Manipura Chakra

Manipura Chakra

We live in a time where there is little encouragement for paying attention to our body’s natural energy levels and giving it what it needs. So often when we are really tired, we ignore our longing for rest and manipulate our bodies with caffeine, sugar, and other stimulants to create a false sense of energy. When we’re overstimulated and want to relax or draw inward, many people turn to overeating, alcohol, or drugs to slow down. This all puts enormous strain on our third energy cente manipura chakra, and it is no surprise that many of the diseases in our society today can be traced back to an imbalance at this energy centre. Yoga offers us a different choice: to listen to what our body requires and to truly nourish ourselves, using appropriate asanas and pranayama practices to create more energy or relaxation. Once we’ve done that, we can get a taste of our true personal power.

Manipura chakra is located in the area of the solar plexus. The solar plexus in the physical body is a dense cluster of nerve cells and supporting tissue, located behind the stomach in the region of the celiac artery just below the diaphragm. Rich in ganglia and interconnected neurons, the solar plexus is the largest autonomic nerve centre in the abdominal cavity.  It controls many vital functions such as adrenal secretion and intestinal contraction. Because of this association with such a huge nerve plexus, manipura can be thought of as the ‘fusebox’ of the body, if disrupted it can affect the digestive, immune and nervous systems. …Focus on the area just behind the navel, the seat Manipura chakra in the subtle body,  the focus point of agni tattva, the power of fire, with an upward consuming force like flames.  It is influenced by samana prana, the prana responsible for transforming food into nourishment, and information into ideas. Manipura is commonly associated with the “core” or power centre, and allows us to feel in control of our own destiny. This chakra governs our sense of sight, including our inner vision, allowing us to distinguish that which is ‘other’ than ourselves, that which threatens, and this manifests as the ‘sight’ of the immune system. It is our ‘gut reaction’ and remember, we cannot choose to NOT react – we react to everything- and it is often our gut reaction that is the most significant, although we often choose not to listen to this intuition, or dismiss it as being illogical or fanciful. How often have your gut reactions been right??

The definition of yoga in the Hatha Yoga texts is the union of prana (the upward force) and apana (the downward force) in manipura chakra in order that we can awaken a very powerful energy which leads to self-realisation. This chakra helps to regulate the flow of energy to the other centres, so it vital that manipura is balanced. It is the seat of our personal power. We also need to learn how to channel the energy of manipura chakra up to heart centre (anahata), for the power that stems from the third chakra when  balanced in love is said to lead us to a  state of peace and well being.

So here is an overview of manipura….

Colour: gold/yellow
Symbol: downward pointing red triangle, within a bright yellow circle, with 10 golden petals The triangle has a t-shaped swastika on each of its sides.
Element: fire
Planet: sun
Mantra: Ram
Animal: Ram: representing strength and courage
Mental action: power
Positive emotional states: expansiveness,  acceptance
Difficult emotional state: fearfullness
Associated deities/archetypes:
Vahni a shining red god, with four arms, holding a rosary and a spear, seated on a ram.
Rudra god of fire and storms. Rudra reminds us that riding lifes storms can strengthen us. He shoots arrows of death and disease, and is depicted seated on a bull.
Lakini the goddess of fire, three headed representing the physical astaral and celestial planes of existence, four armed holding thunderbolt and spear.
All three are depicted making the gestures of granting boons and dispelling fear, left hand up and out right hand out and down
associated with: digestion/metabolism
body associations: stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas duodenum and small intestine, pancreas and the outer adrenal glands, all involved in digestion, the conversion of food into energy for the body.
nerve plexus: solar plexus
pranayama: Bhastrika Pranayama (Bellows Breath or Breath of Fire).  Agnisara (uddiyana Bandha)  Tibetan Fire Breathing

This chakra is more susceptible to highs and lows than any other, and as it is this chakra that helps to regulate the flow of energy to the other centres, so it vital that manipura is balanced.

Symptoms of a third chakra deficiency: sluggish digestion,  eating disorders, lowered immune response. Feeling powerless, experiencing low self-esteem, diminished self-worth, less able to discern truth from falsehood.

Symptoms of an excessively charged third chakra: abberrations in the immune response such as allergic reactions, and digestive disturbance such as acidity, and ulcers. An over-powering ego-led manner, perfectionism, anger, hatred, being selfish. Think of the ram, strong but liable to charge in head first!

In balance: we can overcome our  inertia and develop a “get-up-and-go” attitude making it  easier to take risks.  Sensible risk-taking is one way of gaining confidence as it may involve confrontation, setting limits, or asking for what we need—all ways of reclaiming our power. Manipura is the seat of our warrior energy, enabling us assert our will, and assume responsibility for our lives.  A sure sign of a balanced manipura is spontaneous laughter that rises up from the belly, a feeling of warmth, ease, and the urge to perform selfless service.

