Sahaswara, The Seventh Chakra

Sahaswara, also known as the “crown chakra” is the center for trust, devotion, inspiration, happiness, and positivity. It’s also the center for deeper connection with ourselves and deeper connection with a force of life that is greater than ourselves.

Sahaswara is referred to as the thousand-petal lotus chakra.  The lotus flower is a symbol in both the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. It is nurtured, grows, and emerges in muddy waters. It blooms where there is no clarity.

There are many ways to help open the “crown chakra”.

  1. Get inspired – find something that helps you feel inspired, uplifted, positive and open.  Anything that brings you inspiration will help open this chakra.  Find what inspires you an reflect on it daily.
  2. Practice affirmations – practice positive affirmations throughout the day to help keep this chakra open.  Ex. “I am open and expanded”.
  3. Visualize – imagine the top of the head being open and expanded, connected to a force greater than yourself.

Several asanas can also help open this chakra.

Half Lotus Pose

Image result for image for half lotus pose

Tree Pose

Corpse Pose

Supported headstand

Opening this chakra leads to a feeling of calm, positivity and well-being,  I believe most of us need to deliberately work on opening the crown chakra, it does not come easily in the beginning.

Ajna – trust it!

Ajna, is the sixth chakra, also known as the third eye.  The Anja is the second spiritual chakra, it means “beyond wisdom”, this is the center of your intuition.  This chakra is located between the eyebrows, the pituitary glands, eyes, lower part of the brain and head are ruled by this chakra.    Opening this chakra allows lucid dreaming, telepathy, wide imagination and visualization.

Ajna is also referred to as our “sixth sense”.  We are taught to rely on our five senses, sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.  While each of these senses are important, when rely solely on what we can see, hear, taste, smell and touch, we limit our awareness.  Long ago, humans had to rely on intuition, over the years we’ve lost trust in our intuition and rely on what we “know”.

This chakra is best balanced through meditation and breathing or pranayama.  A tingling sensation after mediation is a sign that this chakra is beginning to open.  A breathing technique called “bee breath” can help balance this chakra.  This technique is done by closing the eyes and placing the middle fingers over the eyes, the pointer fingers over the eyebrows and pinkies fall at the cheekbones.  Inhale deeply, as you exhale make the sound “AUM”, emphasizing the “M” and making the sound like a bee buzzing.  This technique is typically done for about two minutes and can help alleviate headaches as well.

Yoga poses in which the forehead is pressed down also helps to balance the Ajna.  Practice the poses below to help open and balance your third eye, and trust your intuition!

Childs Pose

Dolphin Pose

Head to Knee Pose

 

Vishudda – the fifth chakra

The fifth chakra is called Vishudda or “Throat Chaka”.  This chakra is one of three spiritual chakras, when balanced it allows us to speak, listen and express ourselves on higher level.  The physical areas controlled by this chakra include the jaw, neck, mouth, tongue, thyroid and parathyroid.

A balanced Vishudda allows us to express our authentic selves.  It can be difficult to really express your truth, we fear judgment, upsetting or not being accepted by others.  Our chakras work together, so balancing the lower chakras will help open your throat chakra and make you feel more comfortable expressing yourself.  Balancing the first and second chakras will help our feel more grounded and overcome fear.  Our third chakra helps us to become more confident and powerful.  Our forth chakra allows us to feel what is in our heart.  When all of these chakras are aligned, it is then that our balanced Vishudda allows us to verbalize our needs, desires and opinions.

Yoga poses that help balance our throat chakra are poses that open or strengthen the front or back of the neck.  Try the poses below to help balance and open this chakra.

Plow pose – weight is on the shoulders, not the neck in this pose.

Fish pose – the weight it on the forearms, head is hovering above the ground, no weight on the head.

Cobra pose – be mindful of your low back in this pose, modify with “baby cobra” if necessary.

Baby cobra

Camel pose – this can be an intense back bend, it is a great throat and chest opener – one of my favs!  This pose can be modified by placing the hands on blocks or the low back instead of bringing them to the heels.

Loosen up – those tight hamstrings can be a pain – literally!

Tight hamstrings are, unfortunately, a common problem.  When these large muscles are strained or tight it can lead to pain or injuries in other parts of the body such as the low back, hips and knees.

Tight hamstrings can be caused by foot wear, specifically high heels, running, tightness in the hip flexors, pelvic tilt or can just be from the way we’re built.

Stretching these muscles correctly can help avoid pain and injuries to other areas.  Try the poses below to help lengthen and stretch the hamstrings.  Remember poses should never be painful, but you want to push your edge.  It is also important not to lock your knees while practicing these poses, maintain a soft microbend.

Forward fold

If your hands reach the floor, simply rest them in front of the feet.   If your hands do not reach the floor, grab the opposite elbow and allow the upper body to hang.  Be sure to fold at the hips and not the waist.

Triangle pose

If you cannot touch the floor without bending the knee, Place a block on the floor and rest the hand on the block to modify.

Seated forward fold

This pose can also be modified by using a strap.  Loop the strap around both feet and pull yourself down until you feel a moderate stretch down the backs of the legs.

Reclining hand to big toe

Again, this pose can be modified by using a strap.  Loop a strap around one foot, extend the leg up, knee bent to start, then straighten the leg gently until you feel a moderate stretch down the back of the leg.

As always, listen to your body.  If you are experiencing any pain consult your physician.

 

Twisted

I always look forward to twisting poses during my practice, I try to incorporate them at the beginning and the end of most sessions.  When I started practicing I fell in love with them, they just “felt good”, little did I know, they have several benefits as well.  Win Win!

Let’s outline some of the benefits and look at some examples of these wonderful poses.

