It would be nice to imagine that we could go to some Yoga classes, sit in meditation, and all our problems would melt away leaving us in a state of transcendent bliss. This however is not spirituality, it is pure escapism and it will not help. The desire to be somewhere other than wherever you are right now is actually a major obstacle on the path. Really to wake up, we must face reality, shining a light on all the things that no longer serve us, so we can let go of them – rather than pretending they do not exist.
The Tantric tradition provides a beautiful way for us to clear out the internal garbage. In this system, enlightenment is reached when the Kundalini energy at the base of the spine (Shakti) unites with Shiva at the crown of the head. If you are unfamiliar with this you may want to start with this article. The Kundalini energy is so powerful that, if the body and mind are unprepared, the results will not be good (think complete spiritual meltdown!). So purification is necessary.
Energy should flow the 7 Chakras in a balanced way, but often our emotions, thoughts and environment create blockages. This can lead to insufficient energy in some places and too much in others. If the Kundalni energy starts to rise, and meets with any blockages, it will try to clean them – and we will feel this as a kind of detox effect. This is often why people often report physical and emotional symptoms as a result of certain spiritual practices (e.g. Yoga poses). Sometimes it does not take spiritual practices, the energy can start to move anyway and we may not realise it, mistaking the symptoms for something else. Often we get caught in a cycle, a person with a blockage in the heart area, may experience some cleaning effects if the Kundalini rises to the heart, but if they do not recognise what is happening they may carry on the same habits that cause the blockage (e.g. seeking our bad relationships) so the problem continues (the Kundalini cleans, the person re-toxifies and so on).
However, if we realise what is happening, we can use any disturbances that come up as a guide for what we need to do to purify ourselves – dumping all the baggage that is preventing the flow of energy from working possible, thus preparing the body for the union of Shiva and Shakti.
There are many techniques for purification: Yoga, crystals, sound-healing. Meditation is extremely powerful as this way you can clean the subconscious mind, removing any blockages, but it is for this reason that meditation can be so challenging!
Detoxing / clearing our obstacles is certainly a challenge – but it is necessary before we can really proceed on the path. Healing should always come first. Sometimes the desire for escapism, to experience something “super-natural” can get in the way. Many talk of opening their “third-eye” (which is the Chakra associated with intuition, psychic powers, contacting other worlds etc) but we should remember that the third eye is only one of the 7 Chakras. To only focus on the third-eye and neglect the other Chakras could result in all kinds of imbalances which could manifest as uncontrollable emotions or, in extreme cases, the loss of contact with reality! Unless we are living in a cave, we need to be careful with spiritual practices that can disrupt our daily lives. Being too attached to daily life can prevent a spiritual awakening, but if we ignore the “ordinary” world altogether our lives can end up so chaotic that we will go backwards.
Checking Your Chakras!
When we talk about the energy body, it is an interconnected web that functions as a unity and cannot really be divided. But, by treating the Chakras as separate entities, we can come up with a formulaic way of cleaning our blockages and allowing the Kundalini to rise. Once starting So let us start at the bottom and follow the Kundalini up through the Chakras:
1) The Root Chakra
This Chakra is situated in the base of the spine, or more specifically at the perineum (between the genitals and anus). It is associated with the Earth element, our connection to the material world. Cleaning this Chakra is essential for making spiritual progress since it is only with strong roots that we will find the strength to grow. On the psychological level, the Root Chakra is associated with ideas we have obtained from our culture and family as well as our sense of security and feeling grounded. Many people experience imbalances in this area due to family problems and past traumas – and these can manifest as powerful detox effects once the Kundalini starts to rise. Forgiveness can be the best medicine in these situations, to understand that our parents or any other family members are only human and thus bound to make mistakes the same way we do can help loosen any anger we have towards them. To cleanse the Root Chakra it can also be very helpful to let go of any bad habits that no longer serve us. Yoga poses that are beneficial for the Root Chakra include standing and stability poses and well as forward bends.
2) The Sacral Chakra
Also known as the Sex Chakra, the Sacral Chakra is found about two inches below the navel. It is associated with the water element, with creativity and connection, the desire for opposites to merge bringing the male and female together. The Sacral Chakra houses our creativity and our deepest desire. In modern society, we have many hang-ups about sex and body image with our bruised ego’s often transforming sexuality into a source of validation rather than a creative union. If the Kundalini rises to meet an imbalanced sex Chakra, many of these issues may arise as it attempts to clean it. We can help it along by learning to accept our bodies for how they are: our body is our only vehicle in this world so surely it is better to work with it! Some Yoga postures that can balance the Sacral Chakra include “Cat Cow” and the “Sufi Grind”. As stated before, there are many ways other than Yoga of working to clean each Chakra – so do some research if you feel you have blockages in any area.
