Awesome Ann’s Burning Question(s): “I have a couple of questions for you…
Several years ago I was watching a documentary (don’t remember the title) on yoga. In the film they interviewed a yoga teacher that stated the true purpose of yoga is not exercise, it is the worship of god. I am not familiar with Hindu teaching and their beliefs concerning god.
However, I know that some Christian denominations have rules against practicing yoga and/or meditation. From what I understand they feel that since yoga is worship of god, (god as the Hindu culture recognizes and not God as the Christian denomination defines God) then this is worship of a “false god” and according to the bible should not be practiced. Ok, I can understand that, but lumping all forms of meditation into a sinful category seemed a bit unfair. Especially since monks, nuns and priest have practiced meditation.
Anyway, I also remember a part of the documentary that dealt with Chakras. In the explanation of it the interviewer stated that most of the general public is not aware of the dangers of opening Chakras. However the instructors are told of this danger and it simply does not get passed along to the students. I really am not familiar with yoga practices and Chakras. I did a little research and came across the following information…
A cautionary note: Kundalini yoga, unlike some types of yoga, tends to be a little more dangerous. Dangerous if it is not practiced correctly. When practiced correctly, there is no danger at all. But to prematurely push the Kundalini energy through the chakras can cause a variety of ailments, the most common of which is insanity.
What is insanity? Insanity is the inability to confine perception to a particular plane of attention. So, for example, when a person is practicing Kundalini yoga, if they were to push their attention too far, too fast, they can gain visions of other worlds. These visions can be enlightening, beautific, or terribly frightening, depending upon the nature of the vision and of course, the individual’s own reactions to it. I mean, nothing is really beautiful or fearful, until we decide that it is. Also, there are various beings that live in other planes of attention that one will see and encounter, in alternate realities.
Although many traditions celebrate the seventh chakra as the gateway to the soul’s liberation, in some cases I am familiar with, incomplete purification in the rest of the system may create problems when this chakra awakens. Gabriel Cousens has made the same observation: “… it has been my intuitive experience in working with people suffering from manic psychosis that their crown chakra is wide ‘open’… It is so activated, in fact, that these patients’ lives become imbalanced.” Energy-balancing or other therapeutic treatment might be needed if the Samadhi states lead to manic or psychotic behavior.
What is your opinion concerning this? Should any method of opening of the chakras be handled with caution? How does someone new to this go about choosing a correct method? Is this something that should only be attempted with the guide of a trained teacher?”
Dear Awesome Ann,
I think my brain is going to implode, I have so much to say about this. But I promise to (try and) keep it as short and succinct as possible and not to go off on too many tangents. Must…not…get…on…soapbox…
F%&k it. I’m getting on my soapbox.
If we’re going to get into a discussion about the fairness or logicalness of certain religious teachings, it’s going to be a loooooong day, people. So, let’s not do that. If you want to believe that dancing will send you to hell, or wearing condoms gives you AIDS, or blowing yourself up will get you laid in heaven, that’s your business. Everyone gets to believe what they want to believe, and yes, it’s totally a choice. Even if you choose to believe that you have to believe something because it’s the “truth”, you’re still choosing to believe that.
The question isn’t, “What do they believe”, it’s “What do you want to believe?” Ok, ok, so you’re asking me what I believe, and I’m more than happy to tell you, especially now that I’m up here on my soap box and everything, but even once you hear it, you should still determine how that feels to you. Don’t blindly believe what I say, just because I’m so awesome (ha!). Make up your own mind. Always. Because that’s how the wackos get you. They recruit those who refuse to think for themselves, tell them insane stuff, and they just roll with it because it’s easier than trying to figure it out for themselves. I’m not really interested in being just another wacko, trying to convince to follow my path. Follow your own damn path, ok? Ok. So, here we go:
Yoga will not send you to hell
It’s a wonderful form (for some, others totally hate it and therefore shouldn’t do it) of exercise. And yes, it’s also energy work. I prefer the term “energy work” over “spiritual practice”, because it carries less baggage (read: sets off less wacko alarm bells), but it’s really the same thing. Praying is energy work. So is meditating. So is thinking better feeling thoughts. In some sense, everything is energy work, really, so you can’t get away from it.
