Growing up with ‘alternative’ parents meant that from a young age I had seen many depictions of the chakras, heard their names mentioned, and I even had a good idea as to what each chakra represented. But that was it, I just thought of them as pretty coloured intricate images, with interesting names and special qualities attached to them. It wasn’t until much later in my life, when I was about 19 and studying to become a yoga instructor, that I started to really understand what prana (energy or life force) is, and how important the flow of our energy is to our physical, psychological and spiritual well being.
Prana flows along ida, pingala and sushumna nadi, sushumna nadi being the main channel that flows from the base of the spine to the top of the head, and ida and pingala nadi inter-crossing it at 7 points. These seven points form the energy vortexes known as chakras.
Muladhara chakra: Often referred to as the ‘root’ chakra, it is the first of the 7 and is located at the base of the spine. It is represented in a red colour and it is from this energy centre that our survival instincts, our self sufficiency and general stability stem from.
Svadhisthana chakra: Often referred to as the ‘sacral’ chakra, it is the second of the 7 and is located between the navel and the pelvic bone. It is represented in an orange colour and this energy centre is concerned with sexuality, emotions, relationships and creativity.
Manipura chakra: Often referred to as the ‘solar plexus’ chakra, it is the third of the 7 and is located between the navel and the rib cage. It is represented in a yellow colour and is the energy centre for personal power, determination, self esteem and energy.
Anahata chakra: Often referred to as the ‘heart’ chakra, it is the fourth of the 7 and is located at the heart space. It is represented in a green colour and encompasses the energies of love, compassion, trust, and acceptance.
Vishuddha chakra: Often referred to as the ‘purification’ chakra, it is the fifth of the 7 and it is located at the base of the throat. It is depicted as a bright blue colour and is responsible for communications, expression, inspiration and faith.
Ajna chakra: Often referred to as the ‘third eye’ chakra, it is the sixth of the 7 and is located behind the eyebrow centre. It is depicted as an indigo blue and encompasses the energies of intuition, emotional and mental intelligence and psychic abilities.
Sahasrara chakra: Often referred to as the ‘crown’ chakra, it is the final chakra and is located at the top of the head. It is depicted as a violet/white colour and draws the energies of spiritual understanding, cosmic connection, inspiration and selflessness.
In order for sushumna, the main prana nadi (energy channel) to flow freely, all the chakras need to be balanced and harmonised.
Now that I have a clearer understanding of what the chakras are and the role they play on the entire energetic body, it makes perfect sense why it is important to have the chakras balanced and in harmony with each other.
There are many different tools that can be used to help awaken and balance your chakras (outside of eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly!). Some of which include sound vibrations, chanting, massage and reiki. However the three main tools I use are simple and I incorporate them into my life on a daily basis.
Yoga: Different asanas (yoga poses) focus on different chakras, and in order to balance the chakras it is important to also work on awakening the positive qualities they possess. There are many asanas to choose from, one of my favourites is Surya Namaskar (or salute to the sun). This is actually a series of different practices performed systematically, which stimulate each of the 6 higher chakras. Surya namaskara is great for beginners and advanced practitioners alike, and can be used in association with the root mantra, of each chakra, to increase the practices focus on each of these energy centres.
Pranayama (Breathing techniques): There are many different breathing practices (pranayamas) that focus on awakening the different chakras, however my favourite is perhaps the most simple and that is to practice yogic breathing whilst focusing on on each of the 7 chakras, from the root chakra and working up to the crown chakra. As you practice this, bring both your palms so that they are just of your pelvic bone and the fingertips are about an inch from the other hand. As you focus and breath into each chakra, move your hands up so that they rest just above each chakra. When you get to the crown chakra, separate your hands out, like energy connecting with consciousness, and then bring them down to your pelvic bone to begin again.
Meditation: There are many different meditations, for beginners and for advanced practitioners, that focus on either opening the individual chakras or harmonising and balancing all the chakras together. Some utilize visualization and breath to help focus the awareness at these points and awaken the qualities that reside there. There are many free guided chakra meditations and meditation scripts available online, so shop around and find one that resonates well with you.
When all of the chakras are balanced it means that all levels of existence are working in harmony with each other. Which means that physically, energetically and emotionally we are balanced and grounded which makes life so much more simple and enjoyable!
