Yoga is a practice used to harmonize the body with mind and breath through a series of physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. At the beginning of each yoga class, it is common to set an intention for the practice, which acts as a metaphor to translate your practice off your mat and into your life. Specifically, an intention brings awareness to a quality or virtue you wish to cultivate both on and off your mat. Examples include love, forgiveness, letting go, self-compassion, grounding, and balance. This intention can ultimately be a vehicle that makes yoga an aspect of your lifestyle, rather than something you do just for exercise.
Chakras are energy centers within your body that are responsible for balancing the different dimensions of your being. Yoga postures evolved as a means to open and balance the chakras with different poses targeting different chakras. Depending on the intention that is set at the beginning of the practice, if the intention coincides with a specific chakra, certain postures can be used to help open that chakra and solidify the intention. Alignment within the chakras can also help to resolve emotional and physical problems within the body.
Below are the seven chakras in the body, what openness or balance within the chakra cultivates in life, and the different postures that function to open that chakra.
1. First chakra (Muladhara):
- The root chakra is located at the base of the body
- When balanced cultivates grounding, safety, and stability.
- Standing postures such as mountain pose help to open this chakra and decrease fear.
2. Second chakra (Svadhisthana):
- Located approximately four fingers distance below the navel, the sacral chakra is responsible for healthy sexuality.
- Hip openers such as pigeon pose help to open this chakra and resolve issues around intimacy or reproduction.
3. Third chakra (Manipura):
- This chakra is located in the solar plexus and is responsible for self-esteem and will power.
- Twisting postures such as seated spinal twist help to open this chakra and support healthy social roles.
4. Fourth chakra (Anahata):
- Commonly referred to as the heart chakra and located in the center of the chest, this chakra governs love, compassion, acceptance, and trust.
- Back bends such as cobra are referred to as heart openers because they open this chakra and allow for unconditional love.
5. Fifth chakra (Vishuddha):
- This chakra is located in the throat and is responsible for communication, inspiration, and expression.
- Some forward bends such as child’s pose relax and open this chakra and cultivate open and honest communication.
6. Sixth chakra (Ajna):
- Located at the level of the third eye between the eyebrows, this chakra is responsible for focus and intelligence, and intuition.
- Balancing postures such as tree pose can bring this chakra into alignment and allow unconscious and conscious thoughts to merge.
7. Seventh chakra (Sahasrara):
- This is called the crown chakra and is located at the top of the head. It is responsible for spiritual understanding, selflessness, and devotion.
- Inversions such as head stand can open this chakra and support connection with the universe.
Marie K. Holowaychuk, DVM, DACVECC is a small animal emergency and critical care specialist and certified yoga and meditation teacher who also has an invested interest in the health and well-being of veterinary professionals. She organizes Veterinary Wellness Workshops & Retreats for veterinarians, technicians, and other veterinary care providers. To sign up for newsletters containing information regarding these events and veterinary wellness topics, please click here. More information can be found at www.criticalcarevet.ca/wellness.