Asanas for the Chakra System
Sahasrara Chakra (Crown)
The Sanskrit name of the seventh chakra is Sahasrara, which means "thousandfold." Although this chakra is represented by a thousand-petaled lotus (the symbol of purity and spirituality), the number 1000 is not meant literally; instead, it implies the infinite nature of this chakra, which provides us with our most direct connection with the Divine. Although some teachers associate this chakra with the color violet, it is usually associated with white, a combination of all colors, just as this chakra synthesizes all the other chakras.
The seventh chakra is located at the crown of the head and serves as the crown of the chakra system, symbolizing the highest state of enlightenment and facilitating our spiritual development. The seventh chakra is like a halo atop the head. In art, Christ is often depicted with a golden light surrounding his head, and the Buddha shown with a lofty projection on the top of his head. In both cases, these images represent the awakened spirituality of the Sahasrara Chakra.
The element of the seventh chakra is thought, and this chakra is associated with the highest functions of the mind. Even though the mind cannot be seen or felt concretely, it creates the belief systems that control our thoughts and actions. To give one small example, my student George had a bad fall out of a bunk bed when he was a child. Now a fit, athletic man in his 40s, he is still frightened to do inversions. His early trauma helped create the belief that being upside down was always dangerous. Even though he now has the ability to safely and easily learn inversions, his fear paralyzes him and his belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. As the mind thinks, so we create our lives.
Excessiveness in this chakra appears as being overly intellectual or feeling yourself to be a member of a spiritual or intellectual elite. Deficient energy manifests as difficulty thinking for yourself, apathy, spiritual skepticism, and materialism.
Meditation is the yogic practice best suited for bringing this chakra into balance. Just as our body needs a shower frequently, the busy mind filled with so many thoughts and concerns also needs a cleansing. Why tackle today's problems with yesterday's muddled mind? Furthermore, the energy of this chakra helps us to experience the Divine, to open to a higher or deeper power. All the various forms of meditation, including both concentration and insight practices, allow the mind to become more present, clear, and insightful.
The ancient Hindus associated the chakras with the sleeping serpent goddess, Kundalini. She coils around the base of the first chakra and, when awakened, spirals up the energy channels (nadis) and pierces each chakra, bringing successively higher states of awareness that culminate in enlightenment at the crown chakra.
Focused on transcendence, many people seeking higher consciousness have disregarded the importance of the lower chakras. Yet we all need strong and solid support of our base chakras in order to open to the spiritual in a healthy and integrated way. The lower chakras focus on details such as our home, familiy, and feelings, while the upper chakras develop synthesizing views and wisdom that help us understand the grander order of things. All of our chakras affect one another and ultimately work together. As we learn to use this ancient Indian system to understand our lives, we can gain insight into personal issues that require our attention—and we can use the techniques of hatha yoga to bring our chakras and lives back into harmony.