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Lesson 09

The Navel Chakra and Kundalini Yoga

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Copyright © 2003 - Guru Rattana, Ph.D. 

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Yogi Bhajan teaches that the seat of the Kundalini is in the navel center. Reflecting on my experience over the last 22 years of practicing Kundalini Yoga (preceded by 8 years of Hatha yoga), I have often had an intuitive urge to return to the navel center. The answer to the question at hand, whether it is about me or a student, is often "strengthen your navel center."

The navel center is the focus of many spiritual disciplines. The Taoists start and return to the navel center while practicing the microcosmic orbit. (Internal circular breath that starts at the navel, goes down the front to the base of the spine, goes up the back to the crown and back down the front to the navel.) *(1) The internal martial arts initiate moves from the navel or don tien, which is 2-3 inches below the navel.

Where is the Navel Center?

In the very early Kundalini lessons taught by Yogi Bhajan, he said that the navel center is actually approximately 2-3 inches below the umbilicus. In these lessons, therefore, when we say navel center we are referring to a point 2-3 inches below the belly button. This is the center of energy that is the gravity balance point in the body.

When we pump our navel energy or move from our navel center we are actually pumping and moving from a center where thousands of nerves come together. Each person can find this center in their own body by doing the Kundalini yoga exercises given by Yogi Bhajan. As you practice the exercises, the nerve endings will be stimulated and the energy will coalesce at this point. Practice of any of the martial arts will also help you find and align this center of gravity in your body.

One way to know is by feeling the pulse at this point. You can also feel the pulse right at the navel or umbilicus. Either way, a powerful pulse will indicate that your third chakra energy is aligned or "set."

There are different schools of thought about the location of the navel center. I thought that all the martial arts taught that this center, called the don tien, was 2-3 inches below the physical navel. However, several years ago I studied with a Chi Gong master who taught that it was right at the umbilicus. The man was certainly a master of chi and his techniques worked. Kundalini yoga has been taught using both locations. It all seems to work. Individual practice will help you find and cultivate your power center. Might have guessed that the Masters would give us just enough information so we would have to practice the techniques in order to experience the truth for ourselves.

Opening the Heart Center

When Yogi Bhajan came to the West and Los Angeles in 1969, the strengthening and balancing of the navel point was one of the main focuses of his classes. His yogic message was that in order to get and stay in the heart center we first had to cultivate a powerful and stable base or the "lower triangle." The lower triangle is the lower three chakras - root, sex and navel. The major theme of my first book Transitions of the Heart-Centered World (1988) is how to build the lower triangle as a base for moving into the heart chakra.

It is interesting to look back and observe the different spiritual paths in the 70's and 80's. The message of the flower children of the 60's was "All we need is love." Yogi Bhajan attracted many of these flower children to his classes. We certainly need more love. The question is how do we get it? Yogi Bhajan essentially said, "If you want love, you have to prepare your mind and body to give and receive it." So while other paths were concentrating on opening the upper chakras to receive universal Love, Yogi Bhajan was teaching us breath of fire, stretch pose and other strenuous abdominal exercises. There was no time to sit around and love each other.

We were instructed to get up at 3:00am, take a cold shower and do 2 1/2 hours of Kundalini yoga and meditation. And then there was the rest of the program, which included seva (selfless service), devotional chanting, and teaching, setting up restaurants and ashrams. Who had time for love? We were exhausted!

Yogi Bhajan is a "Saturn" teacher. He teaches through discipline, lessons and committed action. We don't contemplate our navels. We pump them until they are activated and our internal energy moves spontaneously and dynamically.

From Anger to Action

One of the reasons for following a spiritual path is our desire to be more spiritual. However, we can't be spiritual if we are filled with anger and fear. We have to clear out or transmute our anger and fear in order to make room for Spirit and Love.

Anger is navel chakra energy. I like to think of navel energy in terms of "anger into action." When our navel chakra is strong, we have the energy to take action and accomplish things. When it is weak, we have difficulty taking action for ourselves. When we can't act, we feel like victims of external forces, outside authorities and political or economic systems. And indeed, when we do not take action to get our needs met and do what we want and need to do, we usually are victims. Those with a weak will, or navel center, are easy prey to those who live off the manipulation, control and exploitation of others through personal intimidation, guilt trips, advertising, political, financial and brut power. Not taking action on our own behalf and falling prey to the manipulation of outside forces, breeds inner anger and rage.

With rare exceptions, we all carry unresolved anger in our body and psyche. Everyone has experienced some injustice or abuse, which when triggered or remembered, sets them off. Our goal is not to get rid of this reaction all together. Anger is a normal and useful emotion. Emotions are the way our Soul speaks to us. When we experience anger, we are receiving information from our Soul that we must translate into messages that pertain to the situation at hand. Some messages anger tells are-"This situation does not work for me." "Don't waste your energy. Gracefully leave." "I need to take action." "Something needs to be done, and I better do something about it."

