Sahasrara Chakra and Collective Consciousness

sahasrara

We’ve arrived at our final destination in the Chakra Series, the 7th chakra, Sahasrara, at the crown of the head. Sahasrara translates from Sanskrit as the thousand-petaled lotus; it’s where we come into connection with the collective consciousness and with the divine. At the crown chakra, we discover the ability to merge the individual self with the creation of all beings. We discover and create our philosophy and spirituality, examining what it means to be human and the beauty that comes with our fragility.

Sahasrara represents peace, abundance, and profound contentment through a deeper connection with what it means to be alive in every moment. It’s at the crown chakra that we dissolve the ego-self’s desires in pursuit of the greater good for humanity. The crown chakra is where we connect with the divine or God, depending on your philosophy. The word yoga means to unite or to yolk. At the crown chakra, we honor this merger by placing our faith and trust in the universe and elements we may or may not be able to see.

Trust in the universe, and its cycles, connection to the self and one’s unique expression, and faith in the evolution of humanity harmonize at the crown chakra. Sahasrara asks us to go beyond what we can see, hear, touch, feel, and taste; to go beyond the senses and imagine a world where all beings exist in freedom and happiness. Nirvana or liberation is achieved at the crown chakra.

This week’s podcast episode, we had the pleasure of interviewing Erin Moon. Anatomy buff, yogi, reiki practitioner, teacher, actor, and co-founder of the World Spine Yoga Project. Erin brings over a decade of experience and expertise in the anatomical and subtle aspects of yoga. Clara and Erin shared their knowledge on the crown chakra and its themes in this week’s discussion. Highlights from our conversation are below, or you can watch or listen to the full episode.

Check out past articles from the Chakra Series | Muladhara, Svadhisthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddha, Ajna.

Introducing Erin Moon

“My formal education is as an actor, first, with certifications in yoga therapeutics, anatomy trainings, and deep Svadhyaya. I come to you, as you; as a person (a really nerdy person) with a deep interest in human anatomy and embodiment.”  – Erin Moon

Clara: Erin and I go way back to New York City maybe over a decade ago. We’ve been teaching my 200 and 300-hour teacher training for the past six years, with Erin leading the anatomy portion.

Erin is probably one of my favorite people to work with, in that she’s super enthusiastic and makes anatomy fun and interactive.

We wanted to interview Erin today because she has fantastic insight into the body with her background in yoga, therapeutics, anatomy, and reiki. She’s done so much training and reflection in her own life that we thought she’d be an excellent addition to our conversation today on the crown chakra. 

Stephanie: I’d like to ask a few questions for our community to get to know you. First off, where can we find you? 

Erin: I teach with [Clara], and I teach with Prema Yoga Institute, a yoga therapy program out of New York. Moon Yoga Therapeutics is my website

Stephanie:  Would you rather be a Monarch butterfly or a moth? 

Erin: I love to travel, so I lean to lean towards the Monarch butterfly. The monarch butterfly migrates each year, I think, it might be South of Mexico City. They all gather there and cover the trees. So the whole trees are covered in Monarch butterflies. The other thing I like about them is they seem to travel in groups, a mass migration.

Sahasrara: 7th Chakra Themes

You have gone on a journey. You have touched, you have tasted, you have seen, and you have heard, you have loved and lost and loved again. You have learned, you have grown, you have arrived at your destination intact. – Anodea Judith, Wheels of Life.


Erin: The crown chakra is the thousand-petalled lotus flower. It represents different types of intelligence and different types of conscious thinking and consciousness. It’s a consciousness beyond our comprehension, beyond the consciousness we currently have, and beyond what we’re able to wrap our brains around or intellectualize. 

I feel like there’s a lot of digestion that happens at the crown chakra. The digestion aspect being what intelligence is used. We can over-intellectualize things, and we can overanalyze things, and we can become trapped in that place. That’s when you get into issues within the aspects of the crown chakra. Every one of us has different digestion, a different way of processing. Energy needs to be able to flow through our digestive system, and it needs to break its bits apart again, you know, like they break a bit, they break apart, they grow at the root, and then they break apart a little bit, and they become something more. Then they break apart just like the pedals continue to grow. I feel like at the crown chakra, we digest all experience and what does on around us. 

Clara: The crown chakra is the portal between the individual and the collective; the collective consciousness lives outside of us. At the crown chakra, we open up to how we might be able to listen and receive others and listen to what is happening around us.  

When I’m teaching, I realize how connected we are to each other in this river of thought that’s swirling around us. We’re no longer the individual. The practice may serve as a portal to see how we are a part of the collective consciousness. You realize that you’re not the only one going through these experiences.

