Investigating the chakras

I used to roll my eyes at the notion of chakras.  It was New Age mumbo jumbo to me as a teenager and twenty-something — those colored dots lining the spine of a person sitting in lotus position.  I’d see it illustrated on posters at “hippie” bookstores, as well as within books in my dad’s library.  I just chuckled.  I wasn’t open to understanding the chakras then, didn’t care to, didn’t “need” to.

Fast-forward 15-plus years later …

In the past several months, I’ve attended a yoga chakra workshop in Mexico and Seane Corn’s chakra workshop in Chicago.  I’m also signed up to attend Tias Little’s chakra anatomy workshop in November.

An openness to investigate, combined with a natural curiosity, changed things.  I now see value in this ancient anatomy of energy — because I’ve learned how it manifests itself in my own body.

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“Your chakras are all thrown off.  We’d all be enlightened if they weren’t.”

This came from yogi Seane Corn, during this weekend’s workshop.  I laughed.  Not only because she peppered this statement with some additional colorful language — that lady loves the “F” bomb — but because it’s true.  So true.  Everyone’s got issues, even those serene prophets living atop a mountain in the Himalayas.  Think about it: What drove that mountain zen master away from society in the first place?  He clearly feels the need to relocate to a remote mountain to work on something, undisturbed.  Perhaps he’s got a blocked second chakra, like me.

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Hip opening poses have always caused me discomfort.  I never knew why, I just avoided doing them whenever possible.  When it came time for pigeon pose or — yikes! — double pigeon, I’d groan silently.  Then a few years ago, I learned that tension is stored in the hips and that it’s a place of sacred sexuality, the second chakra.  The pieces started coming together.  I grew up conditioned to repress my sexuality, it wasn’t something I was ever encouraged to explore in my Sandra Dee-like hometown.  I also repressed my emotions; again, a part of my conditioning, growing up in a family that didn’t express itself so openly.  If what yogis were telling me was true, then all of those years of sexual and emotional repression … built up in my hips.

Damn it, mom, for not being more provocative and sexual.

While I’ve spent the past several years really working on this part of my body, and forcing myself to spend a longer time in hip opening poses, and recognizing the benefits beyond the yoga mat … I knew Seane was going to challenge me when it came time to exploring this chakra.  I was kind of scared.

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Seane didn’t teach at the front of the room, on a pedestal.  She penetrated the room, weaving between mats, cueing us with a precise and knowing authority.  But this was a chakra workshop — so it didn’t stop there.  She talked the entire time, something that would normally annoy the crap out of me.  But she wasn’t talking to hear herself talk or fill an uncomfortable silence.  There was purpose.  She meant to trigger something in us.  Before we slipped into that first practice (one of several over the weekend), she told us to notice, to feel, to ponder, to stay curious to her words.  She warned us, in other words.

When it came to the practice that focused on the first and second chakra, Seane peppered the room with thought-provoking, open-ended questions.  All the while, we were holding asanas for insanely long periods of time.  I was trying to concentrate on alignment and breath, and simultaneously process these questions about love and life and family and politics and sex that she was tossing into the room like Mardi Gras beads.

The hip openers, as I anticipated, were killer.  At one point, we were in a deep lunge and holding our ankles — an “easy” action if you do it for a few seconds.  For five minutes, not so much.  Not for me anyway.  And to be in that pose, listening to Seane ask questions as deeply personal as how you orgasm … well, the mind and the body were collectively on overdrive.

That single practice, when stripped to the asanas, wasn’t so challenging.  But add in the layers of questions — that added a new element that left me feeling more exhausted than I would have felt otherwise.  Others I surveyed agreed.  Was this the “processing” she referred to?  Was something within me becoming unhinged, for the better, as a result?  I’m still not sure.  Perhaps in more time, it will be revealed.  What was immediately revealed: I could sweat in a place I didn’t think capable of producing giant drops of sweat.  My cheeks.  (For those of you with your mind in the gutter, I’m talking about the cheeks on my face.)

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Something new that resonated with me during Seane’s discussion of the chakras: how each chakra’s “shadow,” or negative manifestation, is not something to run away from or repress.  They are teachers, too.  Yes, it’s a real challenge to acknowledge the stuff that isn’t pretty, isn’t flattering or doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves.  I know it is for me.  Very much so.  When the negative stuff bubbles into my brain or out of my mouth, the part of my looking outside in (or is it inside out?) wants to put police tape around it.  But without confronting these “shadows,” layers of their negative “residue” builds up … and builds up … and builds up.  Like plaque on a tooth, it needs to be brushed before it hardens.  If not, this “residue” will block our chakras — our energy wheels — causing varying degrees of difficulty in life.

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Just because I need to get this down, the seven chakras are:

  • 1 — Muladhara: root/support/family/foundation
    shadow = fear
  • 2 — Swadhisthana: sacral/sweetness/sexuality/pleasure
    shadow = guilt
  • 3 — Manipura: Solar Plexus/lustrous gem/self-value
    shadow = shame
  • 4 — Anahata: heart/unstruck
    shadow = grief
  • 5 — Vishuddha: throat/purification/communication
    shadow = lies
  • 6 — Ajna: brow/to perceive/intuition/the third eye
    shadow = illusion
  • 7 — Sahasrara: crown/thousand fold
    shadow = attachment

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