The 7 Chakras Every Yogi Must Know

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If you are a yogi, aspiring yogi, or interested in mind/body/energy healing, Chakras play a big role in these activities. Chakras are our energy centers. The sanskrit word stands for “wheel”, “circle”, as well as “cycle”. There are seven main “energy centers” on each and every one of our bodies. At each of the seven energy centers, there are openings for life that allow energy to flow in and out of the aura. These openings start at the bottom of the spine and work their way up to the crown of the head.

You may be wondering what the purpose of these openings are. Well, the Chakras function is to stimulate the physical body and help aid and develop our self-consciousness. We must keep our Chakras open to flowing energy because a blockage in a chakra can result in illness. The invisible energy flowing through our Chakras is called Prana, which is what keeps us vibrant, healthy, and alive.  The swirling energy flowing through each Chakra harmonizes with nerve centers within our bodies. This flow of energy helps benefit our bodies psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally.

So how do you know if you have a blocked Chakra? You may be feeling off balanced emotionally or physically aching, sore, stiff, or even sick. One of the best examples I have heard is of a son who lost his mother and shortly after developed bronchitis. The ache in his chest from each time he cough was directly correlated to the ache in his heart he felt because his mother passed. Typically when we have a physical issue it results in weakness in our emotional behavior and vice versa. By guiding your awareness to a blockage it will help open your blocked chakra and promote healing for your body physically as well as emotionally.

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Identifying The Seven Chakras:

1. The Root Chakra (Muladhara)

The Root Chakra is our main hub, our survival center. Located at the base of our spine, it has the deepest connections with our physical bodies, environment, and Mother Earth. It holds the first three vertebrae, our bladder, and our colon.

  • When this chakra is open we feel safe and fearless.
  • When there is a blockage or an imbalance in the Root Chakra it will result in physical issues such as; tailbone, legs, feet, rectum, immune system. Emotional imbalances includes negative feelings affecting our basic survival needs such as; money, food, shelter, ability to provide necessities for oneself.

2. The Sacral Chakra (Svadhisthana)

The Sacral Chakra holds our ability to accept others. It is our creativity, passion, grounded intuition, and sexuality center. It is located above the pubic bone, about two inches below the navel and two inches in.

  • When the chakra is open we feel committed, creative, passionate, sexual, outgoing.
  • When there is a physical imbalance in this chakra it may result in sexual disfunction, reproductive issues, urinary problems, kidney issues, hip, pelvic, and lower back pain. Emotional Imbalances include problems with commitment to relationships, inability to express emotions, fear of betrayal, and addiction issues.

3. The Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura)

The Solar Plexus Chakra is our ability to be confident and have control over our lives. It is located at the upper abdomen and stomach region extending to the breastbone.

  • When the chakra is open we feel confident, have self worth, willpower, self discipline, warmth in our personality.
  • Some physical imbalances of this chakra include digestive issues, liver dysfunction, chronic fatigue, stomach ulcers, diabetes, high blood pressure, pancreas and gallbladder problems, colon diseases. Emotional Imbalances include our inner critic coming out, no self worth, fears of criticism, rejection, physical appearance.

4. The Heart Chakra (Anahata)

Located at the heart this chakra is in the middle of the seven and unites the lower chakras of matter and the upper chakras of spirit. The Heart Chakra is our source of love and connection. The fourth chakra is a bridge between mind, body, emotion, and spirit.

  • When the Heart Chakra is open we feel at peace, love, and joy. “Unhurt, unstruck, and unbeaten”, is the Sanskrit meaning of this chakra.
  • When physical imbalances occur, asthma, heart disease, lung disease, breast issues, lymphatic system issues, upper back and shoulder problems, along with arm and wrist pain. Emotional Imbalances include over loving to the point of suffocation, jealousy, anger, bitterness, fear of loneliness.

5. The Throat Chakra (Vishuddhi)

The Throat Chakra is the voice of our body. The fifth chakra is located in the throat. This chakra focuses on the ability to communicate and express how we feel.