Being with others and around other people helps you realize that you’re not the only one going through whatever you’re going through. That’s how I would define collective consciousness. Meditation is a big part of crown chakra in terms of practice. Meditation helps to widen the perspective, to step back and see the bigger picture and how we join the collective. 

Erin: The other theme I feel at the crown chakra is the idea of surrender. The same way we surrender in meditation, there is a sense of surrendering to your seat, you have to in some way. And trust, you have to trust in some manner that you don’t have to know everything and that you can’t know everything and you can’t hold everything in your brain.

At the same time, it’s like you’re leaning in the same way you would in a relationship where there are things that you hold that I don’t, and vice versa. I don’t have all of the intelligence, I can’t hold all of it, and that’s fine with me because I can lean to your brain and lean to your soul and lean to your life experience and lean to your philosophizing. And I can lean into those things to expand my opportunity to pontificate or think about something or have somewhere to land. I surrender to the fact that I can’t hold everything, I can’t know everything.

The Anatomy of Sahasrara

Ideally as we progress in our teaching, we find different ways to articulate anatomy, so every student has a greater opportunity to be more embodied. – Erin Moon

Erin: If you think about anatomically where the crown chakra lives, it’s at the top of our head. And if you think of our anatomy in our body and you think of the gross aspects, inside this dome of our skull, there aren’t bones, It’s this big space, a lot of tiny weeny, little neurons with the receptors, and what’s happening up there is so unfathomably awesome. You can Intuit that there’s this space upstairs full of these tiny little bits and pieces that talk to one another, and they can talk really fast or talk really slow, and receive in different ways and give off in different ways.

Connecting to Collective Consciousness

Clara: In terms of the seventh chakra and your experience of connecting to the collective consciousness, you must first understand who you are. Ask yourself, how do you relate to the world around you? There’s also a deep listening and also to watch for, to wait for the signs. Meaning, you put what you want out to the world- through saying it or writing it or some other form- and wait to see what comes back.

You put your intention out to the universe and stay proactive in looking for the signs as they’re coming towards you before deciding to move in that direction. You’re still listening and watching, active; you’re not sitting back and waiting for something to happen. 

Erin: It’s interesting because as soon as something gets brought into your awareness, you see more because you’ve brought it into your consciousness. So, as Clara says about placing it in the world, you put your intention into the world and then follow up with it through meditation or spending time with it. Then perhaps you take action and test it out, tentatively, or you can test it out intensely. The idea is that when you do those actions, you’re putting out more of your conscious awareness. 

Clara: The opposite of paranoia, which means that the universe is out to get you, is pronoia by Rob Brezsny, who is one of my favorite astrologists, and a fantastic writer. Rob has a book called Pronoia

Pronoia is the idea that the universe is out to support you. So, you can be paranoid, or you can be pronoia. It’s up to you because whatever you decide, generally speaking, your mind is naturally going to look for ways of validating your decision. You get to choose how you interact with the world and what events arise from your outlook. 

About Our Guest, Erin Moon

Erin Moon IAYT 800, ERYT 500, YACEP. She has been teaching since 2005 and teaching teachers anatomy and more since 2009. She has been a teacher in Vancouver since moving here in 2014 from NYC where she lived for 13 years via Alberta born and raised. Erin is the Director and co-creator of the World Spine Care Yoga Project, an international NGO bringing the practices of Yoga to people suffering from spinal and musculoskeletal disorders, pain, and limited mobility, in communities around the world. She also has her Level 2 Reiki, Level 1 Thai Massage, is a C-IAYT 800 Therapist, and has her 200hr certification in Applied Positive Psychology from The Flourishing Center. She is currently teaching intro to advanced anatomy for Lila Vinaysa, Prema Yoga Institute (NYC) and Illumina Yoga (upstate NY). Erin loves learning and knows that part of living well is growing. Whenever possible, she continues to study with PT’s, OT’s, Chiropractors, Researchers, Somatic Psychotherapists and Neurologists, and pursuing her hunger for knowledge through deep self-study.

Her focus in public classes is embodiment and curiosity, whether she is teaching Restorative, Yin, Hatha or Vinyasa; practicing listening to the wisdom that our mind-body connection holds. To do this, Erin believes we must start the conversation through quieting, noticing, and contemplating. This way we may become more somatically (felt sense of the body) aware, developing greater connections within, which then translate to greater connections in our communities and the divine in all things.

Ajna Chakra: Trust Your Intuition

ajna

The third-eye center or Ajna chakra is where we connect our wisdom and intuition. The sixth of the seven chakras, Ajna, translates from Sanskrit as ‘command’ or ‘perceive.’ The third-eye symbolizes our ability to transcend the ego and move to a higher consciousness where trust, intuition, acceptance, and clairvoyance guide our actions. At the third-eye, we practice listening to our intuition through meditation practices and coming to stillness to allow the answers to arise naturally. Ajna chakra reminds us that we can balance self-doubt and questioning with a deep appreciation for honoring our instincts and trust in our process. When we become still and silent, we create the space to sit with our discomfort and receive our body’s messages. The body does not lie. The practice of yoga may be a tool to cleanse and purge the physical, mental, and emotional tensions so we can come to meditation and listen to what we need. 