What Yoga does is physically align the body to allow it to flow more energy and in a more balanced way. In other words, it helps to get rid of the physical blockages that have resulted from limiting beliefs. This, in turn, will bring up the emotions that caused that belief. It’s a sort of reverse engineering of the process if you will. Instead of starting with the thoughts and beliefs, releasing them and therefore causing the body to release whatever tension of imbalance had been caused by that resistance, you start with the body and work backward. If you’re not willing to do the emotional work, though, then Yoga is really just stretching, which isn’t bad, but the real benefit comes from using Yoga in the way it was intended.
Yoga is a great way to get in touch with your body. It can be especially useful for us intellectual types, who like to overthink everything. Any form of physical movement can be applied this way, of course, but Yoga makes it part of their teaching. It takes you out of your head and moves your focus to the body, how it works, how amazing it is, and yes, what damage you’ve been doing to it. You become aware of any tension you’re holding, and different poses can help you release stiffness and aches, resulting in a better flow of energy through your body. Because of this energy component, seemingly simple stretches can be surprisingly intense. Your success in Yoga, as with any energy work, is largely determined by your willingness to explore your limitations, challenge them and let them go.
Or, to put it much more succinctly: Yes, Yoga can get you in touch with god. But it’ll put you in touch with YOUR God, whatever that means to you. (You see, here’s the secret: it’s all the same God. Don’t tell the wackos. They won’t like it.)
Your Chakras – a mini intro
I’ve been meaning to write about chakras for some time now, so I guess, this is my chance. What exactly are chakras and is opening them dangerous? I can’t cover the subject in its entirety here, or this post will become a book, but I’m happy to give you the basics. Chakras are simply energy centers in the body. Your body is full of energy meridians, like a massive network of roads in a freeway system, where energy or chi flows back and forth to every little corner of the physical body. The points at which these roads intersect are called the chakras. You have thousands of them and they’re all over your body. The seven major chakras that most people refer to when they talk about this subject are like massive roundabouts or points where a whole bunch of roads meet. There’s a lot of activity going on there.
When a chakra becomes imbalanced, it’s a bit like an artery becoming clogged. Energy cannot flow in the way it’s meant to. In the freeway analogy, this leads to traffic congestion. In the body, a clogged or imbalanced chakra can lead to all kinds of physical ailments, as traffic backs up to other areas of the roadway system. But, unlike a clogged artery or roadway, the imbalance in a chakra isn’t caused by a physical blockage or some douchebag suddenly stepping on the breaks for no reason (although an energy blockage can cause a physical blockage). The imbalance is caused by a change in frequency. Each chakra operates at an optimum frequency. When a contradictory vibration, or resistance, is introduced, it muddies the waters. Basically, if each chakra was a radio station, it would come in clear at a certain frequency, and all static-y if you turn the tuning dial a bit. And yes, I’m fully aware that I’m mixing metaphors like a wild woman today. This is how I keep you on your toes.
When the signal isn’t as clear, when the energy flow is impeded, it creates discomfort. This is precisely how your thoughts affect your physical body – the energy of your thoughts runs through the physical body and either matches or resists the optimum frequencies of the chakras. Send a conflicting or resistive frequency through a chakra often enough (not that often…) and it will become retuned to that contradictory frequency, and will no longer match the vibration of perfect flow.
From this analogy, you can also see that the idea of activating or awakening chakras is kind of rubbish. Your chakras are all active, all the time. When teachers talk about awakening chakras, they usually mean attuning them to higher frequencies, which is really the same thing as instructing you to raise your vibration to higher and higher levels. So, you can awaken a chakra to a very high frequency. But, unless you’re doing that in a balanced way, if you try to retune just one chakra in isolation, or if that chakra is already in an imbalanced state, you’re going to get into trouble.
Is opening your chakras dangerous?
So, given that perfectly attuned and balanced chakras are vital to our well-being, it stands to reason that we’d want to do anything and everything in our power to open, unclog and balance those chakras, right? Right. However, as with any energy work, you don’t want to go too fast. In other words, you don’t want to take a quantum leap. Doing so can be immensely uncomfortable. If you, for example, decide that you know better than your inner being, who is always guiding you, and in your impatience just go in there and start turning knobs, so to speak, you can indeed do a bit of “damage”. This damage is never permanent mind you, but it can have some pretty nasty repercussions, including increase in pain instead of the desired decrease, more illness and yes, even symptoms of insanity (I agree with your definition of insanity, by the way, but it’s important to note that while the chakra imbalance is present in these situations, it’s rarely chakra cleansing work that caused it. In fact, all one can do is to greatly exacerbate a condition that was already there, but it would be very difficult, even in a theoretical sense, to create a massive imbalance through chakra cleansing work).