  • When this chakra is in balance we have the ability to speak our highest truth, honest and truthful, good listener, free flowing words and expression.
  • Physical issues resulting from an off balance Throat Chakra is thyroid issues, laryngitis, TMJ, sore throats, ear infections, facial problems, neck, and shoulder pains, as well as ulcers. Emotional Imbalance includes issues of self expression through communication, the fear of no power or choice, no willpower, or feelings of being out of control.

6. The Third Eye Chakra (Ajna)

Our source for intuition and ability to focus and see the big picture. This chakra is located between the eyebrows.

  • When our Third Eye Chakra is balanced we will feel clear, determined, and focused. We can distinguish between truth and illusion. We are open to insight.
  • When our Third Eye Chakra has a physical imbalance we may have headaches, sinus issues, blurred vision, hearing loss, hormone malfunction. When there are emotional imbalances we may be moody, volatile, have the inability to learn from others, daydream and have an exaggerated imagination.

7. The Crown Chakra (Sahasrara)

The Crown Chakra is the high chakra and it represents spiritual enlightenment. This chakra is located at the top of our head. It centers trust, devotion, inspiration, happiness, and positivity.

  • When this chakra is balanced we feel present in the moment and have an unshakable trust within ones self.
  • When there is a physical imbalance of the Crown Chakra depression, inability to learn, sensitivity to light, sound , and environment may be present. When there is an emotional imbalance issues with self knowledge may arise, constant confusion, and alienation.

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Abigail Cox

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Abby was raised in a small town in Arizona. She started her professional career in Marketing, but her nag for cooking, holistic health, and crafting was always her true passion. She, her husband, and two rad kids moved to Oregon in 2015 to pursue a more fulfilled life that targeted their interests to be able to spend more time outdoors with Mother Nature. Being surrounded by nature is Abby’s natural realm. She loves to hike, play chef, read and expand her library, keep up on her green thumb, paint, practice yoga, kayak, bike, and regularly stops to smell the flowers. Follow Abby on Instagram @gaiagals
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What’s A Bandha?

Hey yogis, I’m here to clear things up about the bandhas. I’ve been to more than my fair share of group classes in which the yoga instructor says something along the lines of “engage mula bandha” without any extra guidance. There are so many new yoga students right now and honestly I’d like to give you a hand, to demystify the bandhas, and encourage you to keep coming back to your yoga mat time and time again. I know experiential guidance is even more powerful than just reading, but this blog post will at least get you started in the right direction… if you still need more clarification feel free to message me or join me for a Bandha Workshop.

WHAT ARE THE BANDHAS?

Bandhas are the activation and engagement of muscle fibers, in strategic areas in the body, that support in the toning and lifting of the systems of the body against the natural laws of gravity. Bandhas are used to stabilize the spine AND to draw kundalini upward.

3 Main Bandhas:

  1. Moola bandha (mula bandha)- The root lock
  2. Uddiyana bandha- Upward flying lock
  3. Jalandhara bandha- The throat lock

2 Secondary Bandhas:

  1. Hasta bandha- hand lock
  2. Pada bandha- foot lock

MULA BANDHA- “THE ROOT LOCK” (PERINEUM OR CERVIX RETRACTION LOCK)

Mula bandha forces the prana upward and prevents it from escaping out the lower outlets.

Mula Bandha Basics:

  1. Begin by practicing in a seated posture.
  2. Isolate the different parts of the pelvic floor (front-stopping pee, back-stopping poo, middle- pulling in and up (without engaging front or back))
  3. Lift from the perineum (male) or cervix (female); similar-ish to a kegel

Activating and engaging mula bandha tones and supports the internal organs of the lower abdominal cavity and brings much needed awareness to the space between the pubis (front) and the coccyx (back). This connection between front body and back body is usually saved for the psoas muscle, which due to habitual patterns of hip flexion in what we do for work and play is one of the major causes of lower back pain. Continuous awareness of the space between the pubis and coccyx and sitting bones in yoga poses and transitions can help alleviate already existing tightness, tension and/or lower back pain and can reduce the potential of lower back injury.

