Have you ever had a bout of stress in your life and your gastrointestinal system gets out of whack? What about prolonged periods of anxiety and then you aren’t sleeping soundly?
Yogis might point to an imbalance in the manipura chakra. Scientists will point to gut’s connection to the mind and its imbalance. Both can be correct.
For some yogis, visualizing and feeling the energy of the chakras is super easy. For others, it is a bit more of an esoteric idea. Okay, for a lot of us, the meaning and daily relevance of chakras elude us.
For me, I start to understand the chakras better if I can tie in facts and figures about them from the scientific and medical worlds. So, let us understand the Manipura Chakra from a science point of view.
What is the Manipura Chakra?
Manipura is the third chakra is the chakra system. Bodily, it is the solar plexus or naval chakra.
We find wisdom, self-confidence, and feelings of wellbeing when manipura chakra is in balance. When this chakra is imbalanced, we may feel tired, weak and ill.
Anatomically, the manipura chakra governs the pancreas, digestive system’s organs, and the adrenal glands. Part of the imbalanced feeling of fatigue may be related to being improperly energized by food. If the food eaten is not sustaining, the manipura chakra may become imbalanced, as it involves the digestive organs.
The manipura chakra is the seat of the body's agni, or fire and affects our digestive metabolism. Chakra yoga science tells us that agni helps with things like body temperature, and of course, how fast your body’s reactions take place — and that includes how it breaks down food.
Manipura Chakra and Your Digestive System
The exact location of the manipura chakra is debated – the solar plexus versus behind the navel. In either case, there are nerve plexus bundles in each location. The celiac plexus innervates the solar plexus and the abdominal aortic plexus innervates the abdominal region at the navel.
If you are someone who has wondered if the locations of the chakras hold any meaning, then the answer is “yes” from the point of view of your nerve bundles.
The plexuses connect back and branch out from the vagus nerve. A yoga practice both activates and calms the vagus nerve (depending on the type of practice), which has connections to the parasympathetic nervous system – helping the body to rest and digest.
So, with the manipura chakra being directly associated with the celiac and/or abdominal aortic plexuses, the digestive system is being directed to work properly by the nervous system.
The Gut as the Second Brain
Did you know that the gut connects to the brain via nerve bundles? Yep — the gut talks to the brain! In other words, the gut informs the brain as to the emotions it should feel. This is why the gut is commonly referred to as the second brain.
Technically, this second brain is known as the enteric nervous system. It is embedded with neurons from the start (esophagus) all the way to the finish (colon). The gastrointestinal tract has so many neurons that when you add them up, in total, they overtake the nerves in the spine in number.
A lot of what these guys do has to do with digestion and absorption of nutrients, obviously. But, a lot of what they do is not so obvious. This is where the gut connects to the mind.
Fairly recently, science has discovered that there are cells in the organs of the digestive system that produce serotonin — an important neurotransmitter that is linked to happiness and feelings of calm. When imbalanced, we experience stress, anxiety, and depression.
What does this have to do with the digestive system, you ask? Well, about 90% of the serotonin for the entire body is made and found in the gut. Now we get to circle back to how the manipura chakra links to our digestive system and thus, our moods, because of the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Scientific Explanation of the Mind-Body Connection
Neurogastroenterology is a blossoming, yet newer medical field. We are only just understanding how the mind-body connection truly works from a scientific perspective as it relates to the digestive system.
In your life, if you are sensing an imbalance of your manipura chakra, try to balance it out in your yoga practice. Repeat some affirmations or mantras specifically geared toward the Manipura chakra:
- I am powerful,
- I am victorious,
- I am accomplished.
Try an agnisara kriya (Kundalini yoga), or practice engaging uddiyana bandha (Ashtanga yoga), or simply work to deepen your open and closed twists in your Vinyasa practice.