´Your playing small does not serve the world, who are you not to be great?´
Over the last few months in my yoga classes I have been focusing on using hand gestures called ‘Mudras’ and also the energy centres of the body, known as chakras. We have seven energy centres, or chakras in the body which run along the spinal column and govern a different organ and gland of the body. They also relate to our experiences in the outer world -our relationships, our work and physical wellbeing.
As ‘hippieish’ as chakras are made out to be, I prefer to see them pragmatically- we have an energetic body and we need to take care of it. Chakras are part of the whole that we are, we just need to get real about them and give some time once in a while to keep them in balance.
This week I am working with the ‘manipura chakra’, which translated from Sanskrit means ´resplendent gem’. It is a metaphor for the beauty of the empowered self. This chakra governs digestion and metabolism in the body and is located just around the navel. It is also referred to as your solar plexus, a hothouse for digesting your emotions hence when we feel emotional or anxious, we feel sick or get belly ache. Its’ predominant colour is yellow, and I like to call it the sunshine at centre of myself.
This energetic centre relates to how we feel and how we value ourselves in the world. Its qualities are strength, courage and feelings of worthiness. We all know how important it is to feel self-worth, however cultivating self-worth is not always easy and for some people who have been neglected from an early age, it can feel virtually impossible as many feel that they do not have a valued place in the world.
Even if we have no self-esteem, to turn up on the mat is an affirmation that something inside you is rooting for you, something that wants you to feel good and acknowledge your place in the world. At a base level, yoga practice makes you feel alive and as our body opens and becomes stronger, we start to feel empowered which leads to more practice and maybe some glimpses of a you that you can feel proud of. These small glimpses can then begin to grow into something that influences your decisions and before you know it, you will feel the sunshine at the centre of yourself shining from the inside out.
Something I advocate strongly in my classes is to ‘feel your feelings’; to lean in to discomfort, and allow the poses within your practice to allow emotions to rise. Have faith that even if you think about something else for the whole of the yoga class, something way deeper than you is at work, so just let go of all the pressure you put yourself under because part of that pressure is robbing you of discovering your true self-worth. Our stories, our distractions on the mat and in life are our journeys back to ourselves and something to be proud of.
Being open to feeling your feelings is especially useful during a manipura practice, which is about building self-esteem and through which we also ignite and cleanse the digestive fire.
Building self esteem
When I was in recovery with anorexia as a young dancer, I discovered the healing power of affirmations through motivational author Louise Hay. I have used affirmations my whole life and still do to keep me on track with my wellness and constant transformation. I love to use affirmations in class especially when participants are relaxing and in an open space to receive and in a manipura practice where the focus is on building self-esteem here are some of the affirmations I use:
I love and accept myself
I am strong and courageous
I am worthy of love, kindness and respect
I honour myself
I feel my own power
I am free to choose in any situation
I am at peace with myself
We also chant in a manipura practice. The sound for the manipura mantra is ‘ram’, which when chanted at the beginning and end of a class can be really stimulating to the whole body and can be used to evoke feelings of strength and confidence. You can also just try chanting this mantra three times as an introduction to a quiet meditation or breathing exercise.
Cleansing the digestive fire
We can cleanse digestive fire through poses that include twisting the torso like reverse three angle pose (trikonasana) or lord of the fishes (Ardhramatsyendra) and poses like dolphin (Catur Svanasana) or puppy pose (uttana shishosana) where we hang the belly upside down. I also use gentle fists into the belly as we bow over in child´s pose (Balasana) to massage and clear space in the digestive area.
Igniting the digestive fire
To ignite the digestive fire, I use a breathing technique (pranayama) called ‘fire breath’ which raises the energy in the body and uses the abdominal muscles to breathe in passively and out actively.
I encourage you to find the sunshine at the centre of yourself using any of the ideas I have shared here, or by seeking out a practice or workshop dedicated to the manipura chakra.
Should you be practicing at home I have a wonderful playlist to share with you. As music is such a central theme to my classes I have been developing playlists for each energy centre yoga practice, if you would like to hear the Manipura Chakra yoga practice playlist on Spotify just click on this link
Lucy Beckwith is a qualified Yoga teacher and Co-Founder of the Yomu Project