Gross (clench) vs. Subtle (lift) action

Practicing with a more gross, clenching sensation is okay when you’re learning to identify the muscles necessary to perform the bandhas, but in a regular asana practice the engagement is much more subtle… perhaps 20%.

Get Familiar With Your Pelvic Floor

Physiologically, this bandha is a diamond shape hammock of muscles that spans the space between the bones of the pubis in the front, the two ischium (sitting bones) on the sides and the coccyx in the back. These are your coccygeus, iliococcygeus, and the pubococcygeus muscles – known together as your Levator Ani, which form a part of the pelvic floor.

UDDIYANA BANDHA (THE ABDOMINAL RETRACTION LOCK)

Uddiyana bandha unites apana and prana at the navel center, the bandha described is called the rising or flying bandha.

Uddiyana Bandha Basics

  1. To learn Uddiyana Bandha practice in either a seated posture (with spine long) or standing posture with feet hip width and hands on thighs.
  2. Inhale fully inflating belly and lungs then exhale fully and forcefully until empty.
  3. With the breath held out draw your diaphragm in and up to hollow out the belly.
  4. Release your breath and uddiyana bandha when you cannot hold the breath comfortably any longer.
  5. Never exhale or inhale AS you move the body into the lock. Breathe after or before movement as appropriate.

Uddiyana Bandha increases vitality, toning effect on the visceral organs, muscles, nerves and glands, stimulates blood circulation and absorption. The heart is gently massaged and squeezed by the upward pressure of the diaphragm. The suction or negative pressure in the thorax draws venous blood up from the abdomen into the heart and at the same time, arterial blood is drawn into the internal organs.

Chakras most affected are:

Manipura (solar plexus), Anahata (heart), & Vishuddi (throat).

*contraindications: stomach or intestinal ulcers, uncontrolled high blood pressure, heart disease, glaucoma or raised intracranial pressure

JALANDHARA BANDHA (THROAT LOCK)

Jalandhara prevents an upward leakage of prana. Jalandhara regulates the circulatory and respiratory systems, stimulates the thyroid to balance metabolism, and is said to cure diseases of the throat.

Jalandhara bandha basics:

  1. Can be practiced in most postures.
  2. Full expression: shoulders up, chin to chest and jawline back.

Chakras most affected are:

Vishuddi (throat)

*contraindications: uncontrolled high blood pressure and heart disease

MAHA BANDHA (THE GREAT LOCK)

Maha bandha, or the Great Lock, is a combination of mula bandha, uddiyana bandha, and jalandhara bandha. Maha bandha should only be practiced under the guidance of an experienced teacher.

Don’t worry if bandhas continue to feel foreign. As you continue your yoga practice you will become more aware of the inner workings of your body.

Resources:

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction No More!

https://yogainternational.com/article/view/uddiyana-bandha-step-by-step

http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/net-bearer-bond/

https://www.jenreviews.com/yoga/

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Autumn Adams

Owner, Founder, & Retreat Leader at Ambuja Yoga
Autumn founded Ambuja Yoga in 2014 to share her love of adventure, yoga, and travel with her fellow yogis. Ambuja Yoga has morphed into more than she could have ever dreamed and she is thrilled to have a "job" she loves. She is forever grateful for the opportunity to facilitate personal growth and self love through yoga while taking yogis to off-the-beaten-path destinations worldwide. Follow Autumn on Instagram @autumnadamsyoga.
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Sanskrit Basics for Yogis

Sanskrit Glossary

A

Adho Mukha Svanasana: Downward Facing Dog
Ahimsa: Nonviolence
Ajna: Third Eye Chakra
Anahata: Heart Chakra
Aparigraha: Non-attachment/ non-greed
Ardha Matsyendrasana: Seated Half Spinal Twist
Ardha: Half
Ardha Chandrasana: Half Moon Pose
Asana: A steady, comfortable posture
Ashtanga: The Eight Limbs of Yoga (elaborate)
Asteya: Nonstealing

