“The energy of the mind is the essence of life. Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
-Aristotle

 

As a Yoga practitioner when we ascend to the seventh stage of Eightfold Yoga i.e. Meditation, we are advised to concentrate on an object or on our breath. Focusing attention on either of them brings us a peaceful and stable mind as well as the state of awareness. In order to gain the most benefits from Meditation one should try to concentrate on the different unseen Chakras present in our subtle body from the bottom of the spine to the top of the head. These Chakras help us to discover more about our individual and collective purpose.

The word Chakra literally means “Wheel” in Sanskrit. Life depends on the energy which we derive from our surroundings, including various things (living and non-living). This energy could be positive or negative one. A human body has a natural tendency to absorb those energies and thus life becomes energy by itself. All the physical and mental activities of our body are controlled by energy. There is an in-built energy system in our body that keeps the body activities going easily and uninterrupted.

The energy is derived from the imaginary wheels which are the transmitters of energy are called Chakras. Sometimes, it is called the power house or storage house of energy. Chakras are energizing wheels of light and color. They have seven colors (color of a rainbow) and they radiate light. The combination of these colors and lights forms our Aura.

Types of chakras

In Yogic terms, there are seven main chakras are in the human body. These imaginary chakras remain dormant and imbalance until it is awakened through spiritual practices. Each of these seven chakras is found in one straight line from the bottom of the spine to the top of the head.

They are as follows: Mooladhar Chakra, Swadhisthana chakra, Manipura Chakra, Anahat Chakra, Vishuddhi Chakra, Ajna Chakra and Sahasrara Chakra.

The first three Chakras, starting at the base of the spine can be described as the Chakras of the matter, means they are more physical in nature. The last four Chakras can be termed as the Chakras of the spirit. The fourth Chakra in the middle of them works as a bridge to connect the Chakras of matter to the Chakras of spirit.

These seven energy swirling wheels have their own individual traits. For instance, the seven main chakras are all different in colors. These colors match up to the colors of the rainbow (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet) going from bottom to top.

Unbalanced state of Chakras

All chakras are inter-related, despite the fact that they run over various characteristics and functions. If one chakra is unbalanced, it could be due to the chakra below it being unbalanced. They work individually and collectively at the same time. If our energy centers become blocked or worn-out then our body cannot act in a proper way and this, in turn, can give birth to a series of problems on any level. When one or more of the chakras are in a state of imbalance, the mind/body health becomes compromised since imbalanced chakras are those that have blocks. A blockage in the chakra originates from traumatic or negative experiences during a lifetime that have not been discharged. Negative thoughts or belief patterns will also cause blocks. The above mentioned psychosomatic conflicts are a result of insufficient energy being flowed to and within the chakra, due to blockages.

In the following content, we will discuss about the different types of Chakras and learn how to balance them by the help of Yogasanas.

The Seven Chakras

Here’s a brief description of the 7 most significant Chakras and how to recognize if one of them is blocked or unbalanced. The different types of Asanas (poses) are also listed here in order to get them balanced and unblocked.

Mooladhar Chakra • Root Chakra

Color:  Red

Element:  Earth

Location:  Base of the Spine.

Objective:  It relates to the physical body and connection to the Earth. Just like a foundation, it is the chakra of stability, security, and our basic needs; and is concerned with the basics of survival: food, shelter, safety, comfort and belonging. It encompasses the first three vertebrae, the bladder, and the colon.

When the Root Chakra is unbalanced:  You may feel “stuck and sluggish” and just can’t seem to move forward in life.  You may feel ungrounded and self-rejected. This frequently happens following traumatic events, financial problems, family problems, death of a loved one, and major life changes.  A blockage in the root chakra prevents the release of grief, guilt, and sadness, contributing the inability to move forward and preventing you from following your destiny.

Balancing through Asana (Poses):  Padmasana (Lotus Pose), Shashankasana (Hare Pose), Tadasana (Mountain Pose), Vrikshasana (Tree Pose), Virbhadrasana (worrier Pose), Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knees Pose) and Padhastasana (Hand under Foot Pose).

