Chakras and Yoga, Part 1: Muladhara, Svadhistahana and Manipura
The chakras play an important part in our yoga practice. We spent the whole last blog entry talking about subtle anatomy. We defined the chakras as plexuses of pranic channels, esoteric structures of the energetic body. Now, however, we’re going to take a step back from the energetic, into the substantial. Subtle though they may be, the chakras have definite palpable effects on our physical and emotional lives.
Think of it this way: Prana is life force energy. It travels through the body through the nadis, which intersect in major plexuses at seven points, the chakras. Prana is our energetic and spiritual fuel that we release in the yoga practice. If for some reason its passage is blocked, the surrounding area will suffer on every level. Often, this experience is most noticeable in the physical body and we can use the yoga practice to break trough those blocks.
Of course, all of our states are intertwined. Human beings are complex. Our emotional, physical, energetic, psychic and spiritual states all affect one another. The chakra framework is an effective tool for learning to identify the ways our physical state is symptomatic of our other states. This new awareness facilitates healing on every level.
Muladhara: Finding Our Roots
We begin at the root, the muladhara chakra. Located at the base of the spine and correspond to the mula bandha in the yoga practice , this chakra keeps us, quite literally, grounded. It’s tied to the legs and feet, so blockages of pranic flow here can leave us feeling unbalanced and uprooted. Degenerative arthritis, knee pain, sciatica, and other problems of the legs and feet might indicate disruption in the muladhara chakra, leaving us feeling unstable. This chakra is also related to our ability to eliminate waste, encompassing the rectum, kidneys and large intestine. Unexplainable gastrointestinal issues, such as stress-related constipation, indicate an imbalance in muladhara chakra.
Each chakra also relates to the endocrine system, helping to regulate our hormonal balances. For the muladhara chakra, this conversation in physical-energetic balance exists with the adrenal gland. With all we’ve already discussed, this correspondence makes perfect sense. Our adrenal gland, responsible for the levels of adrenaline in our body, regulates our stress responses. If we feel stressed and unstable, imbalance in our adrenal gland may be to blame. Or, vice-versa, stress from external stimuli may create an imbalance in our adrenal gland. Either way, dysfunction exists in rooting muladhara chakra, and the stress-related physical effects in the legs and elimination organs result.
Svadhistahana: Releasing Creative Flow
Just between the pubic bone and the navel sits the svadhistahana chakra, also the location for our uddiyana bandha in the yoga practice. Svadisthana chakra is the seat of our sexual, reproductive, and creative energies. This plexus is tied to our reproductive system, affecting the ovaries or testes, as well as the bladder and kidneys. Urinary problems, such as infections or incontinence, might indicate dysfunction in the svadhistahana chakra, as might problems of the kidneys. Hip, pelvic, and lower back pain also indicate that energy isn’t circulating freely in this area.
On a hormonal level, the ovaries and testes control our sexual energy. Imbalances in sex drive, or physicalized expressions of issues around sexuality and intimacy, can manifest in this chakra. Sexual energy is also our generative energy, and therefore affects our creative selves. If we’re feeling any physical symptoms of blockage in the svadhistahana chakra, then, it might be worth examining our sexual or creative lives. Untraceable lower back pain or sudden tightness in the hips could be indicative of imbalances in our lives leading to blockages in this sacral chakra.
Manipura: Strong Self, Strong Stomach
The manipura chakra, sometimes referenced as the “solar plexus chakra,” sits between the navel and the breastbone. As you’d suspect by its location, the manipura chakra is related to the digestive system, affecting the liver, gall bladder, stomach, spleen, and small intestine. It’s glandular parallel is the pancreas, which regulates blood sugar and secretes digestive organs. Digestive issues, blood sugar problems, stomach ulcers, and other ailments of the digestive system are all symptomatic of blockages in the manipura chakra.
The manipura chakra is also associated with our personal power and sense of self. When you think about the physical effects of imbalance in this chakra, this emotional association makes a lot of sense. Nervous nausea or “butterflies” in the stomach are psychosomatic phenomena associated with situations that challenge our security in our personal power. When we see these two parallel imbalances, emotional and physical, in terms of the manipura chakra, we find a useful framework for identifying the source of the imbalance in our lives.
As you can see, these three base chakras all provide insight into our basic psychological needs, in terms of security, creativity and sense of self. Using this framework for examining our emotional and physical lives, we can examine imbalances and work towards developing a healthier, happier day-to-day with the help of our yoga practice. The result is a more grounded, creative, secure personal state. With the next four chakras, we’ll apply this same psychosomatic framework to our interpersonal and spiritual lives.
Want to learn more about yoga and the chakras? Our next yoga teacher training is in February 2016.