Friday, March 14, 2014

Blossoming Chakras

Blossoming Chakras, 10"x22"
Work all week and yoga school every weekend leaves very little time for felt creations.  But last friday, had a whole day free to myself,  homework complete, no clients, and so took the opportunity to make this felted tapestry as an homage to the chakra module we just finished up as part of the advanced yoga teacher training.  This tapestry has been gifted to the absolutely wonderful Purusha Yoga School in San Francisco, at 38th and Balboa, where I'm doing my training. 

I tried a technique, new to me, of embedding stones in the wool, each one wrapped in a different chakra color and then overlaid in black roving.  After felting, the stones are cut out and creates the outward exploding three dimensional "petals."  The dimensionality is not that visible from this straight on angle.

A few notes on chakras, if you don't already know.  The chakras are the yogic concept of energy centers located at specific points in the body, and associated with different physical and psychological parts of our selves.  Whether you regard the chakras as real or simply as metaphors is immaterial, as working physically and meditatively with these locations and their associated concepts will yield healing results regardless.  You might also notice the relative similarity of the chakra model to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Starting at the base and working up is the root chakra in red, Muladhara, located at the base of the spine, and is associated with trust vs. mistrust, our sense of "right to be here," survival, grounding, and our relationship with money.  It's your foundation, your roots, and without balance in home and finances and a balanced sense of security, it is truly difficult to have a healthy balance throughout the rest of your physical, mental and spiritual self.  Traumas around these issues manifest as an imbalance in this chakra, and can include behaviors like hoarding, over-eating, as well as physical problems with feet and knees.  Even those who have never been exposed to the concept of chakras intuitively recognize chakra imbalances, and you see it in our language.  For instance, when we refer to someone as a "tight ass" we are talking about someone with root chakra issues.

The second chakra, Svadisthana, orange, located at the navel point is the seat of our sexuality, our sense of desire, autonomy vs. shame, and a source of our creativity.  This chakra is associated with the element of water, and there's nothing like a long barefoot walk on the beach, or a hot scented bath to get this chakra to blossom. 

The third Chakra, Manipura, yellow, located at the abdomen, is the seat of our will, our initiative, our "right to act" in the world.  Someone deficient in this chakra might manifest this physically by hunching at their center, and conversely someone excessive in this chakra might have a more militant posture. We might say of this person, "she is really gutsy!"

The fourth chakra, Anahata, green, is our heart.  Love.  Conversely, grief.  I find it beautiful that the word "anahata" literally means "the unstruck sound."  There are many yoga practices for helping with issues related to this chakra, but chocolate seems to do the trick as well.

Fifth Chakra, Vishuddha, Blue is our throat center, our center of expression.  Deficiency in this chakra can lead to throat problems and difficulty expressing yourself, and conversely, excess might manifest as compulsive lying or abusive, passive-aggressive ways of speaking.  Singing and chanting mantras is a wonderful way to help balance and open this chakra. 

Sixth is Ajna, purple, the third eye, our intellect, our intuition, visionary states, and our ability to "see." Someone strong or excessive in the sixth and seventh chakras, but unbalanced in the first three chakras, is the archtypal "spiritual space cadet" that you will envariably encounter in any spiritual community, be it a Kundalini class or a Baptist church.  Those who refuse to responsibly do for themselves because "god" or "the universe" will take care of everything.  Alternately, deficiencies here and in the seventh can result in the rationalist/skeptic intellectual devoid of any sense of spirituality.  (It is also possible to find a balance between rational skepticism and a sense of spirituality.)

Seventh, Crown Chakra, Sahasrara, white or gold, this chakra is located directly above the body, and has been represented as a halo in early Christian art dating as far back as the fourth century CE.  This chakra is where our sense of connection to others and to the world resides.  It's where we find that sense of "all is one" and realize our divine nature.

This stuff may all seem abstract and theoretical when you read about it, but when you start working with specific meditations, breathing exercises, and physical yoga poses targeted at opening and balancing the chakras, it can be life changing.  If you are interested in chakra work, I highly recommend Anodea Judith's book The Sevenfold Journey: Reclaiming Mind, Body & Spirit Through the Chakras.

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