Have you ever sworn at your yoga teacher whilst she/he counts S L O W L Y to eight in Boat Pose (Navasana)? Felt ecstatic in a deep backbend? Or shed a tear in Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)?
Most of us have some kind of mental and emotional reaction to the shapes we put our bodies into during yoga class. Usually we just go with the flow. But once in a while certain poses trigger us.
As an example Boat Pose (Navasana) is a tough pose for most of us. Physically it is highly demanding but on an energetic level it connects us to our core and the Navel centre (Manipura Chakra). This is the place of fire. It is associated with power, self-esteem, self-awareness, ego, anger, ambition. It may be physically hard but it triggers emotions too. Has your ego taken a knock? Are you feeling empowered? A bit too ambitious - or do you have no fire at your core?
We can think of Chakras as centres that connect our body, mind, emotions and energy. So when we move our bodies into specific shapes we create a link to our mind, emotions and energetic expression.
Let's have a look at the other Chakras:
The Root Chakra (Muladhara) is associated with stability, trust, security and shelter. In our body this can be our roots e.g. feet, legs and pelvic floor. Are you grounded in your practise and do you feel supported?
Sensuality, sexuality, taste, pleasure, motions and emotions are associated with the Sacral Chakra (Swadisthana). The physical area is the pelvis and hips. Most of us experience tightness here due to a sedentary lifestyle. But many of us are also restricted as we hold on to emotions, we are too busy too allow ourselves to feel and too stressed to enjoy sensuality and pleasure. Hip-opening yoga poses like Pigeon Pose is a great relief for this kind of "holding on".
Our heart is all about love, devotion and compassion. But if we are hunching our shoulders or rounding the back how can we open our hearts to love? To feel fully, takes courage. Backbends can feel frightening and confrontational - what are we afraid to feel? Backbends, or "heart-opening poses", can also feel exhilarating and extremely joyful.
Expression and speaking our truth are connected to the Throat Centre (Vishuddhi Chakra). Sounding our breath either in a subtle Ujjayi Pranayama, a loud Lion's Breath or chanting offer an opportunity to express our inner voice. So does poses that move our neck; neck rolls or poses such as Shoulder Stand (Salamba Sarvangasana).
Intuition, dreams and visions are held at our Third Eye or Ajna Chakra. Close your eyes and dare to dream, see your visions as if they are already happening... Do you dare to trust your intuition?
The Crown of our head is associated with the Sahasara Chakra, the link to our divine nature and bliss. This might appear when we are totally observed by one activity, when we mediate and when we dance in ecstasy. This connection is the aim of Yoga. The challenge is to let go of our attachments and our mundane habits. What are you holding on to that you no longer need? Are you afraid to live your Truth?
We can use our yoga practise to explore how we react when confronted with challenging emotions. And to find out what triggers us. The yoga mat can act as a safe sanctuary to explore feelings we may otherwise shy away from or reactions that usually explode without a second thought. It can be a place where we learn to respond rather than react.