When Ajna chakra is balanced, we see things as they are. We can step back and examine more than just the objects in front of us; we might step back to take in the full room and explore each item’s relationship. When Ajna chakra is out of balance, we live in Maya, the illusion, and can be disconnected from the truth. This chakra asks us to deepen our understanding and acceptance for the world precisely as it is, so we might see how we belong and interact within the world around us. 

This week on the podcast, we discussed the third-eye center, Ajna, and its themes, blockages, and imbalances. We also discussed how we might connect to inner wisdom and intuition and explored Patanjali’s Sutra 11.6 in terms of falsely identifying with the ego over our truth. Read the highlights below, or get the full episode on Practice with Clara or Spotify

Ajna Themes, Blockages, and Imbalances

Clara: The sixth chakra is at the third eye center. If you were to draw a line from one temple to the other and then from the middle of your forehead to the back of your head where those two lines intersect is where the third eye center is. The third eye center has a lot to do with intuition, wisdom and clairvoyance, beyond reason into a more profound knowledge. When we connect to our third eye, we see the bigger picture, step outside of our experience, and look at the world from an objective point of view versus a subjective point of view.

Ways of connecting to the third eye chakra and creating harmony would be meditation. Another way you could connect to the sixth chakra would be through jiva bandha. If you’re doing a yoga practice, you take the tip of your tongue and place it to the roof of your mouth, where the top pallet meets the back of your front teeth. It creates a soft opening of the jaw, but it also may activate the third eye center.

When there’s an imbalance, you’re generally not grounded and lose all sense of who you are and get lost in the ether. That’s a person who doesn’t know what’s going on. 

The blockage around the sixth chakra is that you can’t hear or feel your wisdom. And so in that way, you’re running around in your ego, meaning the survival part of yourself. And you don’t know. What it is that you need. Another way a blockage would be expressed around the sixth chakra is when it’s closed is that you can’t see the bigger picture.

Watts talks about this being like the bug’s eye view versus the bird’s eye view. The bugs I view is the idea that all you can see is what’s directly in front of you. You can’t see the bigger picture and kind of an idea. And when we’re in a bug’s eye view, we can’t see all the things. We can only see the stuff directly in front of us. So that would be a blockage. 

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras: A Guide for Meditation

False-identification is confusing the nature of the seer or Self with the nature of the instrument of perception. In other words, false identification happens when we mistake the mind, body, or senses for the true Self. – Sutra 11.6


Clara: The yoga sutras are one of India’s oldest texts written by a person called Patanjali. It’s a how-to for meditation in order to connect with your higher self or your inner wisdom. The sutras are a guide on how to meditate, how to connect to self.

The yoga sutras are ways to break free of the Maya, meaning the illusion we live in So, a large part of the practice is this idea of connecting to our consciousness or the space that actually lives in the third eye center.

The third-eye and the concept of truth versus ignorance make me think of the Matrix, and the moment Neo must choose between the blue pill (to see the truth) and the red pill (remain in ignorance). The thing is, if you take the blue pill, you can never come back. You can never unsee what it is that you saw. So the question around Ajna chakra is, do I want to stay ignorant, or do I want to go deeper? – Clara Roberts-Oss

It’s because we live in illusion, and we do not see the truth for the way that it is, meaning that we’re hanging out with the red pill and not the blue pill. (If we’re going back to the Matrix metaphor). This idea of false identification. 

A lot of the yogis believe that we are not our minds, bodies, or emotions because they are always in flux. We’re looking to connect with a part of ourselves that is unchanging: the higher consciousness or collective consciousness. The bigger ‘S’ self is the higher consciousness, and the lower ‘s’ self is the ego. The ego in this definition is who we think we are, our thoughts, our emotions, our bodies. If we don’t stay connected to our bigger ‘S’ self, our consciousness, we’re in reaction mode versus response mode, meaning we’re not connecting to the greater wisdom that lives inside. We’re constantly in survival mode and living in the ego that’s always changing. 

Ajna: Ego versus Inner Wisdom

Stephanie: When have you felt your ego push up against your inner wisdom and went against your gut instinct?  

