Attending to the body during difficult times
In this week’s post Ali Newell, Associate Chaplain, looks at a simple body practice which can ground us, balance us and rejuvenate us during difficult times.
During the pandemic, many of us have felt in our bodies an extra strain, stress, or anxiety. Today I would like to share with you a Capacitar practice for rejuvenating the body and enabling us to feel more centred.
For clarity about the practice, it is important to watch the video as well as read this blog. Here is the video. https://youtu.be/bg2JhR93LH8
This practice involves giving ourselves an experience of the 5 elements in our bodies (earth, water, fire, air, and ether) Through simple tai chi movements connected with chakra energy centres in our bodies (see image below ) we are able to address and calm any difficult feelings, thoughts, and body sensations. Through the practice, energy becomes balanced within our bodies and this can bring a new sense of wholeness.
Chakra 1, the root chakra, earth element, the colour red
First, we stand on the ground and place our hands on the first chakra which is indicated by the red circle in the image above and demonstrated in the video.
We feel the earth underneath our feet and sense the stability it brings us. Then we bring up the hands to the waist and breathe in the energy and goodness of the earth. We then release the hands downwards in a gentle rocking movement, releasing any anxiety and tension as the hands come down. We connect to Chakra 1, the energy centre of groundedness, security and belonging. We connect to the colour red, and also to the element earth, which gives us a felt sense of stability and rootedness.
After a few minutes we stand still and replace our hands on this root chakra attending to this part of our being and notice how we are here.
Chakra 2, the navel or sacral chakra, water element, the colour orange
We move our hands up over the navel (orange in diagram) and connect to the second chakra, the centre of sensuality, sexuality and creativity. The movement is to step forward, left foot first, and circle with the hands round the hips, then do the same movement on the right side, right foot forward. On the left side, we breathe in the joys of creativity and sensuality. We also open to healing for any woundedness here. On the right side, we breathe in and connect to the creativity and fecundity of nature all around us. We also open to healing for our planet, knowing its wounds of environmental devastation. We see the colour orange, like a ripe mango, and connect to the element water, that cleanses and flows, energising and refreshing with its juiciness.
After a few minutes we come back to standing still, place our hands on the second chakra again and notice how we are in this part of our being.
Chakra 3, solar plexus chakra, fire element, the colour yellow
We move our hands to the solar plexus and connect to the third chakra. The movement here is left foot forward and hands circling round clockwise. This is the centre of power, not power over (as in domination), or power under (as in victimisation), but power with. It is the power of solidarity and cooperation with others. As we circle our hands, we connect with others. We then bring the left foot in and place the right foot forward and move our hands anticlockwise. We connect with all those who are acting for justice and compassion in the world. The colour is yellow, and the element is fire. We feel and see the energising fire of empowering action within us. We bring our hands back to the solar plexus and attend to how we are in this part of our being.
Chakra 4, heart chakra, air element, the colour green and pink
We move our hands up to the heart area, the centre of love and compassion. The movement here is to step forward on the left foot and moving the hands away from the heart, we breathe out, acknowledging, letting go and releasing (as best we can) emotional tension. We then bring the hands back to the heart breathing in love for ourselves and meeting our anxieties, low mood or negativity with kindness. We then make the same movement on the right side and from a place of compassion for ourselves, we shine out compassion to others, palms facing outward, remembering those at this time who are suffering and dying from COVID-19 across the world. The element is air which we connect with as we breathe in compassion for ourselves and others and as we breathe out softening the tension. The colours are pink for compassion and green for fresh beginnings. We bring our hands back to the heart area to feel the comforting warmth of our palms and attend to how we feel with kindness.
Chakra 5, throat chakra, ether element, the colour blue
We move our hands up to the throat area. This is the centre of expression and communication. We can feel the vibration and pulse in the voice box. We connect to our capacity to speak the truth of our being, to give voice to who we most truly are with honesty and clarity. The movement is left foot forward and a flying movement with our left hand sweeping across the throat and ear area. We then make the same movement on the right side, this time for the many in our world who have no voice. We remember forgotten, children, women, and creatures on the planet, suffering silently. As we move, we are aware of the need for justice and healing. We remember at this time the Black Lives Matter movement. The colour is blue, and the element is ether which is the element for the final 3 chakras in the diagram above. Ether is the quintessence, present in all other elements and is like a river that flows unseen through all things. We connect through ether to the sacred and the spiritual. In the fifth chakra we open to being able to sound the sacred through what we say and communicate, as we listen for the sacred, deep within all.
Return the hands to the throat chakra and notice how you are in this area of your being
Chakra 6, third eye chakra, ether element, the colour indigo
We move our hands up to the third eye chakra located between the eyebrows. This is the centre of wisdom, awareness and vison.
The movement is left foot forward and then with both hands, a clearing movement across the face sweeping away all that’s stops us seeing clearly and becoming more aware. As we move, we open up to our inner wisdom of body, mind, and heart. Then the right foot comes forward and the same movement, this time with palms facing outwards, opens us up to collective vision and wisdom for our world. The colour is indigo, and the element again is ether where we sense the need to look for the sacredness deep within all.
We bring the fingers back to the third eye and notice we are in this area of our being.
Chakra 7, crown chakra, ether element, the colour while or lilac
We move our hands up to the crown chakra or fontanelle - that thin part of the skull. It is the centre of sacredness, spirituality and of universal Love. We move the hands out from the side of the head and open to deep hearing, seeing and sensing, then we circle the hands above our heads, opening to the sacred deep within and around us. The colour is white or lilac. Here the element ether carries a sense of spaciousness, grace, openness and connection to the Oneness of all things.
We bring our hands back to the crown chakra and attend to how we are in this part of our being.
The Concluding Movement
The last movement is the traditional passing clouds movement, moving the hands across the eyes, as in the video. We are aware of the rainbow of colours of all 7 chakras and the qualities of each one as we bring the energies into balance within us. The practice finishes with a bow and namaste which means the sacred in me bows to the sacred in you.
Please remember that the video needs to be used for clarity in relation to the movements
Capacitar International https://www.ed.ac.uk/chaplaincy/for-times-like-these/capacitar-and-wellness-practices-in-this-time-of-c
Earlier during the pandemic, I wrote about the organisation Capacitar from which I learnt the practice, which I describe above and demonstrate in the video.
Over the pandemic, Capacitar practices for healing and wellbeing have made a big difference to many people in different parts of the world, keeping them well and supported. In Ireland, a group practiced together outside every day, in a housing estate in Tallaght at midday, supporting each other’s wellbeing. For 14 weeks, at that time, it was dry! They were televised and the President of Ireland, Michael Higgins, heard about it and praised their practice on the Late, Late Show.
I include a recent Capacitar Ireland newsletter that documents this lovely story.
Ali Newell offers weekly Capacitar Tai Chi practices from the Chaplaincy on Zoom on Tuesdays from 13:10 -13:50. For details on how to join these weekly Capacitar Tai Chi drop-sessions please go to our Events page here and follow the instructions at the top of each weekly page. Please note that links and passwords will be valid for Semester 1.