Chakra work is something that has fascinated me and scared me at the same time. I think the opening of the chakras can be incredible profound work, but as a teacher there is so much information about the chakras that I have avoided teaching anything but the most basic of information. This fall I decided to bite the bullet and teach what I know. After all, yoga is not about perfection. It’s about being on the path and the progress. And my students forgive me many things. They will take what I have and not berate me for what I don’t.
This week my classes worked on Muladhara, the root chakra and also the first chakra. It’s been hard work and I’m really proud of all of us.
Let me tell you a bit about the root chakra. First of all, yogis believe that energy moves on the breath and moves up and down the spine. Along the spine are vortexes or whirls of energy. In Sanskrit Chakra means wheel. Each chakra corresponds to different kinds of energy, body parts, elements, psychological issues, stones, colors and much more. This week we focused mainly on the psychological and physical.
The root chakra is located approximately at your perineum (look it up if you don’t know). No one snickered. No one blushed. Well, we are grown-ups after all.
The RC’s color is red. When I asked students to imagine a warm, red light bringing energy to the area and bathing the perineum in warmth they kept their eyes closed and to the best of my knowledge did it.
RC work isn’t easy work. Our first chakra is about being grounded, feeling secure and finding balance in your life. Hence, the name. It is the root of it all. It is also about basic survival. It is the first thing to feel out of balance when we move, lose a job or get divorced. When our RCs are free and unblocked they begin to animate all the other chakras. When we are grounded in our lives we can feel powerful, feel love, communicate well, have great sex lives, find connection with the divine and eventually reach a higher state.
So what did we do this week? I asked my students to think about their lives. Now, you would think that yoga students are pretty open to thinking about themselves. However, I have known more than one student who has been asked to examine her own psych, never to be seen again. Regardless of how much information is out there about yoga and about the mind, body, spirit connection there are still people who just want a good work out on the yoga mat.
So the ones who stayed were asked to think about their roots. And I don’t mean family of origins, I mean how strong their foundation is. Generally people who have work to do on their RCs get overwhelmed easily and worry a lot. They sometimes have trouble sleeping, suffer from digestive issues and feel apathetic. They are the first to bail on a plan and the last to get started on a project. Since the RC is connected to the skeleton people with weakness is the RC can throw their backs out or have sciatic issues.
As you can imagine there are a lot of reasons that students might not want to delve into these issues laying on a mat next to strangers.
Conversely people with strong RCs have huge amounts of energy, they seem like little energizer bunnies. They love life. They believe they deserve to be here and are comfortable enough to invite you in. They are happy, often with infectious joy. They are able to set goals and follow an action plan all the way the thru. And they are unflappable. People who are well grounded can have life throw them curve ball after curve ball and never bat an eye.
So we meditated. We breathed loudly. We circled our perineums on our hands and knees, on our feet and even lying down. Mostly that means we circled our hips. We opened our legs wide and turned our perineums to the ceiling, squatted them down towards the floor and sat with legs open sharing them with each other. And still they stayed. And we worked on standing poses.
Standing poses require lots of energy and strength. We flowed from a deep squat to standing tall. We flopped forward in reaching for our toes in forward folds, letting go of our troubles and opening our legs wider and wider with time. We stood tall and strong in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), on one foot in Vrksasana (Tree Pose) and Utthita Hasta Padagustana (Extended Hand to Toe Pose). We were all sore by the end of the week.
But we’re all stronger than at the beginning of the week, hopefully a little bit wiser and definitely more open. We are learning about our weaknesses, our strengths, our work and the path that we choose. This week I was so proud of my students. They never cease to amaze me. I throw out variations and they take care of themselves by choosing what is right for them at this moment, in this space. I challenge them but they challenge themselves more. And most of all I teach them, but I learn more.
Next week Sacral Chakra-the center of our sexuality.