Clara: The most recent, the most recent event that happened would be around my child last week. When I breastfeed or when I pump, I do a lot of Googling. Google is not necessarily the best Oracle as we like to call it. And so I was Googling about breastfeeding, and then I was Googling about sleep training because she’s coming into her four months, and I felt like I needed to figure out about sleep training. Suddenly, I got into my head about the fact that I’m not doing what all these things are telling me to do, like what I’m supposed to be doing. And then I got into my head that I couldn’t put my daughter down properly and couldn’t feed her properly. I couldn’t because I was so in my head about what I thought I should be doing. And from being in my head, I couldn’t Intuit. I couldn’t tell what it was my daughter needed. I ignored my intuition.

I texted a friend of mine, and she was like, stop reading, you know what to do. For the past four months, I’ve put her down when she needs to go down. I fed her when she needs food. But all of a sudden, after reading my ego took over and made me question what I should be doing. I stopped connecting to my wisdom.

We need to listen, but there’s still so much space for a moment of self-doubt. Doubt is a good attribute to have. One thing I love about the Jewish faith is that they ask you to doubt. They ask you to question. It’s essential to ask questions because when you doubt, it solidifies what you believe.

To connect to our sixth chakra, we need to get quiet. I generally need to get still or meditate, or some people like to do some repetitive movement. You need to turn your brain off and just listen. 

That is the most direct way to connect to our intuition, connect to our wisdom, and connect to our innate knowing. Listen. Whenever I start to get too busy that’s an indication that I’m not connecting to my inner wisdom, I’m lower down in my first chakra where there’s fear. So I need to stop, be still, and listen. That’s the ego’s job to keep you alive and protect you, but we need to observe what else is there and listen to what arises to honor our inner wisdom.  

Ajna Chakra Podcast

Vishuddha: Storytelling, Self-Expression, and Sound

When we read stories, we can relate to characters who express similar triumphs and conflicts, giving us a sense of belonging to a greater narrative. Storytelling may diminish feelings of separation, loneliness, and anxiety, when we realize how we are not alone in how we think, feel, or act.  

This week’s theme was Vishuddha, the 5th chakra, and its themes, including expression, truth, authenticity, sound, speech, and communication. Vishuddha means “especially pure” in Sanskrit and is located at the throat. It is captured as a brilliant blue jewel with ether as its element. Ether is the most subtle of all elements and represents the idea of spaciousness. In the book “Wheels of Life” by Anodea Judith, she states that when we reach the 5th chakra, we’re beginning to unite all that we’ve learned in the lower chakras-stability, creativity, purpose, and compassion. At the 5th chakra, we begin to express how we feel, communicate our truths, and bring our voice to the world. 

We sat down with Shiv Derek Oss for a conversation on how myth shapes our reality and builds community, and how to discover your voice, story, and sound through Vishuddha chakra. See the full interview on the #PracticeWithClara platform or listen on Spotify. Highlights from our talk are below.

The Power of Storytelling

Shiv: The biography of Joseph Campbell, it’s the hero’s journey. Joseph Campbell was an American mythologist, and he brings together these themes that are what Carl Jung would call the collective unconscious. What Campbell says is that every society has this with this myth that the soul, the individual, goes through. Campbell uses symbols moving throughout time to track this, this motif moving throughout all time and space. And that absolutely shifted my full understanding of what it means to be alive. And I think this deals with storytelling as well, this essence of ‘once upon a time’. This connects with therapy and the therapeutic notions of the cycle of the AUm, about these elements and forces that are within us. Symbols externalized through the deities, Shiva and Vishnu, and so on. These are external symbols of internal processes. That’s how I got involved in mythology and my journey.

Clara: The book that I’m reading right now is a book by Sarah Wilson, she’s an Australian author who wrote First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Story About Anxiety. It’s a book all about anxiety and she is a woman who’s worked with anxiety since she was 11 or 12 years old.

And she’s been in different kinds of therapy and she’s done all sorts of self-help to medication- anything to kind of help her with anxiety. And she’s been diagnosed with bipolar and she was diagnosed with OCD and a ton of other things. It’s not a medical book. It’s a book of her experience of anxiety. I didn’t realize it until reading this, but I guess I battled with anxiety quite a bit in my teens and early twenties. Then through yoga, I was able to move through it and kind of work with my anxiety. And since giving birth to my baby, I feel like my mind is going in so many directions all the time, and I’ve been feeling really anxious. 

Usually, those who are very anxious are very sensitive people. And the idea of the book is to work with the sensitivities you experience without it becoming overwhelming. And I feel that way about the practice of yoga in general, in terms of like what it’s given me. In my own like emotional landscape is that a lot of my intense emotions used to be beasts that would take over. 

Stephanie: Through someone else’s story, you found solace. The thing with storytelling is it’s not a prescription to living, it’s someone presenting what occurred and you can choose how you relate to it and how you want to adapt it to your way of being. 

Clara: It’s important for us to express because then it builds intimacy with the people around you.

Shiv: This reminds me of a quote by C.S. Lewis, he was an English author and wrote the Chronicles of Narnia. 

