by Jen Warakomski: Did you know that our physical yoga practice—our asana practice—directly relates to our Chakra system?
If you practice this limb of yoga, you know that your asana practice allows for physical openness and, overall, invites more balance and harmony within your body, mind and spirit.
Interestingly, when we look more closely at our energetic Chakra system and physical yoga poses together, we can gain even more insight into our personal matters and issues that may require our attention and correction.
Let us initiate this journey of self-exploration and expression by first examining each of our Chakras and their qualities, as illustrated in these Chakra 101 descriptions. By understanding each Chakra’s characteristics and behaviors, we can utilize the techniques that lie within our physical yoga practice to unlock, unblock, revitalize and re-balance our Chakras, which, on occasion, can each become underactive, overactive, or blocked. And, much like the sequential path of the Chakra energy system, that stretches from the base of the spine to the crown of our heads, a yoga pose series or sequence is also interrelated because each pose affects one another and, ultimately, is designed to work together.
Beginning at the base of the spine, our first Chakra, Muladhara, translates from Sanskrit as “Root” or “Foundation”. This critical arrangement is necessary as the translation suggests, because without a firm foundation, or “Root”, one can feel unstable and unsafe.
The Root Chakra’s element is Earth and yoga poses that express groundedness will energize this Chakra. Poses such as Tadasana [Mountain Pose], Uttanasana [Standing Forward Bend], Janu Sirsasana [Seated Head to Knee Forward Bend], along with other poses that focus specifically on the feet and legs, will provide grounding and stability to benefit the Root Chakra.
Next, we move up to our Second Chakra, Svadhisthana, which translates to “One’s Own Space, Place, and Base”. This Sacral Chakra, linked to the element water, helps us to acknowledge and feel our sensory experiences.
Hip openers, in particular, are connected to this Chakra. Practicing Eka Pada Rajakapotasana [One Legged Pigeon Pose], Virabhadrasana II [Warrior II], Lunges, or Baddha Konasana [Seated Bound Angle Pose] will provide more freedom in your pelvic area and enliven your Sacral Chakra.
Rising above our Second Chakra lies our Manipura Chakra, which translates to “Lustrous Gem”. This Third Chakra is tied to the fire element and our own sense of identity, confidence and ego.
Located at the Solar Plexus, any abdominal poses such as Navasana [Boat Pose], Dhanurasana [Bow Pose], Urdva Dhanurasana [Wheel Pose], and twists such as Ardha Matsyendrasana [Half Lord of the Fishes Pose] will stoke and stimulate this fiery Chakra, allowing for you to maintain and develop your own clear and confident life path.
Our Fourth Chakra, Anahata, is the bridge point between what is considered the lower three, physically associated Chakras, and the upper three spiritually associated Chakras. Translated from Sanskrit, it means “Unstruck” and its element is air.
The Heart Chakra is the core of our spirit. Poses that open our chest and draw in heart energy will benefit this location. Ustrasana [Camel Pose], Bhujangasana [Cobra Pose], Urdhva Dhanurasana [Wheel], Gomukhasana Arms, and any other heart opener [backbend] will energize the fourth Chakra with self-love as you will release what you can often create in your everyday life: unnecessary protection or habitual holding, both physical and emotional.
Above the Heart Chakra is our Throat Chakra, Visuddha, which means “Pure” or “Purification” in Sanskrit. This Fifth Chakra aids our voice, our ability to speak, and is related to the element of sound with its location assigned at our throat.
Along with chanting mantras, asanas such as Halasana [Plow], Salamba Sarvangasana [Shoulder Stand], and Matsyasana [Fish], all relate to this Chakra and can encourage an energetic balance, which allows one to feel that you can effectively communicate your own individual voice and opinions.
The Anja Chakra, our Sixth Chakra, translates to “The Command and Perception Center”, and is where our intuition and inner voice resides. Represented by the element of light and tied to our power of perception, poses can directly stimulate its physical location, which is centered just above and between the eyes.
Balasana [Child’s Pose] and other seated forward folds, with a block placed under the forehead just above the eyebrows, as well as gaze focused balancing poses such as Gauradasana [Eagle Pose] allow you to hone your concentration and ultimately begin to manifest and trust in your own guidance and vision.
Our final destination is our Seventh Chakra, Sahasrara, which means “Thousandfold”. Represented as the element of space, it is our higher connection to the Divine and the location at the crown of the head that defines this Chakra.
Seated meditation in Padmasana [Lotus Pose] or Savasana [Corpse Pose] along with Salamba Sirsasana [Supported Headstand] will stimulate this Chakra location. Ultimately, through meditation, you will nurture your path towards trusting and believing in your own wisdom.
When working with the Chakra energy system and our own physical yoga practices, it is important that we create and maintain a firm foundation in our lower three Chakras in order for them to connect and bridge to our upper Chakras. This is because the lower three Chakras deal with home, family, surroundings—specific details of our lives, and the upper Chakras can be considered a larger embodiment of wisdom and our own understanding of the higher power and order of things.
A balanced asana practice, sequenced with proper opening poses, mid and closing poses along with a meditation practice, also reflects this same journey and can help us achieve a higher vision and form for ourselves, both on and off our mats.
And, while there are many more pose approaches associated with each Chakra, there is also overlap, as one pose can correlate to two or more Chakras. For example, Urdhva Dhanurasana [Wheel] can be connected to our Heart and Throat Chakras.