A Magazine About Food, Art & Exchange In Midtown Kingston, Published By The Hudson Valley Current.

BLOOMING ON THE INSIDE

It’s the season of the blossom. Tight buds burst into brilliant, silky color. Leaves are unfurling. In the northern hemisphere, baby animals are being born, from bear cubs designed to pack on hundreds of pounds to scrappy featherweight shrews. We’re swapping out the big coats for T-shirts and hoodies, feeling our shoulders relax a little in the sunshine, lingering longer on the way from here to there.

As the physical blooming manifests with the nearness of the healing sun, it’s a great time to get in touch with the deeper levels that drive it. It’s been interesting, over the last half-century, to watch Western thought and medicine open up to the idea that yes, our bodies are much more than mechanical, that there is a constant flow of energy moving the circulation and respiration, the digestion and elimination. The current that moves us, the difference between life and death, is undeniable, but for some reason, when I was learning the rest of that stuff in seventh-grade health class, its flow was barely discussed. Back then, chiropractic and acupuncture were the only forms of “alternative” medicine most people had ever heard of and considered dangerously woo-woo by folks who thought cigarettes helped asthma and refined sugar was great for babies. (At least that’s what people thought they thought, with the generous help of advertisers and lobbyists for Big Tobacco and Big Sugar.)

Clues to the importance of the body’s energetic nature and flow are everywhere. Think of the difference between a bad scare and a good hug, of how clearly you can feel worry or joy in your gut and chest. Scientists are just beginning to understand the “gut-brain axis,” the communication between nervous system and digestive system; they’ve found biochemical markers that back up what living creatures have intuitively known since the beginning of life and are excitedly studying the connection.

The Eastern part of the world has a more developed language around the body’s energy flow. The first recorded mention of chakras—energetic centers within the body that can be balanced or unbalanced, blocked or flowing—goes back to 1500 BC. Old Hindu texts describe seven chakras, while Buddhist thinkers wrote of five. The word can be translated as wheel—spinning centers within what the ancients called the “subtle body,” the energetic essence of us that can’t be seen with a microscope and that Western medicine long considered a figment of the human imagination, without stopping to ask themselves how a merely biological creature (albeit fitted out with a standard-issue soul, apparently) could even have such a thing as an imagination in the first place.

Thankfully, centuries upon centuries of intuition have a way of overcoming momentary materialistic conceits. Today, even straight arrow medical websites like Healthline and WebMD make reference to chakras; Woman’s Day magazine has published a guide to understanding them. These sources still specify that chakras can’t be seen, but don’t discourage anyone from studying on them—the provable benefits of yoga and mindfulness may have something to do with this quiet revolution.

No, we can’t see chakras or the intangible energy, prana, that flows through our subtle bodies—but we can feel it. Stand or sit up straight, relax your shoulders and breathe deep and slow—feel that? It’s alignment happening. Body impacts mind, mind impacts body, and flow is always a better feeling than blockage.

So here are the basics of chakras—we’ll use the commonly accepted number of seven. Each is an energetic center meant to operate as a source of strength, health and vitality; each is believed to impact specific functions of the physical body and mind when unbalanced or blocked.

Your root chakra, at the very base of your spine, is associated with a sense of stability and safety. If your root chakra is blocked, you’ll be feeling scattered and anxious. If it’s hyperactive, you may find yourself feeling greedy and acquisitive. 

Your sacral chakra, centered at the top of your pubic bone, governs sexuality, connection and passion. If blocked, you’re probably feeling disconnected and emotionally flat; if it’s hyper, keyed up and out of control. (People with hyperactive sacral chakras might fall in love on the first date, then morph into stalkers when rejected.) 

Your solar plexus or navel chakra is right where its name suggests. Its spin is meant to generate confidence and joy. Hyperactivity here can make a person aggressive and obnoxious. Blockage leads to anxiety and indecision. Your heart chakra regulates and generates love and friendship. When it’s blocked, you’re isolated; when it’s hyper, you’re a clingy mess of mush. 

If you can’t seem to find the right words and connect, you may have blockage in the throat chakra; if you can’t seem to shut up and keep talking over people, it’s hyper. Your third eye chakra, just above the center point between your eyebrows, governs insight; blockage can lead you to fall back on dogma even when it’s wrong, and if it’s hyper, you may be lost in unhelpful musings, in a world of your own. And at the top of your head, your crown chakra connects you to the spiritual world. Blockage can make you rigid, and hyperactivity can make you overthink, maybe set off on a spiritual quest and forget to eat.

Happily, yoga and meditation offer clear, simple methods of focusing on and energizing your chakras from the bottom up. Try something super simple right now—sitting straight and comfortable, focus your energy on your root chakra and visualize warm, fresh energy flowing into and around it. Visualize it opening and blossoming like a flower.Now work your way up.

Flow, whether we’re talking about resources tangible or intangible, is the key to everything. We can’t see it, but we can see the results blooming everywhere in spring. Spend some time on your chakras—why not, after all?—and see what can blossom in your own life once you’re hitting, so to speak, on all cylinders.