Posted in Balance In Me | April 3, 2015 | Comments Off
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Posted in Forming Habits | April 2, 2015 | Comments Off
I remember when I was first studying to become a teacher, my lecturer for yoga psychology brought up an interesting topic that really changed the way I view habits. I had always thought of a habit as just being a ‘bad habit’, something you wanted to change, such as chewing your nails, smoking cigarettes or leaving your wet towel on the floor (my husband would say that this is one that I still struggle with!).
The lecturer said to us that our progress on our paths of self development is much like climbing a long staircase. With each new positive habit we form in our life, we progress another step, sometimes our bad habits make some of the steps slippery and we keep sliding down again, but the more positive habits we form in our life, the higher we go and the further behind we leave those slippery steps. This analogy isn’t flawless, but it really appealed to me. What he taught me was that incorporating positive habits helps us to let go of, or release, the negative habits.
When we think to ourselves ‘I don’t like this habit, I am going to stop!’, it can sometimes be incredibly difficult to do so without some sort of assistance. By starting to put positive habits in place, especially when the desire to do a negative habit arises, we start to push the negative habit aside naturally, so that it no longer has a place in our lives.
Aristotle once said “We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then, is not an act, but a habit!” So by introducing more good habits into our life we slowly shed the negative ones and progress up our staircase of self discovery, learning and excellence!
Here are some ways in which you can help incorporate more good habits into your life, and make them stick!
When trying to let go and move on from a negative habit, try to find some positive habits to practice each time the desire arises. For example if you are addicted to smoking and would like to quit, each time you feel like a cigarette try doing 5 sit ups, drink a glass of water, or practice some deep breathing. It might not get rid of the cravings, but it will distract you as you work towards overcoming the addiction and you will be building healthy habits in it’s place!
Positive affirmations, and affirming to yourself that you will achieve that which you set out to achieve, goes a long way in the process of building positive habits. Try to remind yourself first thing each morning (perhaps with a note on your bedside table) of your goals in a positive way; “I am no longer a smoker” Each time you recognise that you have avoided a bad habit and implemented a good habit, give yourself a mental pat on the back. It isn’t always an easy path and you deserve recognition for your accomplishments. It doesn’t matter if they seem like small accomplishments to begin with, each small step takes you closer to where you want to be! You have the power to achieve your goals!
Awareness and kindness
Practising awareness is incredibly important when you are trying to redirect your habits into a positive direction. Without awareness you might not even be aware you are doing one of your bad habits (chewing your nails is a good example here). When you notice that you have ‘slipped’ once more, try not to berate yourself, instead affirm that you will be more aware and have more strength next time. We are all human, and we inevitably make mistakes. However, one of the beautiful things about a ‘mis-take’ is that you can ‘take it’ again, and hopefully next time you will get it right!
This is perhaps the most useful tool to help you redirect your habits, as it happens to incorporate all of the above. So if you don’t already practice meditation, then consider using this as the first positive habit you might choose to introduce into your life! Meditation will help you cultivate mindfulness and an attitude of self awareness. In doing this you will become more aware of yourself and the different thoughts, actions and patterns of behaviour you act in. The more aware you are of your actions and patterns of behaviour, the more you are able to take control of the steering wheel and guide yourself in the direction you wish to be heading!
Posted in Balanced Lifestyle | April 1, 2015 | Comments Off
When you start researching the minimalist lifestyle, you are certain to run into many misconceptions, all coming down to “You’re not a good minimalist if you don’t live your life my way”. Some believe that being a minimalist means selling all of your possessions and traveling the world with nothing but a backpack, or with nothing at all. Others will tell you that all minimalists live in tiny houses, or that you’re supposed to live like a monk. Being a minimalist and also a proud parent of 4 kids, or a cat lady with 30 saved cats currently residing in her home, or a scholar keeping countless books for reference? It can’t possibly work together.
Or can it?
As it happens, it can, because the minimalist lifestyle, or simple living, is about removing the unnecessary from your life in order to make more room for what truly matters to you. If you really want to slowly travel the world and only need your backpack with the basic stuff, that’s great, and it is a fine way to be a minimalist. However, if you adore cats and want to help them, and have turned your house into a cat shelter, and are focusing your energy and your resources into that, you are also being a minimalist. And if someone tells you that you should give up on your children in order to be a good minimalist, you know the answer to that, don’t you?
