Grounding & Pleasure: Our Journey Begins. (Chakras 1 & 2)

Via on Jan 4, 2012

Welcome to the first installment of this series on yoga and the chakras:

Grounding and Pleasure.

We begin our journey at the source of life itself – your potent and powerful pelvis. This is is where we sit, these are the legs we stand upon, this is the earth beneath us, this is our (perhaps untapped) capacity for ecstatic pleasure and full bodied aliveness.

Can you stand up for yourself? Do you feel grounded in your body, your life and in reality itself? Are you in touch both with healthy aggression and the capacity to surrender into the trust required to experience ecstatic pleasure?

The chakra system can be a powerful doorway into the inner life. The way I use it is two-fold: as a way to describe the stages of development we all go through, and as a map of how the mind lives in the body.

Unique and intrinsic to my approach is the concept of “high charge” muscles that can be directly addressed through yoga, touch and breath.

These are the muscles that we tend to contract in response to an emotion or experience that overwhelms or scares us. Over time these become tension patterns and form a kind of “body armor” in which the story of our lives is written.

These tensions can also directly contribute to symptoms like low back pain, sciatica, hamstring injuries and hip tightness. Sequencing yoga poses (or bodywork techniques) using this map can be a very effective key to unlocking genuine transformation.

But far from being either a fanciful woo-woo belief system or a dry intellectual theory – these ideas point the way to an actual experience that is grounded in the body and that relies upon your own emotional intelligence to reveal insight, meaning, healing and growth.

Yoga practice (and massage/bodywork) can be a powerful alchemical vessel for working with the energies of the inner life, but again – before you get the impression that I mean something too far out, I will ask the question: what do we mean by energy?

Energy is your life force. The pulsing of your heart, the streaming of your blood, the rhythm of your breath, the radiant intelligence of your nervous system, the exquisitely attuned subtlety of the endocrine system’s sacred biochemistry.

It moves us, as in the impulses toward love and creativity, self-preservation and self-actualization. It moves through us as emotion, sensation, thought, intuition; indeed all the rolling waves of experience as they ebb and flow.

The more we are able to ride those waves, the more fluid and open our energy becomes.

Think of the first chakra as being the place inside you that holds your capacity to be fully embodied, and to know that you have a right to be here and to take pleasure in your own existence.  “I exist.” “I will survive.”

On a purely instinctive level we experience the primal pairing of pain and pleasure; pain signals the necessity of self-preservation, and may give rise to fear or anger. In it’s healthy form, pain is an ally as are it’s successors fear and anger. Fear may urge us to run, to get out of danger when that is appropriate. Anger may make us stand up and fight, to hold our ground when that is appropriate.

When we are safe, when we experience a mastery of our situation, when we are well fed, when we are amongst those we trust, there is a sense of pleasure. This pleasure can be amplified in the safe container of sacred space to expand into an embodied ecstasy and bliss through the breath and movement of yoga and dance, the stillness of meditation, the surrender into receiving massage or the cycles of arousal and release in sexual experience – which is also the source of our lives.

Think of the second chakra as that place in you that holds the capacity for relationship. From “I exist” we move now to “I exist in relationship.” Where there was one, now there are two.

Who do I trust, and how do I feel about being a boy or a girl and relating to other boys and girls, as well as those archetypal male and female presences: Mommy and Daddy?

Further, how does my family and society relate to me as a boy or a girl – and what patterning does that create around emotions, selfhood and sexuality?

Has my trust been betrayed, have I learned to trust the wrong person, and to mistrust healthy love, have I been shamed or devalued about my body, my sexuality or gender?

Healing and integration are an essential piece of the puzzle as we work with the chakra system. Processing through unresolved traumas and unintegrated emotions is the most powerful doorway I know of into deeply grounded self-acceptance and genuine intimacy.

In truly effective energetic process there are physical and emotional releases, tears, trembling, powerful sensations, unwinding of deeply held tension, insights and reclaiming of power.

This is for me the heart of the matter, the most beautiful and essential aspect of an authentic spirituality – in the midst of these kinds of experiences there is a direct knowing of your true nature and a glimpse of liberated embodied awareness. We have such potential!

Think of these two energy centers (chakras) as representing the pelvis and low back/belly and all the life processes that go on in these areas. Each chakra correlates with a nerve plexus (a bundle of nerves that emerges from the spine) and key organs and endocrine glands.