The problem with all our "negative" emotions-anger, fear and sadness-is that these emotions are too often not evoked in response to a current situation. What typically happens is that current life situations evoke unprocessed abuse and reactions from the past. One of our major life goals is to process unresolved emotions, so that our responses, instead of being automatically controlled by our past, give us accurate information about moment to moment circumstances.

Unprocessed emotions are stored on our body. Kundalini yoga is a powerful tool to help dislodge these emotions from our body and transmute this energy into higher frequencies. Anger is eventually transmuted into Light.

One of the most powerful ways to move out of the state of disempowerment into empowerment is to cultivate our own internal power. Yogically, the navel center is the place to begin.

As we work on the navel point, we will also work on the first two chakras. Yogi Bhajan used to tell us that a cup without a bottom is not going to hold much tea. In building the lower triangle, we are building our foundation, or the bottom of our cup, so that we can hold the universal tea of Love. Creating a bottom for our cup and clearing out the past hurtful memories from our cup are two important steps in making our "Transitions to a Heart-Centered World."

A Fast Path - "In Your Face" Yoga

In the yogic scriptures it is said that Kundalini yoga is 16 times more powerful than Hatha yoga. On the one hand, that seems to be good news. The Catch 22 is-- How do we make such quick progress? We are confronted with our issues 16 times faster! Kundalini yoga is "In your face yoga." Spirituality can be a rough ride. A lot of things get better and some things certainly seem to get worse! No spiritual journey is a free lunch. We are obliged to deal with our issues in order to set ourselves free.

I remember how some of us naively thought that everything would be blissful on a spiritual path. Many of us used to think that enlightenment was just a few meditations away. At one Ladies Camp many years ago, Yogi Bhajan responded to this fanciful interpretation of spirituality. He said, "I never told you that you would not have problems. I told you that you would be able to get through them.!"

Therapy and Group Healing

Kundalini yoga is a powerful tool that helps us unleash our vital energy. Regular practice unblocks and transmutes energy that is being held as stress, pain, anger and fear. Combined with the meditations, the breathing, movement and positions help clear our psyche, cleanse our subconscious and balance our emotional energy. However, the dynamics of the healing process often require outside support and interaction as well.

I used to believe that I could just do Kundalini yoga and meditate and everything would be taken care of over time. Kundalini yoga and meditation does much to purge us of the emotional charges of past traumas. However, to achieve lasting empowerment and inner peace, we must look at and consciously resolve our inner wounds. Kundalini yoga and meditation help us become aware of our wounds and give us the strength and perspective to consciously deal with them.

What is often referred to as our inner child issues (the wounds that we received or perceived that we received while we were very young) must be "healed." In addition to a spiritual discipline, this task is expedited by working with a competent therapist and working with a group such as a Twelve Step program. Interaction with a trained counselor who can identify our patterns and with a group that can support and accept us as we are, are invaluable parts of the human growth process. They complement and speed up our results. Realizing that we are not alone and identifying our common human problems and solutions as we move through the human experience can be a welcome relief and powerful asset to our healing. Bonding with others is not only comforting, it opens up our hearts.

Our individual process is a very personal part of the empowerment game. However, as we practice Kundalini yoga together, the Yahoo Groups system, for example, gives us the opportunity to share our results with each other. It is fun to monitor our progress. What issues are in our face that we can no longer relegate to our inner cave called denial. How have our lives changed? What is happening internally and externally? What different situations and new opportunities are we attracting? As you practice Kundalini yoga, keep track of your progress and share them with the group as you feel inspired to do so.

From Anger to Forgiveness

For your own personal processing, I recommend a book called From Anger to Forgiveness by Earnie Larsen. It is short, concise, to the point, easy to work with and cheap (only $6). For me, one of the most interesting and liberating lessons of the book was the revelation that past anger is often disguised as problems that we do not often associate with anger-depression, having the fidgets, being secretive, feeling victimized, being a workaholic, undefined agitation and smoldering rage.

I personally found that simply identifying a situation that made me angry as a child allowed me to become calmer in my daily activities. I discovered that my fidgety agitation and tendency of my mind to jump from one activity to another was linked to the expectation of over responsibility as the oldest child. The combination of the revelation of this understanding, sharing with a friend who was also working with the book and the practice of Kundalini yoga catapulted me to a more peaceful state of consciousness.

Identity in the Lower Triangle

The basic problem with unresolved anger is that this vital energy is consumed and unavailable for living our lives and creating our dreams. Unresolved anger creates blind spots in our psyche, which results in indecision, the inability to commit and even the inability to know what we want in the first place! It is my experience that when I know what I want, go for it and achieve results, I experience a sense of satisfaction in my life. I believe that this is true for all of us.

It is in the lower triangle that we achieve a sense of our own identity. The first three chakras are where we experience our individuality. It is in our uniqueness that we identify not only who we are, but also what we want and how to accomplish our goals. It is the FIRST CHAKRA and our connection with the Earth that gives us the power to manifest, to bring into being our desires, and to achieve results. The SECOND CHAKRA gives us the power to create. The THIRD CHAKRA gives us the energy to take action.

