The law of conservation of energy states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed — only converted from one form to another. One thing we humans are experts at is exchanging energy with one another. Sometimes we give it all away. Sometimes it may feel as if it’s being sucked out of us. We are strong, intelligent beings that are also accustomed to using force to accomplish tasks. Learning to balance how we exchange energy can help us move forward with grace and finesse.
If you want to become more efficient at doing the work you were meant to do in this life, it’s important to understand the areas of your body where energy can become stagnant or animated. We’ll call them energy centers. They are located up and down the spine. When they are in balance we feel uplifted, full of life, or prana. This is a word that describes one of the two categories of how energy moves in your body: apana (downward-flowing) and prana (upward-rising). The five main points through which your body gives and receives energy are the feet, the hands, and the crown of the head.
As you change position from pose to pose while doing yoga or physical asana (mindful movement), it’s helpful to pay attention to three aspects of the energy in your body: the focal points, the wheels, and the spirals and loops. Proper alignment also helps energy flow. Let’s explore each of these in more detail.
The bandhas are focal points to and from which energy moves. Bandha can be translated as “lock,” “intersection,” or “bond.” Think of these focal points as points of connection — the front body to the back body and the lower body to the upper body. There are three specific focal points in the body: the pelvis, the solar plexus, and the throat. These areas require attention and activation for all poses. The energy focus in the body changes based on each pose.
Mula Bandha: Pelvic Anchor Energy flows through the feet then meets at the base of the pelvis, which is called the pelvic floor, before it moves out again through the feet. Take a moment to visualize this pathway of energy through the body. This bandha stimulates the pelvic floor and the reproductive organs. Have you ever tried to stop urinating mid-stream? You were activating your pelvic floor muscles and Mula bandha. Try to tighten and squeeze them together now!
Uddiyana Bandha: Rib Anchor On an exhale, we can draw the stomach muscles and diaphragm in and up, activating this anchor. Try it now! Suck your tummy up to your ribs. This is what uddiyana bandha feels like. This anchor stimulates our digestion and respiration. The energy is upward flowing, and at the same time downward flowing to stay grounded.
Jalandhara Bandha: Throat Anchor To activate this bandha, draw the sides of the throat back, keeping the chin level with the chest. This tones the muscles of the neck and head, stimulating the circulatory, respiratory, and nervous systems and vagal tone as well as the thyroid and parathyroids. The throat lock is near the location of the throat chakra.
Wheels, or chakras in Sanskrit, are energy centers that are located up and down the spine, from the base of the body to the crown of the head. There are seven wheels, or energy centers, that help keep ourselves and our lives in balance. These centers are like wheels on a bike. When the wheels are off balance, we can help guide them back if we know the location and qualities each one represents. When the wheels are open and balanced, we feel full of life, or prana.
First revealed in the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. It is a practice of love and devotion with the purpose of developing unconditional love. The practice includes chanting, rituals, and prayer. It is considered similar to Jnana and Karma as all these paths are led by devotion to obtain liberation from mental and physical suffering.
Survival, security, grounding
1-7 years of age
This chakra is located just below the belly button. It governs our sexuality, desire and creativity. A balanced sacral chakra allows us to love and be loved, building boundaries for ourselves as we grow. Love is stronger than fear. Cultivating abundance and creativity from within is the job of each individual that reflects directly on our well-being.
Sexuality, self-trust, self-respect
8-14 years of age
SOLAR PLEXUS WHEEL:
This chakra, in the upper abdomen, helps us develop self-confidence and drive. You’re able to make your own life choices, empowering you to be in control. If you have ever felt the flutter of butterflies in your belly, your solar plexus chakra is supporting you.
Confidence, willpower, desire to create
15-21 years of age
The heart chakra influences our ability to give and receive love. Located directly in the center of the chest, it helps to bridge the lower chakras and the upper chakras. The term literally means unstuck, like on a continuum.
Love, compassion, empathy, joy, peace
21-28 years of age
The throat chakra allows the head and the heart to work in tandem. Our truth, our voice, and our own personal power all rise from a centered, balanced throat chakra. It is located in the area between the clavicles at the soft part of the throat. Our thoughts become more clear, allowing our words to be communicated more clearly as well.
Authenticity, voice, truth, clarity
29-35 years of age
THIRD EYE WHEEL:
A balanced third eye chakra broadens our perspective and creates a more nuanced point of view. Located along the brow of the forehead between the eyes, it grants us the ability to see beyond what is happening in the moment, which is key to deeper connections. This intuitive state is developed by the deeper understanding that comes from experience.
