YOLY Challenge #30: Tune In To Your Chakras

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And now for a fun challenge.

For some time I have been scouring the internet to find a simple questionnaire in order to gauge chakric energy flows within the body. But I couldn’t locate one that was short and sweet. So, I’ve decided to invent my own little quiz. I’m calling it the “Chakra Check-Up.”

Your quest this week is to use Yoga Posts’ Chakra Check-Up click here to evaluate how the energy is flowing through your various chakras.  You may find one or more centers to be relatively balanced, excessively open or tightly closed.

After you tune into the chakra(s) that needs your attention, follow my recommendations below for balancing.

1st Chakra or Muladhara Chakra

2nd Chakra or Svadhisthana Chakra

3rd Chakra or Manipura Chakra

4th Chakra or Anahata Chakra

5th Chakra or Vissuddha Chakra

6th Chakra or Ajna Chakra

7th Chakra or Sahasrara Chakra

This is a great challenge to repeat for another week, especially if you locate more than one chakra that needs adjusting.  Happy Hunting!

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YOLY Challenge #24: Your Crowning Achievement!

We made it!  We have arrived at the summit – the uppermost chakra.sunset-1791832__180 This marks the end of a long journey that started on week 14 – the site where we laid down our roots for the climb to the top.

This shining star located at the apex is called the crown chakra. In sanskrit, it is known as sahasrara and translates as the “thousand-petaled lotus.” The number 1000 is the symbol for boundless, infinite and tremendous.

The yoga postures associated with the sahasrara or crown chakra are restorative and meditative in nature.  They are the ones that enable you to tune into your inner mind – that divine spirit that is within you and create an infinite connection to the cosmic world.

To achieve this contemplative state, it is helpful to balance your chakra wheels from root to crown so that the energy can appropriately ascend.

Try this 30 minute sequence daily and be sure to leave plenty of time for the “prize” at the finish:

Muladhara (Root) Chakra: Easy Cross Leg Pose

Svadhisthana (Sacral) Chakra:  Cat-Cow to Child’s Pose

Manipura (Solar Plexus) Chakra: Downward Dog to Plank

Anahata (Heart) Chakra:  Sphinx

Vishuddha (Throat) Chakra: Bridge

Ajna (Third-Eye) Chakra: Seated Staff Pose to Supported Forward Bend

Sahasrara (Crown) Chakra: imagesModified Rabbit Pose – from child’s pose, lift your hips and roll onto the top of your head supporting your weight with your hands.

 

Savasana (well supported with props)

Spend about 1-3 minutes in each “chakra pose” and give yourself at least 10 minutes for Savasana.

 

 

 

Seeing With the Mind’s Eye

The mind’s eye, also known as the third eye, is spiritually located between the eyes at the level of the brow.  Physically, it has been related to the pineal gland which resides within the brain directly between the right and left sides – deep center to the spiritual third eye mark.

René Descartes called this pine cone shaped gland the “principal seat of the soul, and the place in which all our thoughts are formed.” His reasoning was “since our soul is not double, but one and indivisible, […] the part of the body to which it is most immediately joined should also be single and not divided into a pair of similar parts.”

Researchers still exploring its full purpose believe that the pineal gland is responsible for our circadian or biological rhythm.  This rhythm is determined by the amount of light the pineal gland detects.  Each evening as the sky darkens, the pineal gland triggers the release of the hormone melatonin. Conversely, as daylight approaches the gland ceases its melatonin production. In this way, the pineal gland controls the sleep-wake cycle.

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This sensitivity to our environment has kept our mind’s eye impacting us in many powerful ways. It’s sanskrit name, ajna, means the perception or command center. When maintained and balanced, it is believed that this chakra’s energy can give us clearer intuition, insight and vision.

In assembling this post, I came across a quote from Edgar Allan Poe that described his perception of this mysterious third eye.

“That intuitive and seemingly casual perception by which we often attain knowledge, when reason herself falters and abandons the effort, appears to resemble the sudden glancing at a star, by which we see it more clearly than by a direct gaze; or the half-closing the eyes in looking at a plot of grass, the more fully to appreciate the intensity of its green.” 

Intrigued?

Here are some additional techniques and approaches to stimulate your insightfulness:

  • Focus on a positive thought or image.
  • Use  cedarwood*, frankincense*, or sandalwood* essential oil.  To reach the pineal gland, inhale the aroma of the oil or place a diluted drop in between the eyebrows.
  • Keep a dream journal. Record any images and feelings you get immediately after waking.
  • Keep a “sense” journal. Write down impressive smells, sensations, feelings, or urges – anything that sticks with you.
  • Watch the sunrise or the sunset.
  • Get out of your monkey mind by meditating, taking a walk or a soothing bath- add a few drops of essential oils* to your water.

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YOLY Challenge #23: Take the Bridge to Clarity

Focus on the space between your eyes, this is the seat of your perception center, sometimes referred to as the mind’s eye.

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The third eye or ajna chakra allows us to see things as they are meant to be seen – it is the connection to the quiet voice of the soul.

I call this challenge “The Bridge to Clarity” because as we make our journey to the higher chakras, we cross over into a new realm.  On the other side is greater access to our dreams, intuition and imagination. When we begin to attend to our third-eye, we find ourselves more lucid, balanced and clear.

Our posture work this week will pave the way to this new state of being.

Fine-tune your mind’s eye with these daily postures:

Tree Pose (with your eyes closed): a wonderful way to get more insight into this pose through balance.

Supported Seated Forward Bend: descend into a comfortable place and support your forehead to increase blood flow to the brain and become more inward.

Child’s Pose:  make this as supportive as you can and cushion the forehead slightly – give attention to the third eye as you restore.

Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall): use an eye bag and detach from your surroundings.

