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This week's Yoga Journal newsletter featured a link to an excellent treatment of the chakras. Now, I know you hear "chakra" and think immediately of California hippies in long tie-dyed robes meditating on a cliff overlooking the ocean reeking of patchouli and wearing Birkenstock sandals. But don't completely disengage just yet. This stuff is actually really useful in making sense of the body and why we get sore, have injuries, or can't seem to kick that upset stomach or that tight neck.

We're talking ancient Indian philosophy here, and it's pretty damn brilliant. Read up on the chakras - aka the different loci of energy in our bodies, the places we carry tension, the centers of energy wherein all of our health problems and healing are based. This article does a decent job of explaining the seven chakras step by step while also referencing related health problems and the kinds of yoga poses you can do to open up parts of your body where you're having a lot of pain or injuries.

On more emotional and spiritual planes, this stuff is equally fascinating. Can't figure out why your shoulders are always so tense? Maybe it's because you're carrying your fear in your hunched up shoulders, and you need to open them up.

I'm gonna shut up before I start sounding really wanky. But this is worth a read, especially if you're interested in holistic health and the way the various systems of the body line up. You'll notice the chakras are based roughly along the spine; it is no coincidence that Bikram yoga (and others) are primarily focused on opening up and healing the spine. We're talking the nervous system here, all the endocrine glands, your thyroid, your heart, all of it...yeah. Keep it in mind next time you settle in for a little Cobra pose - you're opening your "truth and communication" chakra at the same time you're strengthening your back and stretching your chest. Pretty wild.

Seventh Heaven (Yoga Journal)

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