One of the most insidious aspects of pain, be it physical or emotional, is how deeply vulnerable it can render the sufferer. When one feels weak of muscle, bone, stamina, or breath, there is an unnerving sense of loss of control. The same can be said when challenged psychologically: If one is not able to think clearly; if positivity has been replaced by the negative mind; or if ongoing worry creates distraction or distress, then the ability to advocate for oneself becomes greatly limited.
One of the first steps that I have found helpful when trying to ameliorate blocked or dissipated energy is to hone in on the Third Chakra, i.e., the core, or “abs.” Movements designed to stimulate the abdominal muscles—deep and superficial—awaken the proverbial fire in the belly: It is this energy that boosts confidence and allows one to be proactive. With the strengthening of the core comes a desire to fend for oneself, to find a way to feel better.
Peace begins to develop as one actively pursues a solution. “Self-empowerment” is more than a buzz word of our times: It is the state wherein one reconnects to the full expression of their whole being. It is the aspect of Power that is calm, fluid, and trusting. In the Peace born of Power lies possibility; the Power of Peace is its inherent connection to hope and faith.
So, when some form of pain threatens to overturn your spirit, first know that you can find some way through the challenge. When pain enters your life, realize that it can be the catalyst for profound transformation. If you have wanted to change habits, outlooks, or relationships, tune in to the energy of your pain: It has arrived as a harbinger of potential change. The way in which you choose to transform at this point is the very recourse that will come to your aid in future challenges. With the practice of Third Chakra stimulation and a balancing pranayama, you will feel a sense of positivity that you can recall when confronted with future unsettling situations.
Begin simply. If you are feeling depleted or constrained, lie on your back. Or, sit in a chair with feet flat on the floor; or, move into your favorite seated posture on the ground, with or without props for support. Close your eyes, and begin to zero in on the flow of your breath. It is likely that your breath is shallow or barely discernible: Place one hand on your upper chest, and the other on your upper belly. As you breathe in through the nose, feel first the slow expansion of the belly, and then the puff and lift of the chest. Exhale through the nose, and let the chest lower as the lungs deflate; and sense the diaphragm rising back into place as the belly moves inward. Practice this conscious breath progression for 3-5 rounds of inhale/exhale. Then, release the hands to the knees or floor, and breathe deeply into the fullness and sound of your inhale and exhale. Continue for 1 minute.
Next, on your back, raise both legs to 60 degrees from the ground. (Place a pillow or your hands underneath the hips to support the low back, if necessary.) With the legs together, or slightly apart, begin a Breath of Fire: rapid inhale and exhale in equal parts through the nose; you will feel your belly pulsing. You may also choose to begin with Breath of Fire through the mouth, as if panting like a dog. Eventually, move into nasal Breath of Fire. Aim to extend strongly through the legs, feet pointed, eyes focused on the toes, and firm the lower back toward the floor as you breathe. Continue for 1 minute.
If you need to, take a brief rest by drawing gate knees in toward the chest for a few deep breaths. Then, re-extend the legs out to 60 degrees, feet and legs firmly stitched together. Now, extend the arms straight up toward the ceiling, directly above the shoulders; the palms face each other. Keeping the heels together, inhale and bend the knees in toward the elbows; your legs will create a diamond shape. Exhale to straighten the legs back out to the 60 degree angle. Continue for 1 minute.
Before the next move, draw your legs in toward the chest: Rock and roll a bit forward and back, and side to side. Then, with your feet on the floor, knees directly over the ankles, and arms resting on the floor next to the body, begin a small roll of the pelvis up and away from the floor. Inhale as you do this, then exhale to replace the pelvis back to neutral on the floor. Repeat 6-8 times.
Next, with the same focus as the small pelvic tilt, inhale by rolling the pelvis up, and then continue the roll up as you peel the entire spine off of the floor. Keep the head in line with the spine, and the shoulders and neck relaxed. Time your inhale to match the full movement; then, exhale to roll the spine down, from top to bottom, finishing your exhale as you return to neutral. Complete 8-12 repetitions.
Now, help yourself turn over, so that you can come into a full plank position, as if you are in the “up” portion of a push-up. If necessary, you may keep your knees on the floor, with or without an extra blanket or pillow underneath. Regardless, maintain a strong line from knee to head; be mindful that the hips stay up, and that the head does not droop. If your wrists bother you, “stand” on the fists. In plank, begin Breath of Fire for 1 minute.
When you have finished the plank, come onto the belly for a gentle Sphinx. Rest on the forearms, and keep the shoulders drawn down away from the neck. With eyes closed, feel the contact of the warm, empowered belly on the floor. Breathe slowly and deeply as the stimulated Third Chakra energy begins to summon its partner, Peace. Breathe here, closed eyes to the Third Eye, for 1 minute.
Next, press back into calming Baby Pose for a few breaths. When you are ready, find your comfortable seated pose. Again, place one hand on the belly, the other on the heart, and notice the ease with which your breath moves. After a few sensory breaths, place the left hand on your knee, palm up. The right hand will act as the switch for Nadi Shodhana, or Alternate Nostril Breathing. With the right thumb, close the right nostril; breathe in through the left nostril. Close the left nostril with the right ring finger, and exhale through the right nostril. Then, in through the right, out through the left, using the fingers to close the aperture of the non-breathing nostril. Continue in through the left; out, right; in, right; out, left, for 5 minutes. Eyes remain closed, gazing at the Third Eye.
With the practice of these energizing Third Chakra kriyas and the equalizing pranayama, your ability to address the challenge of pain begins to manifest. Welcome the possibilities ahead: May you forge your way with determination and hope.