Over 1500 UW faculty, staff, and students have committed to participating in Yoga Month at the University of Washington. This year’s focus is on the seven chakras. Each week, participants will be challenged to practice both on and off the mat and can do so through the partnership of UW Recreation and Leela Yoga Studio hosting yoga classes on all campuses. If you missed Week One’s article, catch up or refresh by checking it out here.
Welcome to Week Two of Yoga Month at the University of Washington! This week’s focus includes the chakras of empowerment and heart.
The third chakra resides in the solar plexus and is all about our individual power, self-actualization, vitality, purpose and self-esteem. It involves our ability to take up space, remember that we matter and value what we bring forth and share with the world.
This center reminds us that if we spend too much time in self-blame and negativity towards our unique offerings, we are actually doing a disservice to ourselves and others by not stepping into our power. This area of empowerment correlates to the element of fire, is represented by the color yellow, and relates to navigating past and present experiences of shame.
When this wheel is out of balance there might be an experience of low self-worth, passive aggressive behavior and critical self-condemnation. Physiologically there might be challenges with digestion, muscle weakness and dysfunction in the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis, which can lead to such issues as adrenal fatigue.
It is important to not confuse empowerment with selfish glorification or a disregard for others. Intelligently, this fiery center lives between the fluidity of water and the qualities of the heart (coming up next), providing a constant reminder that worthiness resides in a delicate relationship between self and things outside of self.
To cultivate more solar fire, explore:
1. Postures: These postures focus on heat building and core strength. Quad activation in chair, legs, torso, and arms in warrior two, and core activation in forearm plank.
Chair: Arms either pause at the horizon in line with the torso or if the shoulders allow float them up higher to your own degree of comfort. If the shoulders become too heated, bring your hands to your hips.
Warrior Two: The more you sink into your front thigh (at most 90 degrees), the more fire will be created in your body. If your shoulders become too heated, lower your arms down for a moment or two.
Forearm plank: Use your breath to slowly lower your knees onto the ground (exhale) and back up to hover (inhale) to create less intensity in the core, but still build ample strength.
- Cayenne, ginger, red pepper flakes.
- Cooked foods to increase digestive power.
- Nourishing veggie-centered carbohydrates.
3. Additional practices:
- Self-defense, kickboxing, or boxing class.
- Core work.
- Turn off the lights, light candles, and marvel in fire.
- Do something that makes you uncomfortable (ride your bike to work for a week, go camping, sauna, stay off your phone for 24 hours, do a 72 hour social media/news fast, etc.). Commit to it fully—even if resistance shows up—and notice if you feel more empowered on the other side.
- Journal prompt: List out 10 qualities that you bring forth into the world. Post the list somewhere visible and read it over four times over a one-week period.
The fourth chakra resides in the heart center and is all about love, acceptance, self-compassion, forgiveness, and authentic relationships. It involves our ability to stay open, make connections, and balance self-care with care for others.
This center reminds us that if we neglect engaging in self-appreciation and in the cultivation of strong relationships, we miss a vast part of the human journey. This area of the heart correlates to the element of air, is represented by the color green, and relates to navigating personal and collective grief.
When this wheel is out of balance, there might be an experience of isolation, bitterness, or lack of relatedness and empathy. Physiologically there might be challenges with the heart and lungs, pain the upper back and shoulders, and tension in arms and wrists.
To cultivate more openness and heart, explore:
Cobra: Use your inhale to lift into the pose and exhale to lower down. For more fire, sustain the posture and/or lift your hands to hover off the ground to engage the back more.
Bridge: Use your inhale to lift hips and pelvis to the sky and exhale to lower back down. For more sensation, lift up and sustain. Either has your arms in robot arms (elbows bent, hands/fingers point skyward) or scoot your shoulders underneath you, interlace your hands, and stretch your knuckles towards your heels.
Supported Back Bend (with household props): Ensure the roll is on your shoulder blades, below your underarms. If the low back is tender, keep your knees bent, feet on the ground.
These postures focus on back strength and opening the whole front body to access the heart. Spinal lengthening in cobra, lift and openness in bridge, and a more passive resting expansion in supported back bend.
- Leafy greens (kale, chard, spinach, lettuces, etc.)
- Herbs (basil, cilantro, parsley, dill, oregano, etc.)
- Onions, garlic, endives, watercress, radicchio
3. Additional practices:
- Plan a friend or family dinner; find a way to celebrate connection.
- Pampering spa treatment.
- Infuse your living space with green indoor plants.
- Random act of kindness to a stranger; make someone’s day.
- Journal prompt: Dedicate 10 minutes to explore this self-compassion exercise when your inner critic is on the attack.
This week, Yoga Month participants are encouraged to follow the following plan:
Monday Eve: Buy chakra-related foods at store. Journal on chakra journal prompt.
Tuesday AM: Third chakra postures (5 min); eat cooked-food breakfast.
Tuesday PM: Light candles.
Wednesday AM: Third chakra postures and extra core work (10 min); eat some spice for breakfast.
Wednesday Eve: Journal on fourth chakra journal prompt
Thursday AM: Fourth chakra postures (5 min); greens for every meal.
Thursday PM: Random act of kindness.
Friday AM: Fourth chakra postures (5 min); greens for every meal.
Friday PM: Dinner with friends.
Saturday Day: Spa treatment.
Sunday AM: Third and fourth chakra postures (10 min)
Sunday PM: Talk to a family/friend who lives far away. Journal on learnings from this week’s explorations.
Special thanks to yoga pose models May Lim (Department of Electrical Engineering) and Nate Panelo (Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity).
Danny Arguetty, M.A., is the mindfulness program manager at the University of Washington, a yoga teacher (and teacher trainer), nutrition/life coach, and a lover of the environment. He is the author of Nourishing the Teacher and The 6 Qualities of Consciousness. Passionate about helping people flourish through mindfulness, wellness, and personal self-development, he has over a decade’s worth of experience in group facilitation, one-on-one coaching, and experiential teaching.
Danny has guided workshops throughout the United States, led basic and advanced yoga trainings in the U.S. and India, and spoken at Facebook, Olson Kundig, and Gravity Payments (all in Seattle). He served as adjunct faculty at Williams College, leads a quarterly course on Intro to Mindfulness at UW, and is a faculty member at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health.