Chakras, or energy centers, regulate the flow of subtle energy into, out of, and throughout the human body. There are seven major chakras that are affected by, and can have an affect on, a person’s physical health. In the article Bodywork Can Balance the Root and Sacral Chakras, we took a detailed look at the first two chakras and the bodywork techniques that can be used to support the free flow of energy through them. Here we will take a look at the third and fourth chakras, and the bodywork techniques that are best suited to working with them.
Solar Plexus Chakra
The third chakra, or Solar Plexus Chakra, is named Manipura, or “lustrous gem.” This chakra is the home of our power, of our personal will. Fire is the element represented by this chakra and the sound is Ram, while the color is yellow. Sight is the sense associated with the Solar Plexus Chakra. This chakra governs our liver, gallbladder, stomach and spleen and represents our ability to “digest” life. When balanced, we are empowered and confident in the ability to manifest our will in the world but, when blocked, there is frustration and hostility along with digestive problems in our physical bodies.
Issues of self-confidence, self-esteem, and identity are central here. This is the center of our intuition, as we often get a “gut feeling.” Weight issues, digestive and metabolic problems are also centered here, especially when we ignore our “gut feelings.” When working with the Solar Plexus Chakra, Loughran (1999) suggest using Juniper, Peppermint, Rosemary and Vetiver.
Bodywork for Solar Plexus Chakra
To release the Solar Plexus area, we want to focus on improving flexibility in the rib cage. With the client supine, reach over and draw the rib cage toward you using a hand-over-hand scooping action, really letting fingers get into the intercostal muscles and lifting the ribcage, flexing it to restore mobility. Because this chakra is connected to digestive issues, a clockwise pattern over the large intestine (massage treatment for constipation) – around the bellybutton – may help to balance energy in this center.
A great technique for releasing the solar plexus is often used as a liver massage technique. With the client supine, stand level with their lower rib cage. Slowly and gently begin pressing into abdomen under the lower ridge of their ribs. This can be very sensitive, so move very slowly using a hand-over-hand technique to apply pressure evenly.
The Solar Plexus is where the diaphragm lives and so can impact our breathing when tight and restricted. When we become afraid or anxious, we begin shallow breathing as a result of constriction in this area. Releasing the physical Solar Plexus allows the energy to move in the corresponding energetic center.
The fourth, or Heart Chakra, is called the Anahata, meaning “unstuck, place of openness.” The element associated with it is air, the sound is Yam, and the color is green or pink. The sense linked to this chakra is touch. This energy center is the home of love, compassion, sympathy, empathy, and relationships. Loughran (1999) suggests using Bergamot, Helichrysum, Melissa, and Spikenard when working with the Heart Chakra.
This chakra is associated with our ability to form and maintain relationships, love, self-control and feelings of guilt, forgiveness and compassion. Signs of dysfunction in the Heart Chakra include problems in the heart and lungs, bronchitis, respiratory problems and high blood pressure along with asthma, immune system issues, pneumonia, emphysema, and chest pain.
If a client comes in with chest pain, refer them to a physician. DO NOT attempt to treat heart related conditions with massage therapy or subtle energy work.
Massage Techniques for Heart Chakra
When addressing the Heart Chakra, we want to release the shoulder girdle, arms and hands. Our physical heart and lungs work together in our upper torso (chest) to keep us alive, and addressing the muscles that restrict both of these physical organs will allow energy to flow more freely through the energetic center of the Heart Chakra. Opening the shoulders by pressing into acupressure points Lung 1 and 2, using friction (lightly) on the pectoralis muscles and stretching the tendons of the pectoralis will help in opening the shoulders. Massage techniques used to release forward shoulder syndrome will aid in opening the shoulder girdle, allowing energy and breath to flow.
While the physical Solar Plexus area links the upper and lower body, the physical Heart and Lungs work very closely together. Working the Solar Plexus and Heart Chakras together works well, as both centers are physically impacted by the muscles of respiration and restricted by a forward shoulder position. Opening up the front of the body, while allowing the back of the upper torso to relax, is a significant factor in allowing a free flow of energy through these two chakras.
Traditional Chinese Medicine tells us that chi follows blood, but it also tells us that chi follows breath. Deep breathing exercises can activate all energy in the body, as well as stimulating all of the chakras. Releasing restrictions on the physical Solar Plexus and shoulders may act to stimulate movement of energy throughout the body and all the energy centers.