Category Archives: chakras

A Day with Seane Corn

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Again, here I am with a late entry! So sorry! As I mentioned in a previous post, the Seane Corn All-Day Chakra Flow Immersion event will take the place of a regularly-scheduled Monthly Yoga entry, due to how busy I was for the month of May with 40 Days.

For those who don’t know much about Seane, she is a vinyasa instructor who started Off the Mat Into the World, an excellent organization which seeks to inspire yoga practitioners to get involved in charitable activities and act as leaders in their communities. This group also heads the SEVA challenge, which raises money each year for a different cause in a different country (this year, it’s providing resources to victims of sex trafficking in India!). I definitely felt honored to take part in this immersion with Seane, who is a very inspiring woman, yogi, and teacher!

I took a ton of notes, and unfortunately, because I’ve let so much time pass by, I don’t quite think I remember the context of everything I’d written down. I have good and bad things to say about the event, but I’ll cover the good first, which definitely outweighs my criticism.

First off, Seane was an excellent speaker. She wasn’t just sort of there, phoning it in; she spoke passionately and I found her engaging to listen to. She came across as sincere and funny, and rather than using pretty, flowery language, she wasn’t afraid to curse like a sailor at times when it suited her point. She started off by asking if we’ve ever gotten emotional during yoga (i.e. during a hip opener); she said this was a natural part of the mind-body exploration done in yoga, and she then headed into a lecture/discussion on how we should confront our emotions rather than bottle them up. Yoga helps with this release.

One story in particular that Seane told was about her time taking part in the annual SEVA challenges. There were two incidents in particular that stood out in her travels. On one SEVA trip, she mentioned a man she had seen talking near some of the people in their group. From a distance, Seane thought he was wearing a red shirt; when she got closer, she realized that the front of his shirt was covered in blood. He had tried to commit suicide by slitting his throat, and failed, and she could see the sadness in his eyes from his attempt, as suicide was a source of shame in his culture. She said that she felt almost powerless in not knowing what to say or do for this man. Another incident was witnessing the “killing fields” in Cambodia—places where genocides had actually taken place. The worst, she said, was seeing a tree all gnarled in strange places and stained—from the blood of babies hit against the tree. Even just seeing the tree horrified everyone who came near it. Seane said that after everyone saw this place, and felt the unhappy energy permeating it, each couple and group went back to the hotel and didn’t know what to do. Almost everyone, she said, got into an argument—either with someone in the group or by calling someone on the phone. No one knew what to do—except for Seane’s teenage son. He said that he just felt “sad” after seeing the fields. He didn’t get angry or try to bottle up his emotions; he was the only one, Seane said, who actually confronted his feelings. The other incident, with the man who had attempted suicide, almost provoked the same response—not wanting to deal with what Seane termed “big feelings.” Her point was that when we get emotional during yoga, we’re finally letting go of something that we’re holding onto, whether it’s through tears or actually having a conversation to talk about what we feel. It’s healthy, and, to relate to the theme of the day, it balances our chakras so we don’t (in her words) end up “chakrically fucked.” Yoga, with its focus on the chakras, helps us to release these emotions.

From there, Seane went into detail on the different chakras. Some of this I’ve already covered in my entry on chakras and essential oils, so I won’t go back into it here. Here, though, was some information Seane gave on the duality of each chakra and what it can stand for, either when it is strong (not too strong but just right) or deficient:

1st Chakra (Muladhara/Root)
Strong: Tribe
Deficient: Fear

2nd Chakra (Swadhistana/Pelvis)
Strong: Relationships
Deficient: Guilt

3rd Chakra ( Manipura/Abdomen)
Strong: Authority/ego
Deficient: Shame
(To clafify, this chakra relates to how we define ourselves. Seane stated that defining ourselves by changeable things is dangerous and can lead to a deficient chakra [e.g. if you define yourself by your money, and suddenly you don’t have any, it can lead to a feeling of shame]. For some reason this point really resonated with me, seeing as I find that I do attempt to continually define—or redefine—myself at certain stages of my life.)

4th Chakra (Anahata/Heart)
Strong: Love
Deficient: Grief

5th Chakra (Vishuddha/Throat)
Strong: Communication
Deficient: Lies

6th Chakra (Ajna/Third Eye)
Strong: Intuition
Deficient: Illusion

7th Chakra (Sahasrana/Crown of the head)
Strong: Thoughts about or relationship to the divine
Deficient: Attachment

During our asana practice, she talked more about what happened when a chakra was too strong, deficient, and just right. Unfortunately, this was a time when I couldn’t really use my notebook, so I didn’t worry too much about wanting to take notes. She rattled off long lists about each chakra, but what I really liked was that she set up our flow so that our poses emphasized each chakra one at a time. In other words, we started with grounding poses, moved on to poses in our hips and abs, worked heart opening poses, and then, to a lesser degree, practiced asanas that concentrated on the throat, third eye, and the top of the head (even if it was just savasana for that last bit). Our vinyasa flow lasted for about two hours, and although it wasn’t really hot in the room like it is in the studio, and a much longer flow than I get in my regular classes, it definitely provided an adequate amount of movement.

