By Yoga Journal
Heat is a powerful transformer. Use core work, twists, and pranayama to target this fiery chakra and transform obstacles into assets and fear into freedom.
As you work with this chakra, observe not only how you digest food, but how you digest everything -- through all of your senses. Realize that you can filter what you take in from the world and that you don't have to process everything that comes your way.
We all know that heat is a powerful transformer, so let this fiery chakra transform obstacles into assets and fear into freedom. Your manipura practice will focus on core, twists, and diaphramatic breathing -- all of which stoke internal heat. Feel free to link these poses together with vinyasa for a little extra sweat.
One of the quickest ways to get the fire burning is through Kaphalabhati. Take a comfortable seat and close your eyes. Touch the forefinger and thumb together on each hand. Inhale through your nose and quickly exhale through your nose, as you draw your belly back toward your spine. The inhale is passive and the exhale is sharp and quick. You can go fast or slow according to your comfort and do as many rounds as you like.
Set Your Manipura Intention
Now set your intention for this practice. To grease the wheels, here are some themes that relate to the third chakra: My happiness depends on no external source; I release all blame and transform that into freedom to create the life that I want; I am worthy and inherently powerful; I can contribute to the world in a meaningful way; where can I release shame, self-critical, or over controlling thoughts/actions? Feel free to use any of those or choose your own. As long as your intention feels true for you it has value.
Twisting Core Strengthener
Lying on your back, interlace your fingers behind your head at the base of the skull. Extend your legs straight up over your hips. If you have tighter hamstrings, bend your knees, keeping the thighs perpendicular to the pelvis. Inhale and lift your head and shoulders off the ground. Exhale as you twist to the right, simultaneously lower your left leg about 3 feet from the ground, and reach your left hand toward your right foot. Keep both legs super active and your neck relaxed. Inhale to come back to center. Repeat on the other side. Do 5-10 rounds depending on your strength level. This is a good time to challenge yourself enough to grow without forcing or pushing too hard. Let it feel skillful and focused without becoming aggressive.
Down Dog Knee to Nose
From Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), inhale to lift your right leg up and back. As you exhale rock forward, bringing shoulders over wrists, round your back and pull your knee in toward your nose. Feel for a deep coiling in and up from the navel. You want to tap into core strength that is supported by the entire body. Press the floor away with the standing leg and hands in order to integrate and lighten your load. Re-extend the leg up and back to three-legged down dog. Repeat 3 rounds on the right side and then do 3 rounds with the left leg.
High Lunge Twist
From Downward-Facing Dog step your right foot forward and rise up in to a High Lunge. Spend a breath or so lengthening the back leg, spine, and side bodies. Bring the outer edge of the right foot as wide as the outer right hip. Lift the top of the left thighbone to avoid sinking into the front of the left hip socket. Inhale to reach your arms long. Exhale and bring your hands to Anjali Mudra at the heart. Inhale here and widen the sternum. Exhale as you twist to the right. Bring your left arm bone to your right thighbone. Move from the manipura chakra and twist from the back side of the belly. As you press the arm and leg into each other, bring your thumbs and your sternum to touch. Spend 5 full deep breaths in this twist. Rinse the body with a vinyasa or return directly to Downward-Facing Dog and switch sides.
Intense Side Stretch
Step your right foot forward about 3-4 feet. Square your hips toward the front end of your mat. Fold forward over your right leg and place your hands on the floor (or blocks if needed). Release your head and neck. Keeping your legs strong, steady, and grounded, release your belly and let the gentle compression of the abdomen stimulate manipura chakra here. Spend 5 breaths in this forward fold and then change sides.
From Parsvottanasana inhale and extend your heart out over your right foot. Exhale as you place your left hand directly under your left shoulder. Bring your right hand to your right hip and spend the next full cycle of breath turning from the belly toward the right. As you twist, turn your heart up and lengthen your spine out away from your pelvis. Square your hips and spread your collarbones wide. Once you feel you have twisted a reasonable amount then hop your left hand over your right foot and place it on the floor (or a block) at the outer edge of the right pinky toe. Actively press down into your hand and feet to create some freedom within your twist. Stand strong and supple in the pose for 5 breaths and then change sides.
Ardha Matseyndrasana, Variation
From Sukhasana, keep your left knee bent and left foot tucked in toward the right sitting bone. Then draw your right knee in toward your chest. On an exhale begin to turn your chest toward the right and place your right hand behind you like a kickstand. Grab the outer edge of your right foot with your left hand and begin to straighten the leg. As the arm and leg straighten, press the extended hand and foot into each other. This will create a good tension that in turn will bring some stability and balance. While the previous pose may have felt compact and architecturally tight, this pose may feel open and spacious. Spend 5 breathes here and change sides.
From Downward-Facing Dog, bring your knees to the floor. Rest your sitting bones back on your heels and gently release the forehead to the earth. This will generate a warming compression to the belly. Allow your whole body to soften down. Let the abdominal wall release completely, like a buddha belly. Relax deeply. Spend 5-8 breaths in this pose.
Root Chakra Chant + Meditation
Now that you have spent some time connecting with the third chakra through asana breath, and intention, please have a comfortable cross-legged seat. Keeping your eyes closed you will begin to chant the bija mantra for manipura chakra which is RAM. You may either chant it out loud or silently to yourself. Think of this mantra as a code. As you chant, the code begins to unpack itself and reveal to you the sacred intelligence of the third chakra energy center. As you chant this word RAM, try to sense the vibration of the sound in the upper belly. Feel free to experiment with pace and volume and chant in a way that resonates with you. Spend at least 2 minutes with your chant, more if you like.
When you finish chanting, lie back in Savasana and practice feeling at peace and at home in your body before you drift into quiet, restful repose.
About Stephanie Snyder
Stephanie Snyder is a San Francisco-based vinyasa yoga teacher. She's written, modeled, and created DVDs for Yoga Journal in addition to presenting at Yoga Journal LIVE!