Yoga and the Chakras: Focus on the Navel Chakra
Part of the practice of yoga is recognizing the chakras, which are a fundamental aspect of achieving inner peace and balance. Chakra is the Sanskrit word for ‘wheel’ and there are seven chakras arranged vertically in the body from the base of the spine to the top of the head. Chakras are thought of as spinning vortexes of energy that, when balanced, lead to higher consciousness and peace.
The Navel Chakra (Manipura Chakra)
This chakra is located on the spine directly behind the navel and is associated with the sense of belonging, mental understanding of emotions, personal power, self-esteem, stamina, success, and ego. The navel chakra is called Manipura in Sanskrit, with mani meaning ‘brilliant as a gem’, and manipura meaning ‘city of jewels’. It is symbolized by a bright yellow lotus flower with 10 dark blue petals. Within the yellow circle of the lotus flower is a red triangle signifying the fire region, while the petals signify dark rain clouds. Each petal of the manipura chakra represents the human tendencies: sadness, foolishness, delusion, disgust, fear, shame, treachery, jealousy, thirst, and spiritual ignorance.
Yellow is the color most commonly associated with the navel chakra and its element is fire. It is also related to the sense of sight and action of movement. It is believed by many Hindu followers to be the most basic form of intuition. Through it, size, shape, and color are used to vaguely ‘know’ something.
Physiologically, the navel chakra is associated with digestion and governs the upper abdomen, gallbladder, liver, kidneys, adrenal glands, small intestine, and stomach. A blocked or unbalanced navel chakra is manifested by such dysfunctions as: stomach ulcers, intestinal tumors, low blood pressure, adrenal imbalances, anorexia/bulimia (eating disorders), diabetes, and colon diseases. Emotionally, a person needing balance of the manipura chakra may lack self-esteem, have issues with self image and fear rejection, be unable to make decisions, be prone to anger, rage, and hostility, or be timid and depressed. Indeed, many of the physiological issues, such as eating disorders, are directly linked to the emotional complications of a navel chakra blockage or imbalance, such as issues with self image, fear of rejection, and lack of self-esteem.
A person with a balanced or open manipura chakra is energetic, confident, decisive, productive and intelligent, with good digestion and mental focus.
The navel chakra works directly with another minor chakra located in the chest, called the surya (sun) chakra. The surya chakra’s main role is to absorb prana (life force) from the sun. The navel chakra then radiates the prana throughout the body. This radiation is reflected in the navel chakra’s role in the endocrine system of the body. It is associated with the pancreas and adrenal glands which create hormones involved in digestion, converting food into energy for the physical body, much like prana is energy for spiritual body.
Asana for Manipura
Here are three asana that will help you to open and balance the navel chakra:
Boat Pose (Navasana)
This pose is an abdominal strengthener. The navasana stimulates the navel chakra causing it to open. When the chakra is unbalanced, the boat pose restores strength and balance throughout the entire stomach region.
How to do it: Sit with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and hands on your thighs. With your torso straight and head in line with your body (imagine your spine to the crown of your head is a straight pole) lean back about 45 degrees. Raise your feet so your calves are parallel to the floor, with your toes pointed. On the inhale, extend your arms and legs (keeping your legs together). Exhale, and on the next inhale, lower your torso and legs so your body forms a wider V shape. Exhale and raise torso and legs and repeat three to five times.
Warrior I Pose (Virabhadrasana I)
This pose stretches the arms and shoulders and strengthens the legs and lower back. It was named for the mythic warrior Vibabhadra and is invokes feelings of strength and power. This is a heat building pose that stimulates the navel chakra.
How to do it: Begin by standing up straight and then extending your left leg 1 to 1.5 meters behind you (depending on how long your legs are). Bend your knee so that it is directly above the ankle and a 90 degree angle is formed. With head, shoulders, and knees pointed forward and left foot turned in slightly, raise your arms above your head, palms facing one another and fingers pointed to the sky as you inhale. Look up at the ceiling. As you exhale, relax your shoulders and hold this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Lower your arms to your sides and bring your left leg slowly back in to reverse the position. Extend your right leg back and repeat the pose.
Sun Salutation (Suryanamaskar)
This is a continuous series of 12 poses which help improve strength and flexibility of the spinal column and muscles. Its name comes from its ability to warm the core of your body and tone the abdominals, the primary region of the navel chakra. It is best performed with deep breaths and steady focus.
How to do it: Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bring your palms together in the prayer position and exhale slowly. On the inhale, raise your arms overhead with your palms together. On the exhale, bend forward so your hands touch your feet. On the next inhale, step your right leg back, arch your spine and lift your chin. Exhale, and step your left leg back in a plank position (with spine and legs in a straight line). Lower your knees, your chest, and then your forehead. Keep your hips up and toes curled. Inhale while stretching forward and then bending back. Keep your arms straight. Exhale while curling your toes under, pressing down on your heels, and lifting your hips. On the next inhale, bring your right leg forward and lift your chin. Exhale and bend forward until your hands touch your feet. Inhaling, stretch your arms over your head and slowly bend backward from your waist.