After a break, we came back for a question and answer session. Some people got somewhat emotional around her, and actually started to ask some pretty intense questions, almost as if they were looking for advice. Seane kind of chuckled and said that she didn’t have all the answers—wise of her to admit! She was certainly thorough and tactful when giving her responses, but I’m glad she didn’t pretend to be some kind of spiritual guru here. (There was an earlier point, however, when Seane attempted to “read” a young woman in the audience and asked about her early life, then claimed she couldn’t complete her reading because [not making this up] she felt that the spirit of the woman’s mother was “blocking her energy.” This was just weird. I really wish she hadn’t done this, since I was on board with most of what she said that day, but the spiritual medium thing was totally out of nowhere and not really something that I believe in.) At the end, Seane stuck around to talk to people individually and answer their questions.

As I stated before, Seane was a very engaging speaker, and at times she was humorous. Here is some of her wit and/or wisdom (both quoted and paraphrased):

  • We need to learn “light” (our enlightenment) through “shadow” or the bad—no matter how much we want to stay in the land of “rainbows, strawberries, unicorns, and butterflies.”
  • Seane: “Can you define what ‘enlightened’ is?” [Teacher trainee pauses] “‘No’ would be the right answer.”
  • The ego “c-blocks” our soul.
  • If we want to do more in the world—tackle big problems like war, terrorism, famine, rape, etc.—then we need to deal with our own internal war first and forgive and accept those around us; we have to eliminate the “Us vs. Them” mentality through yoga (which means “union”).
  • Seane (on confronting the “big feelings” we all have):“You can’t get to the ‘bless you’ until you get to the ‘fuck you.’”
  • Seane (on opening the chakras in our asana practice that day): “Don’t go into this dark scary place where you’re chakrically fucked.”

To be honest, I think I’ve been putting off writing about the Seane Corn event (for a month now…) because, well, frankly… it was a bit underwhelming. It was good, don’t get me wrong; it just wasn’t quite what I expected. I would love to say that the day was “life-changing” or “mystical,” but really, it wasn’t, even though I did actually enjoy the day.

What did I expect? More yoga! Despite coming directly out of the 40 Days Challenge, that day I was definitely bursting with energy. (Maybe that’s why I wanted more asana practice!) I knew that the event would be part asana practice and part discussion, but honestly, about 2/3 of it was discussion with and lecture from Seane. While our asana practice was challenging at times (have I mentioned how much I hate lizard pose?), I expected her to be even tougher on us. She even admitted that she went “easy” on us. I’m sure most participants, self included, wouldn’t have chosen that word specifically, but, well, why? Why hold back for us? If we’re there, we’re in for a challenge!

There were also issues with time constraints; we were supposed to break halfway through for lunch, but instead our break came after four hours! Seane lectured/discussed with us for two, and after a short bathroom break for everyone, we began our asana practice. This lasted for about another two hours. We then took a one-hour break for lunch, which at that point seemed useless (however, probably a good break for Seane, who had done a lot of talking). On the upside, I got the chance to talk to some other yogis at the event. Finally, we came back for another hour/hour and a half of question-and-answer with Seane. Although many people probably didn’t want to do more yoga after eating, I think at the very least a short restorative session would have been an excellent ending to our day, but instead we just sort of ended abruptly after she wrapped up the Q & A.

Still, I’m incredibly happy that I had the opportunity to attend Seane’s all-day immersion. If I ever have the opportunity to take another class with her, I think I will. Although not everything she said struck deep for me, there were a few things that I took away from the day that have stuck with me since then—especially concerning understanding where our emotions come from and letting them release through yoga. Also, now that I have finally finished writing this entry, I can say that it was nice to revisit some of these points as a reminder to stick with my practice and make it through the rest of this incredibly hot summer. They seem far away now, but both the 40 Days Challenge and Seane Corn’s workshop created a new air of confidence and happiness within me, and I intend to take that positive energy into the fall when I start teaching again. (Hooray!)

Thanks for your patience with this entry! Up next, I’ll talk about my Iyengar-based class that I took for the month of June!

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Chakras, Essential Oils, and Yoga

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On Sunday, March 18, I attended a workshop at breathe entitled “Chakras, Essential Oils, and Your Yoga Practice” hosted by Cyndi Weis, the owner of breathe and essential oil enthusiast. I’ve attended her yoga classes before, often on Friday afternoons, where she lets students sample different oils in order to guide their practices for the day. I’m intrigued by the oils’ different functions, so I decided this workshop would be a nice introduction to the topic. As an added bonus, all proceeds for the event went to the SEVA challenge to raise money for women and children in India who have been victims of sex trafficking. Who can’t love yoga that’s dedicated to a cause?

