For the next couple of months in class (and here) we will be exploring the theme of “Energy” and all that it might encompass in terms of our practice and life. In the subtle anatomy of Yoga our body is made up of 5 sheaths called Koshas. One of these sheaths is Pranamaya Kosha – the energetic body – which bridges the physical body with the mind.
Our energetic body is made up of nadis (energy channels) of which there are said to be 72 000 in our body, chakras which are energy centres or wheels that relate to and affect different areas of the physical body but also mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of us. There are also marmas – energy zones on the surface of the body – similar to acupressure points in TCM. These marmas are like pranic (energy) switches that can help us control our energy using yoga, massage and pressure point therapy. The marmas are where the nadis enter the physical tissues of the body.
Those newer to their yoga practice may find it difficult to sense the movements and workings of the subtle body but over time our sensitivity increases and we can feel into and experience that we are made of energy. It baffles me that although we know this scientifically it is still seen as “cosmic” in mainstream medical circles. Last year when I mentioned to a doctor my high sensitivity and how I can take on the energy of those around me he didn’t know how to respond and actually mocked me, using his fingers to denote inverted commas when he talked about “energy”. He didn’t get it. And I live in a place where people are very open to alternative concepts. I was shocked.
At the basic level we can tap into how we feel in terms of being “energetic” or “lethargic” – a great starting point for our awareness. The next step perhaps is to notice what brings us energy – true and lasting energy (ie not caffeine or sugar!) – and what depletes us. This could be food, surroundings, sights, sounds, what we watch and listen to and who we hang out with – start to take note.
Many of us feel amazing after practising yoga and it often feels like it’s on a very deep level, on a level beyond language – the kind of impact where you just have to feel it to know it.
We feel open and connected to life – there’s not much else that I do that gets me so in tune. This is because we are not just working the physical body (in the way we do when we go to the gym). Yes we strengthen and lengthen our muscles, maybe work up a sweat but the other practices such as breathing practices (pranayama), dharana (concentration), mudra (hand gestures) and mantra all work on those deeper, subtler layers of our being. Space is created for energy to flow more freely because if energy is stagnant or leaking or there are blockages in the channels then imbalance and disease result.
Each week over the next couple of months we will focus on a different chakra (energy centre) and its associated body parts, seed sound, element, colour, yantra (visual representation) and poses that specifically facilitate flow and openness to create overall balance. This week we start with Muladhara – the root. Located at the base of the spine in the sacral plexus.
When Muladhara is in balance we feel grounded and content in our own skin. Physically we are energised and in good health – we live with stability on all levels.
When our root energy centre is weak or blocked we feel spacey, anxious and unsatisfied. Problems with our feet, legs, knees and bones are common and sciatica can be a symptom. Lower digestive issues such as constipation and haemorrhoids can occur.
In some people this chakra is over-developed. Too much of the earth element (the element associated with this chakra) can lead to being set in your ways, physically stiff, over-accumulating “stuff” (hoarding) as well as being vulnerable emotionally when unexpected events arise.
Which do you relate to here? Maybe your root energy is in great shape or perhaps you identify with some symptoms of being under or overdeveloped. Start to observe over the next week and stay tuned for my next post (or come to class) for some strategies to support the balancing of Muladhara.