Basic Yogi 101: The Crown Chakra
The eighth chakra is a really fun one to talk about, but it can be really frustrating to honor in asana (can’t stand on your head?!… yea, me either). Let’s break it down a bit.
What is the Crown Chakra?
The eighth chakra is called sahasrara (pronounced sa-ha-shrara) in Sanskrit. In English, we often call it the crown chakra and symbolize it with a thousand- (give or take) fold lotus flower. It is traditionally considered to be your cranial cavity, your brain and spinal cord. Newer teachings would also include your pituitary and pineal glands as part of the chakra (more on that in a minute). Honoring this chakra and releasing its energy can lead to bliss and non-dual consciousness. Seems interesting, right?
The Symbolism of the Lotus Flower
The symbol of the thousand-fold lotus flower is really beautiful. Imagine your head opening up to let in love and light and connect with the greater universe. Now, instead of brain matter spewing about, imagine your head opens up to become a lotus flower. So beautiful, right? You are already honoring your inner divine self!
The Location of the Crown Chakra
The physical location of the chakra is really interesting, too. Traditionally, yogis believed that the brain and spinal cord were the location of the chakra. Makes sense right? Your head is a pretty necessary part of your body.
Today, there is some new thinking that it also includes the pituitary and pineal glands. The pituitary gland is located behind your eye and it is sometimes called the “god gland” because of how essential it is to our survival. The pineal gland is located in the middle of your brain, and, actually, you don’t need it to survive. Weird, right? The pituitary gland produces raw materials that your body needs, including nine major hormones. It forms from part of your brain and your embryonic mouth, so it’s this paradox of infinite and eternal, finite and mortal. I love that!
How can I honor my Crown Chakra Through Asana?
To practice yoga that honors the crown chakra, you just need to stand on your head. No big deal 🙂 Just kidding!
Of course, headstand is one way to honor and recognize your crown chakra. Traditional yoga teaches that enlightenment comes from struggle (and headstand is nothing but a struggle, amiright?!), but you can also practice other asana.
My favorite is in child’s pose. In child’s pose, softly massage the middle of your forehead back and forth. This helps stimulate blood flow near your pituitary gland, which can help regulate your feelings and physical symptoms (one of the hormones produced in your pituitary gland is thyroid hormone).
How Else can I Honor my Crown Chakra?
Another way to honor your crown chakra is through meditation. Yoga tells us that true moments of bliss and non-dual consciousness, connecting with the “other,” are reached through meditation.
One way is through a body awareness meditation. To do this:
- Start in a comfortable seated position with your hands resting on your knees.
- Close your eyes and settle into your breathing.
- After a few breaths, notice your body. Just notice. No judgement. Is your foot itchy? Notice that and then let it go. Is your right leg crossed on top of your left? Notice that and then let it go. You can start at the base of your body and work your way up or you can just notice the feelings, distractions, and subtle movements of your inner and outer body as you sit in meditation.
- Use this sense of faith in your body and your awareness to other forces to guide you into a comfortable meditation.
Remember, there are lots of ways to honor your crown. Use your physical practice to explore your quest for bliss or sit and meditate in blissful silence.