In yoga, we study the energy centers of the body, most typically the seven that are understood to run from the base of the spine to the crown of the head.
If chakras make you uncomfortable, think instead about one of the most widely studied and accepted psychological models: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s the same thing. (Western science loves to “discover” teachings that have already existed for millennia, which can be a bit confounding, but if it moves us forward, it’s all yoga.)
Beginning with either chakras or needs, we can use this model to better understand our psychology, biology and history. Most traditionally, people use chakras in this way, for self-study. For example, a fear of public speaking might direct you to the throat chakra. By searching our chakras, we can reveal places where we are stuck as well as opportunities for growth.
Another way to apply the chakras is on a larger scale, to understand the chakra journey of a family, a community or a nation.
America has evolved past our root chakra, the energy of safety and groundedness. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t danger or violence in our world, but rather that as a whole, we’ve overcome major survival challenges. By and large, we live in stable structures that protect us from the elements. Animal predators kill few of us. Most of us make it into our 80s. While we can certainly return to this chakra and explore additional areas of growth, we are over the hump, as they say.
The next stop on our journal was the sacral chakra, where creativity and sensuality reside. Again, we can definitely continue to refine and explore this chakra, but we have made leaps and bounds. We’ve grown past rigid sexual mores. Same sex marriage is legal. We’ve done good work here.
Today, we sit at the crossroads of our solar plexus chakra, the center of our power. This chakra asks us to know, name and use our power. But the trick of power is this: it’s power for, not power over. When this chakra is overactive, it becomes aggressive, angry and tries to dominate. That is not true power. True power is compassionate. True power serves. True power empowers.
While examples of true power rarely make the six o’clock news, they abound. My son has been blessed with three powerful teachers in recent years. These women are leaders, they have vision, they speak their truths and they have empowered him with a combination of challenge and support. If you know a great teacher, or you are one, you have an example of true power in your life.
I can’t help but wonder, as I try to keep an open heart and mind about the upcoming presidential election, if what feels like a peculiar and important moment in our national history is also our third chakra moment. Will we evolve or devolve? Will we move upward toward our heart chakra or back to our sacral and root chakras? Will we choose power for or power over? Will we choose compassion, service and empowerment or will we choose aggression, anger and domination? Will we grow our freedoms, or strip them away?
The Bhagavad Gita, one of our most widely read and loved scriptures, says this about power: “And that work which is done with a confused mind, without considering what may follow, or one’s own powers, or the harm done to others, or one’s own loss, is work of darkness.”
For those of us who seek the light, whether through yoga or another path, we can see this third chakra moment as a crisis-opportunity. We can explore power in our teaching, in our practice, and in our life off the mat. We can be the leaders that we wish to see in the world. We can lead from our mats, from our homes, from our studios, and from our Facebook pages. Power is a word we use quite often in the Yoga community. Now is the time to claim its true purpose.
Author: Karen Costa
Editor: Catherine Monkman; Ashleigh Hitchcock