There is an idea I’ve heard that our chakras developed as part of human evolution – as we grew in self-awareness and spirituality, the chakras developed in us.
We find in almost all human societies that pleasure does not seem to be enough. There’s always someone – or some people – who position themselves above everyone else. There are others who position themselves (and are positioned by others) as lower.
This is the domain of the third chakra MANIPURA – the power we ‘see’ ourselves as having or not having.
In physical terms, Manipura is located in the centre of the trunk of the body. As with the previous chakras we’ve discussed, there are different ideas about the precise location. Some people refer to this chakra as the “solar plexus chakra” and “see” it above the navel and below the ribs. However, traditional yogis generally agree that your third chakra is in the spine directly behind the navel.
Manipura is concerned with the process of digestion and food metabolism.
Some people speak of a “digestive fire” – the forces at work to digest our food: the stomach, liver, spleen, gastric glands, pancreas, gall bladder – the various organs which produce and secrete enzymes, acids and juices necessary for the digestion and absorption of nutrients. Manipura is also related to the adrenals, which are involved in the “fight for food” response and pancreas islets (involved in energy supply). 2 The nerve plexus associated with Manipura is the solar plexus.
The basic qualities of this chakra are power, action, will-power and self-esteem.
The symbol for Manipura is a yellow lotus flower with ten petals, which refer to ignorance, thirst, jealousy, treachery, shame, fear, disgust, delusion, foolishness and sadness. 3 The element associated with this chakra is fire, and the associated animal is the ram, which is a symbol of assertiveness and energy. 4 The mantra for this third chakra is RĀM (pronounced r-AR-m).
It is this chakra that relates to our image of ourselves: our self-esteem and self-confidence.
It is the centre of self-assertiveness, dynamism and dominance – and their opposites. 5 It is here, in Manipura, the solar plexus chakra, that we have personal assertion, the will to achieve, a striving for power or adaptation to social patterns. 6
It is also important to realise that each of the spinal chakras has negative as well as positive qualities.
Naturally, a balanced third chakra is the ideal, but we all know of people who have an inflated view of themselves. Similarly, we all know of people who are seriously and undeservedly lacking in self-confidence.
A balanced Manipura allows us control over our thoughts, emotional responses, to set healthy boundaries and be at peace with ourselves. 7
A person with an over-active Manipura chakra would have either an excess or deficiency of energy, would very likely over-eat or over-indulge, would be controlling, intolerant or display excessively competitive behaviour. Such a person would very likely be driven by an inner restlessness and discontent and develop an enormous urge to be active in order to cover up nagging feelings of inadequacy and shortcomings. 8
On the other hand, a person with an under-active Manipura chakra would very likely have a low body-weight, poor appetite, lack of confidence, a poor self-image and suffer from anxiety, insecurity and fear. This person is likely to feel dejected and discouraged and see obstacles everywhere that prevent the fulfillment of their desires.
There are several ways in which a person could shore up or balance the Manipura chakra.
* Because this chakra is related to fire and to the sun, one way would be to meditate on the chakra: with eyes closed, visualize a bright yellow swirling disk or vortex in the vicinity of the navel. Try to maintain the practice for 3 – 5 minutes.
*Also because of the association with the sun, fire and the colour yellow, eat yellow foods, like bananas, sunflower seeds, yellow peppers, yellow squash and/or spices like ginger, chamomile and cumin.
* Getting outside under that fiery sun will also help – go for a walk, or do yoga practice outside.
The following asanas will also be beneficial for Manipura chakra
- Swaying palm tree (tiryaka tadasana)
- Animal relaxation pose (saithalyasana)
- Stirring the pot (chakki chalanasana)
- Spinal twist (meru wakrasana)
- Warrior pose (vibadhrasana)
So this week, as you meditate and chant and move your body in those specific Manipura asana, consider: what are your personal boundaries like? How strong is your belief in yourself and your abilities? Do you constantly seek out the approval of other people? Are you able to slow down and come to a peaceful place in yourself, easily?
This is the power of Manipura.
1. In modern terms, you could almost make a correlation between Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the seven chakras – Maslow also states that until the basic levels of needs are met, humans cannot focus on more ‘higher’ needs, like spirituality, self-analysis and unconditional love.
2. Dr Rishi Vivekananda, Practical Yoga Psychology (2005), Yoga Publications Trust, Bihar, India, p.94
4. Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda, Yoga in Daily Life: The System (2000). European University Press, Vienna, Austia, p.408.
5. Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha, Yoga Publications Trust, Bihar, India.
6. Shalila Sharamon & Bodo J. Baginski, The Chakra Handbook, (1997), Lotus Light Publications, Wilmot, USA.
8. Shalila Sharamon & Bodo J. Baginski, The Chakra Handbook, (1997), Lotus Light Publications, Wilmot, USA.