“There is deep wisdom within our very flesh, if we can only come to our senses and feel it.” ~ Elizabeth A. Behnke
I’m no chakra expert, but in experimenting with my own energy centers over many years of yoga, meditation and daily life practice, I have come to appreciate their power. With devotion and discipline, it gets easier and easier to tell whether the chakras are healthy and aligned or out of whack and lacking balance.
The truth is, all yoga asanas affect all the major chakras. However, depending on our intention and attention, certain poses may activate the energies of one or two specific chakras.
The ultimate yoga chakra flow is the one your body needs and wants today. Maybe it’s an active vinyasa practice; maybe it’s 45 minutes in Child’s Pose. The trouble with this method is that
sometimes usually our egocentric minds play tricks that confuse or manipulate our bodies’ intuitive wisdom.
Hence, I offer this sequence of Hatha yoga poses and breath practices to assist in healing and energizing our chakras. May it be of benefit!
Squat warm-ups: Separate the feet as much as necessary. Exhale, bending the knees as much as possible, bringing the hips down toward the feet. Move back and forth slowly or quickly.
Mountain pose: Standing tall but relaxed, bring your awareness to the soles of the feet. Feel your connection with the earth. Feel heavy, solid and grounded, like a mountain.
Basic pranayama: In mountain pose, inhale deeply through the nose and lift the arms overhead. Fill the lungs, relax the belly. Exhale fully and naturally, bringing the arms back down to the sides. Repeat five times (or more).
Warrior 1: From Mountain, step one foot back and angle the back heel so that the foot rests on the ground. Bend the front knee into a lunge. Lift the arms overhead, tucking the tailbone slightly to lengthen the lower back. Hold for several breaths on each side.
Lizard Lunge: From Warrior, bring both arms down and place the hands on the floor (or a block), inside the front leg. Stay on the palms, or move down to the forearms if possible. Breathe into the hips, releasing tension with each exhale. Maintain the pose for several breaths on each side.
Ocean breath: Place one hand on your heart center and the other on the lower belly. Inhale slowly, mindfully and deeply. Exhale with ease and let go of effort. Notice how this breath sounds like waves crashing on the shore. Bonus points for practicing in or near a body of water!
Solar Plexus Chakra
Modified single leg lifts: Lying on the back, pull the right knee in toward the chest or right armpit. Inhale, lifting the straight left leg up to 90 degrees. Exhale as you slowly lower it to the ground, engaging the core muscles. A more advanced option is to hold the right leg or foot as you do the left leg lifts. Try doing 10-15 reps on each side.
Double leg circles: Still lying on the back with the legs straight and feet together, lift both legs simultaneously and slowly up to 90 degrees. Exhaling, bend the knees toward the chest; inhaling, extend the legs out straight again, hovering just above the ground. Do this with your hands beneath the lower back for extra support if needed. Repeat several times, then reverse direction, exhaling and bending the knees toward the chest, inhaling as you lift the legs straight up and holding the breath in as you lower the legs slowly.
Breath of fire: Sitting either with crossed legs or on the feet, lift both arms up into a V overhead, with the thumbs lifted and fingers curled into a loose fist. Practice two or three rounds of 30 seconds of breath of fire, exhaling rapidly and forcefully through the nose, inhaling passively without effort. If you become dizzy or lightheaded, discontinue the pranayama and breathe deeply and slowly.
Triangle pose: Standing with the feet wide apart, lift the arms so that they are parallel to the ground. Turn the right foot out, and try to keep the hips and chest open, as if your back was touching a wall. Inhale, leaning out to the right. Exhale, bringing your right hand down to the knee, shin, ankle or foot—wherever it can comfortably reach without pivoting the hips too much. Bring awareness to your heart center, extending the upper arm, opening the palm and stretching the fingers wide like sun rays. Hold for several breaths and repeat on the other side.
Seated back bend: Sitting on the heels (or cross-legged if necessary), bring the hands behind you and place the fingertips or palms a few inches behind the body. Inhale, lifting the chest and arching the back. Relax the neck, letting the head drop back if comfortable. Breathe, smile and feel the heart center opening as you hold the pose for several breath cycles.
Metta pranayama: Sitting comfortably, place the palms together in front of the heart. Inhaling deeply, think: “May I be safe.” Exhaling, say (either aloud or mentally): “May all being be safe.” Inhale: “May I be happy.” Breathe out: “May all beings be happy.” Continue with two more mantras, “May I/all beings be healthy” and “May I/all beings be free from suffering.”
Neck circles: Either seated or standing, slowly, gently roll the neck, relaxing and releasing tension, breathing mindfully and then reversing direction. Practice three super slow motion circles in each direction.
Sphinx pose: Lying on the stomach, prop yourself up on both forearms. Let the legs relax. Let the head hang, relaxing the throat and back of the neck. Bring yin energy into this asana by letting go of effort and surrendering to gravity. Hold for three minutes or longer if possible.
Choose your own chanting adventure: In a comfortable seated pose, sit tall, placing the hands on the knees or palms together and sing! Om (“aummmm”) is a wonderfully simple mantra, and there are tons more in Sanskrit. Or sing along to a favorite song of any genre. The key is to get those vocal cords moving! It doesn’t matter if you’re tone deaf.
Third Eye Chakra
Child’s pose: From the hands and knees, push the hips back toward the heels and lower the torso and forehead to the ground (or blanket or block as needed). Feel the connection of your third eye point in the forehead to the earth. Inhale and exhale with ease, intuition and compassion. The arms can extend forward, resting the palms on the ground, or the arms can be alongside the body with the backs of the hands resting near the feet.
Bumblebee breath: Lightly covering the eyes with the fingers and gently closing the ears with the thumbs, inhale deeply through the nose and exhale with a long hum that sounds like a buzzing bee reverberating in your head. Bring your inner gaze to the third eye point.
Kapalabhati (shining skull) breath: Sitting on the feet, bring the hands to the lower belly. This pranayama is done by forcefully exhaling air and pulling the belly inward. The inhale is then natural and effortless. Start slow, and with practice you can eventually go faster. Try doing two rounds of 30 seconds each.
Headstand: If you don’t know how to do a yogic headstand, please seek a qualified and experienced instructor for guidance. If you don’t want to or cannot do a headstand, another great option is a wide-legged forward bend, bringing the crown of the head as close to the ground as possible.
Savasana: The English name of this posture is Corpse pose. Exhale, relax, surrender, die. Be still and quiet, while also maintaining keen meditative awareness. Make your mind as vast as the sky, noticing the thoughts, feelings and sensations float by like clouds. Hold for at least five minutes. Then wake up, sit up and be reborn.
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Editor: Emily Bartran