The third chakra, known as manipura chakra in Sanskrit, is energetically located in the solar plexus region of the body. Manipura translates as: city of jewels, or jeweled abode. It is the chakra associated with will power, determination, and manifestation. Manipura is governed by the element of fire, and is represented by the color yellow. It shines like the light of a million suns with resplendent prana (life force energy), and helps circulate prana throughout the entire body and energetic system.
When the chakra is in balance, it is associated with having a strong digestive fire (known as agni), the ability to assimilate life, and digest ones’ emotions with ease. With a balanced manipura, one feels empowered to create the life they want to live through the power of personal intention, goal setting, and follow up action which, if karmically is in the cards, leads to manifestation of the intended outcome.
Motivation to act outwardly is governed by this chakra, so if you ever wonder why you don’t feel like getting on your yoga mat some days, a deficiency of energy in this chakra is possibly contributing! This is where will power comes in, if the chakra is strong it is effortless “To will what you want,” with very little effort, but if there is a deficiency of energy, one will feel exhausted even thinking about standing up to get a snack, let alone writing a business plan, or doing a yoga practice! An energy deficiency in a chakra basically means that prana is not flowing evenly into the chakra, and it is closed off to some degree. This is usually associated with emotional holding patterns, often stifled internalized emotions such as resentment, or lack of motivation for fear of failure, and the governing area will even feel cold to the touch. This is when a little determination comes in and draws upon willpower to get up and do it anyway, knowing the positive benefits of doing what one loves can bring, one roots into intention to call themselves into action.
When the chakra has an excessive amount of energy pooling in it, it is associated with excessive pride, egotism, anger, and power struggles with self and others (read fear of letting go of control). This can lead to trying to force things to happen from a place of “power over” rather than “co-creation with.” An excess of energy in a chakra basically means there is too much energy in that area, which is “stealing” from other neighboring chakras, creating an imbalance to the entire energetic system. An over energized manipura can lead to powering over rather than working with others, over achievement at the cost of self and others, and fear of loss of control.
This sequence is designed to clear and balance the third chakra, so you may feel the strength of intention and manifestation energy that arises from manipura.
Before practicing this sequence, warm up with four-five rounds of Surya Namaskar A. A great video of this can be found on youtube, “Maria Villella: Surya Namaskar A of Ashtanga Yoga.” Also be sure to utilize Ujjayi Pranayama, victorious breath for the duration of this practice.
1. Utkatasana: Fierce Pose
From Equal Standing Pose, Samastitihi, inhale, bend your knees, circle your arms overhead and join the palms together. Reach your hands straight up and squeeze your forearms together. If your neck is healthy, tip your throat up and arch your head back so you are gazing at your thumbs. Squeeze your knees and ankles together. Draw your low belly back towards your spine and reach your pubic bone towards your navel. Hold for ten Ujjayi breaths gazing up and back. To release, inhale, straighten your knees, stand up tall, keep your arms overhead and lift your ribs away from your pelvis. Exhale, hinge from your hips and swan dive forward into Standing Forward Fold.
2. Phalakasana Kriya: Plank Pose with Core Cleansing Practice
From Standing Forward Fold, inhale, roll into halfway lift, elongate your spine from the low back up thought the crown of the head. Bend your knees and place your palms down on the floor, directly under your shoulders. Spread your palms and ground your hands, step back into Plank position. Firm both sides of your body and feel one line of energy from your heals up through the crown of your head. If holding Plank is already enough exertion, hold Plank for five breaths. If Plank is sustainable for you, engage your thighs strongly and flip onto the tops of your feet. Inhale, lift one leg parallel to the floor, exhale, curl your knee in towards your forehead. Round your entire spine and keep your shoulders directly over your wrists. Inhale, extend the curled in leg back like you are pushing through concrete, exhale curl the knee in. Repeat three times slowly, then change legs. After you’ve completed the cycle, lower all the way down onto your abdomen, pillow your hands under your forehead and rest for three nourishing breaths.
3. Salabhasana: Locust Pose
From the prone position, interlace your fingers behind your back. Squeeze your legs together. Exhale, gently root your pubic bone down and seal your low belly back. Inhale, simultaneously lift your arms up and back, and arch your head, chest, and legs away from the floor. Engage the entire length of your back body. Keep your eyes soft and gaze down the tip of the nose (not crosseyed, but gently down towards the earth), be mindful to keep your neck extended even though your gaze is down. Hold for five breaths. Release down on the fifth exhalation. Pillow your hands under your forehead, rest for three slow breaths, repeat one more round.
