If you are chronically unwell then usually you will be emotionally ‘off’ as well. We mostly assume that being unwell causes negative emotions such as grumpiness, short tempers, even misery and depression. However, according to Chinese medicine, this street runs both ways. For several thousand years Chinese physicians have understood the close relationship of emotions to health and have fine tuned a method to cure emotional ill health through the body and physical ill health through working with the emotions.
In order to understand better where your chronic illness may be coming from, you will need to take an honest look at what kind of person you are. In Chinese medicine we are broadly divided into 5 categories described metaphorically as Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Each of these 5 Phases or Elements corresponds to a pair of internal organs, to a predominating emotion and most importantly, to a virtue. When the emotion or the organ is out of harmony, then negative emotion and illness begin to take root.
The Wood or Liver type of person likes to control and organize. They are affected by tight muscular contraction, often around shoulders and knees, headaches, burning eyes, acid refux, to name a few. Anger, irritability and eventually depression are the result of disharmony. Organisation and kindness are the virtues.
The Fire or Heart type loves to laugh and enjoy life. They can be affected by palpitations, heart murmurs and irregular heart beats. Over excitement and exciteability are the result of disharmony. Joy, good humour and humility are the virtues.
The Earth or Spleen type is caring and sympathetic. They are prone to digestive disorders, IBS, diarhea, constipation, bloating after eating, to name a few. Worry and overthinking are the result of disharmony. Caring, sympathy and faithfulness are the virtues.
The Metal or Lung type is analytical. They are prone to respiratory disorder, hayfever, asthma, bronchitiis and so on. Out of harmony they suffer from sadness and grief. Their virtue is fairness.
The Water or Kidney type is creative. They tend towards bladder, kidney and low back disorders. Out of harmony they are prone to fearfulness. Functioning correctly they are courageous and wise.
How you think and feel not only makes you the kind of person you are, it also can dictate the kind of patient you may become and the specific way that your illness will try to teach you. If you are chronically ill then take some time to see what this is telling you about your thoughts, your emotions and about who you are as a person. There is always something new to learn. While achieving insight about your constitutional type may not ‘cure’you of an ailment overnight, it may well put you on the road to a long term recovery andl will enable your Chinese Medicine practitioner to help you more effectively.
And more importantly, how will you know if it has?
Yoga has become so amazingly popular today and of course the perception of the general public towards it has changed dramatically. Just a decade or so ago it was still shrouded in mystery and very bound up with ideas of the energy Chakras, enlightenment, Moksha, meditation and so on. Some of this still remains, however, by far the majority of students who walk through the door of a yoga studio have little or no knowledge of or interest in these things. Those who do may be a little dissapointed most of the time to discover that most teachers and classes will involve only stretching, breathwork and a little meditation.
Despite the association of Yoga today with back health, losing weight, physical exercise and so on, the ideas of the Chakras, Nadis, Moksha and Samadhi remain and integral part of yoga. Somehow the ideas of the Chakras have been separated out of yoga practice and become incorporated into quite different practices such as Reiki, Shamanic work, even Angel Healing Therapy and so on.
So does yoga as most people know it today have anything to do with Chakra work, Kundalini etc? Will stretching exercises and synchronized deep breathing clear your Chakras (whatever they are) and bring you closer to enlightenment? And who should you be asking? Your ‘yoga’ teaacher?
Many courses these days include exotic visualizations and methods to clear Chakras. You might use colours, sound, even visualize glowing spheres of energy along the spine being cleansed and powerful energy rising from the sacrum to the crown of your head and beyond. Are these all forms of yoga? Will you get any of this from your yoga class? Do you even want to????
Here is my humble perspective. It’s just my opinion. I have practiced yoga and meditation for nearly 30 years and dabbled in many other things besides including Reiki, acupuncture, hypnosis and so on. My honest opinion is that yes, you can expect your energy system to be purified and strengthened through the practice of yoga and meditation. Going swimming or running will also be good for your energy system. Carrying out a charitable act, an act of kindness or love will also strongly benefit this subtle energy system. How will you know its working? As one of my teachers, Yogi Hari once pointed out, if your heart Chakra is ‘activated’ you won’t have visions of swirling green or pink vortices of energy (and if you did, how would they benefit you?), rather, you will feel more compassionate and forgiving as a person. Likewise with your base Chakra, you will feel more grounded in reality, less prone to float away in dreams, connected by loyalty to your family and ‘tribe’ and so on.
Many people have psychic gifts and may be able to see the colors of Chakras and so on, but if you don’t have this gift and if you don’t have the time to develop it, this doesn’t mean you can’t work on the energy of your Chakras. You may not be able to see them like a psychic, but they may well be more developed than those of someone who is only able to see them, but doesn’t know how to work with them!
To develop your base Chakra, spend time with our family. To develop your main abdominal Chakra, learn to take pleasure in life and develop your creativity. To develop your solar plexus Chakra, learn to take responsibilty, step up to the plate more often and develop your self-confidence. To develop the heart, be more kind, loving and forgiving. To develop the throat, learn to speak clearly, honestly and with confidence. To develop your third eye, learn to think clearly, to be objective, to develop your personal vision for your future and those of your loved ones. To develop your crown Chakra….
Physical yoga, asana and pranayama helps you with all of these things, but if you choose to remain in a vain, selfish, hateful state of mind, you may have a flexible body, perhaps even a beautiful one, you may even have learned Patanjali’s aphorisms by heart, but your Chakras will be as closed as your mind and as blind as your desire to see swirling vortices of energy in your spine!
Liam Byrne, Yoga & Pilates Instructor, Acupuncturist, Physical Therapist, Sports Massage Therapist,