Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Manipurna: the Jewel of the Self

Manipurna, the solar plexus chakra, is the 3rd chakra up and is a fiery yellow.  I could tell you about its association with the Hindu god energy of Vishnu, the seed syllable ram, and how citrine resonates with the solar plexus.  You can find any of that, and more, with a cursory google search.  And no doubt, I'll geek out on the esoterica of the chakras at some point and write posts that explore the more arcane aspects of chakra theory ad infinitum.  Correspondences, symbols and imagery are wonderful, and if they resonate with you they can be used as a kind of energetic shorthand, bringing out the qualities they represent.

But, in their essence, the chakras are YOU.  They are your energy centers.  Your chakras are co-created by your body's kinetic, electric energy and the subtle shifts in electromagnetism created by hormonal balance.   Whether you are aware of it or not, 'believe' in it or not, your chakras are engaging with the world around you.... because you are engaging with the world around you.  And if I tell you this-and-that about the correspondences of the solar plexus chakra, if I give you an essay on the (albeit fascinating) various theories of the chakra's association with symbology and imagery from various traditions; I will only be helping you to distance yourself from your own experience.  If you are living an embodied human life, you don't need anyone else to tell you what your experience of your own energy is, you are living it.  Giving someone else the authority of your experience leaks your power.  And Manipurna is all about power.

Manipurna is the fire, the strength that supports the heart.  Manipurna is will and intent.  Manipurna is power. 

Power.  Such a loaded word.  As a young woman in our culture, it is interesting to put fingers to keys to talk about power.  Society would like to tell me I don't have it. Politicians do tell me I don't have it.  Many people claim it for themselves or on behalf of a religion or a country.  Others think it can be bought or stolen.  Somehow we think that through war we can establish it.  But power is not about control.  Power is not about power-over, coercion, or authority in the sense of wrong and right.  I can deny my power.  I can forget about it, neglect it, not use it.  But no one can take my power from me.  Nor I from them.  Power is not relational.  It has nothing to do with anyone else. 

Power is self-esteem and self-confidence and self-efficacy all rolled into one.  Power is a way of walking in the world.  Power is being so full of one's own energy, so centered in one's own self, that no one can push us over or insert their projections into our sense of self.   How do we lose power, then?  In essence, by consistently denying it.  Sometimes we internalize the idea that it is something outside of ourselves, needing to be obtained.  Sometimes we find ourselves triggered by the actions of others into (frequently habitual) actions and patterns that lead us to deny, ignore, or scatter our energy. 

How do we cultivate power?  Through yoga of course, that's why this is a post for a blog on yoga!  But seriously, we cultivate power through reclaiming the parts of self we have denied, repressed, shunned.  We cultivate power through physical work: when you get your heart rate up, blood pumping, skin alive with moisture, muscles warm you feel like you fill up your body, like you fill up the space between outstretched hands.  We cultivate power by saying "YES" to what nourishes us, to what our inner voice wants and asks for.  Usually that means saying "NO" to something else.  We cultivate power by trusting ourselves.  By believing in ourselves.  By recognizing our own authority.  We can cultivate power by strengthening the core – yes, through an ab workout.  Manipurna is located at the solar plexus, just below the sternum, at the top of the abdomen: by strengthening the physical, we strengthen the energetic.  We cultivate power by practicing discipline.  Through dedication.

In my experience, the yoga mat is the best place to practice all of this.  On the mat, I can look at the parts of myself I try to hide away, repress, deny.  I can hold space for the meeting between me and me.  I can breathe into it.  On the mat, I can get embodied – filling up my skin, filling up my luminous body, filling up the room!  On the mat, I can work out: engaging muscles, mind, and awareness.  On the mat, I can explore what is my "YES" and what is my "NO."  On the mat, I am alone.  As teacher or as student, with others or in a solo practice, ultimately it is me, myself and I on my mat.  I have no choice but to work with myself, learning trust, exploring my limits.  To stand in Vrksasana, I have to trust that my one foot will hold my whole body – or else I would crumple to the ground.  On the mat, I learn to believe in myself.  When I take a variation on a pose, moving into or out of a lunge to meet the anatomy of my hips; I am recognizing my own authority.  And every time I roll out the mat and step onto it, I am living my dedication to this practice. 

I cultivate power through my yoga practice.  I invite you to join me.

Tomorrow night (THURSDAY 5:45-7:15) we'll explore Manipurna through a practice of strong standing poses (hint: the warrior is an impeccable embodiment of power), core work balancing the extension of backbends, and chanting.  We'll end class with the deep restoration of yoga nidra.  And because symbols ARE powerful, I'll be wearing a yellow shirt.

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