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Balancing the Seven Chakras to Improve Self Awareness by Nikki Donoghue

Beginning Sunday, April 11, I will be diving into the seven chakras over seven weeks in my Yoga Nidra class. Each week we will explore a new chakra beginning with the root chakra at the base of the spine and ending with the crown chakra located at the top of the head. What follows is a basic introduction to the chakras, their origins, some related terms, and their meanings.

Chakras were first described thousands of years ago in the Hindu scriptures called The Vedas. Chakra means wheels of energy. These wheels deal with the flow of energy in the body and are described in the Vedas as focused areas, or vortices, of high, expansive energy in multiple locations in the body. The chakras are associated with the major nerve networks running from the brain, down the spine via the vagus nerve and through the glands responsible for hormone production that are responsible for the general function of the body.

In total, there are said to be 114 chakras in the body, but just seven main chakras spanning from the base of the spine to the crown of the head that follow the curvature of the spine. The nadis, which translates as rivers in Sanskrit, are connected to the seven chakras and are the vessels through which energy flows - from the chakras to the rest of the body.

Each chakra corresponds to various aspects of our bodies including the physical mody, the mental body, our emotional states, and our essential consciousness. Together, they provide a basis for wholeness and growth.

The Root Chakra

Sanskrit name: Muladhara Chakra Location: Base of spine, tailbone area Color: Red Element: Earth Responsible for: Foundation, safety, survival, connection to the earth, attachment versus authenticity, fear and trust. Signs of balance: Being authentic. Feeling safe enough to take risks in your life that are fully aligned with who you are and what you want. Signs of imbalance: Confusion about what is safe and what is not. Inability to trust. Life decisions driven by fear. Inauthenticity. 3 Tools to Balance the Root Chakra

  • Walking barefoot outdoors.

  • Visualizing the roots of a tree extending from the base of your spine deep into the center of the earth.

  • Standing in mountain pose for 3-5 minutes.

The Sacral Chakra Sanskrit name: Svadhisthana Chakra Location: Below the navel Color: Orange Element: Water Responsible for: Emotional development. Finding stillness in discomfort, understanding the impermanence of pleasure and pain, equanimity, creativity and sexuality. Signs of balance: Having the ability to feel emotions and express them without reacting to them or being overly driven by them. Tolerance for discomfort. Willingness to see one’s own blindspots. Signs of imbalance: People-pleasing behavior, being overly emotional or emotionally guarded, living in denial, difficulty with intimate relationships. 3 Tools to Balance the Sacral Chakra:

  • Vipassana meditation.

  • Create something (e.g. drawing, painting, writing) for the sake of creativity. Do not share the finished product with anyone other than yourself. Completely detach from whether the finished product is “good” or “bad”. You can even throw it away!

  • Partner activity: place one hand on your partner’s heart and have your partner place one hand on your heart. Gaze into each other’s eyes, and breathe slowly and deeply together for 7 minutes.

The Solar Plexus Chakra Sanskrit name: Manipura Chakra Location: Just above the navel Color: Yellow Element: Fire Responsible for: The development of the ego, our sense of identity, discerning what we want to assimilate into the body, the energetic field and what we want to eliminate, worthiness, self-acceptance. Signs of balance: Self-confidence, feeling empowered, the will and determination to exceed expectations and limitations imposed by oneself and others, feeling worthy of love and greatness. Signs of imbalance: Self-limiting beliefs that make you feel small. Insecurity, excessive judgement of oneself and others, shame, overly opinionated, anger. 3 Tools to Balance the Solar Plexus Chakra:

  • Scream at the top of your lungs 3 times.

  • Do a forearm plank (or any core exercise) and hold it for 30 seconds longer than you think you can.

  • Write a list of all the things you judge yourself harshly for, then find something positive about each of those qualities or characteristics.

The Heart Chakra Sanskrit name: Anahata Location: Center of chest Color: Green. Element: Air Signs of balance: Ability to give and receive love in relationships, self compassion, living courageously. Signs of imbalance: Feelings of rejection, lack of compassion toward oneself and others, recurrent self-sabotage. 3 Tools to Balance the Heart Chakra:

  • Daily gratitude practice.

  • Loving-kindness meditation.

  • Write a love letter to yourself and read it to yourself in front of the mirror.

The Throat Chakra Sanskrit name: Vishuddha Chakra Location: Center of neck Color: Blue Element: Ether Responsible for: Transmitting thought into form or manifestation, expressing one’s truth, communication. Signs of balance: Ability to manifest your dreams, clear communication skills, fearlessly and unapologetically expressing yourself. Signs of imbalance: Inability to create the things you want in your life, frequently feeling misunderstood, guilt. 3 Tools to Balance the Throat Chakra:

  • Chanting a mantra, such as “Sat Nam” for 3-11 minutes. “Sat Nam” means I am truth. You can also make up a mantra- a phrase that feels true for you.

  • Remove the words “should, but, can’t, shouldn’t, trying, and figure out” from your vocabulary.

  • Sing!

The Third Eye Chakra Sanskrit name: Ajna Chakra Location: Between the eyebrows Color: Indigo or Violet Element: None Responsible for: Clarity, intuition, psychic ability, greater perspective, archetypes, ability to see that identity is dynamic. Signs of balance: Foresight, perspective, wisdom, intuition, vivid dreams, aging with ease. Signs of imbalance: Indecision, short-sightedness, lack of empathy, inability to relate to others. 3 Tools to Balance the Third Eye Chakra:

  • Keep a dream journal.

  • Take an acting class.

  • Cranial sacral therapy.

The Crown Chakra Sanskrit name: Sahasrara Location: Crown of the head, or just above Color: Violet or white. Element: None Responsible for: Connection to the macrocosm, oneness, the great cycles of the universe and the biorhythms of the body. Signs of balance: Sense of oneness in the world, connection to something bigger than yourself, feeling a sense of purpose. Signs of imbalance: Social isolation, disconnection, lack of purpose, lack of inspiration. 3 Tools to Balance the Crown Chakra:

  • Get into nature. Let the vastness of nature move you.

  • Volunteer work.

  • Try adjusting your sleep schedules to the rhythms of light. Wake up at sunrise and go to sleep as soon as it’s dark outside.

According to the Vedas, our bodies are simply vehicles for our soul or our true selves. Just as one learns to take care of a vehicle through an owner’s manual, we can learn how to holistically care for our bodies too. Yoga provides us with an abundance of tools and methods to help us activate wholeness and health by balancing the chakras, When our chakras are in balance, we feel fit, healthy and harmonious. When they are not in balance, we may feel disorientated, uncomfortable and lethargic.

By developing our intuition through the practices suggested above, we gain insights into what is going on in our chakra system or energy centers and we can learn to fine tune them accordingly. If in doubt, seek further advice from someone that is experienced in this field such as an ayurvedic practitioner or reiki practitioner.

I look forward to embarking on this exploration of the seven chakras with you over the next seven weeks!

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