GloForward Feature: Chakras
Evolving Through Our Natural Power Centers, the Chakras
by Erika Mehiel
December 18, 2020
Over the years we’ve all felt butterflies in our stomach, a lump in our throat, and likely both the warmth of love and the ache of loss within our hearts. Each of these power centers are a nexus where we can experience just how multidimensional we are – the physical, the energetic, the emotional and the psychic converge here. In yoga these centers are called Chakras, and they are touchstones and access points for deep self-understanding and transformational work.
The desire to evolve and heal is quintessential to the human condition, and there have been myriad places to seek answers, from the Bible to Freud, from Meyers Briggs to the Zodiac.
What makes the framework of the Chakras different is their spiritual context and also the ways we work with them. Unlike methods that are purely cognitive or behavioral, we use our bodies, our breath, our intention and even the power of vibration to harmonize these power centers. And while they were considered a path to spiritual liberation, the practices were intended for householders or everyday folks with day jobs and family responsibilities.
Today, we benefit from some knowledge of the original practices as well as more recent concepts and methods. The earliest forms of yoga were concerned with the energetics – sounds, prayers, breath, vibration, mantra. To this we can add the modern practices of Yoga Asana, journaling, affirmations, color therapy and more.
We begin today with the foundation – an understanding of what the Chakras are, their implications, and two powerful but basic practices that will pave the way for deeper and more nuanced work.
Chakra translates from the Sanskrit as “wheel” or “disk” of energy. They were also originally envisioned as lotus flowers, that were perhaps tightly or partially closed and required specific practices to blossom. When the wheels are whirring along harmoniously, or the blossoms are lush and open, the energy of spirit can flow through us freely, enabling us to embody the archetypal wisdom of each Chakra.
Running along the “central channel” of our spine, the Heart, Throat and Belly are joined by the Root, the Sacrum, the Third Eye and the Crown to form a 7-Chakra system – each associated with different elemental attributes, and each associated with specific aspects of our development and psychology.
A Map of Self-Knowledge
The Chakras are both a map of sorts, charting a course for personal growth and evolution, and a time capsule, recording our histories, traumas, successes and patterns large and small.
If we were often scolded as children to “be quiet” we might have lingering suppression at the Throat Chakra or an inability to speak up for ourselves
If we were shamed as we explored our sexuality we might have imbalance at the Sacral Chakra, possibly disconnected from a healthy relationship with desire
If we moved around a lot as a kid we might have insecurity at the very Root foundation of our identities, a sense that we are not safe or “ok”
If we felt unconditional love and security as children, it might be easier for us to offer love in relationships indicating a balanced Heart Chakra
If our feelings were honored we might be comfortable “being with” the emotional landscape that dwells at the Sacral Chakra
If we were allowed to explore and learn from our own choices we might feel confident in our intuition, able to “see” with our Third Eye Chakra perspective
If all of this sounds like common-sense, that’s because it is! As ancient as this energy body map might be (some of the earliest hints of Chakras appear in verses in India around 1200 BCE) the qualities are archetypal and highly applicable to our inner lives today.
As we mature and enjoy the benefit of perspective, our wounds, our patterning and our limiting beliefs become more obvious. Some of us sabotage relationships inexplicably; some of us feel insecurity or fear about what comes next, in spite of all we’ve accomplished; some of us are disenfranchised from a deep creativity that we know is there but remains unexpressed; some of us find ourselves often saying, “If only I had listened to myself!”
If we’re being honest, we can probably identify at least one area in our life where we’d like to show up differently, more easefully and more in-line with our deepest, most authentic self.
Opening to Our Own Perfection
Today we are taught that the Chakras are a system of healing; originally, however, they were thought of as a system of establishing union with universal spirit… there was nothing to heal because we were already perfect, whole and divine, we simply needed to feel and believe it. And perhaps, both are true. Our evolution may simply be a more authentic alignment with our natural gifts, capabilities, passions and strengths. The tightly closed lotus flower isn’t broken or imperfect, she’s simply waiting to blossom into her fullness.
To begin your journey of opening, and opening to, the wisdom of the Chakras already dwelling within you, we’re sharing two foundational practices – one more ancient, and one more contemporary. Chakra work does not have to big or loud or complicated to be effective. Remember, we are working with the very vibrational essence of ourselves, cellular memory and intention of spirit.
Awareness Practice – from the original Yogic tradition
This practice is designed to strengthen our relationship with our “central channel” and develop the skill of moving our awareness to specific Chakra centers.
Affirmation Inquiry – a more contemporary approach
This practice can be preceded by the one above. It is intended to facilitate self-inquiry and assist in determining areas of challenge to focus on more dedicatedly. You can listen to the guided practice below, or follow the journal prompts:
As you experience each of these affirmations – observe. Check in and see where you feel in balance, solid, whirring along, blossomed. Or, where you feel stuck or uncomfortable.
Which of these affirmations is easy for you to say? Which is difficult?
Let yourself witness, with non-judgment, those places where you feel an obstacle or a stickiness.
Don’t forget to honor both the Chakra centers where you feel connected and easeful, and the messages of the Chakra centers that show you where you have an opportunity for work and practice.
These practices are the first step towards unlocking the wisdom of the Chakras already within you. Take your time to develop your awareness practice, and honor the messages you receive in your Affirmation practice. Let this work guide your inquiry and practice as we move forward.
We’ll be following up this article with a series that will go deeper into each Chakra and outline more detailed methods for working with their transformational potential. We’ll learn the Sanskrit, the elemental associations, and which mantras and yoga postures to use and why.
Erika is an ERYT-500 certified Yoga Educator and YACEP. She is passionate about an elemental approach to wellness and an inquiry-based approach to the practice of yoga. After practicing yoga for over a decade, Erika pursued her teacher trainings under under Don Brahmanand & Amba Stapleton at the Nosara Yoga Institute, specializing in Yoga Therapeutic Essentials, Restorative and Yin practices. She proudly serves as Director of Education at Five Pillars Yoga, where she will be leading a Chakra Sangha course this winter.