Manipura Chakra or Navel Chakra
Manipura consists of two words of significance: Mani means Gem and Pura means Place of Residence. (There is even a state in India called Manipur.) Consequently, manipura means "residence of the gems. Manipura is a center so far as the stirring of Kundalini Shakti is concerned. It's the heart of dynamism, energy, will, and accomplishment and it's often compared to the heat of sunlight, without which no life in the world would exist. In Precisely the same way as energy is constantly radiated by the sun into the planets, Manipura Chakra distributes and radiates pranic energy, regulating and stimulating the organs.
When an individual dies, energy is deficient but not completely devoid of any “force.” Remember the atoms and molecules are still moving. Thus, though the life force is missing, there is still some energy. This is the manifestation of manipura even in a dead body. When alive, a weak manipura implies bad health, depression, and lack of motivation and general listlessness. Hence, the stirring of manipura is also for common people and not just for the yogis.
Manipura chakra is situated behind the navel (muladhara is between the anus and penis/vagina, and swadhisthana is just below the navel). The external representative location is the navel. Symbolic of the umbilical cord, this chakra connects us to the sun (our divine mother). It modulates the digestive processes and regulates heat within the entire human body. You may know that one normally feels a bit cold after a meal – this is because more blood (and therefore heat) is being diverted to the stomach.
Ten glowing lotus petals symbolize manipura and though the colors are different in different texts, they are representative of radiant jewels or gems. The tattvas of sight and heat are associated with this chakra. In the context of Karma Yoga (Righteous Action), sight leads us to action manifest through locomotion; therefore, the eyes and legs are connected.
Manipura proceeds from mundane existence to heavenly existence implying that beyond this point the human body starts living on the intellectual or spiritual plane. This chakra is largely rajas (action, endurance, acquisitiveness), whereas the lower chakras are mainly tamasic (poor and lazy). Since it is associated with digestion, pranic air plays an important role here: wind going down the digestive system, through the intestines, and out of the large intestine (farts) to the opposite in terms of burps.
This “wind” and its understanding is important from a modern physiological point of view as it indicates the normal movement of “fire” – wind/air is necessary for stoking any fire. Additionally, any changes in this flow of pranic wind may indicate a disease or illness (pathology). Since pranic wind is so closely associated with the manipura and swadhisthana chakras, pranayamas (breathing exercises) play an important role in their awakening. Natural digestion happens from top to bottom: from ingestion at the mouth to excretion through the anus. The entropic state is in this case from top to bottom: we go from life to death! Therefore, Hatha Yoga poses that reverse this flow slows down the aging process. All asanas that have “head down and feet up” will reverse the bodily flows and also the aging process.
This results in the reversal of degeneration which contributes to disease, old age, and death.
We also gain control over the Shakti of manipura and channel it to the mind. It's stated that meditation on the manipura chakra contributes to the comprehension of our physical body. Combined with body-cleansing exercises, this is akin to keeping your kitchen clean! When this center is purified and awakened, then your system becomes orderly, luminous, and free, and the consciousness of the yogi doesn't fall back to the lower chakras.
Mooladhara chakra is the primal chakra responsible for our instincts, swadhisthana is our unconscious self, and manipura is the chakra that feeds all the other chakras – literally. The body heat of mammals is generated by this chakra and as the chakra that needs wind to function, it also regulates our breath. We can’t live for more than a few minutes without breathing! From a reductionist point of view, we will never be able to see the chakras and comprehend them. However, the holistic view will make us realize how important all the chakras are and how the interdependence makes the entire system important, instead of giving predominance or superiority to any single chakra!
Swadhisthana is the abode of Kundalini but manipura is the chair or throne within that abode; once you are ensconced on that throne there’s no threat of a regression of the awakening. There will be no downfall or devolution of awareness: This is what we call an affirmed awakening. Most people who are sincere in their yogic and tantric practices are already in the manipura chakra. They don’t find it difficult to stick to a regimen, they don’t have to coax themselves to do their asanas, nor are they lethargic. In contrast, if you have a problem with your discipline, then you have probably not reached the manipura stage.
Growing with the Wind
There is a modification of pranayama that employs sound in the exercises. You can empower the pranic wind by singing, chanting mantras, or simply making sounds while performing breathing exercises. Brahmini Pranayam is one such method. he prana moves back and forth between the neck and the navel, while apana flows down and up between the perineum and the navel. Both of these motions are combined together at the manipura chakra. As you get better with your breathing exercises, you will begin to sense a force that is opposite to the flow of the wind. As you exhale, this force moves downwards and during inhalation, it moves upwards. Breathing in and extending your belly will eventually make you fart while doing the same while expanding your chest (simultaneously constricting your stomach) will make you burp.
This way prana and apana work together communicating between the mooladhara and the manipura. The force of exhalation-inhalation goes beyond the lungs and helps regulate any air that is generated in the stomach/intestines during digestion. Performing such exercises during meditation makes your wakeful mind aware of such organs as the stomach and intestines. Similarly, performing asanas such as pawan muktasan (releasing the wind) actually makes you burp or fart.
In this manner, breath consciousness goes beyond the sensation of air in your nostrils, windpipe, and chest into the sensation of wind in your body. Gas and bad breath caused due to indigestion can be expelled in this manner; also, too much gassiness during excretion can be eliminated. Hatha Yoga asanas can help you strengthen your control over wind present in your body. Another example is Kapalabhati which makes use of forceful wind to cleanse the nadis, aid in digestion, and stimulate the manipura and swadhsitahan chakras. Gaining control of the pranic wind through specific asanas also helps in coordinating the prana and apana in such a way that they both flow towards the navel which in turn directly helps in manipura’s awakening.
If Kundalini awakens in mooladhara then it begins its ascent like a hissing snake. This is the prana and apana manifesting themselves in the process. This is the stirring of Kundalini at manipura. When the sadhaka reaches manipura s/he is able to foresee things and begins an endless journey of visualizing the unconscious mind. S/he will have vivid dreams and will also remember the dreams quite vividly after waking up. The exploration of the unconscious mind also happens through elaborate self-analysis – you become your own psychiatrist!
When viewed physiologically, we must realize that manipura controls digestion and the digestive tract. Its tattva is sight which is the first stimulation during the eating process. We like the look of a dish before we like the taste. We eat with our eyes before we eat with our mouths. The digestive system is controlled partly by the autonomic nervous system and partly by the non-autonomic system. We can control our mouths and we can to a great extent control the anal sphincter, but we can’t control what happens in the stomach and the intestine. Thus, exercises that control and awaken this chakra help us gain some control over the autonomic system revealing to us aspects of our body that no other chakra can achieve.
Higher ideals and profound thoughts start invading the mind and the practitioner’s consciousness. (In this context, it would help if the sadhaka is in the habit of reading literature beyond magazines!) Even if the person is completely ignorant, s/he will start identifying will higher ideals such as equality between all – ALL – creatures of the world, the divinity in every rock, worm, or reptile; and compassion for nature.
When the manipura chakra is awakened, the sadhaka becomes quite self-confident, does not fear fire, and has a deep understanding of his body and his required diet. S/he becomes began not for health reasons but out of compassion for all creatures. These manifestations further propel the sadhaka towards complete and enduring awakening in the sahasrara. From manipura, there’s no looking back!