When the Root Chakra is balanced:   You feel safe and secured, release negative emotions, regenerate confidence and strong will power to move forward in life. A balanced Chakra encourages you to explore new potential, find your life’s purpose and achieve success. A balanced Root Chakra is also responsible for generating flow of energy to all other Chakras.

Swadhisthana Chakra • Sacral Chakra

Color:  Orange

Element:  Water

Location:  Below the navel.

Objective:   It is associated with our connection to the other people, creativity, energy, confidence, and sexual health.

When the Sacral Chakra is unbalanced:   You may feel a lack of energy flow throughout the entire body and also extremely lethargic and unmotivated for life leading to sadness, loneliness, and mild depression. You may experience difficulty allowing yourself to become emotionally and sexually intimate. Sometimes, you may feel abused, hurt and confused.

Balancing through Asana (Poses):  Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose), Rajkapotasana (King Pigeon Pose), Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), Naukasana (Boat Pose) and Utkatasana (Chair Pose).

When the Sacral Chakra is balanced:  You feel energized and confident in all aspects of your life. You feel inspired and are able to express your creativity. You are able to live in the moment and experience life to the fullest.  Physical tasks become easier while stamina increases. You radiate positive energy that attracts people towards you.

Manipura Chakra • Solar Plexus Chakra

Color:  Yellow

Element:  Fire

Location:  Above the navel and two inches below the breastbone.

Objective:  It relates to transition from simple to complex emotion, energy, dynamism, will-power, assimilation and digestion. It is also associated with our physical center, personal power, desire, inner-strength, instincts, and “gut” feelings.

When the Solar Plexus Chakra is unbalanced:  You may feel very stressed all the time that results in poor memory and lack of concentration. You feel like a victim in the world and often feel powerless. You will find it difficult to follow your gut feelings, leaving you in distress and discomfort.

Balancing through Asana (Poses):  Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), Mayurasana (Peacock Pose), Salbhasana (Locust Pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Parivritta Trikonasana (Revolved Angle Pose), Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose), and Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend Pose).

Some Kriyas like Agnisaar, Nauli and Kapalbhati.

When the Solar Plexus Chakra is balanced:  Balancing and opening the solar plexus chakra enables you to feel focused in your mind, body, and spirit. You will feel relaxed and comfortable in your own skin.  The energy of this chakra permeates to the other chakras and influences them positively. It allows you to be more aware of your own energy and being, comfortable in your decisions, and psychologically connected to your “gut” feelings so that you may act accordingly with confidence.

Anahat Chakra • Heart Chakra

Color:  Green

Element:  Air

Location:  Center of Chest.

Objective:  The heart chakra is our source of love and compassion. Love doesn’t mean only love for others; it also applies to self-love and self-acceptance. The heart chakra is the focal point of your spirit as well as the focal point of the chakras, making it a vital energy center for our spiritual, mental, and physical well-being. It is associated with love, compassion, safety, trust, adventure, self-compassion, forgiveness, and relationships. It is referred as seat of balance within the body.

When the Heart Chakra is unbalanced:  You may feel detached from the world around you. It can lead to a disconnection from your loved ones, love for yourself, and love for your other belongings. You may face Problems in relationships and you tend to lose hope and trust.  You may lose sight of beauty, love, empathy, and compassion. You hold grudges and become needy in relationships, and this often leads to anger and distrust. A weak heart chakra can be at the root of heart disease, asthma, and allergies.

Balancing through Asana (Poses):  Ushtrasana (Camel Pose), Matsyasana (Fish Pose), Chakrasana (Wheel Pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose) and Rajkapotasana (King Pigeon Pose).

When the Heart Chakra is balanced:  Balancing and opening the heart chakra makes you feel secured and comfortable in your relationships, which enhance the love for self and others. It enables you to feel compassion, empathy, and forgiveness for others, and reconnects you to your surroundings. It prompts you to generate adventure and zest for life. Peace and harmony flourish in relationships with others and self.