Intuition, 6th sense, imagination, wisdom
36-42 years of age
HIGHER CONSCIOUSNESS WHEEL:
Located directly on the crown of the head, this chakra encourages us to ask the bigger questions of our purpose in life, utilizing the wisdom and experience that we’ve gained. Seeking higher consciousness is the act of looking beyond the physical realm and connecting with others on a deeper, soul level.
Love, compassion, empathy, joy, peace
21-28 years of age
The Body’s 5 Points of Energy
The feet, the hands, and the crown of the head are the five main points through which the body gives and receives energy. You can imagine energy flowing in and out of the hands and feet, and through the crown of the head (even when you shake hands or give someone a hug.) Our energy is balanced when we draw in the same amount of energy that we put out. Through regular yoga practice, we will learn how to recognize this energy input and output. Remember that energy flows up and down through the body as well. The downward flowing energy, apana, is represented by our stability and grounding through the low body. Urinating, menstruating, and giving birth are examples of apana. Prana is the upward rising energy, our breath. Our continual work as yogis is to defy gravity and stand tall using prana.
Take a Minute
Set a timer for 5 minutes and write your answers to the following questions.
1. Root Wheel (Muladhara) — How do you ground yourself when you’re unsure of yourself or need security? Do you turn to others? What actions do you do to conjure your own sense of security and peace?
2. Sacral Wheel (Swadhisthana) — In what ways do you NOT trust yourself? How can you build self-trust and self-respect in those areas?
3. Solar Plexus Wheel (Manipura) — When do you feel most confident? When was the last time you felt the need to exert your willpower? What were you protecting or trying to express?
4. Heart Wheel (Anahata) — How do you show someone that you love them? What do you need to feel loved? Are you empathic? Do you feel the feelings of others for them? If so, how does this impact your joy and peace?
5. Throat Wheel (Vishuddha) — How often do you speak up for yourself? How much do you care about the opinions of others? Are their opinions true? What areas of life do you feel you are becoming an expert? What can you speak clearly and authentically about?
6. Third Eye Wheel (Ajna) — What decisions do you make based on your Intuition? How often do you dream about the future or imagine what’s possible?
7. Higher Consciousness Wheel (Sahasrara) — Do you know what it feels like in your body to want something but not be attached to the outcome of attaining it? How often do you feel you can access a wiser state of mind, even beyond what you think of as you? How often do you feel connected to something greater than us? What activities inspire this feeling?
How do you move around in the world? Do you stomp or walk on your heels? How developed is your spatial awareness? Do you bump into things? Is your personal bubble large? How often do you feel others invade your bubble or get close to your face when they talk?
Feel the energy from your five points. Stand in Star Pose facing a friend or a mirror. Place your feet wider than your hips — the bigger the stance, the bigger the stretch. Extend your arms up high so your wrists are positioned over your feet. Adjust for whichever width is appropriate. Feel the energy from your feet, your hands, and the crown of your head. What happens when you do an inversion such as handstand or headstand? Or turn to the left or to the right? Can you still feel them?
From the base of our feet to the top of our head, energy moves in loops.
It also spirals from the back to the front of our body. We balance and position ourselves by finding our perfect alignment within these loops and spirals. When we engage our muscles, we find the middle ground among our energy loops and spirals, until we feel stable. Our arms and legs are supported by this energy. It helps build stability from our feet to our hips and our hands to our shoulders. When both loops and spirals are active, we are in an optimal place in our form. Practicing yoga poses helps us align each section of our body into harmony.
Loop 1: Energy runs from the heel, under the base of the foot, toward the toes, over the top of the foot, through the ankle, and back down again.
Loop 2: From the back of the Achilles heel, up the calf, through the back of the knee, down the front of the shin, through the ankle, and back up again.
Loop 3: From the back of the knee, to the front of the thigh, up to the crease where the thigh meets the pelvis, through to the backside of the hamstrings, returning to the back of the knee.
Loop 4: From the back of the top of the thigh forward to the front of the pelvis to the backside and back down over the glutes to the top of the thigh and then forward to the front of the hip.
Loop 5: From the front of the hip, through to the back body, up the back to the upper thoracic spine, transitioning forward under the shoulder blades to the front of the chest, and back down to the top of the hip.
Loop 6: From the back of the chest under the shoulder blades, forward to the front of the chest, to the top of the shoulders, down the back body, and back under the shoulder blades.
Loop 7: From the top of the shoulders to the back of the neck, up the back of the head, down the front of the face, through the base of the neck, and back again.
The legs and arms perform a similar function of internal and external rotation. From the base of the palm, the energy of the whole arm bone moves inward just enough to stabilize the forearms so the shoulders and upper arm bone can externally rotate and move the shoulders up onto the back.