B

Balasana: Child’s Pose
Bandha: An energetic body lock
Bhujangasana: Cobra Pose
Brahmacharya: Moderation

C

Chakra: Energy center in the body
Chaturanga Dandasana: Four Limbed Staff Pose

D

Deerga Swaasam: 3 Part Breathing
Dhanurasana: Bow Pose
Dharana: Concentration
Dhyana: Meditation

G

Garudasana: Eagle Pose

H

Hatha: Sun-moon, physical aspect of yoga.

I

Isvarapranidhana: Surrender

J

Jalandhara Bandha: Throat Lock
Janusirshasana: Head to Knee Pose

K

Kappalabhati: Skull Shining Breath/ Rapid diaphragmatic breathing
Kleshas: Afflictions, include: Avidya- ignorance, Asmita- “I am” ness (egoism), Raga- attachment, Dvesha- repulsion, Abhinivesha- will to live
Koshas: Layers/sheaths of our being (5) Annamaya kosha, Pranamaya kosha, Manomaya Kosha, Vijananamaya kosha, and Anandamaya kosha.

M

Manipura: Solar Plexus Chakra
Mantra: Mystic sounds representing a particular aspect of the divine vibration. Used as an object for meditation.
Matyasana: Fish Pose
Mudra: Energetic seal, often a hand gesture.
Mula bandha: Root lock; perineum/cervix retraction
Muladhara: Root Chakra

N

Nadi Suddhi: Alternate Nostril Breathing
Namaste: The divine light in me honors the divine light in you. A common greeting in Hindu cultures.
Natarajasana: Dancer’s Pose
Netra Vyaayamam: Eye Exercises
Niyama: Observances including 5 ethical precepts

O

Om: Sacred sound vibration.

P

Parsvakonasana: Extended Side Angle
Paschimotanasana: Seated Forward Bend
Prana: Energy/life force
Pranayama: Breathing exercises

S

Salabasana: Locust Pose
Santosha: Contentment
Sarvangasana: Shoulderstand
Satya: Truthfulness
Saucha: Purity
Savasana: Corpse Pose
Setu Bandhasana: Bridge Pose
Sirsasana: Headstand Pose
Sukhasana: Easy Sitting Pose
Surya Namaskara: Sun Salutation
Swadisthana: Sacral Chakra
Svadhyaya: Self study and study of spiritual books

T

Tadasana: Mountain Pose
Tapas: Discipline
Trikonasana: Triangle Pose

U

Uddiyana Bandha: Upward Flying Lock
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana: Upward Facing Dog Pose
Ustrasana: Camel Pose
Utkatasana: Chair Pose
Uttanasana: Standing Forward Bend/Standing Forward Fold

V

Vasisthasana: Side Plank Pose
Virabhadrasana I, II, II: Warrior 1, 2, & 3
Vishuddi: Throat Chakra
Vriksasana: Tree Pose

Y

Yamas: Restraints that promote inner peace and avoid behaviors that bring suffering and difficulty
Yoga: To yoke; Union
Yoga Nidra: Yogic Sleep

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Autumn Adams

Owner, Founder, & Retreat Leader at Ambuja Yoga
Autumn founded Ambuja Yoga in 2014 to share her love of adventure, yoga, and travel with her fellow yogis. Ambuja Yoga has morphed into more than she could have ever dreamed and she is thrilled to have a "job" she loves. She is forever grateful for the opportunity to facilitate personal growth and self love through yoga while taking yogis to off-the-beaten-path destinations worldwide. Follow Autumn on Instagram @autumnadamsyoga.
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How to Teach Chaturanga Dandasana

how-to-teach-chaturanga-dandasana

Now is the time to brush up on your knowledge of chaturanga dandasana, so you can teach the pose safely. It is important to keep your student’s shoulders safe in their vinyasa yoga practice. It takes time and patience to master chaturanga.