But this is true for all energy work. If, for example, you have a fear of heights, because heights represent a lack of control to you and you have massive fears around losing control, losing yourself or even disappearing (and not mattering), then you could, theoretically, decide to just face those fears and go bungee jumping. Given the size of your fear and the cause of it, however, you’d probably end up having to take anti-anxiety meds for the next year just to be able to function as a result of this irresponsible, gung ho approach. And yes, I get that this sounds a bit rich coming from someone who actually prefers the gung ho approach, but there’s the smart gung ho and there’s the stupid gung ho. So, in other words, don’t be a stupid ho.
If your fear of heights simply resulted from a traumatic experience that happened while you were high up, in other words, if it’s a mere association, then facing the fear head on could work really well. But the approach has to be tailored to the underlying reason; it has to respect the root cause. A fear of heights is not always caused by the same issues or experiences, and neither is any other conflict. Failure to respect the root cause, can and will lead to the aforementioned side effects.
The good news
So yes, any kind of energy work including yoga, chakra healing, acupuncture, healing beliefs, energy coaching, crystals, EFT, Quantum Touch, and on and on and on, can have negative consequences if used incorrectly. But, how do you know if you’re using it incorrectly? Do you have to go to a seasoned practitioner in order to get results and how can you know if you can trust them?
Easy there, tiger. You’re overthinking it again. Let’s remember that we all have our own, inbuilt guidance system that never lets us down providing we don’t freaking ignore it. You see, you can’t push way past your comfort level to the danger zone without your guidance system screaming at you to stop. To put it another way, a bit of fear or discomfort can be ok. If you’re terrified, you need to stop. It’s the difference between feeling the burn in exercise and having actual pain. If you feel reluctance to face an issue in your life, push through it. If you’d rather kill someone with your bare hands than face this thing, back off.
The problem is that so many people still approach this work with the same “no pain, no gain” mentality that didn’t work for them in other areas of their lives. They push way too freaking hard and then wonder why things didn’t turn out well. The whole idea of this kind of work, all kinds of energy work, is to feel better. Period. If it doesn’t make you feel better, if it’s actually making you feel worse, for the love of God, don’t keep doing what you’re doing.
Ok, so I can hear some of you, especially my clients, many of whom are being taken through their resistance at maximum allowable speed (as fast as they can handle, something you should not do without help), asking “Wait a minute. I had a session with you, and then I cried for three days. Wouldn’t that be a sign that we did too much?” Nope. Here’s why: The crying may have been a tad uncomfortable (but really. It’s crying, not having your fingernails torn out), but how did you feel afterwards? I’m guessing, like 1000% better. The real key here is in how the actual energy coaching session (or whatever session) felt at the time. If you felt good (or a bit bad and then good), you didn’t push too far. If this shift then resulted in a release of emotions, which had always been there but were now coming out, then this is a good thing. And generally, once people realize this, they feel it. Even while they’re crying or screaming or ranting, they can feel how this is a good thing and is making them feel better and better. If, however, you’re doing an exercise that’s making you feel really bad in the moment that you’re doing it, back off. You’re pushing too hard.
And no, you don’t need a seasoned practitioner to help you do energy work, although it can drastically cut your learning curve. And, as I said, when you work with someone else you can support you energetically, you can dance right up to the line of what you can handle and get much faster results. When working on your own, it’s best to take at least a slightly less aggressive approach.
So, the bottom line on all of this is really the same as in any blog post of mine: follow your gut. Listen to your intuition. Let your guidance show you how slow or fast to go. Don’t push too hard. Don’t try to MAKE IT HAPPEN. Don’t be so willing to suffer for your growth. Look for a better feeling way. Opening and balancing your chakras can be massively beneficial (I retune my all the time), and as long as you don’t become too militant about it, as long as you’re gentle and respect the feedback you’re getting, you can’t get it wrong. You’re not a bomb. Your system isn’t that sensitive. The slightest mistake will not cause you to go insane. You have to really, really push to cause that much of an imbalance, which would entail a great deal of suffering. So you see? As long as you continue to do what feels better to you, as long as you reach for relief, as long as you don’t push too hard, you’ll never be in any danger of going loco from Kundalini, yoga, chakra clearing or anything else.