Vishuddhi Chakra • Throat Chakra

Color:  Blue

Element:  Sound

Location:  Hollow of Throat.

Objective:  The throat chakra is associated with communication, expression, freedom, responsibility, and leadership. This is our source of verbal expression and the ability to speak our highest truth.

When the Throat Chakra is unbalanced:  You may feel you can’t convey verbally, physically, and emotionally. The throat chakra connects us to our ability to express ourselves, therefore creating a number of issues if this chakra is blocked or unbalanced. Severe injury in this area can cause this chakra to close, making it extremely hard to express one’s feelings and emotions.

Balancing through Asana (Poses):  Sirsasana (Head Stand Pose), Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand Pose), Halasana (Plough Pose), Matsyasana (Fish Pose), Singhasana (Lion Pose) and Viprita Karani (Half Shoulder Stand Pose).

When the Throat Chakra is balanced:  Balancing and opening the throat chakra enables you to express your emotions and communicate freely, without worry of criticism or judgment from self or others.  It promotes honesty and harmony with our feelings and actions, and encourages us to live more authentically and free.  A balanced throat chakra helps us with successful communication in relationships and at work, and is particularly useful to those with careers depending on communication and self-expression.

Ajna Chakra • Third Eye Chakra

Color:  Indigo

Element:  Light

Location:  Between the Eyebrows.

Objective:  The third-eye chakra is associated with the mind, ideas, thoughts, dreams, instincts and psychic abilities. It is also responsible for your sense of purpose in life, self-reflection, perception, discernment, and trust of your own intuition.

When the Third Eye Chakra is unbalanced:  You may feel assaulted with your own thoughts, unable to process them successfully and may feel stuck in an emotional and intellectual trench. You lose your feelings of instinct, making your judgment blurred and causing you to make poor choices. With a blocked third-eye chakra, you become closed to new ideas and fall off the paths of your true destiny. You get headaches and feel tension in your brow area often.

Balancing through Asana (Poses):  Vajrasana (Diamond Pose), Savasana (Corpse Pose), Garudasana (Eagle Pose), Makarasana (Crocodile Pose), Natrajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose), Hal asana (Plough Pose), Padmasana (Lotus Pose) and Yoga Mudra .

Some Kriyas are like Tratak and Kapalbhati.

When the Third Eye Chakra is balanced:  Balancing and opening the third-eye chakra promotes clarity, inspiration, and innovation.  It enables you to follow your dreams and enhances your natural psychic abilities and spiritual connections.  A balanced third-eye Chakra enables you to learn from your past, be present in the now, and see and achieve your future. You have a strong sense of your own inner truth and listen to and follow it as it guides you on your life path. Dream interpretation becomes easier, intuitions are stronger and clearer, and you feel a deeper connection to the universe.  This sense of being “guided” opens up doors of possibilities to achieving your goals.

Sahasrara Chakra • Crown Chakra

Color:  Violet

Element:  Thought

Location:  Top of the Head.

Objective:  This is the chakra of enlightenment and spiritual connection to our higher selves, others, and ultimately, to the divine. It is associated with God (or your particular belief system), spirituality, divine wisdom, enlightening, connection to the universe, imagination, awareness, and optimism. This is the connection between you and the divine. Your brain functions and central nervous system are controlled by the crown chakra.

When the Crown Chakra is unbalanced:  You feel disconnected from the spiritual side of life and as though you are living without any direction or purpose.  Since this chakra affects the six energy systems below, and consequently your entire being, a blocked crown chakra can lead to many psychosomatic diseases and ailments such as migraines, headaches, depression and other nervous system disorders and feelings of being lost and insignificance.

Balancing through Asana (Poses):  Siddhasana (Accomplished Pose), Savasana (Corpse Pose), Sirsasana (Head Stand Pose), Vrikshasana (Tree Pose), Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend Pose), Padmasana (Lotus Pose) and Anjali Mudra .

