Swadisthana Chakra

Swadisthana Chakra


An overview of the energy body

Working with chakras or energy centres in our yoga practice demands that we have some understanding of the ‘subtle’ body. We are all aware that we have a physical body, as we see it, feel it, experience dwelling inside it, and thanks to advances in medicine and imaging techniques that allows us to see inside human bodies, we all have some understanding of how the physical body works. We know we have lungs that take in and expel air, we know we have a heart that acts as a pump , and we know we have a network of blood vessels that carry life giving oxygen to the tissues and organs, and transport away waste materials to be exhaled on the next breath.

We can use our understanding of this transport system in our physical body to help us understand the movement of energy around our ‘subtle’  body.  In yoga the subtle body is the energetic version of ourselves, and in this subtle body, prana or life force is brought in on the vehicle of the breath and transported around the energy body by vessels called nadis. Yoga postures and breath practices are designed to purify the nadis, as when they are blocked, prana cannot flow freely and negatively affects our health.  According to ancient yogic texts, there are 72,000 nadis, the most important one being Sushumna nadi, whose counterpart in the physical body is the spinal cord.  I will often refer to this in class as a radiant column of line connecting the crown of your head to your perineum (the centre of your pelvic floor muscles underneath the pelvis) On either side of Sushumna are two other important nadis – Ida and Pingala – which correspond to the sympathetic ganglia of the spinal cord.  Ida nadi corresponds with the left nostril, and Pingala with the right. Ida is the lunar feminine force, Pingala is the solar masculine force.   Ida and Pingala nadis spiral around Sushumna, and where the three intersect, the chakras or energy centres occur.

Chakra means ‘wheel’ giving us a visual image of a chakra as a spinning vortex of energy. We see this in nature: when channels of force intersect, a spinning vortex is created, think of the whirling eddies in free flowing river water, or the immense spiralling force of a tornado.    Kundalini is the dormant or static cosmic energy, often depicted as a coiled snake; it is located at the base of the Sushumna nadi at the first energy centre Muladhara chakra. Kundalini force is aroused or activated by yoga practices, and when awakened, starts to move up  Sushumna nadi through the main chakras. Six of the seven main chakras are located along Sushumna nadi, while the seventh is at the crown of the head (Sahasrara chakra).  All of the chakras have a lotus flower as their symbol, each with a different number of petals corresponding to the number of nadis emanating from them.  Each petal is said to represent a sound vibration produced when the Kundalini energy passes through the chakra.  In addition, all the chakras (except Sahasrara) have an associated colour, element and bija (‘seed’) mantra, and all correspond to nerve plexuses in the physical body along the spine.

Swadhisthana is the second chakra, and can be thought of as located around the area of our sacrum, the fused portion of bone that makes up the back of our pelvis, terminating in our tailbone. ‘Swa’ means ‘self’ or ‘soul’ and ‘sthan’/‘adhisthana’ means ‘dwelling place’; so it is often translated as “one’s own place or base”. It is the main centre for the gathering and distribution of prana or Chi  and corresponds with  the ‘Tan Tien’ (China) and the ‘Hara’ (Japan). Swadisthana ensures the flow of prana through the subtle body.

Colour: orange

symbol:  six petalled lotus flower

element: water

planet : moon which influences the movement of water

mantra: Vam (pronounced ‘Vumng’ – nasally).

Animal: the makara a mythical fishtailed alligator

Mental actions: creativity and enthusiasm

Positive Emotion: joy

Difficult emotions: anger and fear

Associated deities/archetypes : Vishnu “the preserver” who balances the creative energy of brahma with the destructive energy of Shiva and Rakini the Goddess of Art and Music

associated with: sense of taste

body associations:  hips, sacrum, lower back, genitals, womb, bladder, and kidneys

nerve plexus: sacral

pranayama: the outbreath lengthen by count of 2 on each round of breath.

Force: Apana, the downward force, to release what we no longer need

This chakra is associated with enjoyment, particularly in connection with food, drink and sexual interaction, as well as being associated with the organs of excretion and reproduction. Swadisthana governs our sense of taste, which is one of the first boundaries that helps us decide what is good and what should then be allowed into our body, our life,  in terms of nourishment and also relationships.  (Food is also a vehicle for prana/life force).  Swadisthana is connected to our sensitivity, our feelings of attraction to others and to the world around us, and to our sense of security, self-esteem, and social behaviour patterns. It also houses our most potent creative powers. It is said to be the seat of the individual and collective unconscious and the storehouse of our ‘samskaras’ -  our past mental impressions that create ‘grooves’ in our behaviour that unless challenged allow us to continue to behave in ways that do not foster our development. The second energy centre is the repository of humankinds’ most primitive and deep-rooted instincts, and our oldest ancestral memories.  Swadisthana is the seat of our will and our resolution. Like water it allows us to move around or over obstacles to our development. Like water is must flow to remain pure and clear, if a stream is blocked the water quickly becomes stagnant and less able to support diverse life forms.

The tasks of the second chakra include allowing for emotional and sensual movement in our life, opening to pleasure, and learning how to “go with the flow”. It governs our sexuality, emotions, and our ability to experience and enjoy intimacy and desire. All watery things about us have to do with this chakra: circulation, urination, menstruation, orgasm, tears. Water flows, moves, and changes, and a healthy second chakra allows us to do so too. Trying to influence the outer world is not the province of the second chakra. Instead of demanding that our body or a relationship be different, the second chakra encourages us to feel the feelings that arise as we open to life just as it is. As we allow ourselves to accept what is, we taste the sweetness (and bittersweetness) of life. When we relax our resistance to life, our hips let go, our reproductive organs become less tense, and we’re open to experiencing our sensuality and sexuality. Stress at the second chakra causes us to put up our defences and avoid our true feelings. This then prevents us from experiencing genuine closeness and emotional intimacy with others, in an attempt to avoid pain and trauma. Most of us will have had a broken heart at some point in our lives, and the trauma and pain that this causes in the body and in the mind will often register as a blockage or imbalance at swadisthana. An intellectual understanding of what caused the pain or trauma is not enough to release it, often help is needed such as psychotherapy, so that pain from the past can be processed and released.

