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The Spiritual Anatomy of Yoga - Manipura

“Wherever you go, you carry your light with you”

~ Yogi Ashokananda, my Beloved Teacher

We continue our journey through the spiritual anatomy of yoga, acknowledging once again that it is a vast subject and, perhaps, all we can hope for is a glimpse of the true radiant light of the Self… and yet, perhaps this is all we need.

This week we continue our examination of the Chakra system with the third chakra and continue to dive in and examine some of the finer points of our spiritual anatomy.

Manipura - The Solar Plexus Chakra

Reflecting on the previous blog in this series discussing the Svadhishthana Chakra, we recall that the philosophical and esoteric concepts of the chakras have changed dramatically since they were first mentioned in the Rig Veda over 5,000 years ago.

Originally proposed as concepts upon which to meditate as part of ancient spiritual disciplines, many of the traditions of the Indo-Subcontinent held vastly different understandings of the chakras, including how many of them there were said to be; with classical Indian traditions teaching of seven major chakras while ancient Buddhist Tantra teachings proposing just four.

The relationship of the chakras themselves with the philosophy and practices of yoga is relatively recent. It wasn’t until the 15th century when the Hatha yogis included the chakra system within their particular tradition.

Hatha Yoga has at its heart the teaching of purification of the body in order to attain the highest experience of yoga; this purification is not just of the physical body and consciousness, but also of the subtle body and energy systems of the physical form.

It is historically interesting to note that before this inclusion within the Hatha Yoga tradition, the chakras were seen as completely irrelevant in the yogi's path towards liberation and self-realisation.

The modern chakra system, and the one that is prevalent in Western thought and discussion on yoga as a whole, is based on a text known as the ‘Kubjikāmata-tantra’, an 11th century manuscript originating from within the Hindu ‘Kaula’ tradition. This text can be traced back as the key source material for our modern understanding of the chakras.

Over the course of time, philosophies and traditions are exposed to each other and, quite naturally, parallels and connections are identified and absorbed within existing traditions. This has often had the effect of the sum being greater than its component parts, and this is precisely what has happened with the chakra system and yoga.

As we examine this fascinating aspect of modern yogic traditions, the yogi must always keep their sense of ‘viveka’, a Sanskrit term meaning ‘right understanding’ or ‘discriminative knowledge’. Traditions do indeed change over the course of history and knowledge is expanded upon as our own exploration and understanding of human consciousness and the major sciences continues to grow.

Yet within all of the knowledge and understanding there is an essence that must not be forgotten; our minds must not be clouded further by unnecessary knowledge that does not support the primary aim of the human soul; self-realisation and liberation.

The third of the chakras is called ‘Manipura’ or the Solar Plexus Chakra.

Energetically found in the body between the navel and the lower ribcage, the characteristic of this chakra are are follows:

Associated Colour: Yellow

Governs: Self-confidence, Self-esteem and Ego

Associated Element: Fire

Mantra: Ram

The Solar Plexus Chakra has the name in Sanskrit of ‘Manipura’, which translates as ‘The City of Jewels’, an acknowledgement of the legendary lustre of this third chakra.

Associated with the element of fire within the energetic system of Hindu thought, this chakra governs the yogi's sense of self and their confidence in being oneself within the temporal world. Many traditions state that this is the only chakra that has an influx of energy from outside the body, as well as an emanative quality like the others.

Next week, we will continue to explore the historical and modern interpretations of the chakras, examining the fourth of the chakras: Anahata aka the Heart Chakra.

Matt ~ The Bearded Naked Yogi

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