Effects of Pranayama on Chakras

We have seen that the effect of stresses is first experienced on the endocrine glands and the nervous system in the brain. Once they fail to perform as per the needs of the body, the diseases start appearing. The most affected system of the body due to stresses in the conscious and sub-conscious mind and the immune system of the body. The increased incidence of cancers, HIV, viral fevers such as swine flu, bird flu etc is because of the crippled immune system of the present day people in the society. The strained endocrine gland system as well as the autonomic nervous system is known to be responsible for the unimaginable rise in diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, kidney &liver failures etc.

It is somewhat erroneous to conclude that certain parts of the brain only are responsible for the stresses. Many people believe that limbic and hypothalamic system generates the emotions, sex urge, anger etc. This is really not entirely true. These are the regions where messages for emotions, anger etc are processed when these are transmitted by the energy bodies surrounding the physical body. As said before, the brain is just a transducer between the energy bodies and the physical body. It is just like a hard disc of a computer which will follow certain programmed instructions. It, of its own, cannot generate the instructions. As the hard disc can get corrupted, certain regions in the brain can also get corrupted. Once this happens, the energy bodies cannot interact with physical body and the present life becomes meaningless.

We earlier mentioned that the breath is the only part of the human autonomic system that is consciously controllable. We also discussed that the region of the reticular activity system (RAS) in the brain provides the interface between the conscious and the subconscious minds which, in reality are the energy bodies. Probably it is not very difficult to know the irritants (stress raisers) in the conscious mind. All that we need to do for that is unbiased introspection. The irritants in the subconscious mind are however much deep rooted. Hence, unless a suitable interface is established between these two minds, it will be impossible to identify the irritants in the subconscious mind. As mentioned above, such an interface is provided by the RAS region of the brain.  We discussed that conscious breathing enables control of brain through RAS. We also discussed that the control of subconscious mind is achievable through conscious activity of prana nigraha and then Pranayama.

The stresses in the conscious as well as subconscious mind affect different people in different ways. But the most common effect of these stresses is on the chakras and the connected energy bodies. The diseases initiate firstly in energy bodies and then propagate to the physical body. The reason behind controlling the Ahar (diet), Vihar (life style) and the Vichar (thinking/mind) in addition to Pranayama yoga is because there are different types of people and they develop different types of stresses depending upon their personal attributes. The science of psychology calls these different types of people as belonging to type ‘A’, or type ‘B’. Obviously the reasons for stresses will vary from person to person depending upon which class they belong to. The uncontrolled stresses then may manifest as diseases in different parts of the body.

It is absurd to try changing the ‘type’ of the person. All that can be done is to make them aware of their positivity as well as negativity and advise them about enhancing their positive characteristics and reducing their negative characteristics. This is exactly the principal aim of Patanjali’s Ashtang Yoga.       

We discussed that various complex diseases have their origin in blocked chakras. These blockages occur because of imbalance in the two components, namely sympathetic (Pingala Nadi) and the parasympathetic (Ida Nadi) of the autonomic nervous system. We also have seen both of these components have variable dominance with respect to time. Associated with this alternating dominance is the alternating dominance of the brain hemispheres. We have also seen that the alternate nostril breathing enables the balance in the Ida and the Pingala Nadis resulting in excellent health in body and the mind. But the real and most confusing question that arises is why should there be any imbalance in Ida and the Pingala Nadis. The answer to this question lies in the fact that Pingala Nadi is associated with activities driven by ambitions, anger, sorrow, restlessness, ego (typical of type “A” people) etc while Ida Nadi is associated with creativity, intellect, passivity, introvert nature and certain negativities which prevent the initiative and drive (typical of type ’B’ people) in them.   

Although many doctors and researchers have noted that emotion and belief systems play a part, in fact a major part, in health and illness, western medicine is just beginning to consider such non-physiological factors in the treatment of disease. Emotion, beliefs, and other non-physical qualities, such as creativity, intuition, and wisdom, originate in the vital life energy field that surrounds and permeates each of physical bodies around. Each energy field constantly interacts with the fields of other living beings and with stimuli in the environment, everything that affects the body must first pass through this field. Some of the information contained in the field enters our awareness via our senses, thoughts, or intuition. Much of the information, however, remains hidden, affecting the choices we make and our physiology.

