What are chakras and how can we keep them in check?

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What on earth is a chakra? Put simply, in yogic tradition chakras are energy centres within the body. There are seven main chakras located along the spine, starting at the base and ending at the crown of the head. But why should we care about them? And what happens when they get blocked? We ask chakra yoga expert Jo Cowper

What’s the relationship between yoga and chakras?

Yoga is about energy and all poses relate to the energy centres of the physical body – these are called chakras. Chakras are areas that can be affected by emotional stress as well as physical problems such as injury; when we have low energy this can cause illness.

We can keep our chakras healthy by opening them up; good energy is created by getting circulation moving and strengthening our muscles in yoga poses. This can help to prevent illness and injury caused by tight muscles and inflexibility. Every yoga pose relates to one or more chakra, as does the breathwork and meditation exercises. Yoga is about optimising our energy as well as our physical strength and agility in order to stay healthy in body, mind and spirit.

Why should we care about chakras?

There are seven main chakras – root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye and crown – and they each correspond to different glands and organs in the body. By keeping our energy centres – our chakras – healthy via yoga, we can prevent illness. Yoga is a ‘holistic therapy’ treatment and works in the same way as any other therapy such as massage and reiki.

How do we know if our chakras are blocked?

Physical exhaustion, emotional imbalances and illnesses suggest blocked chakras. Sometimes we will get aching muscles in the same places over and over again. This can also indicate a blocked chakra. By practicing yoga, we become attuned and sensitised to our bodily needs; we connect with our bodies and can begin to work on healing via self-care, yoga and nutrition.

Mental and emotional health are part of a full yoga practice (it isn’t just physical!). Yoga provides many ways in which we can examine our health and do what is necessary to heal ourselves without relying so much on pills – the western method of treating illness.

Illness is an indicator that something is wrong and perhaps has been for some time. Yoga empowers us by giving us the tools to examine all aspects of our health and find ways to achieve deep, long-lasting healing. This is achieved by becoming fully connected with our bodies and working with our own, personal needs. Everyone is different; yoga enables you to find out what works for you and then assist illness prevention in future. You become aware of what you can and can’t do and what tends to impact your body and emotions in a negative way.

What can we do to unblock them?

Make time to practice yoga on a daily basis and become aware of your bodily and emotional needs. People tend to eat better once they begin a yoga practice as it sensitises the body and it begins to reject unhealthy foods (bad fats, salt, sugar, overly-processed foods, too much meat).

A regular daily practice, even if it only for five minutes, is better than a 90-minute session once a week. Integrate yoga into your life; it is not a form of aerobics or a fad – see it as a lifestyle change for the better and as a way of maintaining your physical, emotional and mental health.

How have chakras helped you and your students?

I developed chakra yoga because of the profound effect the chakra work was having on my students. They couldn’t get enough of it! It was the ability to connect with the body, a key to finding poses which helped them individually deal with areas they had been struggling with for most of their lives.

Suddenly, muscles were responding differently. A breathing exercise was opening up a blocked area in the hips. It was the full realisation of how we operate as human beings. We are not robots; our bodies respond to life constantly. Everything impacts us and affects our senses, energy, feelings, emotions and our minds.

By introducing the chakras in yoga, people begin to feel this and become aware of how complex and amazing their bodies are. They begin to connect with their bodies and work with them, rather than fearing their bodies and disconnecting or even rejecting their body (which is unfortunately a symptom of modern western lifestyle and is the main cause of addictive behaviour).

We are not just physical; by working with the chakras in yoga, this becomes very clear and enables people to understand and respect their bodies in a way they may never have done in their lives until that point. I have seen many instances of healing in my chakra yoga sessions, often after just one session, which proves how important working with the chakras is.

Photo: Jo Cowper

Other examples of chakra yoga healing

– Mental calm and release of obsessive thoughts

– Assisting calm before important, high-pressure scenarios: exams/performance/competition for high-level athletes

– Injury recovery (and ongoing prevention) for high-level athletes

– Assisting relaxation and better sleep

– Cure backache and other issues especially with the back and spine

– Hip-opening yoga poses and breathwork help the upper back and shoulders release (the top and bottom of the spine are interconnected so one affects the other)

– Fear release through balancing poses and using the breath to breathe through fear and panic responses to certain poses (such as crow pose)

Jo is a yoga health and wellbeing coach and consultant with more than 25 years’ experience. She has published several books on chakra yoga and runs Jojoba Yoga. For more information visit www.jojobayoga.com

By Sam

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