The third chakra, known as Manipura, is located in the middle of the torso. It includes the kidneys and adrenal glands, the digestive organs of the stomach and gallbladder, the liver, pancreas and the diaphragm. The navel is like a bullseye right in the middle of the chakra. Manipura is the seat of our will and personal power. It is from this center that we are able to assert ourselves into the world and manifest our purpose.
The color of this chakra is yellow and it is associated with the earth element of fire. When you hear expressions like, “she has guts,” or “he’s got a fire in his belly,” they speak to the power and energy of this center.
The lower three chakras in the body are known collectively as the lower triangle. The first, second and third chakra work together to connect us to our humanness and the physical world. Their colors together look like a flame. It is in the third chakra where the spark of our purpose in life becomes a full blown fire. From this center we commit to action to bring our purpose and passion into reality.
When Manipura energy is flowing freely, we are able to assert our beliefs, values and personality. A person with a strong third chakra is organized, goal-oriented and productive. They have a presence that might be larger than their physical body and display willpower, personal strength and physical stamina. When this energy is blocked, a person may seem scattered, unfocused, and unable to bring projects to completion. They may be frustrated or angry at their inability to make things happen and may conjure emotions, drama, and problems as excuses for their lack of effectiveness.
Work in this chakra is centered physically in the core. Poses that invoke strength, steadfastness, and applied effort, such as Chaturanga, arm balances or inversions, exercise and open Manipura. When working with the navel center, proper breathing is key. While the lungs are located in a different energy center, the diaphragm is located here. A proper breath initiates from our diaphragm. Many of us walk around holding in our bellies to adhere to the fashion industry’s flat belly standard. But in order to breathe properly the belly needs to push out on the inhale and draw in on the exhale. If you are always holding your stomach in, this is impossible. Breathing from the belly allows the lungs to open to their full capacity and fill the body with fresh oxygen. When we are stressed, anxious, angry or fearful we tend to hold the breath or take shallow breaths. But, what is the first thing you do when making a commitment to action, like jumping off a bridge, stepping onto a stage, or beginning a speech? You take a big breath. The breath helps us commit. Commitment is the human talent associated with the Manipura chakra. When we make a commitment and steadfastly stick to it, we will manifest our purpose into being. Simply learning to breathe deeply from the belly can help fuel our commitment to action. Whether that is creating a healthy habit, achieving a goal at work, or healing a strained relationship.
I want to talk a minute about the shadow side of the third chakra, which is characterized by the emotion of anger. Sometimes anger can fuel action. It might take getting angry to inspire us to change, but chronic anger can indicate an imbalance in Manipura. People who have experienced abuse, trauma, or neglect may hold tremendous anger in this center that blocks the energy flow and keeps them stuck in patterns of addiction, self-harming, fits of rage, and feelings of guilt and shame about their behavior. The good news is that our yoga practice gives us the tools to work out strong emotions like anger that hold us back from living our purpose. As Yogi Bhajan said:
“Use your yoga practice to FEEL your emotions on a physical level; then, as you EXPERIENCE them, you can move past them and become VICTORIOUS over them.”
Opening the energy of this center can be as simple as committing to breathing fully, deeply and consistently; accepting our shadow side and steadfastly practicing healthy habits.