The past few thousand years has gifted us an abundance of yoga postures. From Tadasana and Chakrasana to Savasana and everything in between, there’s a world of twists and turns, ups and downs, and somewhat pretzel-like shapes with unpronounceable names. One thing all the asana have in common however, is their ability to shift energy. The way you feel before a yoga practice is probably at least a little different when you re-emerge after an hour or more of breath, movement and stillness, and yogis have worked on this ability to change the way we feel since the beginning.
More Than a Pose
With a vast amount of books full of postures and pictures, the history and description of asana, and specific alignment instructions, it’s easy to forget that the physical practice of yoga affects every aspect of us, not just the physical body, but our deeper energetic centre too. Thousands of years ago, it was this energetic centre that took pride of place in the yoga world. With no mirrors or props, the feeling of each posture on every level was the point of focus, rather than whether it looked the part.
Yogic texts like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Goraksha Samhita make no mention of many asanas we might practice today, but Tantric and Kundalini-influenced texts certainly do. Tantra yoga is very much about movement and expansion of energy, specifically kundalini energy, which is thought of as a coiled ‘snake’ of energy that lies as the base of the spine. Via different yoga practices like asana, pranayama, meditation and more, we’re able to awaken Kundalini and experience a rising of energy.
Postures focussed on awakening Kundalini are many, but Chakrasana, also referred to as Urdvha Dhanurasana (‘wheel pose’ or ‘upward facing bow’ respectively) is held in high regard. It is said that this asana awakens the energy along the spine and helps shift consciousness to a new level.
Wheels of Energy
The word Chakrasana is composed of Chakra meaning ‘wheel’, referring to the rounded shape of the posture (more advanced versions even include holding the feet to create a complete circle), and Asana meaning ‘seat’, or the posture taken for meditative purposes. Chakra also often refers to specific ‘wheels’ of energy running along the spine from the tailbone to the top of the head. These subtle wheels hold energy that can affect how we feel physically, mentally and emotionally. For instance, the chakra located at the tailbone is linked to the energy of earth and the ability to feel grounded, safe and secure. Moving up to the pelvis, this chakra is associated with more personal ‘needs’ like pleasure and joy, but also links to over-indulgence and addiction. Just above the navel at the mid-back, is our wheel of power, where the ‘fire in the belly’ is found, along with will and determination. More chakra points are located as we move up the body, and practicing postures like Chakrasana can help awaken the energy within them.
The journey towards attaining the full expression of Chakrasana is different for all of us. For some it’s a simple movement with little effort required, but for others it can bring about fear, uncertainty, frustration or indeed pure joy. The emotions or obstacles you may face when practicing Chakrasana can be a very helpful signal as to which chakra or energetic aspect of yourself requires the most attention. Someone who feels unsafe or ungrounded when practicing may benefit from working on the energies of the lower chakras, whereas a lack of self confidence can indicate that the chakra just above the navel linked to personal power. At the heart centre is the chakra associated with giving and receiving love, emotions, and a connection to nature. In today’s world governed by technology and dwindling face-to-face connection, it could be issues with the heart chakra that provide the biggest obstacle to opening up into a challenging backbend on the yoga mat, and even opening up in daily life.
Of course, the attainment of the physical postures is of course not what yoga is all about, so whether the full posture comes or not isn’t the point. What makes a difference is what we learn along the way, and the opportunity to reflect upon why we feel the way we feel at times. Asanas like full wheel or Chakrasana may at first glimpse be a purely physical feat, but when we dive deeper we’re able to discover that these postures provide a valuable way to get to know ourselves better, to overcome emotional blocks, find a balance of strength and ease, and to change the energy of body and mind together.
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