Dear Beautiful Yogi,
The third chakra is my favorite because this is where things heat up! While the heavy and dense nature of the first and second chakras are essential and supportive, big change comes with the third energy center. As we move up the chakras, the related elements become more mobile and transforming. The first two, muladhara and svadhisthana relate to the earth and water elements respectively.
The third chakra is very different. This chakra, called manipura (lustrous gem), has great significance in both yoga and Ayurveda. Situated at the naval, this chakra is tied to the fire element. Fire is the element of transformation and change.
According to Ayurveda (yoga’s sister science of optimal health and living), fire is that which transforms our food into fuel or energy. It is called agni in Sanskrit. The key to good health and the prevention of disease, is to have strong but balanced agni. Our bodies must be able to efficiently process food and turn it into usable fuel. This is the metabolic process.
According to yoga, there is another essential function of fire in the body and that is to turn our personal challenges into lessons for growth. It is a spiritual fire, and when it is strong, we are strong. Therefore, this chakra is connected to our strength, self-confidence, will power and ability to manifest our dreams and desires! When this chakra is in overdrive, the ego becomes over-inflated. When deficient, one lacks confidence, follow through and the ability to move forward. The seed sound for the manipura chakra is RAM, it's color is yellow.
Here are some suggestions to support good digestive health and the strength of your digestive fire:
An amazing pranayama technique for building your naval center strength and flexibility is kapalabhati, also called “breath of fire”. This technique stimulates the manipura chakra and increases fire, vitality and energy:
- Eat 3 separate and regular meals per day. Avoid snacking. Try to eat breakfast around the same time each morning, eating until just satisfied and not entirely full. Your biggest meal of the day should be lunch when your digestive fire is naturally at its strongest. Enjoy a light dinner, the smallest meal of the day and then eat nothing past 8pm to give yourself a long break between dinner and breakfast.
- Eat in a comfortable and quiet place, relaxed and focused on your meal. Stress hormones interfere with digestion.
- Don’t eat until you are hungry! For optimal digestion, the fire needs to be strong and ready to transform.
- Sit in a comfortable position where the spine can be tall and well-aligned. Either sit on some lift like a bolster or blanket on the floor or in a chair where both feet can be placed under the knees without discomfort.
- Take several slow, deep breaths to begin. Place one hand up on the chest above the collar bones. This is to feel whether you are keeping your chest relatively still and “quiet”. Place another hand below the belly button. This is to feel where the movement should come from- the lower belly. Take a long, deep breath in, then begin to pull the lower belly back quickly and sharply, forcing breath out of the nose and making an audible nasal sound. The belly naturally relaxes on the silent inhalation, and you continue to quickly draw the belly back forcing sharp exhalations. The emphasis is on the exhalation movement. The transverse abdominal muscles are doing the movement to move the breath out. You will begin to feel your lower belly burning from the actions.
- Eventually, after around 30-50 rapid pumps, you exhale any remaining breath. Take another slow, deep inhalation. At the top of inhalation, hold your breath for as long as you can without strain. Then exhale very slowly.
- Repeat the process a few more times. At first, this pranayama may seem very difficult and confusing, but over time, you will gain control and capability with the movements.
- Please note the following contraindications: pregnancy, high blood pressure, acute digestive issues, too much heat such as inflammation in the body. Avoid this pranayama in those instances.
May we be strong, radiant and confident human beings, able to turn our challenges into assets and valuable life lessons.
Light the Fire,