January 4, 2012

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

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!

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