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Chakra Alignment: Access Your Highest Self Through the Subtle Body

Ready for an emotional-baggage check? To clear out what no longer serves you and make room for what will? Discover how your chakras can help you unpack it all.

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Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, variation GISELLE MARI

The new year is a good time to do an emotional-baggage check, to clear out what no longer serves you and make room for what will. And your chakras—the seven energy centers that run along your central channel—are a tool to help you repack. Here, yoga teacher Giselle Mari shows you how to use your chakras to resolve any negativity holding you back so you become a lighter, brighter version of you.

As we usher in a new year, meaningful intentions around increasing well-being through improving and deepening our relationships are often at the top of mind. Hatha Yoga practices like Chakra tuning and purification is an accessible but potent tool to help us overcome our limited perception—evolving from perceiving self and other (separation) to seeing the oneness of being (Yoga), the interconnectedness of all life.

So here’s the lowdown on the system and its inner workings. When you say you’re practicing Hatha Yoga, in fact you’re diving, maybe unconsciously, into really deep practices of balancing and unifying (yoga) your “ha” (sun) and “tha” (moon) energies in the subtle body. The goal of yoga is to attain the state of Yoga: oneness of being, where we no longer see the “other” but rather the interconnectedness of all life. As yoga practitioners we become interested and invested in getting real with our internal inventory of baggage that unconsciously drives us to make choices that steer us away from realizing our highest Self. (This is the Self beyond the ego, or small self.) We become agents of conscious action that is about serving the greater good for all beings that we encounter.

Access your highest Self through the subtle body.

There are thousands of nadis, or channels through which our prana flows, within our subtle body. (Think of prana as your essence, your personal vibration.) But the three main nadis are the Pingala (sun/masculine/right side), Ida (moon/feminine/left side), and Sushumna (central channel/path to enlightenment). The first two nadis spiral around the central channel and intersect at each chakra.

Along the Sushumna nadi, which runs along your spine, there are seven subtle energetic centers called Chakras (wheels). Each chakra has a relationship that corresponds to it and every action (karma) and reaction we take with our relationships is housed in our bodies. Those actions include every thought, word, and deed. If our actions are negative to our self or others, this causes our prana to pull away from the central channel and away from realizing our highest Self, or the enlightened state.

When our prana is flowing, it not only indicates ease and balance of our life force but also that we are not being unconsciously driven by our habituated negative patterns (karmas). In essence, we move away from an “us and them” mentality. For example, if we are being unkind to others, the prana is pulled from the central channel into the right side, pingala nadi; if we are unkind to ourself, the prana is pulled into the left side, ida nadi. This daily back and forth that we experience causes dis-ease of mind, body, and spirit. Our aim is to strengthen our awareness muscles, release blame, shame, guilt, and anger around ourselves and others. This practice affords us opportunities to develop personal responsibility so that we can re-shape our lives from karmic inevitability to consciousness, which can result in ultimate spiritual freedom.

See also Yoga For Energy: Use Your Nadis to Create Balance In The Spine

Discover your tools for working with the chakras.

But let’s keep this real: Doing this work doesn’t mean befriending those who have hurt you or spiritually bypassing with “love and light” toward everyone as proof of your yogi-ness. This is a practice of healing and letting go of the negative emotional hoarding we can often get stuck in within ourselves. It’s a practice of letting go of judging ourselves and others and increasing conscious discernment. If we use tools like intention, attention, asana, sound, and love, we can move through any obstacle.

So, what is your intention and desired outcome? What practices will you employ to shed the layers of misidentification (avidya) to realize your fullest potential and limitless Self? Hatha yoga practices like this one help to increase our attention—our ability to focus singularly on the issue at hand. No small feat in a world where multitasking is both king and queen. Asana means “seat” or connection to the earth. Asana practice can inform how we are connecting and relating. It’s also an access point for each chakra. When I do this work, I’m reminded of the quote, “For a yogi, seeing is not believing, hearing is.” Sound is fundamental to a yogi’s practice. It is the most direct means of altering your being-ness. If your vibe is off, it impacts everyone and everything around you. It’s like an instrument that’s out of tune in an orchestra. The only way to tune is to listen, then discern where you’re out of balance.

Finally, love. At the heart of who we are, regardless of how you came into this body, love is our essence. It is our origin of being. To heal requires love, compassion, and kindness. When we can apply those aspects to ourselves and to others, great shifts can take place. It’s not easy in all instances, and certainly not instantaneous. Again, it’s a practice. Yet it’s a tool I truly believe can improve your life.

See also Quiz: Which of Your Chakras Is Out of Balance?

So, what happens when your chakras are aligned?

This kind of chakra tuning, along with other modalities of self-exploration, helped me realize that blaming others and being angry or resentful was doing nothing for my personal growth and emotional freedom. It helped me see that I could shift that finger pointing into self-reflection on my own thoughts, words, and actions (karma). I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t be angry at others for falling short or hurting me; I had to do the work myself and dig out my own rotted roots in order to replant. When I let go of my inner turmoil and pain, my life shifted for the better because I learned that what was and is “out there” is simply a projection of my inner state. To be clear, I’m not getting drinks with people who have hurt me beyond description; it just means I don’t carry around that expensive emotional baggage and as a result, that past karma isn’t a driving force in how I operate in the world in the now or the future.

Ready to align your chakras?

The following practice can help you see what and where your consciousness is shut down and help you get real with yourself about what’s blocking you from wholeness and well-being. In this practice, you’ll look at the relationships associated with each chakra so you can examine the issues that surface, start to unpack the pain, and work to resolve them one step at a time. This process lends itself to healing your disconnection to all that is and creates healthier, more elevated ways of being in the world—ultimately resolving it all back to love.

Get the chakra-aligning practice.

See also Skillful Sequencing: Plan a Chakra-Balancing Yoga Class