The days of summer are drawing to a close, and whether it’s the sun rising just a little later and setting a little sooner, or lunchboxes and backpacks coming out from the back of the closet, there are signs that the rhythms of fall are approaching. It’s bittersweet to see the end of long days full of possibility, but there’s also a certain energy that comes with the challenge of new schedules and routines—and an inspiration to learn.
These familiar feelings come at a time when we’re also grappling with more unfamiliarity, as the coronavirus and response to the COVID-19 pandemic evolve. Global embodiment coach Cristi Christensen is at the ready with techniques to help transform fear into power and boost confidence in her new book, “Chakra Rituals: Awakening the Wild Woman Within” (St. Martin’s Press, August 2021). Christensen’s approach revolves around the chakras or centers of energy in our bodies but includes rituals that go beyond the movement and meditation practices you might expect—without requiring experience or expertise in either.
Christensen discovered movement as a means to manage abuse that she suffered growing up, and competed as a gymnast and then with the U.S. Olympic diving team, until a devastating back injury ended her career. Yoga practice was the start point for Christensen’s journey to heal her body and spirit, and along the way, she began helping others heal through embodied movement practices including yoga, Pilates, personal training, dance and meditation. Christensen has created Soul Fire, a style of yoga combining dance, meditation and mudra practices, and has co-founded international schools of practice focused on yoga as well as on breath, music and movement.
Her multi-modal approach to self-discovery and self-care informs Christensen’s new book. She lays out a seven-week program of vinyasa yoga, writing contemplation and embodiment and more, designed to activate each chakra, energize us and restore our sense of agency and ability to transform our lives. 24Life asked Christensen to explain what’s sometimes misunderstood or dismissed by mainstream yoga practitioners, the importance of vulnerability and some of the principles she explores in her book.
24Life: Can you share any science behind chakras, to address the perception that they’re a woo-woo part of yoga?
Cristi Christensen: We are made of energy. Everything in the world is made of energy. Physical energy and subtle energy. This is not woo-woo; this is science. The chakras are energy. Spinning, vibrating vortexes of dynamic, power and light. They exist on the level of the subtle, but they impact the physical. They are imperceptible to the five senses, but just like the air we breathe, which we cannot place our hands on, but we know is there and all around us.
The chakra system is also linked to the endocrine system, that is, our hormonal system. Each chakra is also associated with a different endocrine gland starting at the crown chakra and pituitary gland, to the ovaries, and testes and the sacral center and root chakra at the base.
24Life: What are the six rituals?
CC: The ritual practices I chose to share in my new book come from six domains: creating sacred space in your home, mudras (yoga of your hands), breathwork/pranayama, vinyasa yoga in the form of body prayers, meditation, writing contemplation, and something I call embodiment practices. I am deeply devoted to the healing practices of yoga and I share from my own direct, living experience. These are the ritual practices I use in my own daily life and have been sharing with my students around the globe for the last 15 years. I also love the sheer simplicity of practices and how accessible they are to all bodies, whether they have any yoga or chakra experience or not.
24Life: COVID-19 has dialed up our feelings of vulnerability. How do these rituals address that?
CC: The last 16 months has been an assault on our individual and collective first chakra, which is about survival. The first chakra or root chakra governs the overall health of our physical bodies, our immune system, our vitality, and our ability to take care of and support ourselves financially and to feel stable, strong, grounded and secure within ourselves. When our survival or livelihood is threatened, due to our biology we have a tendency to go into one of these primal trauma responses—fight, flight, or freeze. When this happens there is a disconnect between the body and mind and leaves us in states of heightened fear, anxiety, worry, depression, frustration and/or anger.
Rituals bring you back home. Home to your body, breath, heart, center, and in connection with spirit, source, or higher power. They serve as the foundation, the roots of support that tether you home especially in times of chaos, uncertainty, and fear! Rituals bring you into the present moment—the only place in which true healing can happen.
Ritual practices are important at all times, not just when in a global pandemic. Don’t we want to be connected to our bodies, emotions, power, hearts, and spirit all the time? We can liken it to exercise—we don’t just exercise at the times we want to lose weight; we exercise regularly so that we can be healthy, strong, and vital!
24Life: How is vulnerability empowering?
CC: One of my teachers, Brenda Rose, taught me that true transformation and healing happen when strength meets vulnerability. Vulnerability is often thought of as weakness, but it is actually an exquisite act of bravery. It asks to stay so deeply connected to your body, to your heart and emotions, and to stand in the face of your fears and in your uncertainty and show up anyway. Being vulnerable is not the opposite of being empowered, but instead is a key to your empowerment.
24Life: Why does the world need this book right now?
CC: I see the world through chakra-colored glasses as the Chakra System is the map that has transformed my life and has allowed me to live on purpose, in full-spectrum color, aliveness and in love! I had to share what has supported the expansion and evolution of my own soul’s journey in the most grounded, heart-felt, digestible way, so that you, too, can access the power and potentially that lives inside of you! Also, as we individually do the work to heal and awaken, we heal and awaken the collective, which means we heal and awaken the world. We truly don’t have any time to waste.
24Life: Can families and people who identify other gender/gender fluid apply the book’s practice?
CC: I wrote this book especially for women— all ethnicities, all ages, all religions, anyone who identifies as a woman. Now, with that said, regardless of gender or gender identity, we all have the divine feminine power within us, so anyone can benefit greatly from the practices in this book! If something doesn’t resonate, simply leave it behind!
Follow Cristi Christensen on Facebook @CristiChristensen and Instagram @cristi_christensen