When the Crown Chakra is balanced:  You feel a strong spiritual connection with yourself, the universe, and God.  Energy entering and leaving the Crown facilitates your flow of positive energy with the other six chakras, and creates the outlook we hold on life. In other words, if you succeed to balance this chakra, you will lead to deep purification, transformation and rejuvenation in your life.

 

Authored by Shobha Gupta

Shobha is a passionate yogi, an ayurveda enthusiast and unlocking chakras mysteries is her favourite subject. Holding a degree in yoga science from the renowned Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga in India, she shares her knowledge about yoga, meditation and ayurveda on Giving Hands Reiki’s blog. If you would like to read more articles by Shobha, clic here. If you would like to write an article for our blog, please read our guest posting guidelines.

“There is one way of breathing that is shameful and constricted. Then there is another way: a breath of love that takes you all the way to infinity”.
–Rumi


The daily need for bread, cloth and shelter is well known truth of entire human race. One can afford to skip a meal, live under the tree for days and can manage with any type of cloth but to skip a breath is hardly possible. Thus, breath is essential to life or in other words we can say, ‘Breath is Life’.

According to many Yoga scriptures, body, mind and breath are inter-connected and can influence each other. Our breathing is influenced by our thoughts, and our thoughts and physiology can be influenced by our breath. Learning to breathe consciously and with awareness is the forth limb of Eightfold Yoga i. e. Pranayama, and it can be a valuable tool in helping to restore balance in the mind and body.

“Regulate the breathing, and thereby control the mind”.
-B. K. S. Iyengar

What is Pranayama?

Pranayama is the blend of two words, Prana and Ayama. Prana means life force, energy, vitality, breath or vigour and Ayama means to enhance, expand and extend Prana. Pranayama is a means to channel the breath for storing energy.

In human beings, Prana exists in the form of breath, respiration, life, vitality, energy and strength and Ayama means to extend, expand, lengthen, stretch or restraint. Therefore, Pranayama is extension, expansion and holding of breath. It is commonly known as the science of breath control.

We inhale and exhale but the breath moves in a zigzag manner. Practice of Pranayama regulates our breathing and makes it deep, smooth and fluent.

Pranayama is an important and integral part of eightfold Yoga. Generally, it is misunderstood as simple breathing exercise which is not true. It is more than simple exercise.

According to Yogic terminology, it is a systematic process by which one gains control over Prana (subtle life force). It is a voluntary effort to control and direct the Prana. Thus the word Pranayama means the expansion, control and extension of subtle life force.

Pranayama is also a very valuable exercise for the proper functioning of human body and its systems. By the regular practice of Pranayama the nerves and muscles which control the functions of the bowels and the kidneys are toned up and rendered healthier. It also influences the other systems and secures their efficient and harmonious working.

Prerequisites for practicing Pranayama

The practice of pranayama is vital for body, mind, brain, nervous system and overall health of an individual. One who begins the practice of pranayama, should do so only under the supervision of an expert. He must also know few precautions to overcome the obstacles during practice.

Place

Any place that is well-ventilated, free from irritating noises, mosquitoes and flies. A place where the basic necessities of life are readily available is suitable for the practice of Pranayama.

Environment, season and time

One should not begin the practice of Pranayama in the Winter (too cold), Summer (too hot) and Rainy season. If one begins the practice in these seasons, one may catch diseases. Therefore it should be commenced by the beginner in Spring and Autumn season. One attains success while doing so and keeps himself away from the diseases. Success is attained easily as both the seasons are favorable for keeping the body and mind in tune with external environment.

Measured and controlled diet

All aspect of human health – physical, mental and spiritual are very much affected by the food one takes. Purity of food leads to pure mind. Therefore one who takes pure and moderate diet surely gets success in his practice of Pranayama.

