Svadhisthana is our second chakra, and like all the chakras it’s more of an energetic concept than a physical location.
The chakras are seven wheels of energy in succession from the base of the tailbone to the crown of the head, which serve as an energetic superhighway that manages the travel of prana (lifeforce).
Svadhisthana translates to something like, “one’s own abode” or, “her favorite resting place.” It is located two fingers above the base of the tailbone, or within the pelvic floor. Its color is orange, its seed mantra (the vibrational sound associated with this region) is vam. It is associated with taste, sexuality, joy, unconscious emotion, water and fluidity, temptation and desire of any kind.
I like to think of svadhisthana first as the concept of fluidity.
When you’ve gained strength in the pelvis and pelvic floor (mula bandha—the root energy lock), the rest of your body may move freely. Consider a transition between two postures: parighasana (gate pose) and modified vasisthasana (side plank pose with the bottom knee down).
Need help imagining it? Hips are square, you’re on your left knee with your right leg extended straight out to the side, shoulders stacked over hips. The lower body is fixed and firm in its foundation, and from that strong, set pelvis the upper body can flow side to side not only with length, but also with a grace and fluidity that isn’t always easy to achieve in a lot of postures.
You inhale your left arm up and over—side bodies bursting out of pelvis, then exhale left hand down and right arm up (repeat). Imagine long, watery movements with your breath.
Delving deeper, what does fluidity mean in our practice?
Well, it’s the opposite of rigidity. And what is rigidity? Tension. By fixing the pelvis at a center point of strength, we can find tension-free movement. Further, our breath is—or should be—fluid and free from rigidity and tension.
Fluidity helps us to achieve movement that’s connected with our breath. Rigid movement interrupts the expansion of our long inhales—not to mention reducing the calming, balancing effects of our breath.
Also important to the balance of the svadhisthana chakra is opening the hips—the outer hips especially hold huge amounts of tension, and this tension is an interruption to the flow of energy around the pelvis. (If this concept is a little too much, consider the flow of energy to be like the flow of blood in your body: When the muscles are tense around blood vessels, the blood won’t flow as freely.)
Now we take the concepts of fluidity, strength and “her favorite resting place” and mix them together, along with the fixed, firm center of strength from the pelvis, and we find effortlessness.
When we strive to balance our efforts perfectly from all sides, we find the resting place—the sweet spot. A good example of this is natarajasana (dancer’s pose). Rooted in the strong, square pelvis and lifted pelvic floor, we catch our foot behind us and with equally concentrated efforts we lift up and expand out.
This balanced effort starts with the arm and leg lifting and kicking with equal strength, and that strength combines to close the energetic loop. But further, the foot of the standing leg grips the mat (pada bandha—energy lock of the feet), and the knee of the standing leg must be slightly soft so as to push the mat away and lift the thigh to hold its side of the pelvis stable. Additionally, the belly, chest and opposite shoulder must be working in conjunction to broaden the torso and pull the opposite shoulder back in line with the bound side. Neck is long and gaze is lifted to encourage the rise of energy in this pose. Even the foot of the bound leg flexes against the bind to activate the tibialis anterior (the muscle that runs beside the shin bone-tibia).
This pose is not generally considered fluid; most people feel quite a lot of constriction or opposition and need to work hard to maintain the physicality of this pose and the large amounts of activation.
But what if you could find a strong dancer without rigidity? You can.
Imagine breath and prana flowing through this pose. Students often must be reminded to have the courage to breath fully in this posture because all the activation constricts the belly and ribs in a way that makes it difficult to inhale fully and undesirable to compress the air out—not to mention when we’re exerting so much our heart rate increases and our breath quickens and shallows without constant attention to keep it long and intentional.
But, if you can maintain your breath here and balance your efforts, your prana can flow fluidly throughout, and you can begin to feel that soft space—almost like a hang time—where you float, lifted and held in this posture.
Consider also astavakrasana (eight angles pose), an arm balance that is tricky until you find a balance of effort between squeezing thighs and dragging ankles against each other to help activate the pelvis—and once the pelvis is activated, the whole body fires and the hips float.
It takes effort and practice to get there, but the feeling of weightlessness is a worthy pursuit.
So where are we going with all of this?
What do you think is at the center of effortlessness? Fluidity? Balance?
Ananda is the Sanskrit word for blissful joy.
What do you feel when you move fluidly from a place of fixed strength? Freedom? And when you find that fully connected moment in a posture like dancer—energy cycling around you and bursting out of you—where there is so much concentrated strength and effort that you float in that space?
Joy. Expansive, strong, and free.
Author: Sarah Haubert
Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Julian Garduno/Flickr