Hello and a very happy new year to you all.
Next week we’re kicking off a series of Beginners’ Yoga Classes for Menopause. This first series (6 weeks) will be focusing on the Chakras and how, by bringing these areas of the body back into balance, you will soon feel the powerful benefits of symptom control, both physically and mentally.
I’m posting this blog upfront to give a little background perspective, as there’s simply not enough time to cover every aspect in each one-hour class. Besides, we’ve got workshops* to do that in the foreseeable future!
Plus, it is my assumption, if you are a yoga newbie, that you won’t have the faintest idea what chakras are! If I got that wrong, however, and you DO know what I’m talking about, feel free to skip to the actual class content below.
What are chakras?
Chakra, in sanskrit, means “wheel”. And these so-called wheels represent areas of energy within the body. A bit like a nerve plexus, where electrical impulses are triggered and cause actions elsewhere in the body. There is much activity which takes place at these chakra energy centres – some of it positive (when the chakra is in balance), some of it negative (when the opposite happens and the chakra is out of balance).
Where are the chakras located?
In Hindu/yogic traditions there are 7 key chakras of physical & spiritual importance.
These 7 chakras are situated along the spinal column (also the location of shushumna nadi**, more on this in a moment) – from the base of the spine reaching all the way up to the crown of the head.
** What’s a nadi? I hear you say. A little more Sanskrit terminology here, so bear with me!
Within the body it is believed there are over 72,000 energy channels or “rivers”, called nadis.
But, before you throw your hands up in horror, don’t panic, we are only going to be dealing with the three major nadis!
The first two nadis originate on either side of the spinal column (central/shushumna nadi) – Ida on the left side & Pingalaon the right side – and terminate at the corresponding nostril. They cross over the central/shushumna nadi at the location of each chakra. (The following diagram, courtesy www.innerlotus.com, depicts the nadis and chakras very succinctly – click link below.)
Life force energy – Prana
We can liken these nadis, or energy channels, to biological neural pathways along which nerve impulses travel or, to use a similar analogy, the meridians in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) through which Qi or Chi (life energy) is said to flow.
In yoga we call this subtle energy, or life force, Prana and, when the chakras are in balance, prana is able to move uninterrupted along the nadis. Of course, if you were to cut open the neural pathways in the body, you wouldn’t be able to see the electrical impulses. In a similar manner, nor would you see qi flowing through TCM meridians or prana travelling through the nadis and chakras.
I like to call this invisible, or subtle, energy the vibrations.
Of course, energy, like water, will always find the path of least resistance. So when our chakras are out of balance or, worse, blocked, our prana or life force is unable to reach the areas we need it. As a result, we experience physical, mental or even spiritual sickness or dis-ease.
Beginners’ Yoga for Menopause Class Content
Over the course of the 6-week beginners’ yoga programme we will be exploring more deeply each of the 3 nadis and the 7 chakras, and how we can balance them – from an asana (postures), pranayama (breath work) & meditation viewpoint – to better control our menopause symptoms.
Week 1 – Root – Muladhara – Base of spine/1st Chakra
The Root Chakra, as the name suggests, is connected to the Earth element and corresponds with our own roots – our foundation in life, if you like. So it concerns our upbringing, the influence of our parents or guardians, our homes, shelter, security, financial stability and so on.
If the Root Chakra becomes imbalanced, we may experience feelings of insecurity, money problems, suffer from empty-nest syndrome, have issues caring for elderly parents or guardians. We may have lived in multiple homes, or even experienced homelessness. We may feel ungrounded or root-less.
In order to bring balance to our root chakra, we will focus on the legs, seat and feet, using standing and seated yoga postures to re-connect to the earth and feel more grounded. We will also use pranayama (breathing) techniques to reset the flow of energy or prana.
Week 2 – Sacral – Swadisthana – Sacrum/2nd Chakra
The Sacral Chakra is connected to the Water element and corresponds with our intimate or romantic relationships, our creativity and procreativity, and our emotional health.
If the Sacral Chakra becomes imbalanced, we may experience issues within our intimate partnerships, whether that be sexual problems, lack of libido or loss of ability to reproduce (often an issue for women entering menopause, leaving them with feelings of loss, etc). Emotions can be heightened or out of control. Feeling tearful, always crying or, even, inability to cry may be connected to our second chakra imbalances. Experiencing writers’ block or inability to create may also occur.
For the sacral chakra, we practice hip-opening asana to help balance the flow of energy within this watery pelvic region.
