The silver lining of Covid-19’s dark cloud is this: We are being gifted ample time for self- reflection.
In and around caretaking my small children, maintaining the home, meal planning, and a self care yoga regimen, I have found plenty of time to check in with ME. Strange that it should take the threat of virulent disease for that to happen for many of us.
I commented to a friend yesterday how my life is actually a lot less stressful these days, not worrying about all the things I should be doing – the self imposed deadlines, projects, attention to business momentum and familial obligations. All of these shoulds have been taken off the table, so I can now rest easy without self judgement.
I guess I hadn’t realized how much underlying guilt I was carrying around, feeling like I could never do enough. No matter how hard I tried to be supermom, perfect wife, extraordinary bodyworker, exemplary daughter, sister, friend, and neighbor, there was always a nagging feeling that there was more to accomplish, a higher bar to hit.
Who was raising that bar? Unwittingly, I was.
This is all classic third chakra stuff.
The third chakra, or solar plexus chakra, is situated just above the naval and below the sternum. It is our power center. When in balance, it gives us psycho-emotional strength, courage, and conviction. It is where we most connect to our inner power, and find the will to transform desire into action. The energy here helps us drown out external voices and listen to our own gut instinct. It helps us envision our life path and have the fortitude to walk down it. Concepts associated with the third chakra: Self esteem, self worth. Willpower, identity and belonging. Warrior energy.
What is the best way to work through third chakra issues?
Aside from certain types of talk therapy, and of course of course of course good bodywork, my go-to is breathwork. Breathwork and sound therapy – both of which you can practice at home.
To begin, you must understand the musculature of the solar plexus. The psoas major and diaphragm muscles are tissues that tend to hold emotional charge and are quite interconnected with the third chakra center. Your diaphragm is a sheet of skeletal/structural muscle separating the chest from the abdomen; it contracts and moves down when you inhale, thereby making room for your lungs to expand and fill. It is dome shaped, like an open parachute. Proper training is best before you attempt to massage your own diaphragm; however, yoga’s uddiyanabhanda lock and diaphragmatic breathing are two techniques to connect with this muscle. Here is a simple tutorial on diaphragmatic or ‘belly’ breathing:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent. Place pillows under your head and knees for comfort and support. You can also do this exercise in a chair, with bent knees and relaxed upper body.
- Place one hand just below your rib cage, and the other on your upper chest.
- Breathe in deeply and slowly through your nose. Direct your breath into the belly; the hand on your chest should remain still; the hand on your belly should rise.
- Exhale through pursed lips as you tighten the abdominal muscles.
- Continue for 5-10 minutes ideally.
I also found this great video on yogajournal.com; it demonstrates an easy breathing technique to fire up the solar plexus and get out of upper chest fight or flight breath.
The psoas can also be stretched with yoga’s pigeon pose, supported bridge pose, or any variation of lunge. The Cleveland Clinic reports, “the psoas muscle is located in the lower lumbar region of the spine and extends through the pelvis to the femur. This muscle works by flexing the hip joint and lifting the upper leg towards the body. A common example of the movement created from this muscle is walking.” Yoga International has an excellent sequence for releasing the psoas in the comfort of your own living room.
My definition of sound therapy is simply making noise and vibration to stimulate a particular energy center. The use of vowel sounds have been found particularly effective in balancing the chakras. Ohhhhhh, as in ‘show’ is the sound that resonates with the third chakra. If you are inclined, take a big breath and bend forward from the waist. Bend your knees slightly and bring your arms into a cradle position like you are holding a baby. Now chant the Ohhhhhh sound. You may also chant Om in this position. You think I’m crazy now, but wait until you feel the immediate effects of this technique.
The biggest challenge I will face when this latest health threat is behind us is not how to continue to live simply – I know how to do that. Rather, it is going to be keeping that voice in my mind and heart active, the one that says, ‘You will never get it done, so stop trying – the nature of being human (to borrow from Jerry and Esther Hicks) keeps us launching rockets of desire. You will always find something new to learn, to do, to help you grow. Stay present, trust yourself, time is an illusion, slow down, your best is enough.’ If Covid-19 has created the condition for me to reframe my life and my accomplishments, to be gentler on myself, that is certainly a blessing and a silver lining.