A YOGI CHA BLOG
Your ideas of “the Chakras” are probably all wrong
Hi, I’m Charlotte (Yogi Cha). I’m a yoga teacher with a degree in clinical psychology. I’ve always had a deep curiosity toward eastern and western approaches to understanding the mind, and the ming/body union. You’ll find me in the lovely Canggu Bali, nestled amongst coconuts, palm trees and sunshine 🥥🌴🌞
I felt the urge to write about Yoga Psychology on bringing that whole idea of chakras in to focus.
Most specifically after having watched a very interesting talk by a Vedantic monk talking about kundalini and just how much we have misunderstood this field of hinduism in our modern world.
Amongst other things; the concept of the chakras is often explained with a strong mysticism.
This monk explained our misunderstanding based on the fact that the Nadis are actually the pre-scientific word for nerves or nerve-endings whereas the chakras do not necessarily have a scientific correspondence.
Because the chakras were not physically present but objects of meditation.
“Chakras have a more specialised role than the Nadis, directly linked to Kundialini yoga because they are only mentioned in the 20 yoga upanishads whereas the Nadis a mentioned all along the 108 upanishads. Chakras are richly symbolic forms, deliberately superimposed on the body for the sake of meditation. Like deities. Or like the symbol superimposed on paper for the sake of giving value to “money”.
And yes, this is a very interesting observation.
We easily mistake, modify and make into something quite far away from its origin, these concepts from the ancient orient. I feel a strong responsibility towards yoga, my teachers, scriptures, all of it, to stay true to the lineage when developing my own path of teaching.
Like everything (and us), the origin of something is essential to understand its logic. If we would open the cadaver of a human body we would be able to see certain things that can explain why the yogis developed the pranic body the way they did. The vagus nerve, the longest nerve in the body, follows the spine like a thick snake from the brain and down to the tailbone. I’m in awe when understanding unto what detailed precision they made the “map” of the nervous system and the highly refined function of the vagus nerve, considering what they had to work with in those days.
What is even more fascinating is the idea behind the chakras and that its purpose was more of a “I see it, when I believe it” perspective. The placebo effect we call it in modern days. By imagining a four petal lotus at the base of the body, where you are seated, you begin the journey of Self discovery. They knew, and we also know that this will have an actual physical effect on you. When you can see it in your mind’s eye, you begin the feel the physical effect of it by feeling emotions that relaxes you. The lotus flowers that represents the chakras for the yogis, are turned upwards, like flowers because their goal is to take you further up on the journey. Towards the ultimate connection with the higher reality. Or if you will with our modern “psy” words, complete knowledge of self.
So we can agree on the fact that the chakras permits us to travel through the body, through the person towards liberation, towards freedom of resistance and therefore “samadhi”.
The yogis knew it and modern science is confirming it: stimulation of the vagus nerve calms the nervous system from sympathetic mode to parasympathetic. Rest and digest is what we want to maintain as a base and just allow the fight or flight to intervene when necessary so that we keep homeostasis, equilibrium in the system for ultimate function. We have also established that the different responses from the nervous system have been conditioned into our organism from the beginning as a survival response to external stimuli. But we can also observe that different organisms will respond differently to the stimuli, depending on what they have learned from before.
In other words: we become frightened for different reasons and in different situations. Because it depends on what we have experienced before.
This is the reason I like the idea of calling the body “the book of you” and why my friend suggested that my (still in progress) book should be called “the book of us”. Each and one of us have varieties in our behaviour because we have experienced different pasts and have developed a fear response (ie survival response) to situations accordingly.
I truly believe that the constraints of modern man is rather different to the yogis 5000 years ago. Even, I would say that today we have different constraints depending on if we are born in the east or the west, north or south. So I believe in the richness of the way we let the chakra system evolve.
What I don’t believe in is spiritual bypass and consumerism which is highly used to sell the new age ideas of the chakras. Associating the root chakra with fragrance, crystals, fabric…. Is mostly done to sell something to someone. And the person wanting to buy it, often is looking for an easy way out. “I don’t feel safe so I’ll buy this essential oil and it will solve my problems”.
In what way is that actually different to a catholic priest telling you to do 10 “hail Mary” after confession and all is forgiven? (Apologies if I made mistakes in that phrase, I was raised in a Lutheran country, so it might not be the right prayer).
Carl Jung started the trend of linking the ancient practices of Kundalini to the modern mind of psychoanalysis and I don’t think his idea was to dress in green and hug everyone he meets for at least 20 seconds in order to open his anahata chakra. So yes, it is essential to have a clear idea of the origins of things. Just like it is with YOU.
If we can agree that you have a unique fear(survival) response to external stimuli, it also means that we can see you more clearly when we have the broader perspective of this knowledge.
In the experimental ages of the 50’s and 60’s, many psychotherapists started approaching the mind’s issues from a more holistic view by integrating the body in the therapeutical work.
Amongst others, Konrad Lorenz realised that ducks got attached to which ever parental figure they encountered when they were born which ended with him mothering a whole herd of ducklings. The same animal showed us that they can shake off a traumatic experience straight away so that it doesn’t get stuck in the body, something that humans don’t do. And we don’t for different reasons. When we start out in life and we experience traumatic events, we are much less independent than the ducklings so we integrate everything as very personal. For instance, if mommy is angry with me, it is impossible for me to understand that it’s not about me. She cannot be flawed because it threatens my survival too much so the best way to deal with my mother’s depression/bipolarity or what now, is to make it my fault.
So we don’t shake things off the way animals can and it stays with us in the body and hardens. Alexander Lowen noticed that most of the sexual trauma gets stuck in the pelvic area for rather natural reasons. When the sexual organs are stimulated, we feel sensations and they start in the pelvis. If we are shamed and frightened during these events, we will register that it is dangerous to feel things here and we will tighten and numb this part of the body. So he developed therapies where you get that part moving, shaking, heating, get life to flow in there and it will start to speak by itself.
The more we are closed down by someone when we try to speak our truth, the more we will experience a pit in the stomach and a knot in the throat. We have all felt that when we know that we are not being heard and we are scared to speak up.
Also, when we are not speaking our truth, we tend to compensate by stuffing ourselves with something that will make us feel a little more powerful, or let’s say a little less helpless. It can be food or drinks or cigaretts or anything that will make us feel a little more independent. If we could leave those substitutes a side and instead heat up our internal fire (digestion), we would access an internal strength that we are not aware of. It would help us to stand tall and use the abdominal muscles : the more we heat them, the more our combustion is working and therefore our digestion. We start to see our own power, that we can take action and make things happen the way we want them to. We can set boundaries. Our helplessness is often compensated by thing we put into our mouths.
So you can see why we attach what we do to the different chakras. And it is an evolving idea coming from the Rishies, the first yogis and it has adapted over the paradigms. But it’s essential to know where things come from because otherwise they become a source for bypass and commercialism. Just like you: the person you are today is the sum of all your past experiences. In order to understand why you do certain things, even to understand your preferences, you have to take the bigger picture into consideration.
My idea behind the Self Image Project is exactly that. In order to not bypass, to not become a slave to consumerism’s promise of happiness, we need to understand why we are what we are.
We need to see the map that is our person, the book of me. Once we see things clearly, it becomes obvious to choose what works for us and what does not serve us anymore.
Join the project, take the journey of Self and chose the life you wish to continue.
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