In a culture as confused as ours is about sexuality, pleasure, and emotional expression, there are an infinite number of pathways to an imbalanced second chakra.

Symptoms of a second chakra deficiency include:

…loss of fluidity in our thinking making us rigid, controlling

…loss of fluidity in our body, becoming stiff and creaky

…resistance to positive change

… repression of feelings gives rise to a fear of sensuality and pleasure

…loss of creativity  leading to feelings of frustration

…difficulty processing or even naming our emotions

…an excess of guilt that guides our choices often poorly

…emotional volatility is common especially anger and  jealousy

… sexual problems and discomfort in the lower back, hips, and reproductive organs

A deficient swadisthana can often be traced back to a family  environment where emotions were repressed or pleasure denied

Symptoms of an excessively charged second chakra include:

…overly emotional behaviour,  extreme sensitivity

…addictions (to sex, drugs, food, love…..)

…obsessive attachments

…poor boundaries

…a reluctance to accept that our goals are unrealistic or inappropriate,  giving rise to  a retreat from the world into a fantasy life within that cannot easily be challenged.

An excess at svadisthana can often be traced back to a family environment where there was  a constant need for pleasurable stimulation (entertainment, partying) or frequent emotional drama.

Lunar energy / Solar energy

Along with the second chakra at the pelvis, the other even-numbered chakras (the fourth, at the heart, and the sixth, at the third eye) are concerned with the qualities of relaxation and openness, these are thought of in yoga as feminine or lunar qualities. These chakras exercise our rights to feel, to love, and to see. Odd-numbered chakras are concerned with the “masculine” endeavour of applying our will in the world, asserting our rights to have, to ask, to speak, and to know. The odd-numbered, masculine chakras tend to move energy through our systems, pushing it out into the world and creating warmth and heat. The even-numbered, feminine chakras cool things down, attracting energy inward.

In the modern world, the masculine and feminine principles of life are out of balance. Masculine energy (action and expression) too often overrule the feminine energy of wisdom and acceptance, causing increased stress in our lives. So many people have taken on an imbalanced work ethic that leaves little time for the simple pleasures in life, and affords little time for enjoyment or relaxation. Our lives give us plenty of opportunities to express ourselves and be active- in our yoga practice and elsewhere – but we need to make sure we complement this with relaxation and receptivity. Harmony requires balance. In yoga, that means creating a practice that combines strength and flexibility, effort and surrender. Any imbalance in your yoga practice will be mirrored in your chakras.

When Svadisthana is balanced  your inner world will be very rich and fulfilling, inspiration will come often, your creativity will flow and you will find novel solutions to difficulties that do not follow the most obvious path. Before a creative breakthrough there is often a period of despair or depression, a feeling of stagnation or frustration, but like water bursting a damn, once the process of release begins,  it is powerful enough to remove any remaining blockages, and restore the natural flow of prana.  A person with a balanced second chakra  experiences happiness, joy and sensuality, a passion for life; they will be expressive, trusting and have a joyful attitude towards themselves as sexual and sensual beings. Svadisthana in balance allows us to express unconditional love: love that requires no rules, has no expectations and expects no reward.

Asana for swadisthana

To find information on these poses go to www.yogajournal.com to the ‘pose finder’ section. Bear in mind this may not always give a modification suitable for every individual but I can help you with that in class. These are just some of the postures suggested by various teachers and traditions to help balance swadisthana, there are probably many more out there!

Gomukhasana

Baddha konasana

Upavista konasana

Sethu bandha sarvangasana

Ardha chandrasana

Utthita Parsvakonasana

Parivrtta trikonasana

Prasarita padottanasana

Natarajasana I

Dhanurasana

Bakasana

Mudra for swadisthana

Sit in any comfortable way you can on the floor or in a chair. Hold the left hand palm up in front of pubic bone, and the right hand palm down in front of navel. Allow the jaw neck and shoulders to release, let your eyes drop to the floor. Observe the gentle flow of your breath. This mudra helps us to access the strength and command we need to continue our journey towards the light.

Pranayama for swadisthana
Sit in any comfortable way you can on the floor or in a chair. Start by counting your inhalations and exhalations. Begin to extend the outbreath by a count of two on each round of breath, working towards the outbreath being twice the length of the inbreath. Do not force or strain, or leave yourself feeling ‘breath hungry’. Be content to be able to extend the outbreath by just a little, it will take time and practice. Bear in mind that lengthening the exhale can lower the heart rate and blood pressure, which is a positive effect if the blood pressure is already high, but should be practiced with caution if the blood pressure is low. In pregnancy I would not advise that you change the ration of the breath at all.

References

“Healing Yoga” by Swami Ambikananda Saraswati

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

“The Chakra Bible” by Patricia Mercier

“Seventh Heaven -  asana for the chakra system” by Barbara Kaplan Herring

Additional information came from my Yoga Foundation course notes so thanks to my teacher Julia Wheatley, and my notes from my Yoga Diploma at Yoga Campus, so thank you to all my teachers there who shared their knowledge.

“May you live like the lotus, at home in the muddy waters”

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