4. Adho Mukha Svanasana: Downward Facing Dog Pose
From the prone position, place your hands under your shoulders, inhale, press up and back onto all fours. Spread your palms open and root the base of your palms, fingers and fingertips. Curl your toes under. Rock your hips back towards your heels, exhale, lift up and back one vertebrae at a time and slowly roll your spine into Down Dog. Lengthen your spine up and back, and slowly begin to straighten your legs. Ground the center of your heels. Firm the triceps (back of upper arm), and roll the elbow points out and down, until the inner elbows point towards eachother. Slide your shoulder blades towards your pelvis and actively spread them across your back. Recoil energy from the earth up from your hands and feet by rooting them down. Breathe deeply into the solar plexus region, allowing it to rise and fall, but be sure to keep the low abdomen drawn in and back towards the spine. Let the firey energy of the last three postures mellow and soften. Hold for five breaths up to two minutes.
5. Lolasana: Scales Pose
From Down Dog, inhale, lift your heels, exhale, bend your knees, gaze between your hands, inhale, lightly float your body forward, as you lift off, curl your knees into your chest, and land the tops of your feet (toenail side), on the floor a few inches behind your hands. Keep your knees and shins off of the floor, keeping 99% of your weight in your hands, 1% in the tops of the feet. Cross one ankle over the other. Round your spine powerfully and engage your core. Keep your neck gently extended. Seal your abdomen back towards your spine. Squeeze your bottom ankle up into your top ankle and press your top ankle down with equal pressure. Without hopping, attempt to lift your feet away from the floor. You might not be able to lift up if you haven’t practiced this extensively, continue to hold the pose regardless as it will assist you in developing the strength to one day hover your entire body between your arms. Hold for five breaths. Release on your fifth exhalation onto your knees into Thunderbolt Pose and rest for one slow breath. Repeat one to two more times. On the last repetition of Lolasana, keep your weight in your hands, gently step or float back into Four Limbed Staff Pose, followed by Up Dog, then glide back into Down Dog.
6. Parivritta Parsvakonasana: Revolved Side Angle Pose
From Down Dog, inhale, stretch your left leg up and back into Three Legged Dog, exhale, curl the knee in towards the abdomen, roll onto the fingertips, and lightly place the left foot between the hands. Lower your back knee down. Bring your hands onto your hips, and rock your hips back and up so they are squared directly over your back knee. Pull the front of your ribcage in towards your back ribs, and reach your right arm up. Inhale, lengthen your spine from your right knee up through your right pinky finger. Exhale, twist to the left, hook your right upper arm onto your left outer thigh. Press your arm and thigh together and spin your left shoulder and ribs open towards the ceiling. Fold your palms into prayer position at the center of your chest. Gaze up over your left shoulder. Align the head with the tailbone. If your balance feels stable, inhale, lift your back knee off of the floor by pressing through the ball of your back foot and simultaneously reaching the front knee forward. Feel free to bind your arms under the front leg if that range of motion is available. Inhale lengthen the spine, exhale, engage your core and twist. Stay in the pose and flow into #7. from here.
7. Parsva Bakasana: Revolved Crane Pose
From Revolved Side Angle, with the left leg forward, remain in the twist, palms in prayer position. Gaze down and off to the left side of your mat. Fix your eyes steadily on the floor. Inhale, step your back leg forward, directly in line with your front leg (both knees are bent). You are now in Side Fierce Pose, (ParsvaUtkatasana). Remember to keep your knees bent, and remain in the twist! Exhale, slowly squat about half way down onto the balls of your feet. Keep your right arm strongly hooked onto your left outer thigh. Place your hands off to the left of your body, fingers pointing straight forward. Shift your weight into your hands, bend your elbows as your lean your shoulders forward of your wrists, and lift your feet off of the floor. Gaze one foot forward of your hands down the tip of your nose towards the Earth. Hold for five steady breaths. To exit, either unwind, fold forward in Standing Forward Fold, Uttanasana, and then step back through a Vinyasa, or hug your left arm into your side ribs, exhale jump back into Chaturanga by quickly unwinding your legs and torso. Rest in Down Dog for a few breaths. Repeat the sequence from #6-#7, leading with the right leg.