Remember the story of Goldilocks and the three Bears? Goldilocks preferred a bowl of porridge that was neither too hot nor too cold, but “just right” (we’ll ignore the part about her snooping around in someone else’s house).
The gunas are 3 levels of energy.
Sattva- just right, just enough, being in alignment, consciousness
Rajas- fire, turbulent, passion, active growth
Tamas- grounded, stability, slowing down, inert Imagine a flower. The roots are tamas, the stalk is raj s, and the bloom is sattva.
We strive for sattva energy, being in balance by approaching circumstances with just the right amount of oomph. It’s up to you to decide how much energy you’ll want to put forth while taking a test, for example. Studying for a test with passion and raj s energy might result in the best grade. Showing up to meditate with fiery energy might not be successful for the task at hand. Tamas energy would be better suited for quieting down.
When we approach the world with an understanding of how much energy we will exert, we can be most effective. What kind of energy would you use when having a conversation about a sensitive topic? It might not go as well with passionate raj s as it would with grounded tamas energy. These qualities are in all things and make up our universal world. All 3 gunas are present inside us, but we have a tendency
toward one of them. With self-reflection, we notice our own traits, behaviors, and patterning that we’ve built into our own lives.
The gunus also surround us. Nature nudges us to move with high, medium, and low energy. When the leaves are falling and the season is cooling off, we go inside to stay warm by the fire with a blanket. We begin to go inward to restore. When we move with nature, we notice a balance, a grounding in our bodies. Therefore, when we are asked to rise from rest (tamas), build a little fire in our lives and step up (rajas), we have the tools and the energy to do so (sattva). Moving with nature and understanding the gunas as qualities of being in the world, reminds us that when we are in the flow with life. When we honor this mindset, in harmony and alignment with the universe, we are living a consciously designed life.
Planes of the Body
Also known as the midline, this is the vertical plane that divides the body into two parts: a right side and a left side. Both sides meet in the middle, or midline.
AKA the Transverse Plane, divides the body into upper and lower quadrants, like when we bend over in a forward fold. You can think of the division as being in the pelvic region. Moving the femurs back in the sockets allows the pelvis to bow over the body, maintaining a lumbar curve in the low spine as the body bends forward. The lumbar region moves into the body when the body is bending backward and the femurs are still on the back plane of the body.
This divides the body into two parts: the front body and the back body. This is helpful in understanding how to move the body and where to position your parts.
Take a Minute
Set a timer for 5 minutes and write your answers to the following questions.
Try aligning your body from your feet to the top of your head. Bring each section of your body into harmony. Build your own yoga stack!
Place your feet hip-distance apart. Squeeze the ground with your feet and hug your legs towards each other. Keep your knees facing straight ahead, while activating your thigh muscles. Once your legs are active, anchor them from the base of your pelvis back down into the earth. Bow your torso forward, making space in your spine, from hips to armpits. Keep your spine lifted and inhale here. Reset your shoulders to rest on the fullness of your upper back. Keep your chin level. Exhale while keeping the head in a weightless position. The goal is to find the place where your body is stacked upon itself in total ease and optimal freedom.
Flexion: shortens the angle between the bones
Extension: extends the angle between the bones
Hyperflexion: beyond the normal range of motion, excess flexion in the joint
Anterior: in front of
Posterior: behind, after, following, at the rear
Distal: farther from origin
Proximal: closer to the origin, nearer
Dorsal: toward the back, near the surface
Ventral: toward the belly or the bottom
Superior: above, over
Inferior: below, under
Lateral: toward the side or outer edge, away from the midline
Medial: toward the inside edge, toward the midline
Internal: inside edge, below the surface
External: outside edge, above the surface
Abduction: moves the body part away from the body
Adduction: moves the body part close to the body
Circumduction: movement of the body in a circular motion
Rotation: occurs in both joints and bones
Supination: an internal rotation
Pronation: an external rotation
Depression: downward movement
Elevation: upward movement
Descending: downward movement
Ascending: upward movement
Dorsiflexion: lifting the front of the foot, the foot moves toward the anterior of the leg
Plantar Flexion: lifting the heel of the foot and pointing the toes down
Inversion: Turning the foot to angle the bottom of the foot toward the midline. In a posture, positioning the body upside down, where the head is at the lowest point and feet are above hips, hips above heart, and heart above the head
Eversion: turns the bottom of the foot away from the midline
Find out how energy in your body can be downward-flowing and upward-rising. Discover how it moves into and out of our bodies through five points: our feet, hands and head. Learn more about the way we find balance within the loops and spirals of energy inside us. Investigate the wheels of energy that inspire creativity, confidence, love and security within. Navigate situations with more ease by understanding the gunas. Practice physically aligning your body in a way that helps energy flow.