One of the things that Lewis says, especially in shadow lenses, we read so that we recognize that we’re not alone. And so storytelling gives us that sense that we’re not alone and, and mythology gives us the sense that universally. 

Sounds to Make Your Heart Swell

Stephanie: What is the sound that you feel reassured by, a sound that lights you up? 

Shiv: When I photograph when I’m doing weddings and things like that, and I want people to come together because they’re all over the place talking. And I’ll try to get people together to focus because we’re going to take a photograph and nobody’s quite interested because they want to do other things. I say, look, this is what we do- we’re going to make one sound. 

In the native tradition when you want to gather people’s attention, you say, ‘Ho!’ and so at these types of events, I’ll say, ok everybody, I want you to go ‘Ho!’ on the count of three. And, all of a sudden, you know, after the third ‘Ho’ everybody’s laughing and focused and we’re all there for the photograph. So that’s my favorite sound.

Clara: The first thing that comes to mind would be Al Gromer Khan and Amelia Cuni, Monsoon Point. It’s probably about 60 minutes long, and it’s essentially just two women making the sound of Aum, and it’s the sound of Aum layered over and over again. I use it to calm and ground. 

Vishuddha Blockages and Imbalances

Clara: The shadow side of Vishuddha is when it’s blocked, and a blockage shows up when you can’t speak. The other side, in an imbalance of Vishuddha chakra, is that you overshare. It goes one of two ways. 

Shiv: A blockage occurred when I was in a boarding school because we were not allowed to speak. And I carry that with me. To balance this, what I’ve done is I’ve learned to sing and I’m thinking of people who stuttered, people who stutter can sing and they typically don’t stutter when they’re singing.

What I do instead of singing, I do images. And what really gets me going is, is how light operates, and how life is dependent on light. I express myself, not through my throat chakra, but through the photographs and vision through light. 

One of the things I recognize as part of my shadow is now my throat is caught, still caught, and I’m working on that. I do this by massaging myself at my throat and I’m conscious of wanting to express myself and share my truth.

Clara: When I feel imbalanced in Vishuddha chakra, this is expressed through a nightmare that I have had most of my life is. In the nightmare, people can’t hear me, I’m trying to speak and it doesn’t come out. I’m trying to scream or yell for help and it doesn’t come out. In the nightmare related to work, I call it a ‘work-mare’ I walk into the yoga studio and nobody listens to me. People are on their cell phones. People are talking really loudly and anytime I speak, nobody hears me. N matter how long or how loud I speak, they just keep doing what they’re doing. And so in that way, an imbalance shows up in my dreams that I’m not heard. 

Anahata Chakra: Healing Through the Heart

The heart can be a source of love and where we can connect to our truth. Love for ourselves is possible when we honor our truth and continue to check-in with what serves us at any given moment. The heart chakra, Anahata, is also where some of us house our pain (ie heart broken). Our physical and emotional ails may be transformed at the heart if we connect to our truth and explore what activities, communities, and relationships bring a sense of lightness and love into our being.  

Anahata is the fourth chakra and is at the center of the seven chakras. It serves as a bridge to connect the lower chakras, which relate to our tangible connection to the earth, with the upper chakras, which relate to our consciousness and immaterial aspects of nature. It is within our hearts that we can create harmony and balance between our internal and external worlds. The heart is where we can discover a state of ease, compassion, and serenity. Themes of the fourth chakra themes include love, forgiveness, sadness, and grief. 

The element for Anahata is air. Our breath is our life force, our vitality, and is one of the key indicator on how we’re feeling emotionally. Tightness or shortness of breath is a sign of stress or can indicate we are holding pain in our chests.. When our breath is smooth, slow, and deep, we are in a state of ease. When we are at ease, we can interact with our environment and other people with more integrity.  

This week on the podcast discussion, we responded to your questions around balancing community with compensation and issues surrounding cultural appropriation. We opened this week’s talk with an overview of the chakras in what they are and why they’re essential to the practice and unpacked the heart chakras themes, blockages, and imbalances. 

Watch the talk on the Practice With Clara Site, or listen on Spotify

Introduction to The Chakras

Clara: A chakra literally translates as a wheel, it’s an intersection of energy lines inside of the body. The energy lines in Chinese medicine are known as meridians in Ayurvedic medicine, which is the sister science to yoga, we call these energy lines nadis. An intersection of nadis is considered a chakra. Why it’s considered a wheel is that the energy lines when they intersect create a vortex of energy. 

