When I first began studying yoga, one of the initial hooks for me aside from playing with strong and powerful postures, was the concept of the metaphysical and multidimensional energetic system called the chakras. In fact in my initial yoga teacher training program, we had to guide a themed vinyasa practice as well as submit a final dissertation before graduating. I chose to write and teach about the chakras. A couple years later, I went on to lead my first yoga retreat themed around learning about and reflecting on the ways in which these ‘Wheels of Life’, as described by leading chakra guru Anodea Judith, help us steer through the twists and turns that show up on this of our journey lives.
Oh how much more I have learned.
The chakra system is a potent piece of yogic philosophy that often times gets over looked and under utilized I believe mostly because this is such an intangible concept. The chakras are not part of the physical expression of your body but rather an energetic relation to seven major nerve bundles, or plexuses, located in the spinal column and make possible the way we move, react, think and go about our lives. I found this interesting article that goes into the biological correlation of this subtle concept with a tangible one. Here’s an excerpt:
‘By far, the most energetic processes within our bodies are caused by our nerve tissues and specifically our nervous system. The nervous system is that part of our body, that coordinates its voluntary and involuntary actions, and transmits signals to and from different parts of the body and brain. The ‘communication‘ of the body, if you will.
The nervous system is composed of two main parts:
The Central Nervous System (CNS) within the brain and spinal cord, and The Peripheral Nervous System (PNS), which connects the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body, via little ‘river‘ like nerve fibres (Nadis!). This system is what correlates with the chakras.
There are different categories of nerve bundles within the PNS, but the most relevant to the Chakras is the AUTONOMIC nervous system of the PNS. This deals with the involuntary or automatic responses within the body. For example – digestion; our heart rate, sneezing, swallowing and breathing. All these processes are regulated by the hypothalamus.
The Autonomic Nervous System is further divided into the Sympathetic Nervous System (activated in emergencies to move energy, the ‘fight and flight’ responses) and the Parasympathetic Nervous system (activated when ‘resting and digesting’). It is the Parasympathetic Nervous System (part of the autonomic nerve response system) which has the greatest relevance to the areas where the Chakras are thought to be located.’
As you engage in mindfulness awareness practices, like yoga asana, breath and meditation, you start noticing bits of the emotional and psychological conditioning that you have consciously, or unconsciously, stored in your body, mind and emotions. Triggered by your thoughts, ideas, actions and experiences, your patterned habitudes then stake claim in the associated chakra, often times bullying their way in to do so – it’s a ‘threat to our survival’ kind of response. Based on your findings, and with a tremendous amount of compassion and freaking hard work, you learn to recognize the brow beaters for what they are, and use tools and practices that support, and with time, admit to the truth of your coping or avoiding methods for survival.
This week, through a series of universally aligned events, I was literally bludgeoned at the energetic space that corresponds to field of perception, knowing and commandment, and I have the black eye to prove it. The ajna chakra, said to be located in the centre of the forehead, a.k.a the third eye, is associated with ‘several cranial nerves that interconnect in the midbrain and brainstem coordinating the muscles of facial expression and sensation with sight, hearing, balance and movement of the eyes’*. More than that, the 6th chakra is about seeing in the deepest sense. Ever notice sometimes that even through your eyes are wide open you are unaware of the many things right in front of you? To really see clearly is to see through a lens of wholeheartedness and empathy, void of illusion and denial. Illusion is the belief in something that is not true; denial is the failure to see the truth of what actually is. Both are spun from maya, a veil, or multiple coverings, that shroud the underlying reality and delude our consciousness.
After assessing the damage and coming out of the shock of being struck in the face with a waterfall of baking sheets that rained down from above, I took time to ponder what it was and why it is that I am not seeing clearly. Trying not to think for an answer but instead just hold space for whatever to surface, this is what I uncovered:
- I am denying the Truth of my Self based on an illusion.
- Because of that, I am holding myself back.
- This holding back is a fear response linked to a limiting belief (illusion) tethered to shame.
As I’ve written about before, shame has rooted itself deep in my psyche for some reason that I have not quite figured out – that’s my life work. But I feel I am seeing my gremlin in a way that I don’t know I have ever seen before. In this new light, I am seeing the constricting patterns I have been playing on repeat for far too long that need an adjustment – and this is the hard part. Because adjusting something means actually doing something about it. Changing a conditioned pattern often gets messy because it’s complicated, confusing and an utterly chaotic process as the painful truths of the story are exposed in the light. But it is this new lens of perception, in which I know with time, patience, courage and practice, will lead to acceptance, understanding and ultimately, setting my gremlin free.
I leave you with this, the incredibly wise and researched words of Brené Brown :
“Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it – it can’t survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy. The most dangerous thing to do after a shaming experience is hide or bury our story. When we bury our story, the shame metastasizes. Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we will ever do.” – Brené Brown.
*taken from the article, The Neurophysiology of Chakras.