and above the eyebrows.  Most often referred to as the Third Eye Chakra, the sixth chakra gains the moniker Ajna in Sanskrit meaning “to command.”

The Third Eye Chakra governs the neutral mind, allowing us the perspective to balance the warnings offered by the negative mind with the optimism of the positive mind and see reality for what it truly is beyond the veil of maya.  The gift of the sixth chakra is to see beneath the surface.  A balanced Ajna chakra gives insight and strong intuition – the ability to perceive what is, and a strong imagination – the ability to see what is possible.

Los Angeles Spraypaint of the Third Eye Chakra

Los Angeles Spraypaint of the Third Eye Chakra

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Vishuddi, The Throat Chakra

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The fifth chakra vibrates to the color blue and governs communication.  This chakra sits over our throat and literally gives a voice to our internal inspirations and creativity.  Thus, the Vishuddi chakra is a chakra of manifestation; connecting Shiva with Shakti, limitless potential with life-giving energy and consciousness.

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The throat chakra finds expression through speaking, chanting, and singing.  When one is able to clearly state one’s unique view on the world, the throat chakra is open and energy is moving freely.  Read the rest of this entry

Japa Japa Japa Jai!

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Many people talk to me about the struggle of overcoming the mind.  It’s interesting to note that this often appears to be a unique problem that we each are struggling with much more than other more well-adjusted people.  Luckily, that this struggle is unique and separate is only an illusion.  The busy chatter of the mind is one of the blessed challenges that we’ve been gifted with overcoming as part of the One Human Condition.

We’re offered many options from different cultures and religion for how to overcome the monkey mind, from devotion to others, keeping too busy in our external worlds to listen to the internal messages, and of course, prayer, yoga, and meditation.  Patanjali speaks of using a mantra as a connection to the divine by repeating mantra while seated in meditation and throughout your day.  This is called Japa Yoga, and I’ve found it to be very helpful in interrupting negative or repetitive thought patterns.

Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Shivaya

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Find Your Path

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When you align yourself with intention, the universe begins to open for you.  That’s not to say that suddenly your days become easier, the dishes do themselves, and responsibility fades away.  However, when you begin to take action towards a goal – no matter how small the action — the goal gets closer to you.

“When the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off.”

~Yogi Bhajan

Sometimes it’s difficult to take action because you don’t have a clear idea of what the goal is.  In those instances, quiet yourself.

Breath of Life by Dizzyflower28

Breath of Life by Dizzyflower28

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Happiness is Already There

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Perspective is everything.  It’s well known within the yoga world that five minutes in a headstand will shake up your bad day and improve your mood.  Yoga inversions move the physical body up side down, sending our feet reaching towards the sky and our heads rooting towards the earth.  This change in our physical bodies gets our blood flowing to the heart, drains the lymph system, and invigorates our energetic body.  It also uproots the emotional and thought bodies, subtly shifting persistent thought patterns to allow us to see through the illusion that is unhappiness and connect to shri, the true joy of the present moment.

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Moving to Central America has created a change in how I define happiness.  Our Western culture often teaches us that happiness equates to acquisition.  Read:  get happy by chasing your desires.  I spoke here about how corporations launched a successful campaign on the public to convince them to buy what they don’t need.  The reason that campaign had so much impact is that jumping from desire to desire is part of the One Human Condition.   Read the rest of this entry

Mat Revelations

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A practice I find myself constantly refining is a return to the present moment.  The more I learn about this world and people, the more I believe that the secret to happiness is moving our consciousness away from the constant chatter of the mind and into the here and now.

I know I’m not revolutionary for thinking so.  All of my inspirations essentially say the same.  Whether it’s Patanjali saying “yoga chitta vritti nirodha,” yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind, or it’s Ram Das reminding us to “Be Here Now,” this simple teaching is oft repeated by teachers throughout the ages.

This is a good an helpful thing.  Because of the fluctuations of the monkey mind and the strong distraction from the present moment, we often need to hear something said multiple times in different ways before it sinks in and we can integrate it as truth.

I had this realization in the middle of a yoga class when a teacher was offering a refinement cue for Warrior Two. As I worked to ground my back heal into the earth and inner spiral my back thigh, it suddenly hit me that *this* is what my other yoga teachers had been trying to correct.  It just took a different combination of sound bites and a mind unclouded by what to buy for dinner for the wisdom to sink past the thought bubble and into my body.

Virabhabdrasana II

It’s no accident that I consistently return to the practice of yoga.  Revelations like this on the mat reflect right back to life experiences.   Read the rest of this entry

Manipura Chakra – Sit In Your Power

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The third chakra is a ball of vibrating fire that sits behind the navel.  The Manimpura chakra vibrates to the color yellow and is tied up with issues of personal identity, ego, self-esteem, and will power.  Because of it’s location at the solar plexus, this chakra is relates to digestive issues and how we are able to nourish ourselves physically and psychically.

Manipura

A person with a healthy third chakra radiates confidence, has a resonant voice, good posture, and can make ideas happen.  Also called the “lustrous jewel,” this chakra gives you the confidence to put yourself out there, showing your authentic self in a risk to achieve your dreams and make them a reality.

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Making the Case for Slowing it Down

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Teaching yoga in Central America means that I have few regular students. Most students are tourists in town for a week or two who decide to pop in for some yoga classes.  I’ll ask people a little about their practice prior to our first class together to gauge their experience.  I’ve found that I’m often then surprised by what I see on the yoga mat.

Many students tell me they’ve got a regular practice in power yoga or hot yoga and then appear to be beginner students as we move through our flow.  My yoga background includes lots of viniyoga and anusara yoga, which are both practices with a strong focus on alignment and on keeping the body safe.

Photo from The New York Times

Photo from The New York Times

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Svadhisthana Chakra – Movement in Creativity

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The second chakra, Svadhisthana, is located between the pubis and the belly button.  Also known as the Sacral Chakra, the sanskrit name can be translated as “one’s own abode.”  This chakra governs sexuality, creativity and our relationship with others.  The second chakra is associated with the color naranja, or orange.

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