Chaturanga has gotten a bad rep in the yoga community and has been dubbed the “shoulder shredder” and it’s not without due cause. This pose, when done incorrectly, can destroy the rotator cuff, injure the deltoids, and cause chronic pain in the upper back/neck. So why do we practice it?

Chaturanga Dandasana is an integral part of our yoga practice and when done properly builds strength and stability in the shoulder girdle and builds strength in our core. It’s important to fully master chaturanga before moving on to more advanced arm balances and inversions.

I’ve broken this post down into a few sections. I encourage you to read through all of the sections as there are many components to chaturanga dandasana.

Alignment Cues and Teaching Tips for Chaturanga Dandasana

As always, remember to build the posture from the ground up. A stable and strong posture needs a strong and sturdy foundation.

  • Hands are shoulder width distance.
  • Fingers are spread wide.
  • Press down through knuckles of index finger and thumb (hasta bandha)
  • Start from Plank Pose with the feet hips width distance.
  • Press forward onto your toes, so your heels stack over your toes.
  • Lower halfway down to create a 90 degree angle at the elbows.
  • Elbows stay in close to the body. Don’t let them wing out to the side.
  • Stretch the crown of your head forward and create a long line from the heels out through the crown of the head. Draw your tailbone down toward your heels.
  • Draw the navel in toward the spine to support the lower back.

7 Tips to Keep Your Student’s Shoulders Safe When Teaching Chaturanga Dandasana:

  1. Keep your hands shoulder width distance, fingers spread wide and press down into the base knuckles, particularly of the thumb and index finger.
  2. As you begin to lower down make sure your elbow points are pointing straight back behind you. They are not “winging” out to the side or “squeezing” into the sides of your rib cage. Remember: CHATURANGA IS NOT A PUSH UP! When the elbows wing out to the side the heads of the arm bones dip down, the shoulders round and the sternum sinks.
  3. Only lower half way down, to create a 90° angle at the elbow ie. your forearm is perpendicular to the floor and your upper arm is parallel to the floor.
  4. Think of drawing the shoulders away from your ears in Plank Pose and as you lower. Try not to collapse between the shoulder blades. Try to keep the shoulder blades on your back.
  5. Keep your core strong, press back through your heels, lift the fronts of your thighs and draw the navel in. Stretch the crown of your head forward, gaze is only slightly forward and down (don’t let the head hang).
  6. As you move from Plank Pose to Chaturanga press forward on your toes as you lower down, this will set you up for Upward Facing Dog.
  7. As you work on building strength it’s important to honor your body where it is TODAY, not where you want it to be. It’s okay to lower your knees down to the mat, so you can slowly and safely move through your chaturanga. You can also practice chaturanga at the wall.

Benefits of Chaturanga Dandasana

  • Strengthens wrists, arms (triceps!), and shoulders
  • Strengthens and tones the entire body (hello legs!)
  • Prepares the body for arm balances and inversions

Contraindications for Chaturanga Dandasana

  • Shoulder or wrist injury
  • Pregnancy (although this is debatable)

I hope you find these tips helpful. Please feel free to message me if you need more clarification. I’m always happy to help.

Love and Light,

Autumn

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Autumn Adams

Owner, Founder, & Retreat Leader at Ambuja Yoga
Autumn founded Ambuja Yoga in 2014 to share her love of adventure, yoga, and travel with her fellow yogis. Ambuja Yoga has morphed into more than she could have ever dreamed and she is thrilled to have a "job" she loves. She is forever grateful for the opportunity to facilitate personal growth and self love through yoga while taking yogis to off-the-beaten-path destinations worldwide. Follow Autumn on Instagram @autumnadamsyoga.
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5 Ways to Deepen Your Yoga Practice

Meditating with Mala Beads

1. Attend a retreat, workshop or teacher training.

Okay, lets start with the most obvious way to deepen your yoga practice. Go on a retreat, participate in an immersion program, or attend a teacher training with a favorite teacher. Maybe try a new-to-you style of yoga like Bhakti Flow, Yin, or Ashtanga. If you feel ready to move deeper into your practice read my recent blog post about what it’s like to attend a yoga retreat. Yoga retreats and teacher trainings are life changing, practice changing, wall breaking awesomeness.