We have thousands of chakras in our body, thousands of these intersections. The ones that we focus on as yogis go up to our main energy channel, Sushumna or the spine, which starts at the pelvis and goes through the middle of the spine all the way to the top of the head. The seven chakras are located at Sushumna. The first one, Muladhara, is at the base. The second one, Swadhisthana, is just below the belly button. The third one, Manipura, is at the solar plexus, The fourth one, Anahata at the heart. The fifth one, Vishuddha, goes to the throat. The sixth one, Ajna,  is at the third eye center, which is the middle of the head.

And then the seventh one, Sahasrara, is the top, the head, or just above the head, depending upon who you talk to. 

Why do we focus on the chakras as yogis? It’s said that at the base of our pelvis sits our creative force known as Shakti or Kundalini. This is this dormant creative force that lives inside of the pelvis. As yogis, we want to ignite or awaken that energy to have it rise up from the pelvis to our third eye center where our consciousness lives. When the kundalini energy rises, it’s said that we are awakened or that we receive enlightenment.

When the chakras are all open, the energy flows freely and we are awakened. The asana and pranayama help to move the stagnant energy that day-to-day life can create in the body. Yoga is a way to clear the stagnant energy by observing the themes and blockages of each chakra, and then creating a practice to clear and move the energy. This is why we wanted to focus on the chakras. 

Themes for Anahata

Clara: It’s said that the union is found inside of our hearts, which I love. Themes of the fourth chakra include compassion, love, forgiveness, acceptance, healing. Self-love. Love for others. On the shadow side of the heart chakra, we have grief and sadness.

Anahata means, unstruck, which is the unstruck sound that lives within each of us. It’s the vibration that lives inside of us. It’s the potential. I love this idea, the potential of the sound of vibration. And that is the heart, the potential of connection to all things.

One of the ways we observe if we’re blocked around a specific chakra is to ask, where do I feel tight or where does it feel uncomfortable or sticky? Another way we discover if the heart chakra is blocked is through ideas of sadness of grief.

So now, you would go into the emotional body where you may find constriction or a lack of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a big one that has to do with the heart. So you’re not able to forgive to let go. You can’t surrender, you’re holding on tight. And again, that tightness you generally feel in the chest. Self-care comes into this chakra as well, which is part of self-love. 

Blockages of Anahata

Clara: The most obvious one is tightness in the chest, like a physical tightness in the chest. Or another way is to look at someone’s posture or look at your own posture and if shoulders are rounded forward. With rounded shoulders, there’s this idea of physically protecting your heart. Or if you having any injuries that are happening in the chest or the shoulders that generally tells you that something’s going on in the heart. 

A shallow breath would be the other biggest obvious one. So if you can’t breathe deep, there’s a constriction in the chest. As physical practitioners of yoga, we practice Asana versus meditation and we always come to the body first because the body never lies. One thing I like to do is to take a couple of deep breaths and go into my body and observe how you feel. One of my favorite things to do at the beginning of my own practice is a body scan to see how I feel and where my body needs attention. 

I’ve been doing this so long, living yoga to the best of my ability, that it bleeds into all that I do. Running a business, teaching yoga, parenting; all of it is living yoga. I strive to always come back and connect to myself and my integrity. One of the reasons I wanted to create an online platform was to grow a global community and continue to connect with people. It felt like a very natural progression. You have to follow your instincts, receive, and respond to what comes naturally. For me, shifting my passion into a business was a natural progression from where I was. Integrity 

Community versus Compensation

My experience right now is that there is a very low glass ceiling in this room. Studios where I live and it is more economical for them to hire brand new instructors versus paying an experienced instructor, more money. I see the value in teaching in studios because they serve as a place to practice and the presence of community and meet new students. I feel a struggle about teaching in studios when the pay is so low and I’m being asked to perform lots of other non-yoga tasks. 


Stephanie: I think this is related to heart chakra because we love teaching. And I’ve been in this position where you’re teaching for free or you’re teaching for very little because I get so much out of giving that to others.

Clara: I think the first question that I would ask is what do you want, I want, like, what does this student, or what does this teacher want?

I used to teach 25 classes a week and my Tuesday would start at 7:00 AM. And my last class ended at 8:30 PM and I taught at three different studios. It was crazy but I put in my time because that’s what I believed in, it was what I wanted to do. Through putting in all that time and effort, I started to build a following.

So I would ask: what’s most important to you? Is it most important to you to be part of a community or is it most important to pay your bills? It’s a real thing, to have to pay your bills and be validated as a teacher. Community is one of the main reasons I teach, and in the past, I’ve actually chosen to work for free and donate proceeds to a charity over making an hourly wage that didn’t sit well with me. 

I’ve spent over $10,000 on my education in this field, so anything less than minimum wage  I would rather work for free. I’d happily do Seva, which translates as selfless service towards others. 

If teaching is your main source of income, the other thing you need to think about is your worth.

Honoring the Roots of the Practice

I’m curious about appropriation. I have an interest in interreligious dialogue. There are people who believe yoga cannot coexist with Christianity or Catholicism. How do we successfully respect and incorporate different traditions? 