Think of the mind as the interior experience of the body – this is a journey through becoming more familiar with your embodied mind.

Try this right now: After you read this, close your eyes and bring attention to your breath. Feel the breath as it rises and falls and become as aware as you can of your sensations. Feel all the way through your body, noticing especially where your pelvis is held by gravity to whatever you are sitting upon. Feel too your capacity to be grounded in your body and alive to pleasure of your existence. Next, as you breathe relax deep in your hips and all through your belly and low back, and imagine just letting the energy of your life force circulate freely from these areas through your whole body.

Try it! Close your eyes for a minute or two… let me know in the comments section below how this feels.

I want to invite you to join me on my new Facebook page, please “like” it and subscribe! You are also invited to my workshop series starting January 27 and please check out my Radical Transformation CD set based on this chakra journey. Stay tuned for an installment each month January through April, coinciding with the workshops!

About Julian Walker

Julian Walker is the founder of http://www.yogateachergradschool.com/ where he supports new and established yoga teachers in living their dreams through business development. He is a writer who has been teaching yoga since 1994, and co-teaches the Awakened Heart, Embodied Mind Yoga Teacher Training in LA with Hala Khouri.Julian's writing is featured in the book 21st Century Yoga available on Amazon.com. www.julianwalkeryoga.com

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13 Responses to “Grounding & Pleasure: Our Journey Begins. (Chakras 1 & 2)”

  1. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
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  2. Padma Kadag says:

    Julian…as you may have seen, I have already made a comment regarding your use of Chakras in one of your recent posts. I am not casting any doubt upon the concepts of chakras in regard to my personal practice but rather your use of them does not seem to be inkeeping with your "reality based spirituality". In your past posts you have emphatically pushed the idea of "being real with your body" and that any reliance upon myth and those ideas which are not empirically driven should be regarded as fantasy and destructive. Please comment on the "nonexistence of chakras"…not found with scaple or MRI..and how they can be utilized in the context of your philosophy.

  3. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    great question! thanks…

    like all mythic symbols, chakras are not *literally* real, that would be kinda ludicrous – they are a signpost to an experience and have metaphorical meaning.

    like all mythic symbols (a la joseph campbell), when we understand the metaphor and the experience they are pointing to, they can serve their transformational purpose, but when we literalize any mythic symbol it loses it's power and degenerates into kitsch or superstition.

    as i state in the article – i teach the chakras (for the last decade) as being:

    a) a way of talking about stages of development (a la wilber, piaget and others)

    b) a map of mind/body relationships ( a la somatic psychology) and

    c) an experiential representation of the physical anatomy as felt from the inside in heightened states of embodied awareness.

    as i say in the article there are nerve plexi, glands and organs that correspond with each chakra location. i have also found that there are key "high charge" muscles in each area that tend to contract around certain emotion and hold the "energy" of that unresolved feeling or place of resistance/fear/trauma in our minds.

    so, we can use (and i do use) this beautiful set of symbols as a powerful way of conceptualizing the mind in the body and the various facets of what it is to be human in an updated and integrated way…

    i also point out above that this is not about a far out belief system but about a deep experiential practice of working directly with one's emotional material.

    we can work with this powerful set of symbols as a way into real embodied process without believing literally in seven rainbow colored orbs of magical light. further, when we stop at the literal interpretation, we miss out on the deeper meaning and substantive process and render the symbolism one dimensional.

    similarly there is not literally a snake coiled 3.5 times around the sacrum waiting to rise through the body in response to yogic practice – BUT there is a powerful mind/body process common to several different approaches and methods that includes the phenomena of "unwinding" physical and emotional releases in the body that creates serpentine motions and is to my mind most likely what the kundalini symbology is referring to!

    one need not believe in anything supernatural to use the chakra system as a map into some pretty powerful experiences of the natural processes of embodied mind and to do the real spiritual work of processing through unresolved emotions and experiences and connecting more deeply to one's authentic self and capacity for freedom, love, creativity, empowerment and integration!

    emotions, thoughts and sensations cannot be found with a scalpel – consciousness itself cannot be literally seen with an fMRI – this does not make these things on the same level as supernatural fantasy, i think you may be falling prey to kind of fallacy that assumes my position to be a very dry logical positivist denial of the inner life – au con-frikken-traire my friend!

    the inner life with all of it's poetry, symbolism, metaphor, emotional meaning etc is what spirituality ultimately seeks to explore, it is important though not to confuse the inner life with empirical statements about objective reality.

    the distinction between metaphorical and literal language and between subjective and objective methodologies matters a great deal in terms of a coherent and grounded spirituality.

