The ancient Yogi's believe that everything is connected and I agree. Have you ever noticed how your external environment affects your emotional state? Have you noticed how your emotional state affects your physical body?
As an example can remember a time when you had to do a presentation for school, college or work, perhaps you had an interview or an exam, this external event caused you to feel nervous and as a result your stomach might have felt sensitive or you may have had to use the bathroom more than usual. The external event (presentation/ interview/exam) caused you to feel the emotion of fear or uncertainty (about your ability or on a deeper unconscious level your own worth or value), that emotional feeling made you feel nervous affecting your physical body through the digestive system. It can also go the other way, discomfort in our physical body can have an effect on our emotions and mood this can affect how we present ourselves to the world and/or how we perceive the world to be. How has this last year dealing with a pandemic affected your physical or emotional state? Did your emotions or thoughts have an effect on how your felt physically? Did how you feel physically affect how you felt emotionally?
This is one of the reasons why we call Yoga a practice because we are constantly trying to manage all these emotions and external factors our practice and awareness to help us stay in balance and the more tools we have to call upon the better. The chakra's or energy wheels in the body and the elements also have a relationship and we can work with them together to gain another tool to help support ourselves.
What are the Chakra's?
The Chakra's are part of the subtle body and are considered the major psycho-spiritual-energetic centres or wheels of the subtle body that can't be seen, x-rayed or detected by any magnetic image device. It is believed that prana or lifeforce energy travels through these Chakra's. There are many chakras within the body, however there are 7 main energy wheels that are believed to be located along the spine. These are:
The Muladhara (Root Chakra)
The Svadhisthana (Sacral Chakra)
The Manipura (Naval Chakra or Solar Plexus)
The Anahata (Heart Chakra)
The Vishuddha (Throat Chakra)
The Ajna (3rd Eye Centre)
The Sahasrara (Crown Chakra)
The first three Chakras, the Root, Sacral and Solar Plexus are the lower three chakra and are related to our physicality, earthly needs and self image, as well as our relationship to the physical world around us. The 1st Chakra, the Root is our need for survival and security. The 2nd Chakra, the Sacral centre is related to our creativity and sensuality. The 3rd Chakra, the Solar Plexus is where our will power and sense of purpose lies.
The 4th Chakra, the Heart is the centre of our emotional wellbeing, love and kindness. The 4th Chakra connects the lower 3 chakra's of physicality with the upper 3 chakras of spirituality.
The last three Chakra's or upper chakra's are considered to be our spiritual centres. The 5th Chakra the throat is our centre of truth and clarity. The 6th Chakra, the 3rd Eye is where our inner wisdom our intuition and insight resides. The 7th Chakra, the crown is believed to be the centre of ultimate knowledge, our consciousness.
This month we will focus on the 3rd Chakra - The Solar Plexus or Manipura. The Solar Plexus is often associated with the Fire Element but I feel it also has a close relationship with the Traditional Chinese Element of Wood and I'll explain why in a moment. Rather than start from the root chakra I've chosen to focus on the Solar Plexus because it allows us to continue working with the core so we can build and grow on what we've already been working on.
Manipura Chakra meaning mani -"gems" and pura - "town", is often translated as the city of jewels and illustrates the qualities that affect how we manifest in the world. The Solar Plexus is often referred to as our personal power. It governs our personality, ego and identity, when this chakra is balanced we know who we are and it gives us a sense of personal freedom, choice and authenticity. This aligns with the energy of the Gallbladder (the yang organ of Wood). A strong healthy solar plexus brings, motivation, willpower and purpose. Having a strong sense of purpose aligns with the energy of the Liver (the yin organ of Wood). The 3rd Chakra is said to rule the digestive system and the Liver and Gallbladder have very important roles to play in a healthy digestion by producing bile to break down and store fats.
When the Manipura/Solar Plexus is out of balance it shows up as feeling of helplessness, difficulty finishing tasks, anger, digestive problems and we may even experience blurriness of vision,
similar to when the Wood Element is out of balance.
"In the Chakra system, the solar plexus is the seat of personal power. Power is not about exerting our will over others, it is about being in complete truth with yourself."
How to Bring the Solar Plexus into Balance
The Solar Plexus energy centre is located between the diaphragm and the belly-button therefore core work and twists are a big one for this Chakra.
Standing warrior poses are also great as they can help to build confidence and strength.
Sun Salutations helps to bring heat, action and movement into the body allowing the Solar Plexus, the Wood and fire element to shine as they are all about creating purposeful action.
Bow Pose brings a sense of tone and massage to the region of the 3rd Chakra .
The colour of the Solar Plexus is Yellow so wearing yellow clothing or eating yellow foods like bananas, pineapples, sweetcorn and lemons can be helpful if you're feeling uninspired. Eating the colours of the rainbow is something you might have heard many nutritionists speak about as eating a variety of colourful foods helps to bring a host of benefits and nourishment to the body, chakras and the elements.
Diffusing essential oils can help support the Solar Plexus choose oils like cedarwood, bergamot, rosemary, camomile, ginger, cinnamon and peppermint these oils around your home if you're feeling unmotivated, frustrated or are having difficulty focusing on a task.
April's Pose of the Month
As mentioned earlier we are going to continue working on engaging the core correctly and using the core to find strength and personal power. Check out last months post on the core here . We'll be working towards Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana in April here is a previous post that I've done on Revolved Half Moon Pose so rather than doing a duplicate post. This month I've decided to put the spotlight on Revolved Abdomen Pose or Jathara Parivartanasana.
Jathara Parivartanasana - The Abdominal Twist
Jathara - Abdomen
Parivartan - To completely revolve
Asana - Pose
The abdominal twist is a great pose for creating stability and strength in the hips and core. All twists are wonderful for stimulating the internal organs especially the liver, kidneys, pancreas and and the stomach. It builds abdominal fire and heat in our centre allowing us to come away feeling calm and centred. The feeling of strength that we get from strengthening the core allows us to walk a little taller and a little bit more confidently. Jathara Parivartanasan can be done actively to strength the abdominal muscles or passively to stretch and release the back and spine.
Mental and Emotional Benefits
Energises the body
Calms the mind
Strengthens the core - internal obliques, external obliques and transverse abdominals (deep core muscles)
Massages the abdominal organs and removes toxins
Tones the waist
Stretches the back muscles
Realigns the spine
Hydrates the spinal disks
Encourages fresh blood flow to the digestive system
Cautions and Contraindications
Recent or chronic injury to knees, hips or back
Recent abdominal surgery
Warned by doctor to avoid deep twists
Hints and Tips
Place a block between knees to bring more stability in the hips. Great tool to help engage the core and to stabilise the hips to avoid S.I Joint discomfort.
For restful version place knee on top of block or towel