“I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself.” – Aldous Huxley
The only thing we can be sure of is change, yet most of us spend our lives gripping onto the railing, terrified of what that change will entail, and how soon it will come.
Fear and anxiety tend to be held primarily in the gut, the location of the solar plexus. From a eastern philosophical view, the solar plexus is the location of the Manipura Chakra, the jewel in the city, or the place of resplendence. Along with governing digestion and metabolism, this is also the home of the ego, and associated with self-esteem and “warrior” energy; it also holds the key to our power for transformation.
Behind the digestive organs lies the spine, which is the engine for all movement. When the Manipura chakra is healthy and spirited, and balanced with the rest of the body and their associated chakras, taking risks, asserting oneself and being responsible for ones choices in life is natural and easy. The relationship of self and other is in check, and acting our of goodwill and service comes naturally because the sense of ego-self is in tune with the universal self, or conscious collective.
When the Manipura chakra is out of balance, however, it is associated with fear, anxiety, insecurity (that may present as an inflation of ego or self-worth), poor digestion or even chronic illness. It can also be associated with a stiff or misaligned spine. The Solar plexus is intricately linked to diet, as the diet supports, or hinders how our digestive track functions, as well as our self-image and ultimately, our self-worth.
It is no coincidence that in the sixties, a time of drastic and needed change, a number of songs were penned about the inevitability of change, such as The Times They Are A Changin’, by Bob Dylan, and A Change Is Gonna Come, by Sam Cooke. An equal number of songs were written about twisting and turning, which are the very moves that accelerate and encourage change in the body, from a digestive and movement perspective.
In the yoga asana practice, postural twists are excellent for bringing about a cleansing of the gut, as well as challenging our sense of self and all of our attachments. If we are aware and wanting to look deeply into our mental patterns and attachments, twists can challenge the questions such as who is ‘I’ and what is ‘mine’? What are the various labels we place on ourselves that we get attached to? The more we understand that the labels aren’t real, but rather, the makings of the ego, even the thoughts we have about ourselves in the world are not real, the more we can begin to accept change, whether it be a relationship-based, dietary, environmental, or professional. The fact is, everything is changing in the world all the time, and we have less control of what is ‘newer and dear’ to us than we think. When we take responsibility for the choices we make with intentions that stretch beyond our limited, ego-driven self, then we can rest assured that we have done the best we can, and the fear and anxiety dissipates.
When we embrace change and feel good about what we consume, including the food we eat and the media we read and hear, we become change agents rather than fighting change as if it were quicksand. What we feel good about eating is personal, of course, but starting from a place of not-harming any other being is essential if one is practicing yoga with the goal of sustained happiness and peace within. Healing foods packed with nutrients are generally also non-harming foods, making things like organic vegetables and fruits a great place to start.
For more on the relationship of food and diet to feeling great, check out Sharon Gannon’s book, Simple Recipes for Joy. It is so much more than a vegan cookbook; it is a recipe for creating magic and positive change in the world, starting with yourself.
For more on twisting, the Manipura chakra and the asana practice, I will be leading a workshop on Sunday, October 5 about the torso and Central Column in the Architecture of Asana Series at Indaba Yoga Studio, Marylebone, from 1:30-4:30pm. Please come!