Clara: So yoga is its own philosophy. Hinduism just means philosophy from India. The biggest thing with yoga is it believes in a higher power. There’s Vedantic yoga, there are all kinds of yoga. You can fit whatever your religion or philosophy is into yoga. There’s a space for it. 

Are we culturally appropriating a philosophy and a way of life, a lifestyle that is not ours? The short answer around this is there is space for everything. In terms of you take what works for you and you leave the rest. But that being said, you honor where it came from. So we honor that it does come from India. We honor that. Traditionally, we talk about the chakras and traditionally we do mantra and meditation and all these things, but the practice should evolve as we evolve.

As we’ve evolved as humans, the practice also evolves. I don’t think it should be rigid or static, and that’s why there are so many different styles of yoga and so many different cultures have taken it on and you’ll talk to most Indian people and they’re thrilled to share the practice of yoga.

It’s a benefit to all of us, because essentially it’s a tool kit, whether or not you’re doing the Asana practice or whether or not you’re doing meditation or mantra. It’s a toolkit to make yourself whole again. My understanding is that the great religions are about connecting to the divinity right inside of us or outside of us, depending upon which religion you’re talking about, but to find wholeness again is to be a part of something greater.

And so yoga fits, I think yoga fits in that. I think it’s really important to honor where it came from. And to know the history of it. 

Manipura Chakra: The Will to Thrive

Welcome to the third week of The Chakra Series. This week we’ve moved up from the root chakra (Muladhara) and the sacral chakra (Svadhisthana) to the third chakra, Manipura where we discover how to interact with the world as individuals and bring a unique sense of presence and purpose. The Chakra Series is an introduction to each of the chakras, the themes and elements associated with each, in addition to the imbalances, blockages, and what the chakras are like in-harmony in body and mind. 

Manipura, known as our power center, is located at the solar plexus. It represents our will, our purpose in life, and our ability to execute our passion. The element is fire, capturing the essence of this chakra with its heat, intensity, and ability to transform. When manipura is in balance, we’re able to assert ourselves without becoming too aggressive or overbearing. There is a sense of fluidity and ease within our power, as we’re able to ride the wave of momentum and opportunities that arise with a sense of pragmatism in how we execute our will. Imbalances in manipura chakra result in digestive issues and discomforts, as well as a feeling of powerlessness and lack of control. Misalignment in this chakra could appear as being overly-ridgid, demanding, egotistical, dogmatic, challenging, or on the other end, needy, clingy, and an utter lack of confidence and self-esteem.

This week, we sat down with Shiv Derek Oss, Clara’s father, to discuss the will to power, passion, and purpose. Shiv is a teacher and photographer whose passion for mythology, mysticism, and music has influenced his discourse and direction in life. Below are the highlights from our discussion where Clara and Shiv give advice on how to harness the power of the third chakra by taking risks, sitting in discomfort, and discovering your gift. Feel free to watch the full episode or listen on Spotify.

Manipura In Action: The Flame and Fluidity

Clara: Purpose is such a big part of the third chakra. The idea is to find and connect to our purpose. In the yoga practice, for the third chakra, manipura, we would do kapalabhati breath, also known as skull shining breath, or Agni Saraj to stimulate the inner fire. Other ways we’d work with the third chakra would be around the solar plexus through  lots of core work.

Shiv: I like thinking of the third chakra as the connecting to our collective unconscious and instinct. And so when you are living in your purpose, you need to connect to that core or that base of the fire, the ember quality, the undercurrent. And then from that undercurrent, the undercurrent supports the turbulence which is the fire and the flame. Above the turbulence you have the blue heat, which is the serenity. So you have all three parts: the embers at the base, the fire turbulence in the middle, and then the blue halo of light which is the serenity. And that’s what I feel power is about: being connected to those three aspects of the self. 

Clara: And also being balanced in all three. When I think of power, it’s something that can be aggressive. So I like to think of all three aspects, with the idea of the blue. I love this imagery of serenity. So when I connect to my power, I also connect to all three aspects versus letting one dominate. 

Shiv: Balance is crucial because that’s the distinction between force and assertion. Force is to impose the self on another, but assertion comes down from the harmony of those three elements, those three levels of awareness that you bring to your purpose. Otherwise you become inflated. 

Clara: And dogmatic. I feel like sometimes within that idea of power there can be rigidity. So I would ask: can I still be fluid in my power? 

Embrace Spontaneity and Idle Time

Clara: So much of the experience like art and the practice and yoga is spontaneous. It’s this idea of this feeling that’s kind of arising through the action of doing Asana or the action of reading poetry or listening to music or looking at art. I feel like any expression if you have the space to play and allow it to be experienced inside of you, then it hasn’t been contained. It isn’t dogmatic in a sense, which I feel is very important. 

