Today, I continue along the route to Happiness. If one thinks of the Steps to Happiness as rungs on a ladder, then it becomes easy to understand their correspondence with the chakras. As a reminder, the most common paradigm of the chakras outlines seven energy centers within the body: Root Chakra, found in the genitals, sacrum, and hips; Second, aligned with the reproductive organs; Third Chakra is the Navel Center and surrounding organs; Fourth, or Heart Chakra; Fifth corresponds with the throat; Sixth Chakra is the Third, or Spiritual Eye, centered between the brows; and finally, the Seventh, or Crown Chakra.
Now, with regard to the Six Steps outlined yesterday, we begin with Commitment, which manifests through a feeling of groundedness and stability; one may also think of this step as the firm rooting of discipline.
Special note: When it comes to Commitment and the discipline it requires, a 40-day dedicated practice to any of these chakra-stimulating techniques will bolster the Commitment step as it awakens whatever your chosen chakra practice may be.
To bring Commitment into your life, practice squats: static or dynamic. A traditional squat is formed when you crouch with heels on the floor. If your knees hurt, or your heels do not sit easily on the floor in a crouch position, place a book or block under your heels. Remain in the posture for 30-60 seconds, breathing deeply.
Another technique to invigorate the Root Chakra, and thus inspire Commitment, is repetitive squatting. From the crouch, raise your hips, keeping your hands on the ground or on your shins as your legs begin to straighten. Immediately return to the crouching squat, and then lift your hips again, essentially moving in and out of a standing forward bend.
An alternative type of squat for the Root (Muladhara) Chakra is to start from a standing position, feet slightly wider than hip-width. Place your hands next to your shoulders, arms bent and hands in fists. This is your inhale position. As you exhale, bend the knees as much as you can while keeping the spine upright; inhale to rise up, and continue up and down for 1-3 minutes, or 26-108 repetitions.
For the Second (Sacral, or Svadhisthana) Chakra, which corresponds to the development of Character, I feel that Basic Spinal Flex can not be beat. Sit comfortably, cross-legged or in a chair. Inhale as you rock your pelvis forward; exhale as you tip your pelvis backward, slightly rounding the low back and opening the sacrum. Continue this small forward/backward movement for 1-3 minutes.
If you prefer to stand, place your hands on your hips, and rotate the hips in a wide circle. Inhale as the hips move through the front half of the circling motion; exhale through the rear arc. As with the seated flexes, practice for 1-3 minutes, or 26 rotations each through the clockwise, then counter-clockwise circles.
The Third, or Manipura, Chakra, lives in the area between the navel and solar plexus. Thus, any type of abdominal strengthening exercise, especially leg lifts, will spark the Third Chakra. Twists—seated, standing, or reclined—also stimulate the area. One of the most effective methods to wake up this seat of your will and ability to manifest ideas (which leads to a sense of Dignity) is Supported Navasana (Boat Pose), with Breath of Fire. From a seated position, elevate your legs to a 45-60 angle; lean your torso back about 30 degrees, with your hands on the floor behind you. Begin Breath of Fire (inhale/exhale evenly and quickly through the nose, so that the Third Chakra region pulsates in and out). Practice this technique for 1-3 minutes.
To connect with your sense of Divinity, you need an open heart. Further, the Heart (Anahata) Chakra is the “fulcrum” between the Lower and Upper Triangles of the chakra system. For that reason, I like to meditate as a means to balance and expand the heart energy. In a comfortable seated posture, hold Lotus Mudra slightly in front of your heart: sides of the thumbs and pinkies together, with the other three fingers on each hand extending upward. You will have created the shape of an open blossom in front of the Fourth Chakra. For 1-3 minutes, eyes ever-so-slightly open, breath deeply as you gaze at the tip of your nose. Then, with closed eyes, shift the energy to the Upper Triangle (Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh chakras) by moving your inner gaze to the Third Eye. Continue deep breathing for another 1-3 minutes.
The Fifth Chakra, associated with Grace, helps to moderate all forms of communication. As such, techniques that soften the throat and neck help you to consciously choose your words and convey them with gentle assurance. To bring Grace into your life, you also need to be able to see a situation from all perspectives, so that your own position is one of balance and consideration.
Consequently, shoulder shrugs and rolls, along with gentle head circles in both directions, immediately energize the Sixth Chakra. Additionally, I like to softly stroke both sides of the throat with the tips of my fingers. Then, I tap the back of my neck on both sides of the spine. These techniques bring your awareness to your communicative vessel, and ensure that the Sixth Chakra is able to moderate your interactions with others.
Moving to the Sixth (Ajna) Chakra, we focus on the Third Eye. The simplest stimulation is to tap the area between your brows. A meditation with Buddhi Mudra (thumb tip touching pinky fingertip on each hand) also awakens this seat of intuition. For in order to have the Strength to Sacrifice, one needs to discern when and where a situation or person is in need. Further, one must have the self-awareness and wisdom to detach, so that Sacrifice indeed arises from a place of strength, and not from guilt or martyrdom.
Child’s Pose is one of the simplest, most effective means to ensure that the Strength to Sacrifice is accompanied by calm, conscious insight. Seated on your heels, with your torso resting on your thighs, you allow your Third Eye to rest on the ground, arms by your sides on the floor. While this is the most common version of the posture, for the purpose of stimulating the Sixth Chakra, I like to bring my hands together in a modified prayer pose under my face: This mudra then rests on the pinky-finger edges of the hands; with my thumbs tucked into my palms, I then rest my Third Eye on the base knuckles of the thumbs. Breathe deeply in this position for 3-5 minutes.
Finally, the Seventh (Crown, or Sahasrara) Chakra, comprises the whole of the balanced chakra energies: The result is Happiness within that can be spread throughout your Aura and Magnetic Field; thus, your Happiness is shared with those around you. As you might guess, the primary pose for this chakra is Headstand. If you are practiced at this posture, remain in the pose for 1-3 minutes. If you need assistance, practice at the wall.
If, however, you are new to the posture (or injury deems it contraindicated), start again in Child’s Pose. Bring your hands to your lower back, interlacing the fingers. Then, lift the arms off of your back as high as possible; as you do this, lift your hips away from your heels, so that you roll to the crown of your head. You may remain here (Yoga Mudra), or practice the technique in its moving form: Inhale as your roll to the crown of your head; exhale as your return to Child’s Pose. Regardless of whether you choose the static or dynamic form of Yoga Mudra, continue for 1-3 minutes.
Again, to practice this entire routine—or one specific chakra method—for 40 days would be a wonderful practice. If you are able to dedicate 3 minutes each day (for one of the Six Steps) to your pursuit of mental and physical balance, you likely will be motivated to expand your practice. At most, you need about 20 minutes each day to practice the sum of the above techniques.