My ladder to love was a resurrection of sorts. It started with me and it will never end with me. It is my journey to God, to Love. And it started with one of the most profound and painful moments of my life.
Five years ago, during my teacher training at Swan River Yoga, my father passed away. It was sudden, it took my hope away, and it left me feeling breathless and lost. My first day back to teacher training after his death felt impossible. My husband drove me to Swan River because I could barely put one foot in front of the other. He sat with me in the car for what felt like an eternity. He didn’t say a word. He just held my hand. I finally got out and walked in. I was dreading the hugs and the condolences. I knew they came with sweet intention but I didn’t think I could get through it without crumbling. To my surprise, although my fellow teachers-in-training all smiled and looked at me with kind eyes, none of them rushed to comfort me. Michelle had us quickly sit in a circle and we started meditation. I began to panic. I felt terrified. I started to pray. My mind was whirling with fear, my heart racing. I decided right then I would leave. But then, Michelle called us out of meditation. My heart sank.
I opened my eyes reluctantly to the moment that everything changed in me and for me.
In front of me was the most incredible gathering of flowers I had ever seen. Every flower was different. Some were open, some were closed in a bud, but each one was just as beautiful as the next. Michelle explained that the teachers in training had each picked a flower that reminded them of me. They were delicate on their own but together they were an abundance of beauty. Something shifted within me as I sat there. I realized we were all like the flowers—unique and beautiful on our own, but much more abundant, impactful, alive, and perfectly placed when together.
I was incredibly grateful for their support and in that instant I knew my dad was still with me. I felt his presence and peace surrounding me. This was my first step in healing, in finding my way back, in discovering our souls are infinite even as we leave our bodies.
Chakras are like that beautiful bouquet of flowers. Some are overly open and some are closed in a bud and they can vary anywhere in between depending on our experiences. Certain struggles we face can impede the flow of life energy and the chakras begin to slow down, close up, and the energy becomes stuck. We need to move the energy to create openness and good health. Like in nature, some chakras seem to get all the light or energy and grow easily, while other chakras are left diminished and closed off. The goal is to create harmony and balance to bring forth all the abilities, strengths, and vulnerabilities in ourselves.
Today in our highly-charged world that is threaded with stress and constant stimulation we are desperate to understand our energy centers, which can help us make wise choices for our health, connectedness, and love. So where do we start?
First, we must understand what each chakra represents and how we can create balance in them. Learning about the chakras was a sacred journey for me. It renewed my faith. Each chakra is like a rung of knowledge and empowerment that leads to a path of acceptance and well-being—a path to love. Chakras are energy centers that create a dimension of growth and fulfillment within. They are the conductors that filter energy from the heaven above to the earth below. These energies come in union to form seven spiraling vortexes along the central channel in the body that are vital to our physical and emotional health.
The first chakra is the root chakra, also called the Muladhara chakra. It is located at the base of the spine. The color is red, the element is earth, and the function is grounding and survival. This chakra represents your parents, your family, your home, your ability to meet your basic needs and find stability in life. If there’s an imbalance here, some things that will help bring balance are meditation, resting, and eating a pure diet. The standing poses in our asana practice also help to activate this chakra.
The second chakra is called the Svadhisthana chakra. The color is orange, the location is the pelvis and hips, the element is water, and the function is the ability to experience desire, to express yourself. It represents your sexuality, creativity, and relationships. If there’s an imbalance here, some practices like taking long baths or spending time in water, practicing self-affirmations, and doing hip openers in yoga class such as pigeon pose or fire log pose, can assist in finding balance.
The third chakra is the Manipura chakra. The color is yellow, the location is the core or solar plexus, the element is fire, and the function is will power. This chakra represents your ego, who you think you are, and your ability to be assertive. Find balance here by making empowered choices, spending time alone, listening to your gut, and doing core building exercises, such as boat pose, and twists.
The fourth chakra is the Anahata chakra. The color is green, the location is the heart, the element is air, and the function is love. This represents how you love. This is who you truly are. Find balance here by being in loving relationships, spending time in nature, and by practicing affirmations of love, heart-opening poses such as camel pose, full wheel, and bridge pose, as well as singing and other Bhakti practices. Also beneficial are arm balances and shoulder openers.
The fifth chakra along the ladder to love is the Visuddha chakra. The color is blue, the location is the throat, the element is sound, and the function is communication. This chakra is known as the poison-removing space and has to do with speaking your truth and your idea of self. You can help balance this chakra by using positive speech, being a compassionate listener, singing, and eating things that soothe the throat. Helpful yoga poses are the shoulder stand series, including plow pose and fish pose.
The sixth chakra is the Ajna chakra. The color is indigo, the location is the center of the head, the element is light, and the function is intuition. You can help find balance here by practicing meditation, breathing exercises, and any pose in yoga that grounds the head, such as headstand or other inversions.
The final rung on this ladder to love is the Sahasrara chakra. The color here is violet, the location is the crown of the head, and the element is thought. The function is understanding. This chakra represents the divine.
One may experience bliss as this chakra is activated—moments where time seems to stand still, and the world and all reason fall away. This can happen looking into the eyes of a lover, during savasana, or even in the euphoria of dancing with your girlfriends at the Goldmine. Nothing is lacking here, everything is perfect, and you find ultimate bliss. This is our glimpse that there’s something more than just this physical body, this life.
A good place to bring awareness to these energy centers is the yoga mat. When you move through your asana practice, approach the shapes and all expressions of moving in and out of them like a flower that is opening to bloom. Honor each stage and the beauty of where you are in the moment. Every part of the process is beautiful and necessary, whether it’s the full expression of the pose or just focusing on the prep work. It is the journey of these shapes, one transforming into the other, that helps bring awareness through your entire being. This awareness leads us to love, to something deeper within that has no limitations.
Our personal growth continues, and just like each season, we can be renewed over and over again. We can continue to become connected and heal. We can continue to evolve and expand from our past and climb into new horizons. When we do this, we open towards the light. We can’t be frightened to shift and to invite transformation from right conditions that create these shifts. This discovery within is the ladder to love. The more awareness, the more love we find within ourselves, the more love we find within and the more we can offer those around us.
The beautiful flowers at teacher training that night were my reminder to keep going, to remember that the spirit is everlasting, to keep believing that there’s more on the other side of death. The flowers of love, our chakras, are windows of perception into our hearts. They are in me and they are in you, too.
Easter is a time that invites a resurrection of faith, a renewal in what we believe in. Even a flower that is wilted and dying can bloom if given right conditions, adequate light, enough care, and unconditional love. We must stay open through all the loss, all the pain, all the falling apart. Another cycle, a different season, enough hope to hold on to. If we don’t keep climbing and moving through it, there’s no way we can be reborn from it. Oftentimes, what seems to be the end is just a new beginning.