"The chakra system helps us to understand our bodies. Metaphors are important; they bring understanding. When we marry, we say that 'the two shall be as one'. Obviously we don't mean they are now conjoined twins connected by living tissue. We mean it as a metaphor. That's why the metaphor of partnership, two halves of a whole, can help create a healthy marriage, or heal an unhealthy one. For that same reason, we can view our body as comprising eight power centres. Imagining each centre exuding one of the brilliant gifts or talents of humanity can help us create a metaphorical self-image of our physical body that is healthy, happy and whole."
~Gurmukh, p. 39
The Eight Human Talents: the Yoga Way to Restore Balance and Serenity by Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa presents the chakras in a refreshingly grounded and realistic way. As you can see from the above quote, Gurmukh is candid about the metaphorical nature of the concept of chakras. She sees them as metaphors, or symbols, for what she defines as the eight qualities or talents that make human beings unique. Each talent also has a 'shadow emotion'. (This concept of positive and negative qualities is also seen in flower essences). The eight human talents as set out by Gurmukh are:
1. Acceptance (shadow emotion: resentment)--Root Chakra
2. Creativity (shadow emotion: tedium, boredom)--Sacral Chakra
3. Commitment (shadow emotion: anger)--Solar Plexus Chakra
4. Compassion (shadow emotion: fear, worry)--Heart Chakra
5. Truth (shadow emotion: denial)--Throat Chakra
6. Intuition (shadow emotion: confusion)--Brow or Third Eye Chakra
7. Boundlessness (shadow emotion: being caught in the illusion of permanence)--Crown
8. Radiance (shadow emotion: none)--the auric field around the body
Gurmukh explains the function and meaning of each of the 8 chakras using anecdotes from personal experience and stories of her students, friends and acquaintances. She offers a few kundalini yoga meditations for each chakra, as well as specific kundalini yoga exercises for each chakra.
For the root chakra, Crow Pose
For the sacral chakra, Frog Pose
For the solar plexus chakra, Stretch Pose
For the heart chakra, Camel Pose
For the throat chakra, Head Rolls
And so on.
This is a lovely book. When I read it, I can hear Gurmukh's calm and gentle voice speaking to me from the pages. She is both radiant and grounded firmly in reality, and so I believe I have found an understanding of the chakras that I can accept and integrate into my daily life and practice. I borrowed this book through interlibrary loan, but I may buy myself a copy.
This book is not really an introduction to kundalini yoga, but it could be. After reading it, you might want to find out more. There are plenty of books and DVDs that will take you further in your kundalini practice than this book can take you. But it's a great place to start! As Gurmukh says, once you get over the 'silliness' of it all, you can't argue with the results.