In her study of the human energy field, Dr. Valerie Hunt recorded brain waves, blood pressure changes, galvanic skin responses, heartbeat, and muscle contractions of subjects while aura readers observed changes in the energy field. Hunt states that changes occurred in the field much before any of the other systems changes.

Energy Body is a Template for Physical Body

At the core of all matter lies energy, and the human body is no different. The energy body is a template for the physical body. Emotional energy resonates with life experiences, personal and professional relationships, and belief systems and becomes literally encoded in cell tissue. According to neurobiologist Candace Pert, the emotionally-charged thoughts and experiences cause the body to manufacture different Neuropeptides triggered by emotions. Researchers at the Institute of Heart Math (Boulder, Colorado) found that heartfelt emotions (even emotions associated with memories) raise DHEA and IgA levels while negative emotions lower both. I strongly recommend the readers to go through the report entitled, “Coherent Heart” authored by McCraty published by the Institute of Heart Math (www.heartmath.org) to understand the point being made. We do use our energy in life – whether we use it to promote bitterness and fear or joy and love, strongly manifests in our physiology. Prolonged dissonance or weakness in the field leads to physical symptoms and, sometimes, to illness. Cure, without remission, depends upon the process we adopt in relieving the disturbed energetics that underlies the physical condition.

Natural Techniques that Raise Energy Levels

Many natural health techniques benefit the energy body as well as the physical one.

  • Whole foods are rich with electromagnetic energy.
  • Exercise, deep breathing, Qigong, Tai Chi, yoga, gardening, walking barefoot on earth, prayer and meditation strengthen the energy field depending upon the level of  our faith in them.
  • Acupuncture, homeopathy, flower essences, deep muscle massage like Rolfing, Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, sound therapy, and other forms of energy medicine, depending upon our faith in them, strive to address imbalances and blocks at the energy level of the body.
  • These energy therapies can nudge an incoherent field into normalcy.
  • Love, compassion, forgiveness are also powerful healing forces.

Many doctors are aware that spiritual, mental, and emotional factors play a major role in illness and health; but, their training has emphasized the physical, and they often feel at a loss as to how to address the spirit due to inability to see it or make measurements on it.

The non-physical issues (to our sensory perceptions) such as happiness, fear, sorrow, anger, greed, jealousy etc considerably affect the chakras. Vedic medical science, which also deals with spirituality, identifies each of the seven chakras with specific health conditions that may arise during the quest for disease free body and also the spiritual consciousness. This is described as follows:

The Seven Chakras

  • The first chakra, at the base of the spine, relates to the material world.
  • The second chakra, just below the belly button, deals with creation energy, sexuality, work, and physical desire.
  • The third chakra, at the solar plexus, holds lessons concerning the ego, personality, and self-esteem.
  • The fourth chakra lies at the heart and contains lessons about forgiveness, compassion, and love.
  • The fifth chakra, at the base of the throat, relates to the use of will and self-expression.
  • The sixth chakra, or “third eye” in the center of the forehead, deals with wisdom, insight, and intuition.
  • The lessons of the crown chakra at the top of the head concern spirituality.

How Your Chakras Affect the Health?

We now discuss various health conditions related to these chakras and the type of people who develop problems in these chakras due to stresses.

first chakra-mooladhara

  • The chronic fatigue syndrome is an energy disorder of the first chakra (Mooladhar).  The disorder of the first chakra is experienced by people who feel very vulnerable and insecure. These people try to be all things to all people, and they connect to more people and projects than they have energy for.  Because of this, their immune system weakens significantly. The energetic component of cancer consists of unfinished or incomplete business.  It has been seen that the people who tend to be more connected to the past than to the present are likely to suffer from cancer. We, in reality need the energy for the present things rather than those which occurred in past. When the energy is used to keep one’s past alive instead of in the present where it is needed to maintain cell tissue, malignancy develops. Wherever thought goes, energy and life force follow. Many of us are aware of energy circuits in the form of emotional ties and bonding to other human beings. We are less aware of how much energy we spend on past injuries, regrets, and losses. The thoughts that occupy one’s mind indicate where energy is flowing. When thoughts contain an underlying fear of loss or over-identification with an object or person, energy is being lost.