Minimalist life is a simple life. It is a life without clutter, without the things you don’t actually need or use. If your job or your family situation do not require of you to own a smartphone, why not use a “dumb” phone instead, and save some money in the process? If public transport works well in your town, why wasting money on a car, gas, and insurance, not to mention adding to the pollution?
It is also a life in which you do a smaller number of things; you don’t try to accomplish 50 different tasks, only to burn out and create a mess. Instead, you focus on the really important things and do them mindfully. As for the rest? Some of it you can delegate to others, and some turn out not to matter. Nothing happens if they don’t get done.
Minimalist life is a mindful life. Minimalists are mindful of their actions, of how they affect their environment and themselves. Some choose to be vegetarians, while others opt for clean eating. The principle is the same: being careful about what you eat, and choosing healthy and organic whenever your budget allows it. Many choose to live without a car, and walk, ride, or use public transport instead. Buying only what you’re actually going to use reduces wastage, and leaves you more space. And so on.
Most of all, minimalist life is a process. Almost nobody starts out that way. In our culture, it is common to keep things we don’t use “just in case” and to buy on whim, to want something because somebody else has it, to hoard, to be so busy we don’t have time for ourselves. There is no way to instantly switch from that to the minimalist lifestyle, nor is it necessary. It is enough to make the first step, which is usually to think before we buy. Then comes the decluttering, which can take quite a while, and in some phases creates even more mess (just think about emptying your closet, piling it all up on the floor, and then deciding what you’re going to keep, what you’ll give or throw away, and what is a “maybe”) – and yet, even that can start with a single step, like emptying just one small shelf. And then…
At some point, you think that this or that is not for you, or do something very “unminimalistic”. And that is perfectly fine. Go at your own speed, see what works for you, and what doesn’t. Because that’s the point. Finding a simple balance which works best for you, and finally enjoying your life.
Have you ever noticed how sometimes all it takes is one small thing to go wrong in your morning, and it seems to set the pattern for the rest of the day? Even something as inconsequential as spilling my coffee, or accidentally sleeping in an extra 20 minutes, has been enough to put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. But when you think about it, it really doesn’t make sense does it? Why would I let something so small dictate how I approach the rest of my day!?
Setting positive intentions, first thing each morning, can have an incredibly positive impact upon the way you approach the rest of your day. Consistency is the key, after time it will become habitual and a natural part of your morning ritual.
So try to develop this positive habit, by following these 4 simple steps (you may wish to write them down and place them on your bedside table to that you are reminded each morning!).
Start Fresh – Sometimes I notice that if I awake after having an unpleasant dream, the emotions that I felt in that dream are carried on into my waking state. So if this is the case, take a few moments to clear these thoughts, remind yourself that they are just the emotions of a dream state and that they play no part in how you are going to feel today.
A Few Deep Breaths – I like to start off by taking 3-5 slow deep breaths and really experience the breath as it enters and exits my body. This not only helps to rid myself of sleep, by flushing my body with an extra kick of oxygen, but it also helps to focus my awareness into the present moment.
General Intentions – After taking a few slow deep breaths to draw my awareness into the present moment, I like to set the general intention of this new day being a productive and enjoyable one. I consider the qualities I want to embody during this new day, such as patience, understanding, positivity and humour.
Specific Intentions – When I have spent a moment considering the qualities I would like to possess during this new day, I give some thought to what this particular day holds for me. Perhaps I have a meeting, or a doctors appointment, or I have a set amount of chores I wish to complete. I then give these some consideration and think about the attitude in which I would like to approach these tasks. I may even find that my day is for relaxing and I wish to have an attitude that allows me to let go of thoughts of work, and really unwind and relax!
By following these simple steps each day, you are not only forming a positive habit that will have a beneficial effect on the way you approach each day, but you will also notice an improvement in your quality of life. Setting positive intentions helps to cultivate more awareness and generate a sense of gratitude. It will also help you deal with unforeseen circumstances in a more calm and grounded way.
So try starting your day off tomorrow with these 4 basic steps, it shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes and I bet you will start to notice an improvement in the way you approach each day!