Week 3 – Solar Plexus – Manipura – Solar Plexus/3rd Chakra
The Solar Plexus Chakra is connected to the Fire element or sun’s (solar) energy. Known as Agni (fire) in Sanskrit, this chakra corresponds with our ego (not in an egotistical sense, but the ego as in a sense of self), our energy and drive, our confidence and also our relationships with colleagues and people we work with. It is also linked to our digestive system.
When the Solar Plexus Chakra is blocked or out of balance, we experience lack of self-confidence or low self-esteem, alternately it may manifest as arrogance or aggression if the chakra is over-energised. We may lack the energy to get out of bed in the morning, especially if we have problems at work, or are in a dead-end job, or have difficult colleagues – all manifestations of an imbalanced Manipura. Issues with the digestion – heart burn, constipation, poor liver detoxification etc can also be as a result of blocked solar plexus chakra.
In yoga we practice twisting postures to bring back balance and detoxify. Breath work, such as kapalabhati (skull-shining) breathing techniques help to restore digestive fire or Agni.
Week 4 – Heart – Anahata – 4th Chakra
The Heart Chakra is connected to the Air element so is regarded as being at the mid-point between the physical realm of the first 3 lower chakras and the mental/spiritual realms of the 3 higher chakras. It is also often seen as the yogi’s favourite place; the place of unconditional love and forgiveness.
Problems which often occur with a blocked heart chakra can be the inability to love others unconditionally or, indeed, experience love from others, leading to feelings of fear, loss or sadness. Those with an imbalanced heart chakra may also find it difficult to forgive others or even the self.
To unblock the heart chakra we use back-bending practices in yoga to open up the heart & experience more joy.
Week 5 – Throat – Vishuddha – 5th Chakra
The Throat Chakra is connected to the Ether element and is concerned with our communication and truth. Not only the throat, but also our ears, mouth, neck and internal organs such as thyroid and thymus glands are governed by Vishuddha.
Our ability to communicate with others, to be heard, to listen, to speak the truth, our own truth, is often affected when the throat chakra is out of balance. Diseases of the thyroid (under-active, over-active, Hashimoto’s etc) may also be experienced when throat chakra is blocked.
To rectify any imbalances of the 5th chakra, we implement a series of postures specifically renowned for restoring balance to this area. Whether that be through simple breathing techniques, such as ujjayi breathing, to more complex throat locks utilised in shoulder stand or bridge pose, for example.
Week 6 – Third Eye – Ajna – 6th Chakra AND Crown -Sahasrara – 7th Chakra
The 6th & 7th Chakras are also connected to the Ether element. Both are covered in the 6th week.
The Third Eye Chakra is associated with our intuition and higher intelligence. A sixth sense, if you like.
Imbalances of the 6th Chakra may be experienced as ignorance of the workings of the subconscious mind and an inability to accept our connection to something greater than the self. Of course, from a menopause point of view, we may just see it as brain fog, confusion or lack of clarity!
Postures which bring the third eye – that spot between the eyebrows – to the earth, along with visualisations, meditation, breath work and mudras, are all used to help restore or rebalance Ajna chakra.
Our Crown Chakra – Sahasrara – depicted by a 1000-petalled lotus flower – is connected to the state of pure consciousness – yoga’s true purpose.
Yoga philosophy teaches us that, in order to achieve this state of enlightenment, however, all the nadis – Ida, Pingala and Shushumna – must first be freed of blockage. Only at this point, may Kundalini (symbolised as a coiled serpent, lying in slumber at the base chakra – a metaphor for our higher consciousness) be aroused to rise up through the central channel (shushuma), awakening each chakra along the way. Only once she (kundalini) reaches the crown chakra, will the yoga practitioner experience the highest state of yoga – or transformation.
We will be focusing purely on meditative practices and mantras to recover this chakra.
But of course, sorry to break it to you this way – no one ever reached enlightenment in just six weeks of chakra-balancing beginners yoga for menopause classes! So, this is why we develop a consistent practice. And continue to reach toward the light and slowly begin to reveal our own light within.
If you are unable to join our local classes, why not look out for our workshops and online courses to help you.
*As mentioned in the beginning, we are planning more in-depth workshops/day retreats in the foreseeable future to explore the power of chakra balancing for the control of menopause symptoms.
We will also be publishing an online course later in year. Watch this space.
If you are interested in these and/or can’t make the local classes, why not join our mailing list to ensure you are kept advised of any upcoming events?
Look forward to welcoming you at one of our events – either in person or online – in the not-too-distant future. Meanwhile wishing you a wonderful 2020 and a relatively symptom-free one too! Click on the image below to take you to our class schedule & booking page.