2. My favorite: Begin a meditation practice.

For those that are new to meditation begin with 5-10 minutes a day. There are many different types of meditation, explore them all: Mindfulness, Concentration, Transcendental, Japa, Mantra etc. Don’t limit yourself to one type. They all have benefits. To begin a meditation practice all you need is a comfortable seat. The most simple meditation technique is to simply witness the gentle tide of your breath. I like using the Insight Timer App for my meditation practice. Insight Timer has guided meditations (helpful if you’re feeling distracted or overwhelmed) and also a timer. Insight Timer also has a pretty substantial and involved meditation community.

3. Get familiar with Patanjali’s Yamas & Niyamas

Yep I said it. The yamas and niyamas are a guide to living a moral, yogic lifestyle. In layman’s terms the yamas are things not to do, while the niyamas are things to do. These are the first two limbs in Patanjali’s eightfold path as laid out in the Yoga Sutras. It takes a lot of courage to really look at ourselves and our lives as they relate to the yamas and niyamas. Don’t be afraid to shine that light. It will only bring you growth.

The Yamas (Restraints)

  1. Ahimsa: nonviolence
  2. Satya: truthfulness
  3. Asteya: non-stealing
  4. Brahmacharya: non-excess ie. moderation
  5. Aparigraha: non-attachment ie. non-greed

The Niyamas (Observances)

  1. Saucha: purity
  2. Santosha: contentment
  3. Tapas: self-discipline
  4. Svadhyaya: self-study
  5. Ishvara Pranidhana: surrender

4. Begin a Home Practice

Create a sacred space in your home for your practice. I live in a 1000 sq. foot duplex that I share with my husband, two dogs, and a cat… and I work from home when I’m not teaching yoga. Let’s just say it’s cozy. In our guest room I have created a space that feels almost sacred…. to be honest most days it needs a little to a lot of help, but it’s a work in progress. I ALWAYS have a mat down and props available. The room gets great natural lighting, I keep essential oils handy and I’m in the process of finding a small table to use as an altar.

Create a space for your home practice anywhere… even if it’s in your living room with your toddler running around or your pets sleeping on your mat. Only you know what you need when it comes to your practice, so give yourself the space and the time to explore.

5. Create a practice of gratitude.

Practicing gratitude is an absolute gift… and maybe one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Don’t get me wrong my life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but I do make it a point to practice gratitude multiple times a day and now it has become a habit. When I’m making dinner I find gratitude in the fresh, healthy produce in front of me and my wonderful partner that helps me prepare meals, the sweet puppy cuddles and kisses that I graciously receive everyday, my healthy, strong and capable body, the many teachers I have in my life (yoga instructors, friends, acquaintances, students, my partner), the list goes on and on. Tips for adding in a bit more gratitude: Anytime you’re by yourself take a moment to reflect on what you’re grateful for: in the car, brushing your teeth, in the shower, walking to work, beginning/ending your yoga practice, cleaning the kitchen or bathroom, doing laundry.

I hope you find these tips to deepen your practice helpful. I’m always here to support you if you have questions or need guidance.

Namaste!

Autumn

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Autumn Adams

Owner, Founder, & Retreat Leader at Ambuja Yoga
Autumn founded Ambuja Yoga in 2014 to share her love of adventure, yoga, and travel with her fellow yogis. Ambuja Yoga has morphed into more than she could have ever dreamed and she is thrilled to have a "job" she loves. She is forever grateful for the opportunity to facilitate personal growth and self love through yoga while taking yogis to off-the-beaten-path destinations worldwide. Follow Autumn on Instagram @autumnadamsyoga.
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