In Chakra-Jnana Yoga emphasis is placed on keeping awareness on the chakras in hatha yoga and pranayama. This is done by first understanding how various yoga poses, and categories of poses, affect the chakra system. Sequences are also performed according to the movement of energy in the chakras, and both standing and floor sequences may be done to move the energy up and down through the chakras. In this style of yoga it is common to hold the primary poses for each chakra for several minutes so that the attention may be turned inward to feel the subtle prana energy.
As a category forward bends may generally be said to benefit the root and sacral chakras. Primarily, forward bends influence the root chakra since they have a strong affect on the legs and hamstrings. The root chakra is connected to the earth, and since the feet and legs connect our bodies to the earth, poses that benefit the feet and legs will have the greatest influence on the root chakra. This makes poses like the standing and seated forward bend some of the primary poses for the root chakra.
Since forward bends also affect the lower lumbar spine they have a secondary influence on the sacral chakra. This is because the nerves that travel to the sexual organs exit the spine in the lumbar region. Other yoga poses that affect the sacral chakra include asanas that benefit the groin, hips and pelvis. The primary standing pose for the sacral chakra is the standing wide-angle forward bend since it targets both the lumbar region and the groin. In the seated postures the bound angle pose and happy baby are some of the strongest for opening the second chakra.
In a similar fashion, if we examine the anatomy of backbends, we can easily understand that they have a strong affect on the chest and ribcage. Accordingly, many backbends will primarily target the heart chakra since they are so strong for opening the chest. This makes poses like camel and cobra some of the fundamental floor postures for benefiting the heart chakra.
When taking a chakra-based perspective in the practice of hatha yoga it is helpful to practice at a slower rate than what is the case in many of the Vinyasa styles. Though Vinyasa style flow can still be practiced in Chakra-Jnana Yoga, flowing movements are typically done within a single pose. By flowing in and out of a single asana one is able to target key joints, body regions, and chakras. This style of movement is also beneficial to the joints and helps to avoid injuries.
When poses are held for several minutes in this style of yoga, they are done for the primary asana for each chakra. For instance, the seated forward bend may be said to be the primary floor pose for the root chakra, just as the camel is the primary asana for the heart chakra, and the shoulder stand is the primary pose for the throat chakra. By holding primary poses like these for several minutes, one is able to better concentrate on the chakra that is connected to the asana. Through focusing on the chakras and subtle energy in this way, a deeper unity between the mind and body can be achieved. This type of practice also helps to improve concentration and can greatly benefit one’s meditations.
This article has focused on hatha yoga for the chakras, which is a very physical approach to working with the chakras. Additionally, one may work with the chakras through the subtle prana energy, and to do this breathing exercises are the best methods to use. Similarly, we may also approach the chakras from a mental-emotional and spiritual perspective, and in this case jnana yoga and self-inquiry are the preferred method.