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Saturday, February 07, 2009

restored, recharged, and ready for the new year!

my daughter was sitting on my bed when i returned home from a yoga class.

what's that on your pants? she asked.

i did a quick scan for food stains. i couldn't find anything.

she pointed. that thingie on the back of your pants...

i looked in the mirror and saw what she was referring to. it was an embroidered design on the back of my purple be present pants.

oh, it's a symbol that refers to one of the chakras... one of seven energy centers located on the body, from your feet up to the top of your head. there are bodily functions associated with each chakra, and colors, and...

at that point, i could see her eyes glazing over. yeah, i know, TMI.

i'm glad she wasn't interested in the details because i honestly couldn't remember which color went with which chakra. or which chakra controlled which bodily function. i obviously needed a quick refresher course. but where to find one?

i then remembered hearing about the monthly chakra restorative class at liberation yoga taught by constance hart:

This unique once a month 2 hour class is a candlelit healing experience that combines gentle supported restorative poses with color, aromatherapy and meditations to clear, awaken and renew your seven major chakras (energy centers). Increases awareness and restores energy balance. A special treat with chakra-tuned music! A fantastic way to end your weekend and move harmoniously into your workweek.

it was just what i needed, so i called liberation to reserve a spot in constance's next scheduled workshop.

when i showed up for class, i expected to find myself doing the usual restorative poses -- stretches, twists, hip openers, backbends. but when i saw the rather large light box positioned at the front of the class with vividly-colored bottles neatly lined up on its shelves, i knew that this class was going to be different.

and different it definitely was.

constance hart shared her background with us at the start of the class. she was initially attracted to ashtanga yoga twenty years ago; its demanding practice was a perfect match for her high-energy, goal-oriented personality. but when a friend introduced her to restorative yoga many years later, she found its gentleness very healing and realized that it was the perfect adjunct to the vigorousness of her regular practice. delving more into the healing properties of yoga, she started to focus on the energy-balancing role of the chakras. in time, she felt she had to share her knowledge with others. including myself and everyone else who had signed up for her sunday evening class.

and her restorative class ended up bringing together everything i'd learned about the chakras from all the yoga classes that i'd ever taken. and much more.

by the way, for those who, like me, can't remember which chakra controls what, here's a cheat sheet:

first - root, or base of the spine; controls groundedness and stability (red)
second - sacral; controls reproduction and sexuality (orange)
third - solar plexus; controls energy and growth (yellow)
fourth - heart; controls compassion and love (green)
fifth - throat; controls communication and creativity (pale blue)
sixth - third eye; controls perception and intuition (indigo)
seventh - crown, or top of head; controls wisdom and spirituality (violet)

in the darkened classroom, we used our senses to re-energize and awaken all seven energy centers as we slowly moved up the body, from the root chakra on up to the crown chakra.

depending on the chakra we were energizing, constance placed one or more colored bottles on the shelves of the light box. we were then instructed to focus on the color that resonated with us the most -- be it the lighter shade, the darker shade, the more intense color -- and absorb the energy that the color triggered. at the same time, we performed mudras (hand gestures) and pranayama (breathing exercises) to further enhance the process. despite being totally mesmerized by the assortment of colors we were presented with, i actually had a hard time looking directly at the bright light for extended periods of time. i would look just long enough to visually remember the color we were focusing on, then close my eyes briefly before opening them up again for another look-see.

besides color therapy, constance also used aromatherapy to stimulate each chakra. she walked around the room, placing on our palms drops of blended aromatic oils that she had created. we would then massage the oils onto the appropriate body part -- lower back, navel, chest -- while quietly inhaling their scent and feeling the sensation produced by the oil on our skin. there were also times when she'd spritz the air around us with aromatic misters while we sat or reclined in supported restorative poses. even if i found myself preferring some scents over others, i made a concerted effort to inhale each of them equally; heaven forbid that i'd end up with unevenly-balanced chakras!

and while my eyes, nose, and skin were busy absorbing whatever energy they could, my throat and ears were also doing their fair share of the work. we chanted seed mantras, or single-syllable sounds, to awaken all the energy centers. LAM... VAM... RAM... YAM... HAM... SHAM... OM... i swear i could almost feel the corresponding chakra vibrate as i chanted each sound! constance later played soothing music for us to listen to as we meditated, and in some cases, she used tuning forks to generate the exact frequency needed to stimulate each chakra.

with all that we did that evening, we all felt restored and recharged. and in my case, thankfully re-educated about all seven chakras!

constance hart teaches her chakra restorative yoga class at liberation yoga in los angeles every second sunday of the month from 6:00pm to 8:15pm. for more information, check out her website at www.consciouscolors.com.