May Newsletter: Energetic Intersections, Part I: The Chakras & The Doshas
Greetings and namaste friends,
Spring has been a source of major growth potential, and I hope you all have been experience that sensation and riding that wave! The world is back to life and creative energy is flowing. For me, this has led me to space of curiosity.
Since this year's beginning, I decided I needed to come back to the student seat in my asana practice so I started attending regular weekly classes again since January, and it has really sparked a new understand of the interaction at work among the physical, energetic and spiritual bodies. I've watched my teaching transform the more I let wide-eyed student curiosity take hold again. From that "beginner's mind"--as one of my teachers Joe Taft would remind us to hold onto--A new curiosity grew. My latest topic of interest is intersectionality; observing the intersectional nature of yoga, ayurveda and physiology to better understand how to move forward on a path of self-inquiry.
Yoga & ayurveda overlap in a number of philosophies, concepts and practices, and one fascinating intersection is that of the chakras and the doshas. According to Dr. Vasant Lad, the chakras are "non-physical links between body, mind and spirit...[and] acts as a repository of information and experience about the individual." The word "chakra" is Sanskrit for "wheel" and refers to the conceptual shape of 7 energetic centers alongside the spine. Each chakra connects to a framework of subtle physical and energetic properties, such as the senses, the elements, colors, mantras, frequencies, koshas, planets and zodiac signs. In addition, the chakras interacts with the nervous system and the endocrine system.
The doshas, on the other hand, are three biological humors that comprise various combinations of the five great elements, and exhibit the qualities of those elemental forces physically, mentally and emotionally. The word "dosha" translates to "mistake" or "impurity," which suggests that doshas are a volatile is some fashion. Vata dosha is a combination of ether and air; Pitta dosha is composed of fire and water; kapha dosha is water and earth. The three doshas exist in all of nature and also govern the various cellular, neurological and metabolic functions the body.
Ayurveda recognizes the influence of the doshas to regulate or cause disease in the mind-body thus treatments are used to bring these humors back to balance. The doshas primarily exist in the digestive tract, and are linked to specific regions of the body--vata dosha in the hips, low back and colon; pitta dosha in the solar plexus, liver and small intestines; and kapha dosha in the chest cavity, upper back, stomach and mouth.
Each of the doshas have aggravated and balanced qualities that are expressed throughout the entire mind-body, including emotional qualities, and we'll quickly explore all of them. Vata dosha is naturally cold, dry, rough, light and erratic, and when in balance it expresses itself through creativity, curiosity, quick thinking and free spirited; when vata is aggravated it creates fear, cowardliness, anxiety, and an inability to ground. Pitta dosha is hot, oily, light, sharp and penetrating, and when it's balanced it expresses itself through courage, a sharp intellect, confidence and initiative; when pitta's aggravated it's arrogant, hostile, reactive, prideful and jealous. Kapha dosha is cold, heavy, damp, thick and slow, and when balanced it's expressed as compassion, nurturing, being able to ground, stability and reliability; when aggravated it's lazy, unmotivated, dull-minded, materialistic and unwilling to change.
Better understanding the mental-emotional qualities and the major physical regions of the doshas establishes a foundation for this energetic intersection of the chakras and doshas through the endocrine system. This understanding allows us to perceive how the positive qualities of the doshas and the positive qualities of the chakras overlap as positive functioning of the endocrine system. In ayurveda, the endocrine system links the physical body to the energetic and spiritual bodies.
The endocrine system governs one of the main systemic functions of the body. It refers to a network of ductless glands that secrete hormones directly into the blood stream, which then transport the hormones and their influences throughout all tissues. The major endocrine glands correspond to the chakras, and, thus, to the doshas. The sex organs of the ovaries and testes correspond the earth element and the root chakra. The adrenal glands connect to the water element and the second chakra. The pancreas is linked to fire and the third chakra. The thymus to air and the fourth.Thyroid and parathyroid to ether and the fifth. The pituitary gland to is mind and the sixth chakra. The pineal gland to consciousness and the crown.
Let's quickly review the chakra system, starting with the first chakra, called "Muladhara chakra," located at the base of the tailbone; its color is red and its bija mantra is "LAM." The second chakra is at the sacrum and reproductive organs; it's called "Svadhishthana Chakra," its color is orange and it's bija is "VAM." Third chakra is "Manipura chakra" just at the naval; yellow is its color and "RAM" is its bija. The fourth chakra is "Anahata chakra" at the heart; its color is green and it's bija is "YAM." The fifth chakra at the vocal chords is "Vishuddhi chakra"; blue is its color and "HUM" is its bija. The third eye "Ajna chakra" is sixth; color is indigo and bija is "Ksham." Last is "Sahasrara chakra" at the crown of the head; its color is lavender or golden white and its bija is "OM".
In addition, the physical locations of the chakras overlap their complementary dosha sites, which makes it easy to learn what chakras and doshas intersect. Both Muladhara and Svadhishthana chakras are in the space of Vata dosha; Manipura chakra is located in the Pitta dosha region; Anahata and Vishuddhi chakras are located in the Kapha dosha region. The head/ mind is a shared space for all three doshas, so Ajna and Sahasrara chakras connect to the psychological aspects of the three doshas.
Unblocking and developing positive chakra qualities can help to harmonize the endocrine system and balance the physical & psychological dosha qualities. Dr. David Frawley says "the chakras are centers of emotions. They reflect negative emotions when blocked or closed, and positive emotions when balanced or open. Emotional balancing is an important part of working with chakra energy."
Over the next few months read more about the specific relationships of the doshas, the chakras and the endocrine system starting with Vata dosha, the root & sacral chakras for June.
"As the chakras are developed, their negative emotional energies are gradually transformed into spiritual vibrations."
-David Frawley & Suhas Kshirsagar, The Art & Science of Vedic Counseling