How do we disconnect our energy circuits from people or objects that sap energy ?

‘How do we disconnect our energy circuits from people or objects that sap energy’ is a million dollar question.  To answer this question, we need to adopt a step wise procedure.

The first step is awareness. Check in often and notice where your thoughts are. Are they with you in the present, or have they drifted off to the past, the future, or with some person or object?

Next step to follow is:  mentally cut the connection and literally call your spirit back. Calling one’s spirit back is not a one-time event; it’s a practice. Counseling can be extremely helpful for those who are struggling to let go of harmful attachments.

Although we cannot control what happens to us, we can influence the quality of our response. Rather than blame oneself or dwell on “why me,” both of which drain energy, the focus can be on what can be learned through this experience. How can I lighten my emotional life and enliven my soul?

Many people who ultimately die from a disease find the journey to death a tremendously healing experience because of their attitude and the many opportunities to forgive, make amends, and release old patterns. Blame, even self-blame, depletes one’s energy field and is one of the gravest crimes. Forgiveness, on the other hand, restores the energy field.

Vedic medical science tells that most of the diseases begin in the lower three chakras. These chakras are the ones that deal with external factors. Unresolved conflicts with one’s own family and/or society, apprehensions about own survival and access to the necessities of life as per the current standards in the society and most importantly, the feeling about  being ruled by worthless/unscrupulous  people create violent discord in the first chakra.

Anatomically, the first chakra relates to physical body support, the base of the spine, legs, bones, feet, rectum, and the immune system. The people developing the immune system diseases are those who feel victimized by their society or who have terrible worries feelings about survival. Self-respect, a sense of personal honor, feeds strong positive energy to the root chakra, bones, legs, and immune system.

Second Chakra- Swadisthana

The second chakra, Swadhishthan, gets disrupted by subdued creative energy, money and sexual conflicts, power struggles, life energy directed into dead-end relationships or jobs, and control tactics that do not follow the rule to honor one another.  Many men and women become aware, at some point in their lives, of remaining in a disempowering situation for money or physical security. The resulting helplessness makes the person hostile, ferocious to the people outside who are professionally or socially unconnected.

Physical organs most affected by second chakra issues include sexual organs, large intestine, lower vertebrae, pelvis, appendix, bladder, and hip area. Fear of losing control and fear of power can eventually manifest as ailments such as chronic pain in the lower back and pelvic area, arthritis, prostate or ovarian cancer, impotency, and bladder problems. Learning to honor others, instead of trying to control or dominate them eases much of the struggle held in the second chakra. The challenge of the second chakra is to learn to interact consciously with others: to form unions with people who support our development and to release relationships that handicap our growth.

third chakra-manipura

The third chakra (Manipura) corresponds to self-responsibility and self-respect. This chakra houses both survival instinct and the intuition. This chakra warns of impending dangers and negative actions or energies coming from others.  In absence of self-esteem, the intuitive guidance is often ignored and discounted. It is found that depression, often, originates when people lose their self-respect because they have broken a promise which they made to themselves.

Issues concerning self-responsibility, caring for oneself and others, self-esteem, fear of rejection, and an over-sensitivity to criticism eventually manifest as ailments in the abdomen, stomach, upper intestines, liver, gallbladder, kidney, pancreas, adrenal glands, spleen, and middle spine. It has also found that health disorders such as arthritis, anorexia, and bulimia often relate to third chakra issues.

