In its modern form, yoga tends to be a practical form of physical exercise. More adventurous contemporary scholars go so far as to acknowledge that yoga has meditative qualities as well as aerobic ones. What isn’t commonly acknowledged in most incarnations of modern yoga is the fact that yogic science encompasses mind and spirit as well as body. Chakras, one of the core elements of yogic science, are often ignored by modern yoga teachers.
Whether, or not, a teacher chooses to place emphasis on the chakras in their classes, it is important for a well rounded graduate of a 200 hour yoga teacher training course to know what the chakras are and how they relate to the practice of yoga. Like all sciences, yogic science is self-correcting. Information about chakras has been investigated from the earliest days of yogic practice, and continues to be studied and revised by successive generations. So just what is a chakra? In layman’s terms the chakras are energy centers which exist along the spine of every human being. Asana and pranayama practices seek to activate and strengthen these energy centers. Chakras are said to regulate a number of physical and spiritual conditions.
For the student, it is enough to know that the chakras exist and that yogic science places great emphasis upon them. For the teacher a deeper understanding is necessary. Knowing about each chakra helps the teacher to create balanced yogic exercise routines that target each chakra in turn. Teachers can also use their knowledge of the chakra system to design specific yogic prescriptions for individual students.
In yogic science, the chakras are responsible for a number of physical and mental conditions. When the chakras are out of balance, the body and mind suffer. The first stage in maintaining the proper alignment of the chakra systems is pranayama, the yogic science of breath control. Students understand that breathing is essential to yogic exercise. Yoga teachers further understand that one important purpose of this breathing is the maintenance and restoration of the chakras. While breathing is not the most demonstrative aspect of yoga, an educated teacher understands that it is by far the most important one.
The study of chakra theory relies upon the correct performance of yogic techniques. Just as performing pranayama and asana in the correct way is beneficial to the chakra system, improperly performing pranayama and asana can cause harm to the physical body. With the chakras in mind, teachers must correct their students and guide them to the proper postures. Yogic science is a practical one. It is not necessary for a student to believe in every aspect of yoga in order to benefit from it. Teachers on the other hand, need a thorough understanding of the reasoning behind each yogic method. This understanding must include the chakras, subtle body, marmas, nadis, and how each of these aspects fits into the overall world of yoga.
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