8. Salamba Sirsasana: Supported Headstand
From Down Dog, exhale, lower down onto all fours, place your forearms down, elbows shoulder width distance apart and interlace your fingers. Place your head on the floor between interlaced palms so the weight is resting just slightly forward towards your forehead from the crown of your head. Inhale, lift your knees off of the floor and straighten your knees. Walk your feet in until your hips stack directly over your shoulders. Ground your elbows, forearms, and wrists so they take the majority of your weight. Engage your low belly and pelvic floor to promote levity. Inhale, curl your thighs into your torso and lift your feet off the floor. Keep your legs squeezing together and slowly reach your bent knees straight up so your feet point down and back behind you. Feel one line of energy from the crown of your head up through bent knees. Straighten your legs by strongly engaging the tops of your thighs. Thoroughly firm both sides of your body and elongate upwardly by rooting your bases down. Gaze at the horizon with soft eyes. Hold for 5 breaths up to a five minutes if you are comfortable in the posture. Use a wall if you feel shaky about balance. If in doubt about whether you are safe to do a headstand, work with an experienced teacher first then approach it on your own. To release out of the posture, attempt to reverse your movements and rest in Child’s Pose for one minute. Lift up and back into Down Dog.
9. Bhujangasana: Cobra Pose
From Down Dog, inhale roll forward into Plank, exhale lower down onto your abdomen. Place your hands a few inches behind your shoulders and root your hands down. Exhale, ground the tops of your feet and pelvis down and draw your low belly back so it lifts off of the floor. Inhale, traction your hands down and slowly arch your spine up and back, away from the floor. Keep a strong gripping action in your hands so you feel as if the pelvis is being tractioned forward (without actually moving). Roll your shoulders back and puff your chest forward and up. Root your sacrum into your body and lightly engage your buttocks. Be sure to press the tops of your feet down continually. Press your shoulder blades into your body towards your heart and lift your breastbone up. Tip your head back keeping your tongue at the roof of your mouth. Gaze slightly forward and down. Hold for 5 breaths. To release, exhale roll down one vertebrae at a time. Option to repeat one or two more times before moving on to #10.
10. Dhanurasana: Bow Pose
From a prone position, prop yourself up on your forearms into Sphinx position. Gently stretch each leg back a little bit more to even out your pelvis on the floor. Inhale, bend your knees, reach back and catch your outer ankles. Keeping your ankles in hand, roll your upper body down so your forehead rests on the floor. Exhale, root your pubic bone down and seal your low abdomen back. Inhale, kick your feet into your hands and simultaneously arch your head, chest, and knees away from the floor. Keep your pelvic floor actively engaged. Kick your legs back into your hands, and lift your chest up so your breastbone is parallel to the wall in front of you. Bring your shins parallel to the wall behind you and arch your upper back deeper. Balance on your solar plexus region, and allow your breath to be as even as possible. Hold for five steady breaths. Roll down on your fifth exhalation. Pillow your hands under your forehead, rest for a few slow even breaths, repeat one to two more times. After your last round, press up and back into Down Dog. Send your breath into your solar plexus region.
11. Salamba Sarvangasana: Supported Shoulderstand
From Down Dog, step or jump through to seated and recline onto your back. Bring your legs together. Gently tuck your shoulders underneath you and open your chest. Press your palms down alongside your hips and seal your low belly back towards your spine. Keep your head straight for the entire duration of this posture! Inhale, squeeze your legs together and lift them straight up so your feet point towards the ceiling. Exhale, press your hands down and roll your hips and torso off of the floor so your body is balanced on your shoulder blades and the back of your head. Place your hands on your rib cage and find your balance. Once you are stable, one shoulder at a time, roll your upper arms underneath you and walk your elbows in so they are shoulder width distance (bringing your hands closer to your shoulder blades). Press the back of your head and shoulder blades down into the floor and from this action, arc the base of your neck away from the floor. If you are unable to lift the base of your neck away from the floor, perform this posture on 2 or 3 folded blankets, resting your trunk on blankets, and the back of your head on the floor itself. Gaze at your abdomen softly. Hold for 30 seconds up to a few minutes if you are comfortable. Optional: After holding the posture you may come into Halasana, Plough Pose, by hinging at your hips and lowering the tops of your feet to the floor behind your head. To release, bring your palms down on the floor and roll out as slowly as possible, keep your head firmly pressing down until you roll all the way down to supine position. Rest and absorb the cooling benefits.
12. Uttana Padasana: Intense Leg Stretch Pose
From a supine position, press your palms and forearms down strongly, inhale arch your upper back, puff your chest up, and place the crown of your head on the floor. If that feels comfortable on your neck, keep your head in position, squeeze your legs together and lift them up at a 45 degree angle to the floor. Once that position is established, reach your arms up, press your palms together and aim your arms up at a 45 degree angle as well. Keep your core engaged and send your breath into your side ribs. Hold for 5 breaths gazing down the tip of the nose. To release, place you palms down again, continue to keep your legs up, and release your head down onto the floor. Curl your knees into your chest and soften. Take Savasana, Corpse Pose, and enjoy the benefits of your practice.