  • Improved flexibility – Yoga twists increase the flexibility of your oblique (muscles around the waist), your abdominal and your back muscles. Many people find themselves sitting, A LOT!  We sit at work as well as live more sedentary lives than our ancestors, this can leave these muscles short and tight which can lead to lower back pain and poor posture. The longer you hold the pose, the more you will improve your flexibility. Try to twist a little more each time you perform your yoga poses, this will help increase your flexibility.
  • Spinal Mobility – Age and inactivity can reduce the range of movement in your joints. Spending long periods seated at a desk or in a car can have negative effects on spinal mobility which can lead to back pain. Twisting poses can help to mobilize the joints of your spine by gently rotating each vertebrae. Try to perform yoga twists in a slow but rhythmic fashion, rotating from side to side.
  • Improve Internal Health – It is believed twisting poses squeeze the internal organs and encourage the flow of oxygenated blood while eliminating toxins and metabolic waste products. The liver, kidneys, stomach, pancreas and spleen are all believed to benefit from twisting poses. Twisting poses can also help reduce abdominal bloating and digestive discomfort. Performing at least one twisting yoga pose a day can improve the health of your internal organs.
  • Help eliminate stress – Twists can help you alleviate tension from deep within your body. Physical tension can show itself as emotional stress. Yoga twists help the muscles of the chest, back and shoulders relax, when combined with slow, nasal breathing, this can help stress to leave the body. These poses are also invigorating and restorative, which can help elevate your energy levels.

Try some of the poses listed below to promote spinal health and to experience the benefits discussed above.

Half Lord of the Fishes Pose

Revolved Head to Knee Pose

Revolved Triangle Pose

The Heart of the Matter

Anahata, AKA “the heart chakra”.  The heart chakra is our forth chakra, it represents the opening of feelings, compassion and the capacity to love.  The heart chakra, is located at the center of the chest and includes the heart, cardiac plexus, thymus gland, lungs, and breasts, it also rules the lymphatic system.

When the heart chakra is open, you are flowing with love and compassion, you are quick to forgive, and are accepting of  yourself and others. A closed heart chakra can give way to grief, anger, jealousy, even hatred for yourself or others.

We’ve all encountered situations in which a loved one or friend has hurt us, we can choose to hang onto that hurt or to let it go.  When we let hurt feelings go, we’re able to open our heart to new people and new experiences with compassion, love, and understanding. Holding onto hurt harbors negative feelings and cuts you off from opportunities to love. Letting go is not always easy, our minds and egos may tell us to hold onto hurt and protect ourselves from others, however you can choose to let hurt go.

Asanas (poses) that help open the heart chakra:

Camel pose

Cobra pose

Fish pose

Melting Heart Pose

Manipura – the third chakra

The third chakra is called Manipura, which means “lustrous gem”.  This chakra is located in the navel in the area of the solar plexus and up to the breastbone, it is a source of personal power and governs self-esteem, warrior energy, and the power of transformation. The Manipura chakra also controls metabolism and digestion.

When you feel self-confident, have a strong sense of purpose, and are self-motivated, your third chakra is open and healthy. If your third chakra is out of balance, you can suffer from low self-esteem, have difficulty making decisions, and may have anger or control issues.

There are several ways to help open and balance this chakra.  Certain foods can be used to heal this chakra. Adding these foods to your diet or increasing the amount you eat can help activate your chakra:

  • squash
  • sweet potatoes
  • pumpkins
  • lentils
  • yellow and orange peppers
  • lemons
  • corn
  • yellow pears
  • golden apples
  • brown rice
  • oats

Daily affirmations can also help to balance the Manipura.  Starting the day with affirmations can put you in the right frame of mind to balance this chakra.  Since this chakra is closely tied with strength and a healthy sense of self, affirmations that focus on self-acceptance and boundaries are most useful. Affirmations like:

  • I love and accept myself.
  • I can achieve anything I desire.
  • I believe in myself.

Certain asanas or yoga poses will help both open and balance this chakra.

Boat pose

5 Boat Pose Variations To Wake Up Your Core

  1. Start in a seated position. Rock back so you are on  your two sit bones and your tail bone.
  2. Lift your chest and lean back slightly and slowly begin to lift your toes up off the floor.
  3. Bring your shins parallel with your mat or begin to lengthen the legs to create a V shape.
  4. Extend arms towards the feet.

Half Lord of the Fishes pose

  1. Begin seated on the floor with your legs extended in front of you, arms resting at your sides.
  2. Bend both knees, placing the soles of your feet flat on the floor. Then, drop your left knee to the floor. Tuck your left foot under your right leg, resting it alongside your right buttock.
  3. Raise your left arm overhead. Exhaling, twist to the right. Place your left elbow to the outside of your right knee. Keep your forearm raised, with your fingertips pointing toward the ceiling.
  4. With each inhalation, make your spine longer; and with each exhalation, twist a little deeper.
  5. Turn your head to gaze over your right shoulder.
  6. Repeat the twist for the same length of time on the opposite side.

Bow pose

Lay on your stomach, bring both arms back by your sides. Lift your arms and chest up off of the floor while raising both legs up off of the floor and bend your knees to ninety-degrees. Grab the tops of your feet and press your feet into your hands until you feel your legs and chest lifting just a slight bit more. Stay in the pose for up to 5 deep breaths.

Balancing and opening the third chakra allows you to feel centered in your mind, body, and spirit.  Relaxed and comfortable in your own skin.  It allows you to be more aware of your own energy and being, comfortable in your decisions, and connected to your “gut” feelings.  The phrase “go with your gut” indicates confidence in your  self and your energy to know what is best for you.