Stoking Your Inner Fire: The Solar Plexus Chakra
Have you every acted on a “gut instinct” or been in a new situation that stretched your comfort zone? These “gut feelings” find their source in the third of the seven chakras.
The solar plexus or naval chakra, called Manipura, is our center of personal power. It influences our self-esteem, inner drive and sense of worth. Let’s examine this fiery chakra to learn how best to keep it healthy and balanced.
Where is the Solar Plexus Chakra?
Located about six inches above the belly button within the diaphragm, the solar plexus chakra encompasses the upper abdominal area. The solar plexus is connected to the digestive system, liver, spleen, gallbladder and pancreas. It also governs the adrenal glands, which produce adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol. Like the sun, Manipura is associated with the color yellow and, therefore, the element of fire. This chakra corresponding to the epigastric nerve plexus in our guts which controls metabolism and digestion.
Commonly referred to as the “second brain,” the gut houses the enteric nervous system. This system communicates with the brain through the numerous neurons of the gastrointestinal tract. These neurons influence our emotions through serotonin. Serotonin, an important neurotransmitter, is linked to feelings of calm and happiness. In fact, about 90% of the serotonin for our entire body is produced in our guts. The result is that our “gut feelings” influence our mood and sense of personal power.
What Are Its Key Characteristics?
Manipura transforms our wishes and desires emanating from the sacral chakra into action. Being able to manifest those desires results in feelings of personal power and self-esteem. Just as good digestion of food fuels our bodies, a strong inner fire (what the yogis call tapas) helps us digest experiences, It also fuels feelings of courage in order to fulfill our desires.
From the pit of the stomach comes characteristics like courage, willpower, and self-control. A balanced solar plexus chakra leads to a strong sense of purpose and self-mastery over our thoughts and emotions. It helps us follow our true path with a clear sense of direction. When we’re able to think clearly, we put our ideas into action, and generally get things done. Consequently, we avoid boasting and instead permit the results of our actions to speak for themselves.
The solar plexus chakra begins its develops between the ages of eighteen months and four years of age. Related to issues of self-determination, this chakra represents the stage at which children begin asserting their independence. Erikson refers to this stage as autonomy vs. shame and doubt. When a child’s autonomy is nurtured, she develops good relationships with others as well as self-acceptance.
What Happens When Manipura is Imbalanced?
When an individual feels self-confident and is self-motivated, the third chakra is open and healthy. However, an individual suffering from low self-esteem, anger or control issues or who struggles with making decisions, may have a weak third chakra.
By contrast, excess energy in the solar plexus chakra can manifest as egotism, controlling or manipulative behaviors and numbing addictions. Feelings of fatigue, weakness or illness and digestive issues are also common. Other signs of an imbalance include these:
- Constantly feeling fatigued and lazy; low energy
- Overeating and overindulgence; poor self-discipline
- Feeling powerless, insecure, weak or unassertive OR
- Manipulative, power-hungry, deceitful or arrogant
- Tendency to form co-dependent relationships; people-pleaser
- Digestive system disorders such as IBS, ulcers, hypoglycemia, diabetes, etc.
- Cold, emotionally and/or physically
- Competitive, ambitious (type A personality)
How Can You Balance Manipura?
Practices that nourish and help regulate your inner fire are key to a healthy third chakra. This includes finding safe, healthy ways to release pent up anger. This can be done through vigorous exercise such as running or kickboxing, or through more artistic pursuits like dancing, singing, writing or painting. Here are six more ways to stoke your inner fire:
Change Things Up
“Safe” routines can perpetuate feelings of powerlessness and lethargy. To break this cycle, step outside your normal routine and try something new. Get outside and explore in the sun (fire element) or shop at a new grocery story. Small changes can have a big impact on your motivation and energy.
Take a Step Back and Breathe
If you struggle with dominating or controlling other people, learn how to focus on your breath. By breathing deeply and taking a step back, you can think realistically about the situation (or person) at hand. Focusing on your breath will also give you the space to treat yourself with compassion and to understand that any form of ego-inflation is a cry for love and attention. On the other hand, should you suffer from low energy, try the pranayama practice of Bhastrika. Bhastrika, or “bellows breath,” is an energizing breath that builds lung capacity and stimulates the solar plexus to release natural energy throughout the body.
Support Your Digestion
Aim to eat whole grains such as rice, oats and rye which support digestion as well as legumes, like lentils, chickpeas and beans. Add heating spices such as turmeric, ginger, cumin and cinnamon to your food. And don’t forget to include yellow fruits and vegetables—lemons, bananas, corn and pineapple.
Cleansing Essential Oils
A gentle tummy massage influences the functioning of the solar plexus chakra which influences your gut instincts. Apply eucalyptus to activate the solar plexus, and vetiver or helichrysum to calm. To keep the solar plexus in balance, apply uplifting fragrances such as grapefruit, bergamot and lemon. Remember to dilute essential oil in a carrier oil to use topically, or consider diffusing into the air.
Yoga for Core Strength
To open and strengthen the solar plexus practice poses such as Bow Pose, Upward Facing Dog, Cobra and Warrior I. Twists are also important for the digestive organs so include seated or reclining twists and Revolved Triangle.
To view a practice for the solar plexus, click here.
Affirm Your Personal Power
Reclaim your personal power by starting your morning with one of these affirmations:
- “I make my own decisions with confidence and conviction”
- “The fire within me burns through all blocks and fears”
- “I am worthy of love, kindness and respect”
- “I am accepting of every experience as a chance to learn and grow”
The solar plexus completes the chakras of matter– namely earth, water and fire. Next we’ll examine the chakra of air, or the heart chakra.
*To learn more about the chakras, read, Navigating the Rainbow: A Beginner’s Guide to the Chakras