Thoughts on the element of fire: our emotional reaction to fire is two-fold: fire can give us warmth and comfort, we can use it to render foods edible that we could not digest in their raw state.But it can also cause pain, destruction, giving rise to fear, even terror. This echoes the emotional breadth of manipura chakra.

The key negative emotion that spawns all others is fear. It arises in any situation where the outcome seems beyond the capacity of the mind to determine, and there is an inability to relax. The mind conjures up limitless scenarios and gets locked into the self-defeating thought process of “what if?…” Fear can escalate into terror or subside into anxiety. Issues concerning personal power are part of manipura’s function. If in childhood, the adult figures who were supposed to guide us,  used their position of authority to take our personal power away, then manipura becomes effectively blocked. If as a child we stood up to the dominance of our authority figures, there may be feelings of shame for  our lack of compliance, and shame prevents us from working with manipura on an emotional level, and drives us to interact with the world primarily through our thoughts. To heal, we need to learn to allow things to be as they are rather than trying to control them. We may need to express our pent up anger, at being dominated and disempowered in the past, and if we have been living mostly in our minds cut off from our emotions we may not even realise how angry we are until one day the dam bursts. We can recognise shame by internal conversations that replay critical comments from the past, that keep us stuck in that powerless child position and sadly this impacts on our experiences in the now. In order to change this we need to formulate responses from our stance now as an adult. The yogic practice of pratipaksha bhavana can help with this…when you have a negative thought…pause, eg “I am clumsy” and replace it with the opposite “I am well co-ordinated and graceful”. The chances are that the negative feeling is actually not true, and this shadow from the past can be dispelled.

Working with manipura at the mental level is one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal to create our present reality, and we can make it a heaven or a hell. Our personal belief system, the thoughts by which we recognise and understand how the world appears to work, are of critical importance to our well being. Manipura is our ‘librarian’ filing away experiences and information for reference and retrieval when required. To do this efficiently, we need to be able to identify things clearly and accurately, to label them correctly, and to file them in the right place. If we are unable to identify events clearly, our capacity to judge, weigh up alternatives and make decisions becomes very limited.

At the spiritual level manipura applies its energies to defining the boundaries of the self, to gain insight and wisdom into the true nature of the self, beyond our personality, to know who we are and to understand our place in the world. When we shine the light of understanding on ourselves we tend to attribute the flaws and problems that we find their, as being the ‘fault’ of others outside of ourselves, and blame them for what they have done to us.  But as we continue the process of self-examination (svadhyaya) the need to blame recedes, we begin to realise the only way forward is to transform the way we judge ourselves, and others, and to accept that the world owes us nothing, and that we are no more important than anyone else. Allowing manipura to shine with the brightness of the sun brings clarity, encourages a broader perspective and identifies false beliefs as the ephemeral shadows that they really are.

Asana for manipura

abdominal strengtheners: navasana, leg lifts etc

all fours/kneeling: Simhasana, ustrasana Hari Hara asana

Standing: Surya namaskar, Warrior poses,  Sirsha angustasana yogasana, Natarajasana

Backbends: Charasana,  dhanurasana,  supported sethu bandhasana (to cool fire)

Inversions: sarvangasana/vipariti karani mudra

Forward folds: Pascimmotanasana,  Janu sirsasana

Seated hips and twists: Gomukhasana, Ardha matsyendrasana

Techniques: pratipaksha bhavana,  sing gayatri mantra mudra Vishnu/shiva

The gifts of maniupura: a wonderful; ability to transform every situation you encounter, you will help people to see the extraordinary in the mundane. Effortless and effective communication skills, and the gift of healing, able to sense what the underlying cause of ill-health is and go straight to the root.  Depression turns to joy, insecurity into love, fearfulness into confidence. Part of the work of manipura chakra is to destroy that which is no longer necessary in our lives, old emotions, regrets, and longings have to be swept away to allow for new experiences whilst we maintain the ability to recognise and preserve that which is of value to us.

Food for thought……from Rumi the thirteenth century Sufi mystic and poet

“The Guest House”:

This being human is a guest house ,Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture.Still, treat each guest honourably.He may be clearing you out for some new delight.”

“You cannot know fire from words alone. Enter the fire if you want to know the truth”

References

Yoga Journal article “Seventh Heaven” by  Barbara Kaplan Herring

“Healing Yoga” by Swami Ambikananda Saraswati

“The Chakra Bible” by Patricia Mercier

“The Power of Chakras and Chakra Healing” by Sue and Simon Lilly

http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/science/solar-plexus.html#ixzz2iFE7CxgV

(additional notes from Yoga Foundation course with Julia Wheatley, and course notes from Yoga Diploma training at Yoga Campus)

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