Seat and asana (posture)

The seat should be soft, thick and comfortable so the temperature of the floor should not penetrate through it. The practitioner should choose a posture in which he can sit for longer period in a relaxed manner without any discomfort and tension. However, Padmasana is considered as the most suitable posture for practicing Pranayama.

Physical and mental fitness

Practitioner should be physically fit and mentally prepared before practicing Pranayama. One should begin Pranayama practice after the age of 12 when almost all the systems, especially, respiratory system is fully developed to meet any resistance or pressure in holding the breath. Women should avoid the practice during pregnancy and menstrual cycle. A clear nasal passage is very important for the practice. Therefore, one must not be suffered from cold or cough during the practice.

Proper technique

It is necessary to practice Pranayama correctly and systematically under the guidance of a Yoga expert or instructor. Following the rules and regulations properly is advisable. If practice is irregular or incorrect it can be very harmful. Therefore, it is better not to practice at all.

Types of Pranayama, their benefices and a step by step practice guide.

Nadisodhana

This is one of the fundamental types of Pranayama. This practice is also known as Anuloma-viloma.
This pranayama balances Ida and Pingala, two of the most important nadis or energy channels, which criss-cross the central nadi and each of the chakras situated along the spine. It is an excellent relaxation technique for calming the mind and re-establish balance to the whole system. Nadi Shodhana also balances the two hemispheres of the brain. It improves mental focus by clearing out blocked energy channels in the body. If you have time for only one Pranayama, opt for this one.

Steps to follow:

  1. Sit in any comfortable meditative posture, preferably Padmasana.
  2. Keep the head and spine erect.
  3. Close the eyes and pay attention to the breath.
  4. Close the right nostril with the thumb.
  5. Inhale through the left nostril for 5 seconds.
  6. After 5 seconds of inhaling, release the pressure of thumb from the right nostril and press the left nostril with the ring finger, blocking the flow of air.
  7. Fully exhales through the right nostril for 5 seconds, keeping the respiration rate slow, deep and silent.
  8. Repeat the same steps for the right nostril.
  9. Repeat 5-10 cycles, allowing your mind to follow your inhales and exhales.

Note: Make sure that there is no sound when the air passes through the nostrils.

Surya Bhedana

The purpose of the right nostril breathing is to increase the pranic and physical energy and to revitalize the body. It boosts the nervous system, especially the sympathetic nervous system and also increases the efficiency of the digestive system.

Steps to follow:

  1. Sit in Padmasana. Close the eyes. Keep the left nostril closed with your ring and little fingers.
  2. Slowly inhale without making any sound as long as you can do it comfortably through the right nostril.
  3. Then close the right nostril with your right thumb and retain the breath firmly pressing the chin against the chest.
  4. Then exhale very slowly without making any sound through the left nostril by closing the right nostril with the thumb.

Note: It should not be done by people suffering from high blood pressure.

Ujjayi

Ujjayi breath is especially good for settling agitation or stress and balancing the mind. Use this pranayama whenever you find yourself becoming aggravated or stressed. You should notice its soothing effect rapidly. Try focusing on Ujjayi breathing while practicing yoga to help you stay focused and centered as you flow from one posture to the next. This pranayama encourages free flow of prana and increases feelings of presence, self-awareness, and meditative qualities.

Steps to follow:

  1. Sit in Padmasana.
  2. Close the mouth and gently constrict the back of your throat as you Inhale slowly through both the nostrils in a smooth, uniform manner till the breath fills the space from the throat to the heart.
  3. Retain the breath as long as one can do it comfortably and then exhale slowly while gently constricting the muscle at the back of your throat to get the ‘‘ocean sound’’

Note: People who are suffering from hypertension and cardiac disorders should not practice this Pranayama.

Sitkari

Besides building breath awareness, Sitkari cools the body and adds moisture to the system. This pranayama also helps to calm hunger and thirst and cultivate a love for solitude. In ayurveda, it soothes a pitta imbalance which is common during summer. In addition, this practice reduces fevers, fatigue and high blood pressure.