 Valerie Hunt, an accomplished energy healer, refers to the third chakra as the emotional body, the area through which emotions such as fear and anger located in the aura, enter the body.

fourth chakra-anahata

The fourth chakra (Anahata or the heart chakra) corresponds to love, commitment, compassion, forgiveness, hatred, resentment, bitterness, grief, anger, loneliness, and self-centeredness. Holding onto the negative emotions, whether they are directed towards oneself or others, or intentionally causing pain for other people saps life energy from body and soul. Fear, also, drains and disrupts heart energy. Fear of loneliness, commitment, betrayal, fear of the inability to protect oneself emotionally, and of ‘following one’s heart’ contribute to dysfunctions of this chakra.

The heart chakra involves the heart and circulatory system, lungs, upper back, shoulders and arms, ribs, breasts, diaphragm, thymus gland. Tapping into the energy of love reduces fear. Love is a potent healing force for body and spirit, as many doctors recognize.

fifth chakra-vishuddhi

 The fifth chakra (Vishuddhi or throat chakra) is positioned at the base of the throat. It acts as a focal point for the heart energy (from fourth chakra) and the mind energy (from the sixth chakra). Its energy relates to willpower and the power of choice, the most basic manifestation of self-expression. Every area of our lives, including health and illness, is directly affected by the choices we make and how we make them. Clear decisions and true authority, as epitomized by King Solomon, come when the truth and wisdom of the sixth chakra is supported and in agreement with the emotional power of the heart chakra.

Before we make a choice, we often experience a contest, a struggle, between the emotional and mental sides of ourselves. That struggle disrupts the throat chakra. Prolonged disruption can manifest as physical dysfunctions that involve the throat, thyroid, trachea, neck vertebrae, mouth, teeth and gums, esophagus, parathyroid, and hypothalamus. Such disruptions also play a role in addiction.

sixth chakra-adnya

 While heart energy resides at the fourth chakra, the mind and intellect come through the sixth chakra (Adnya or brow chakra), located at the center of the forehead. Feelings of inadequacy, unwillingness to self-examine one’s fears and shadows, and fear of truth contribute to physical dysfunctions involving the brain, nervous system, eyes, ears, nose, pineal gland, and pituitary gland. Myss, a famous energy healer says: “The energy pulsating from this chakra continually directs us to evaluate the truth and integrity of our beliefs. As we instinctively know from birth, to have faith in anything or in anyone that lacks integrity contaminates our spirits and our bodies.”

seventh chakra-crown

The seventh chakra (crown), at the crown of the head, relates to values, courage, humanitarianism, and the ability to see a larger pattern. It is the chakra of inspiration, spirituality and devotion, and the ability to trust life. Its lessons aim to teach us how to live in the present moment. According to Myss, energy therapies, such as reflexology, acupuncture, and homeopathy are treatments of present time. People whose energy is tied to the past do not receive much benefit from these therapies. They must first call their energy into the present by releasing the past through forgiveness of others, oneself, or an experience.

Extreme sensitivities to light, sound, and other environmental factors, chronic exhaustion that is not linked to a physical disorder, and mystical depression that comes when one feels spiritually bereft signify disruptions in the crown chakra.

This analysis will explain why the way of life, the thinking processes etc are given so much importance in Vedic medical science. These are covered in the Ashtang Yoga given in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra.

Can Pranayama Overcome Blockages in Chakras?

The regular practice of Pranayama yoga not only overcomes the blockages in the chakras but they can make us mentally & emotionally balanced.  This however requires very honest introspection as to what are our positives and the negative attributes and how to overcome the negativities. It is for this reason we are required to close our eyes and fix our attention on the Adnya (brow) chakra.

The Pranayama yoga does enable one to get rid of mental and emotional issues. Additionally a somewhat less known Pranayama called Sama Vritti Pranayama is of great benefit. As the name implies, the practitioner of this Pranayama tries to control emotions, mental stresses, ego, possessiveness,  jealousy and other harmful  feelings etc (that cause blockages in the chakras) through a very soft & slow rhythm breathing.

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