Shiv: Then comes in a very interesting dynamic where let’s say you feel that you need to do yoga, but some part of you doesn’t want to, or there’s some part of you that wants to make art, but yet another part says, why don’t we go have a coffee somewhere? So how do you work with that? 

Clara: This is where the idea of tapas or discipline in terms of the spiritual practice. And I would ask, when is it appropriate to let it go to surrender to what’s happening, or when do you dig deep and do what needs to get done?

I’d say it all depends on my intention. If I’m not showing up to shy away from the work and avoid, that’s one thing. Or am I doing it because I need a break and I’m overloaded and I should be naval-gazing and enjoying idle time. 

In doing nothing, we’re healing and we’re reflecting so that when we go back to doing what we need to do, we’re rejuvenated.  

Shiv: Bob Dylan says it in a really interesting way, he says it comes down to how to hold and to release in a Holy way. Meaning wholeness, so you’re entering into a sense of wholeness and you’re coming out of that wholeness.

Now, how do you, because I think yoga has to do with that unity and maintaining that wholeness between those three levels. We were talking about. How do we go about doing that in our daily lives? Because what we’re doing in essence is where we’re using our power upon ourselves. We’re regulating ourselves.

And so where does that come from? You know, where does that, where does that knowing this come from? Is it coming from the discipline? Does it come from the practice itself or where does it come from?

Sit in Discomfort: Advice On How To Persevere

Stephanie: I’m getting the sense that part of honoring the third chakra is to be uncomfortable… 

Shiv: Yes. 

Clara: And the idea of that, is that through the fire, whatever it is that we’re uncomfortable with transforms. It’s not the fire that is uncomfortable. It’s what we’re bringing to the fire that has discomfort.

Stephanie: There’s a lot of risk involved in going alone on your path, which is what both of you have done at some point in your work or art. The ability to follow your purpose and go out on your own, to have the will and confidence to go against the norm, these are all themes of the third chakra. Do you have any advice for people who are struggling to launch their own business or pursue their art, or do whatever it is that takes them to the next level? 

Clara: A lot of it, I feel, is perseverance. 

Shiv: Being an artist, you don’t have a choice after awhile. You know there is no choice because the other way of living is not amicable to your being.

Clara: It’s in really following the momentum. And I think that that’s like in terms of stepping out of the village compound, meaning the nine to five, the typical milestones that we’re supposed to go through in life. Instead, you need to kind of follow your nose and also ride the wave of momentum. So you need to be conscious of what’s happening and what’s coming towards you and moving towards what you think is going to feed you.

I literally stumbled upon working for myself. I was working at a restaurant and I was in university and I stumbled upon doing a yoga teacher training through a friend of mine, and I decided to join her. I thought I would just learn more about yoga, but I followed it and it felt like the right thing to do. And then I realized how I really enjoyed it. And then from there, a friend of mine was working at managing a studio and somebody had just left and so he was offered me all of these classes. And so the key is, you need to follow your nose. Go with instinct and also ride the wave. And they’ll definitely be points of discomfort where you’re like, am I going to be able to make a living? Trust in your gut and what you do, but also be pragmatic. Feel the current is as it’s coming towards you, meaning as opportunities are coming towards you, you want to kind of observe, am I going to ride this opportunity, or am I going to step this one out? In that, in that sense, you know, you’re always like just treading water. You’re just kind of allowing yourself to be there and observing like what’s coming towards me and how is that going to feed me? But the other thing that I love that she has said is, is that you need to be fed by it.

Discover Your Gift and Give It Away

Shiv: This brings me to the notion that we carry gifts, that we are here and we are a gift. We are a gift from creation to creation. And that a lot of what we are for me, meaning is about, is getting in touch with my gift. Now the thing then is who will accept this gift and who will reject it. It’s been my experience that it’s difficult when you come, when you bring your gift, because your gift is unique, each person has a unique gift and that unique uniqueness threatens the status quo. It unsettles people they want to know. 

And then what you do with the gift then is you give the gift away. And only when you give the gift away, that cycle is complete because you pass it on.  

Clara: We talked about this before in terms of when we’re in a relationship or when we’re in dialogue with somebody other than ourselves, and we are triggered by them. We talked about this before in terms of when we’re in a relationship or when we’re in dialogue with somebody other than ourselves, and we are triggered by them. It’s an opportunity. When we feel an agitation, the anger illuminates that there’s something there that we need to work out. The irritation is fodder to chew on and ask, what does this mean for me? How can I grow from this? So you can progress or you can move beyond your irritation and anger, and where you currently are. What we consider the comfort zone of where we are right now, it’s time to go to the next level of whatever that means.