 “The superior person settles her mind as the universe settles the stars in the sky. By connecting her mind with the subtle origin, she calms it. Once calmed, it naturally expands, and ultimately her mind becomes as vast and immeasurable as the night sky.”  -Lao Tzu

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YOLY Challenge #22: Preparing to Climb Higher Up the Ladder

Week #22 – amazing!  I hope that you have benefited from a few of Yoga Posts’ Year of Living Yogically Challenges. We are nearly half way there.

Since we have been focusing on the chakra system for a few weeks now, I think it is important to step back a little and look at where we started – from the lower three chakras; the root, sacrum and solar plexus. These energy levels have one thing in common, they hold our perceptions and represent the way that we experience our lives. They give us the roots, the inspiration and the drive to ascend.

On week #19 we acknowledged the important anahata or heart chakra – our connection between the lower and upper chakras. This chakra generates the passion that can send us to new heights.

climbing-824376__180Now as we get ready to climb the chakra ladder to its highest rungs, there are a few preparations to take.

Understand the purpose of the upper three chakras.

The throat, the third eye and the crown chakra are the more esoteric centers.  They create our spiritual essence – our expressions of what we are. They are not involved with material matters and only work with our deepest levels of expression.

Practice pratyahara or sense withdrawal. 

This is the fifth limb of the yoga system.  It means to withdrawal your senses.  Like a turtle that retracts inside of its shell, your practice of pratyahara will teach you to go inside yourself and retreat from the external “noises” that exist around you: the opinions, the interruptions, the distractions, the associations, the influences.  Once you can detach from this commotion, you can be free to choose the sensations that you wish to bring into your field of awareness. The practice of pratyahara will enable you to see things as they truly are as you ascend the chakra ladder.

Your challenge this week is to practice these techniques of pratyahara:

1.) Take a Media Fast. Spend some time each day away from sensory input.  Turn off the t.v, the computer, the phone, put aside music and books. Sit quietly and allow your mind to rest for 30 minutes or so.

-OR-

2. ) Take a Real Savasana. Set a timer for 20 minutes. Wrap a blanket around your head to form a nest so that the ends of the blanket cover your ears.  Use a washcloth or an eyebag to cover your eyes.

After either technique, find one thing to focus on: the blue sky, the red rocks (only in Sedona, of course) or a field or garden of flowers if you have them. These simple and positive images will be a refreshing change for your mind.

 

 

 

 

Spell Out Your Truth

The fifth chakra Vissuddha focuses on the area of the throat – the place for communicating your truth.

To look further at communication, we can consider the ethical quality of the yama known as truthfulness. The yamas (and niyamas) are the first step in the 8-fold path that is yoga.  As a moral principle, truthfulness or satya, as it is called in Sanskrit, asks us to convey truth responsibly.  Like the other yamas, we should consider truthfulness in thought, speech and action.  That includes the manner in which we listen. To be true and clear in communication is to really hear what someone is saying.

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To draw out your truthfulness or balance your throat chakra, try some of the following techniques:

  • Sing, dance or read poetry out loud – express yourself with one of these creative methods
  • Write – although it’s not the spoken word, it is an act of communication
  • Try Chamomile tea or essential oil – a natural remedy for sore throats, its relaxing effects release tension
  • Meditate or marinate under the clear blue sky – blue is the color of this chakra
  • Ask for what you want

…we should progressively embrace what is real for us, so that we may find health and harmony. As you go deeper into yoga, remember that you are doing this study in order to remember yourself, to come home to all of you…  – Rolf Gates

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YOLY Challenge #21: Find Your True Voice

bird-287109__180Unwavering in its pronouncements, the songbird vocalizes in clarity and honesty. Like the songbird in the sky, we should feel free to sing out and fill our surroundings with positive vibrations.

The 5th Chakra is located in the area of the throat and is your communication center – figuratively and spiritually.  The Sanskrit name, Vissuddha means pure.  When your throat chakra is balanced your self-expression is clear, virtuous, and free of pollutants.

The challenge this week is to incorporate a “Vissuddha” yoga posture into your practice each day. The following poses and practices will target the areas of expression – your neck and throat.

Ujjayi Breathing – a superb pranayama practice for honing your larynx, nasopharynx and all parts related to the breath and speech.  Look back to our YOLY Challenge #5 for directions on this method.

Lion PoseSimhasana_Yoga-Asana_Nina-MelA focus for the mouth, jaw and neck, this posture is especially good for stimulating the platysma muscle – unattractively known as the “turkey neck.”

Upward Facing Dog – Correctly performed, imagesthe shoulders should be aligned above the wrists so that the neck can comfortably balance the head.  Through this pose, all the structures surrounding the neck and throat are learning to support and stabilize.

Shoulderstand (variation with a chair)images  Targets the thyroid to balance the blood flow in this area.  A boon for the entire neck and shoulder areas if supported correctly.  This posture should be initiated under the guidance of an instructor.

Chanting – Find a recording that speaks to you and learn it.  Silently follow along until you are comfortable reciting the words clearly and with purpose.

One of my favorites is this Gayatri Mantra recording.

Here are the words and definition for your reference:

Om bhur bhuvaha svaha
Tat savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dhimahi
Dhiyo yonah prachodayat

Praise to the source of
all things.
It is due to you that we attain
true happiness on the planes
of earth, astral, causal.
It is due to your transcendent
nature that you are worthy of
being worshiped and adored.
Ignite us with your all
pervading light.

The Gayatri Mantra is a prayer that allows me to express gratitude to the universal spirit.  I see it as an all-embracing chant that transcends religion and speaks to my intention. The vibration of its sounds is known to be a healing source for our subtle bodies.

 

 

Photos credited to Yoga Journal & LA Times