  4. [...] Grounding & Pleasure: Our Journey Begins. (Chakras 1 & 2) [...]

  5. Padma Kadag says:

    Julian…I wanted to respond earlier but I am now getting the chance and thank you for your detailed thoughtful response. My comment regarding the "scalpel and MRI" was in order for you to see how literal your idea could be taken and you would need to flesh it out. My issue with Chakras is that they are firmly originated from ancient disciplines which regarded their use as being "secret". Obviously the secret is out now…but is it? Out of the context of their respective disciplines from where they hail are they not rendered useless outside of their original intent? Intellectuallized and whoo whoo-ized adnaseum? The "secret" about chakras in , for example Vajrayana Buddhism, is that just as the sperm and egg need all conditions in order to ferilize so does the guru and disciple. There is no reading ahead so one can approach already armed with concepts which will only make understanding more obstructed.So the power is in the transmission of the system. So to pluck some system from a discipline and fool ourselves intothinking that we are using" it" is reckless.

    • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

      i use this system of symbols to talk about mind/body psychology and a set of process oriented phenomena i have observed and worked with directly in students and clients for over 15 years.

      as i said, one aspect is the "unwinding" phenomenon that occurs when the body releases stress and trauma and opens up into heightened states of consciousness – not only does it bear the serpentine motion that i suggest the kundalini symbology represents, but we find that in different areas of the body where there are specific and empirically verifiable anatomical structures (nerve plexi, glands, organs) that massaging, stretching and breathing into certain muscles tends to be a doorway into this process and into what psychology calls the unconscious.

      my position is that the human condition is singular, the human anatomy is universal and different systems from different cultures and times are referring to the human experience in ways that are available to anyone, anytime…

      indeed these phenomena are common to multiple cultures, times and techniques. see kundalini scholar and translator stuart sovatsky's inspiring article for more on this: http://www.cit-sakti.com/kundalini/sahaja-spontan

      i am less interested in some occluded, mystical, culture bound, magical thinking perspective on a special ancient system than i am in an intelligent contemporary interpretation that makes practical sense and yields experiential revelations – i am confident in my work that this is what i am sharing, and that it is a fairly unique and beautiful application of the system.

      this is why i LOVE the alex grey depictions because i find them to be thoroughly postmodern images that combine ancient and modern, subjective and objective, anatomical and experiential perspectives on the body. as i said above i do not find it at all meaningful to "believe" in the chakras as being a literal representation of rainbow colored balls of light or in a dualistic notion of an "energy" body that is somehow distinct from and independent of the "gross body" – rather that they are an impressionistic experiential way of depicting an interior awareness of the physical body whilst in certain states of being.

      i make no pretense around or apology for the fact that i am layering onto the scaffold of the chakra system insights from transpersonal and somatic psychology – as i feel myself to be part of a living tradition that continues to evolve.

      my work is not for the purist, the traditionalist or the idealizer of the ancient and exotic wisdom that we somehow cannot ever know – my work is a demonstration of how one can have a rich, beneficial and deeply authentic inner life and spiritual path without having to believe in unreasonable things or to interpret natural phenomena in supernatural ways.

      i nonetheless find the artwork and mythic symbology of many different aspects of spirituality beautiful and inspiring – but as joseph campbell says, i do not "make the mistake of interpreting poetry as prose, or mistaking the connotation for denotation" as he discusses here: http://www.whidbey.com/parrott/moyers.htm

      you may not like it or agree – that's ok!

  6. [...] Grounding and Pleasure: Our Journey Begins (Chakras 1 & 2) (elephantjournal.com) [...]

  7. Dearbhla Kelly Dearbhla says:

    Perfectly exquisite as usual.

  8. [...] far in the Yoga & The Chakras workshop series we have looked at the qualities of Grounding & Pleasure in chakras one and two: the sense of being able to stand your own ground and take pleasure in your [...]

  9. [...] and intrinsic to my approach is the concept of…read more on ElephantJournal.com var dd_offset_from_content = 40; var dd_top_offset_from_content = [...]

  10. [...] Unique and intrinsic to my approach is the concept of…read more on ElephantJournal.com [...]

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