The workshop itself did not feature a yoga practice, but instead was a lecture by Cyndi explaining what our chakras are, their connections with the mind/body, what oils might go well with each chakra, and how you can integrate this information into your yoga practice. She did offer the disclaimer that these oils were her associations with each chakra, and that they may vary from person to person. She also explained some of their primary uses (e.g. lavender for calming, peppermint or citrus for energy, earthy ones like spruce for grounding, etc.); most of the oils we sampled were blends of three or more single oils.

So what are essential oils, you may ask? They come from different plants and can be any part of the plant, including its leaves, twigs, roots, and resins. When you buy essential oils, you are getting oil made from the plant—not perfume grade “fragrances” that rely mostly on synthetic chemicals. Essential oils are incredibly potent! For instance, just one drops of peppermint oil can be about as strong as 26 cups of peppermint tea. Another interesting fact about them is that their biochemical make-up is similar in structure to that of human blood. (Weird, right?)You can apply the oils topically (one drop on the hands to spread on different parts of the body like the bottoms of the feet, back of the neck, rims of or behind the ears, wrists, or different chakras). You can also inhale them, place them in a diffuser, put one drop into a full water bottle, or blend them into gel caps to take orally. My favorite method is placing a drop of oil on my hands to breathe in and then apply it to the neck or chest or behind my ears.

I don’t want to go into too much detail on chakras, since I’m not really an expert on them (“novice,” remember?). Essentially, chakras (“discs”/“wheels”) are different points of the body which can guide physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of your body and mind. You can find out more here, for instance, or Google it. I’m going to give a quick run-down of the oils we used, which were all made by Young Living Essential Oils (you can find each one on their website for full ingredients). I scribbled notes like a madwoman during this workshop, but I may have missed some info at one point or another.

1st Chakra/Muladhara: We used “Valor,” which includes spruce, rosewood, blue tansy, and frankincense. Since this chakra deals with grounding and stability, we placed this oil on the bottoms of our feet. This one is great for a yoga practice with many poses emphasizing stability in the feet (such as warrior poses).

2nd Chakra/Swadhistana: Since this chakra resides in the pelvic area, it is often associated with emotion. We used an oil called “Release,” which I’m pretty sure I’ve tried in Cyndi’s Friday class. Somehow, we tend to store pent-up emotions in this area of our bodies, so hip openers like Supta Baddha Konasana or pigeon are a great way to relieve this tension. “Release” included ylang ylang, lavender, sandalwood, blue tansy, and geranium.

3rd Chakra/Manipura: This chakra resides in the lower torso area and relates to our self-definition and ego—for instance, how we see and define ourselves. The oil we used was “Believe,” which is made with balsam fir, rosewood, and frankincense. To me, it didn’t smell bad, but it reminded me a bit of the smell of lumber. Because this chakra is near your core, twists in yoga are a great way to ignite this area in your practice.

4th Chakra/Anahata: This is your heart chakra, associated with—you guessed it!—love. This chakra resides in the center on the spectrum of the seven chakras, so from here we go from the more tangible aspects of the body to the more spiritual ones. Asanas such as chest openers and backbends are excellent for opening this chakra. The oil we used this time was “Forgiveness,” which was a blend of at least 15 different oils, including lavender, rosewood, ylang ylang, bergamot, lemon, geranium, and more. Frankly, I thought this one was too busy with all those ingredients and didn’t really smell all that great. Others in the workshop really liked it, though. It depends on your personal tastes, really.

5th Chakra/Vishuddha: The name for the throat chakra actually translates to “the poison-releasing place,” which I thought was interesting. Qualities like communication, self-expression, and finding your own voice all come from the 5th chakra. The oil used here was “Clarity,” which I think was my favorite; it’s made from rosemary, basil, cardamom, jasmine, lemon and peppermint, among others. Cyndi also mentioned that “Clarity” is great to place on your forehead if you have a headache. I liked this one because I could really see how the peppermint could make you feel more alert. Poses emphasizing a flat back aid in opening this chakra; fish pose apparently works as well.

6th Chakra/Ajna: Even if you’ve never dealt with chakras, you’ve probably heard of your “third eye” before. This is the point just above the space between your eyebrows that allows for visualization and perception. We used “Dreamcatcher” for this chakra, which is made with ingredients including juniper, bergamot, tangerine, anise, ylang ylang, and black pepper. The juniper and citrus scents were particularly strong in this oil, and I would have to say this was my second favorite scent. Child’s pose is a good asana for centering your third eye.

7th Chakra/Sahasrana: The final chakra resides at the crown of your head and deals with your consciousness. Lying in Savasana or doing a headstand are great ways to focus on your 7th chakra. The oil used for this chakra was “White Angelica,” which included angelica, melissa, sandalwood, spruce, geranium, myrrh, and others. This is apparently a good oil for “creating an aura” of protection around yourself, especially if you have to deal with an unpleasant person or situation.

I don’t own many essential oils, just lavender, bergamot, and now peppermint. I can tell from using “Clarity” that the peppermint oil really improves mental alertness. Mostly, I enjoyed hearing Cyndi speak on these topics; learning in this environment has definitely reaffirmed my commitment to exploring my yoga practice more throughout the year (and beyond).