3) The Solar Plexus Chakra
Different traditions place this Chakra in slightly different positions, either at the navel or slightly above. It is associated with the fire element, the power to bring our ideas into manifestation, strength and self-confidence. In today’s world we have been conditioned to be extremely competitive (think Instagram etc.) and so many of us have a weakened sense of self, dreaming of who we should be instead of appreciating who we are. If this is the case, we should take action to re-ignite our inner fire, though positive affirmations or whatever else will build our confidence. Yoga postures such as “Triangle Pose” and “Goal Post” as well as doing plenty of Sun Salutations can boost are great for this, as well as the powerful “breath of fire” breathing exercise. It should be noted that whatever thoughts or feelings may come up as a result of spiritual practices, it is important to recognise that they may simply be a detox effect so allow them to arise and simply watch them with non-judgement. Clearing the Solar Plexus Chakra from a psychological point of view is about self-acceptance: recognising our strengths and working with them, and admitting any weaknesses without self-criticism.
4) The Heart Chakra
The first three Chakras we have mentioned are known as the lower Chakras, and together represent our connection to the Earth. The final three, the higher Chakras, represent our connection to the divine. The heart sits right in the middle: it is what unites the earth and the heavens. The heart Chakra is associated with the air element: with love, compassion and connection to others. There is a story about a Zen master who was asked by a student, “how far do I need to go to get to where you are?”. The master replied, “About three inches!” signifying the distance between the navel and the heart, representing the movement from self-interest to compassion for others. Many of us have experienced heart-break and difficult relationships, and in today’s world often we lack compassion for ourselves. As Kundalini energy rises to the heart Chakra, it will start to clean any blockages and many tricky feelings may manifest. But this should not be cause for concern, there are many things we can do to heal our hearts! In this day and age, mistrust of religion has made “prayer” seem like a dirty word, but prayer is one of the most powerful ways to clear the heart Chakra. It does not have to be to God, you can pray to your higher self or the Universe. As long as you pray with gratitude rather than bargaining (“I’ll do X if you give me Y”) this will be a powerful way to clean the heart. In Yoga, backbends are great to work with the Heart Chakra. Psychologically, unblocking the heart involves emptying the increasingly heavy backpack of guilt that we may have filled up over the years! Self-forgiveness is key here.
5) The Throat Chakra
Now we have reached the upper Chakras, the place where we have the opportunity to move far beyond our survival instincts and awaken to a much wider perception of reality. The Throat Chakra is associated with self-expression, through speech and action. It is the centre of communication. If we pay attention to our actions, we can start to question whether or not they are in line with our beliefs and values. Maybe we believe in love, non-violence and Unity – but are we embodying them? An imbalance in the throat Charka can manifest as a disconnection between what we feel and what we actually do, it may make it difficult for us to express ourselves fully. Examining our actions and modifying them accordingly will clean this Chakra, as well Yoga postures that work with the neck such as “Cobra” and head rotations. “Shoulder Stand” is the #1 posture of this Chakra. Chanting is also great.
6) The Third Eye Chakra
In the energetic map of the body, there are two energy channels, one male and one female and their meeting place is the third eye – showing us this is the place where the opposites are starting to unite. The third eye is associated with perception, as well as with intuition. As the third eye opens, awareness can expand – taking us to higher realms. However, if the third eye is not balanced, we may experience confusion or uncontrollable thoughts as the Kundalini energy rises to this Chakra and does its work. In today’s world, we are often totally lost in thought as we have been taught to think as much as possible. However, if we really examine our thoughts (through meditation or some other awareness-based process) we will realise that most of them do not serve us and actually just recycled drama, bringing endless suffering. To realise this may be a shock to the system, but it is actually quite empowering as you will immediately realise the thoughts are not something to be taken so seriously. So calming the mind is the foundation of working with the Third Eye Chakra, ultimately we can realise that we are much more than our thoughts and feelings. Yoga poses to work with the third eye include “Warrior III”, “Child’s Pose” (with head on the ground) and poses where the legs are over the head.
7) The Crown Chakra
It is hard to find words to write about Crown Chakra as this is the place of infinite awareness which transcends all description. It is the place where the Kundalini energy finds it’s a true home, where Shiva joins with Shakti and dualism is dissolved. However the purpose of spiritual practice is not to disappear into a cloud of nothing, we come back down and help ourselves and others. This is the journey, what life is all about.
Healing Comes First
Spiritual practices are amazing, it is such a blessing to have the opportunity to expand our awareness, and perhaps ultimately even awaken to the true nature of reality (whatever that may be). But if we start from a shaky foundation, any intense spiritual experiences we have can actually set us back on the path. If you really want to raise your Kundalini, you are going to need to clear your blockages. The good news is that this challenging process is actually enjoyable in itself, who doesn’t want to be healed?
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