Steps to follow:

  1. Sit in Padmasanaand close the eyes.
  2. Touch the palate with the tongue closely.
  3. Close both the jaws with their teeth closely, keeping the lips open.
  4. Draw in the air through the mouth with the hissing sound “Si”.
  5. Retain the breath as long as one can hold on with comfort.
  6. Then exhale slowly through both nostrils.

Sitali

Sitali Pranayama is often referred as “the cooling breath”. Like Sitkari, its practice is said to have a cooling and calming effect on the nervous system.

Steps to follow:

  1. Sit in Padmasanaand close the eyes.
  2. Bend the tongue from their extreme ends so as to form a cylindrical shape.
  3. Inhale through mouth filling the lungs with air to their maximum capacity.
  4. Retain the air as long as one can.
  5. Then close the mouth and exhale through the nostrils.

Note: Those who are suffering from cold, cough or tonsillitis should not do this.

Bhastrika

Whenever you feel sluggish, try this energetic breathing to give you an energy boost and clarify your mind. Bhastrika pranayama produces heat thus detoxify and energize the body. It also tones the abdominal muscles and the digestive system. Bhastrika balance the doshas and their associated humours: phlegm for Kapha, bile for Pitta and wind for Vata. This pranayama balances the nervous system, calm the mind and prepare it for meditation.

How to perform Bhastrika Pranayama:

  1. Sit in Padmasana relax your shoulders, breath in and out from your nose. When inhaling, expand your belly fully.
  2. Close the mouth. Exhale forcefully through your nose. Quickly followed by a forceful inhale at the rate of one second per cycle. Inhale and exhale quickly ten times.
  3. Make sure the breath is coming from your diaphragm; keep you body still while your belly moves in and out. Take a deep breath through both nostrils then rest for a while, breathing naturally.
  4. Continue with a second cycle of 20 Bhastrika breaths, then a third and final one of 30 Bhastrika breaths.
  5. Inhale deeply and exhale completely.

Note: Those suffering from lungs and heart problems and high blood pressure should perform it slowly.

Bhramari

Bhramari uses sound and breath to calm the mind and nervous system by directing the mind inwards as the eyes and ears are closed. Bhramari breath is helpful if you are feeling anxious or unsettled and also improves concentration and memory. It relieves tension in the brain thus appease headaches, reduces anger and irritability.

How to perform Bhramari Pranayama:

  1. Sit in Padmasana and close the eyes.
  2. Keep the mouth closed and deeply inhale.
  3. While exhaling make a humming sound.
  4. In order to get more benefits close both the ears with thumbs and exhale out making the humming sound of the bee.

Benefits of Pranayama

  • It increases the digestion and assimilation of food.
  • It improves the quality of the blood and expands oxygen in the lungs. This helps in the elimination of toxins from the system.
  • It improves the health of the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, nerve centers and nerves because of expanded oxygenation.
  • It rejuvenates the glands, especially the pituitary and pineal glands.
  • It rejuvenates the skin. The skin becomes smoother and reduces the facial wrinkles.
  • The movement of the diaphragm during the deep breathing exercise massages the abdominal organs and the heart by increasing the blood circulation.
  • The lungs expand and become healthy and powerful.
  • Deep, slow breathing during the practice of Pranayama reduces blood pressure and heart diseases.
  • It helps in the weight control. The extra oxygen burns the fat more efficiently. If one is under weight, the extra oxygen feeds the starving tissues and glands.
  • In addition to this supply of oxygen to the brain cells reduces anxiety levels.

    Authored by Shobha Gupta

    Shobha is a passionate yogi, an ayurveda enthusiast and unlocking chakras mysteries is her favourite subject. Holding a degree in yoga science from the renowned Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga in India, she shares her knowledge about yoga, meditation and ayurveda on Giving Hands Reiki’s blog. If you would like to read more articles by Shobha, clic here. If you would like to write an article for our blog, please read our guest posting guidelines.

Photo: Escola Humaniversidade