A yogic view of the chakras

We can study the body via books and lectures, but it is through yoga practices that the body becomes a laboratory, with direct experience as the teacher.

by Kathleen Bryant — 

An 11th-century Islamic mystic said, “The body should be studied, not only by those who wish to be doctors, but by those who wish to attain a more intimate knowledge of God.” We can study the body via books and lectures, but it is through yoga practices that the body becomes a laboratory, with direct experience as the teacher. Experience can be especially profound when studying the energetic body.

Many alternative health practitioners agree that emotional and physical health issues appear first on an energetic level. Because these often are related to a specific energy center or chakra, a deeper understanding of the chakras is helpful in diagnosing and treating illness. Yogic practices that can be used to explore the chakras include kriya (movement), asana (postures), trataka (blinkless gazing) and pranayama (breathing exercises).

To establish awareness of Anahata, the heart center, for example, one might begin by gazing at its symbol, intersecting triangles that create a six-pointed star. Back-bending postures such as Fish Pose open the heart area and can be practiced while chanting the seed mantra for the heart, YAM (pronounced “yum”). In Brahmari pranayama, the ears are held closed while humming, creating vibration at the heart. Through regular, committed practice we come to experience the heart directly.

At the heart level, we begin to feel selfless love or bhakti, the yoga of devotion. Here we awaken feelings of tenderness, compassion and a deeper understanding of all the metaphors we use to describe sensation or lack of sensation in the heart: hard-hearted, soft-hearted, or broken-hearted. Balancing and activating the heart center is especially important for healers, as the hands are an extension of the heart.

From a healing perspective, daily practice of chakra-awakening exercises can help sharpen the diagnostic lens. We see more clearly how someone closed down at the heart center can manifest cardiac disease, or how those who are too open at the heart might experience hypersensitive emotionality. Even if our goal is to heal only ourselves, these chakra-related practices offer a deeper understanding of the totality of who we are, an understanding that goes beyond flesh and bone to the very essence of our being.

 

Kathleen Bryant teaches postnatal and restorative yoga and assists with teacher training at 7 Centers Yoga Arts in Sedona, Ariz. 928-203-4400 or www.7centers.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 2, April/May 2006.

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