Each of the chakras, or energy channels in the human body, governs a different aspect of consciousness. The Sahasrara, or crown chakra, oversees that which connects us to the divine; appropriately enough, it hovers right above the fontanel, or open space that allows the skull bones to come together during birth. As an infant grows, this area becomes smaller and eventually fills in; in Indian mythology, however, it is considered the place where the soul leaves the body at death. Sahasrara chakra is then the energy center that governs connections; by bridging the energy centers of the body and those of the universe, it allows us to dissolve the illusion of separation from the rest of creation. When we draw from the power of this chakra, we experience connection: between body and mind, between the physical and the spiritual, and between our lives and the rest of the world.
The word “yoga” means “union”, and this chakra is the embodiment of that principle. Fittingly, it is represented by a lotus flower with a thousand petals. Its color is white, and its sound is the emanation of “Om” – the elemental sound of the cosmos.
When Sahasrara is unbalanced, we ourselves experience emotional and spiritual vertigo. We find ourselves unfocused and out of touch with what’s around us. Often described as a state of living completely above the neck, this may manifest in an inability to take care of everyday matters. When balanced, the opposite is true: we live connected to the world but also to ourselves, understanding, accepting, and nurturing our place in the world. Sounds amazing – but of course difficult to attain on a daily basis. How do we stay grounded in the world while transcending it at the same time?
Interestingly enough, one way to take care of Sahasrara is to take care of the chakras below. Meditation and prayer are important, but so is doing the dishes. Every task we perform in a day can be done with the attitude of connection and gratitude, and often this is the most basic form of spirituality that produces lasting changes in our psyche. Simply slowing down to become aware of what’s around us is also a powerful practice. On our way to work, sitting in the car and singing along to the radio, with the window slightly open and the breeze hitting the side of our arms – can we take a moment to be grateful for the physical sensations that make up the present moment of our lives?
Asana is of course a powerful connecting practice. When we connect breathing and movement, perhaps using ujjayi pranayama, we are focusing our mind and moving into a contemplative state. At some times during our lives, this may indeed be the best way for us to meditate. When we are willing to sit for an extended period of time, we access this connection in a different way. In any case, we tend to Sahasrara when we allow ourselves to contemplate the illusion that any one part of life is separate from another.
At the end of any yoga practice, it’s nice to demonstrate this connection by bringing the hands into Anjali Mudra, or prayer position, at the heart. Take a moment to thank your body for its willingness to move or sit during meditation; then move your hands up to ajna chakra to thank your mind and spirit for connecting with the body. Finally, the mudra moves up to Sahasrara to celebrate the fact that we are never alone; from the people who practice yoga with us to the furthest energies of the universe, we are bound with the rest of creation.