(This article is 3rd in Shelley’s series on the chakras)
In my yoga classes, I will sometimes guide the class to be stroft while holding a pose. Do you remember the old Charmin commercials? “It’s strong and soft. It’s stroft!” This ability to be strong without gripping or straining is extremely helpful for maintaining our physical health, and also in our daily lives.
It’s been my personal experience that many of us (is it because we’re mid-westerners?) are pretty good at “being strong” and getting through things. What is challenging is allowing ourselves to experience the softness at the same time. We are afraid to feel or express our emotions, afraid we will fall apart, let others down, or appear weak. In fact, the opposite is true: it takes great awareness and courage to be vulnerable, to feel and to fully experience both the pain and joy in life and to deeply connect with others in our relationships.
When we hold in emotions in order to hold things together in our lives, our energy becomes blocked. It’s as if we build an energetic shell or suit of armor that we carry with us well beyond the actual events that caused the challenging emotions in the first place. These trapped emotions keep us stuck in old patterns, preventing us from moving forward and can also lead to physical pain or disease.
The solar plexus or manipura chakra, the energetic center located at the base of the rib cage, deals with power, energy, self-worth, self-confidence, will, ego/sense of self, autonomy, taking action, proactivity, responsibility/reliability, and appropriate self-discipline. Fire is the element associated with the manipura chakra. When this center is in balance, our inner fire burns brightly, allowing us to take action, to live passionately and intentionally.
We also process anger, frustration, irritations and anxieties here, and imbalance in the solar plexus is a major source of physical, emotional, and spiritual discomfort.
If the fire burns too brightly, such as when we overwork or push too hard, or if it is stifled, such as when we are not dealing with anger or frustration in a healthy way, or we have a low sense of self-worth, we either rage out of control or burn out. Some physical issues associated with manipura imbalance are inflammation, digestive issues, muscle spasms, and chronic fatigue.
When we are in balance, our bodies function optimally, and our ability to relate to others is also improved. Feeling a sense of self-worth, having the ability to express feelings in an appropriate way, and taking appropriate action steps are all important components in supporting physical and emotional health, sustaining healthy personal relationships, and helping us achieve our goals.
Both Reiki and Yoga are wonderful tools to facilitate improved energy flow and balance. Diaphragmatic belly breathing is another highly effective practice to create better flow of energy in the solar plexus (among many other benefits). Follow the instructions below or click here for a guided practice with Shelley.
Diaphragmatic belly breathing: (Lying on your back with legs supported on 1-2 pillows)
Begin to notice the flow of the breath, in and out through your nose. Gradually slow the breath down, lengthening both the inhale and the exhale.
Place your hands on your abdomen.
As you inhale, feel your belly rising.
As you exhale, feel your belly dropping down toward the floor.
Gently lengthen both the inhale and the exhale (without straining).
Keep breath relaxed and soft, but deep.
As you continue breathing, begin to exhale more fully, while still continuing full inhales.
Repeat several cycles.
Shelley Carpenter, Physical Therapist, Registered Yoga Teacher, Reiki Master Teacher is a practitioner at Ommani who offers group (Tuesday and Wednesday) and individual therapeutic yoga sessions, individual physical therapy, and Reiki care. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.