So let's take action to strengthen and activate our navel center and build our lower triangle.

Setting the Navel Center

The navel center is the easiest chakra to monitor. You know your navel center is "set," when you feel a pulse at or around the rim of the umbilicus. You can also monitor this pulse at the don tien or navel center 2-3 inches below the navel and in the line between these two points. Although you can check the pulse sitting or standing up, the easiest position is lying down. The best times are before and after the navel exercises.

Simply take the middle finger of either hand, place it on the navel or navel center and search for a pulse. If there is no pulse, the pulse is weak or it is not in or around the navel, your navel needs "to be set." When there is a strong pulse on or near the center of the navel, it is "set." You will experience that after the exercises, the pulse is stronger and the position may have also changed.

After a few leg lifts, one woman had her pulse jump from the lower right corner of her abdomen to the center of her navel! So do not be alarmed if you cannot find your pulse. The Kundalini yoga works.

It is normal to have a weak pulse in the morning after sleeping. That is why it is strongly recommended to set your navel center before you start your day. Also during the day, if you feel off center, pump your navel center or do breath of fire to come back to center.

Footnotes

(1) Sexuality and Spirituality by Guru Rattana, Ph.D. and Ann Marie Maxwell, pp. 153-7.


Nabhi Kriya to Set the Navel Center

The following set NABHI KRIYA was taught by Yogi Bhajan in 1971 and remains one of the classical sets to set the navel center.

Nabhi Kriya - Navel Power

Taught by Yogi Bhajan June 1971

(A) Lie on your back, arms by your side, palms down. Or hands under your buttocks to protect the small of your back. The small of the back is remain touching the floor during these exercises. Placing the hands under the buttocks helps make this possible.

Inhale as you lift your right leg up to 90 deg. or perpendicular to the ground. Exhale as you lower it. Inhale raise your right leg. Exhale lower it. Continue lifting alternate legs with deep, powerful breathing. The original directions were 10 minutes. Begin with 1-2 minutes. Stabilize your practice at 3-5 minutes and work up to 10 minutes if you can.

(B) Without pause, lift both legs up to 90 deg. on the inhale, and lower them on exhale. Arms are stretched straight up over the heart center, palms facing each other. Continue for 1-2 minutes and work up to 5 minutes.

(C) Bend your knees and clasp them to your chest with the arms below the knees. Press the small of your back to the ground. Allow your head to relax back. Rest in this position for 5 minutes. (No need to shorten this time :+)) Make sure you are warm enough.

(D) In the same position as #3 inhale, open your arms straight out to the sides on the ground and extend your legs straight out at a 60 deg. angle above the ground. Exhale and return to original position. Repeat and continue for 1-3 minutes. This exercise was originally given for 15 minutes. Again work up to that amount of time if you can. (#3 and #4 are known as Pavan Sodan Kriya.)

(E) On your back, bring your left knee to your chest, hold it there with both hands and rapidly raise the right leg up to 90 deg. and down. Inhale up. Exhale down for 1 minute. Switch legs and repeat for 1 minute. Repeat the complete cycle one more time.

(F) Stand up straight, raising arms overhead, hugging ears, and press fingers back so that palms face the sky/ceiling. Exhale as you bend forward from the navel center to touch the ground, (if you can) Keep the arms straight, hugging ears, and inhale up VERY SLOWLY with a long deep breath. On the exhale (as you bend forward and especially while you a fully forward, apply Mulbhanda or Root lock. Continue at a slow pace for 2 minutes, then more rapidly for 1 more minute.

 
Nabhi Kriya diagrams

 

(G) Totally relax or meditate for 10-15 minutes.

BENEFITS

This set focuses on developing the strength of the navel point and build a powerful base in the lower triangle (chakras 1, 2 and 3). The full times indicated are for advanced students. To begin practice, start with 1-5 minutes on the longer exercises. (1) is for lower digestive area. (2) is for upper digestion and solar plexus. (3) eliminates gas and relaxes the heart. (4) charges the magnetic field and opens the navel center. (5) sets the hips and lower spine. (6) is for the entire spine, unleashes spinal fluid and expands the aura. Together, these exercises get the abdominal area in shape quickly!

This exercise set is found in Transitions to a Heart-Centered World and Introduction to Kundalini Yoga.

TUNE IN

Be sure to tune in before doing the set by chanting the mantra

ONG NA MO GURU DEV NA MO at least 3 times.

See Lesson Three.

To warm up the spine and ground your energy first see Lesson Six on the Flexibility of the Spine.

CONCLUDING

Conclude all Kundalini Yoga sessions by singing

May the long time Sun shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on.

Then chant
Saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat Nam 3 times

For one or more minutes ground yourself by being present to all the sensations in your body.

Copyright © 2003 - Guru Rattana, Ph.D.
 

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The material contained on this Web site reflects Guru Rattana's own unique perspectives and insights,
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