The Spiritual Anatomy of Pregnancy
Discovering the Wisdom of the Chakras During the Maternity Year
Our bodies have an energetic system; a structure of subtle energy pathways, which act as intersections between the different dimensions of our experience; spiritual, mental, emotional, physical and instinctual. This system, known as the chakra system, carries an energetic force, which circulates through the energy body animating and enlivening every cell tissue. It is known as prana in yoga and ayurveda and as chi in oriental medicine.
The chakra system has seven key vortices or intersections at key points along the body which are known as chakras. The word chakra translates as wheel . These energy centres are intersections of bioenergetic activity where physical emotional, mental and spiritual energy comes together; the lower ones connecting to the material aspects of our being and the upper ones connecting to our more spiritual inclinations. Not only do these centres interconnect with each other, they have the potential to connect us to the energetic interaction of our world and universe; connecting spirit and matter, heaven and earth, mind and body.
In modern Western Chakra Theory, the Chakra system is represented by seven colours for seven vibratory modalities of human existence, seven states of consciousness from the primal, to the universal and seven stages of evolution. Collectively they are known as the rainbow bridge. -The rainbow is the metaphysical bridge between matter and consciousness.
In Classical Chakra iconography, the symbolism is much richer featuring animals, deities, shapes and colour schemes which collectively evoke a wealthy of meaning some of which is cultural in root and some of which is universal.
When energy is flowing freely and unencumbered, there will be health on all levels and vibrancy, if areas are blocked or under-active, then we will reflect that in the corresponding areas of our being and living. The journey through the chakras is the journey that each individual takes to discover this knowledge of themselves and find true balance and wholeness.
Nowhere is this journey more apparent than during pregnancy as a new being manifests in your body and is brought into the physical realm through the multidimensional initiation of childbirth.
Every chakra has significance for the maternity year. Whilst labour and birth unfold in the first and second chakras, all centres have a role to play.
Culturally we are taught to fear birth; value control, fear sexuality; all of which cause energy blocks in the first two chakras.
Our Society also favours a clinical birth model which disempowers the mother’s autonomy, choices and personal responsibility. This undermines her third and fifth chakras – centres of power and communication.
Cultivating self-compassion, nurture and gratitude during pregnancy, activates the third and fourth chakras and energises the baby’s first chakra.
Sadly, the spiritual dimension, represented by the seventh chakra has been eliminated from birth due to the dominance of the functional and science-based clinical model. This is a travesty for the mother and baby who miss an entire dimension from this profound life event.
Learning about the passage of the baby through pregnancy, birth and the first 6 months and its significance for the baby’s foundation chakra and her development is truly empowering and motivating knowledge.
Yoga from the perspective of the chakras can be understood as a map for rediscovering our inner landscape and re-energising the centres that our ancestral legacy, unconscious conditioning and life-experience have closed down.
In holistic health practices, including Chinese medicine, acupuncture, Ayurveda and yoga, the primary blockages in the body are believed to be energetic in nature. These energetic blocks lead to physical symptoms.
The pregnancy chakra-focused practices offer a pathway, through bodywork, breath work, mudra, meditation and awareness, so that the pregnant yogini can connect with each chakra’s energy flow, recognise whether it needs stabilising or energising and direct energy to move there freely again.
Chakra Yoga requires that we work with the physical and emotional but also the mental and spiritual. Energy in the body responds to a certain degree of internal awareness supported by pranayama, meditation and spiritual self-enquiry. By bringing your awareness or attention to a place in your body and directing the breath there you can cultivate your own energy. By exploring your thoughts, habits and behaviours in the field of each chakra you can determine which centres are blocked.
During pregnancy and childbirth there is immense transformation in the physical body with consequential disturbance at every other level of the mothers experience too. Pregnancy is transformational whether you like it or not. When consciousness is brought to the process, the transformation can be healing, empowering, integrated and stabilised. As the body expands opens so does the heart, the mind and awareness. Perceiving pregnancy and birth through the lens of the chakras enables deep insight into the multidimensional aspects of the experience and of the potential of yoga practice too.
Muladhara : The Foundation Chakra
Earth / Root Chakra / Muladhara meaning root and support
Location: The space above the perineum/ below the cervix/ and in front of the coccyx
Seed Sound: Lam
The root chakra is the foundation of the chakra system. This chakra relates to the material world and our primal needs for survival in it; food shelter, safety and security.
Located at the lowest part of the spine, in front of the tailbone and below the cervix, anatomically, the first chakra has domain over the lower pelvis and the base of the spine, legs, bones, feet, rectum, vagina, and the immune system. These are the foundations of our health and how we support and ground ourselves.
The first chakra, also, asks us to honour the tribe/family we were born into – even if life’s journey has pushed us to move on.
When we feel vulnerable about survival or safety; victimised by society or within the family/clan, this area needs stabilising.
Muladhara as well as being associated with primal safety and security governs the sexual and birthing instinct; It has the power to open the vagina to receive the sperm, to release menstrual fluid and, to birth babies. If we do not feel grounded, safe and secure, it is very difficult to give birth. If a woman feels unsafe and frightened, not only may her labour become slow and difficult; in certain cases cervical regression arises and labour can still altogether.
Activate Muladhara Chakra with awareness and practices that focus on the root, the pelvic floor and the lower pelvis; stabilise with strengthening exercises, balances and pelvic awareness work; awaken with squats and pelvic tilts, hip gyrations and of course massage and affirmation.
Svadhisthana: The Second Chakra
Water / Sacral Chakra / Svadhisthana/ meaning Where the Self is Established
Location: The space Pelvic Bowl
Seed Sound: Vam
The second chakra or sacral chakra is to be found in the space behind the pubic bone and extending upwards towards the navel and backwards towards the sacrum. Its domain is the pelvis, the pelvic organs and the reproductive system. It relates to our sexuality, creativity and our emotional expression. As such it is concerned with relationships and intimacy; the one we have with ourselves and with others.
Labour and childbirth are essentially governed by the first and second chakras, although all teh chakras are related in key ways as we shall see.
Sadly, it is often the case that many women lack a sense of internal awareness around these two chakras.
If a woman has safety issues; if there has been trauma to her root – and many medical procedures would count as trauma for a sensitive woman – it will inhibit her energy flow here. If she has emotional holding patterns around sexual expression or sexual pleasure, the energy flow will be inhibited.
Because this is the element of water, the quality of flow is deeply associated with this chakra. The pelvis produces the water of the bladder, the birthing waters and the flow of menses with its release of the emotional body.
Until a women finds her flow in labour, and trusts the process unfolding through her, her need for control, her fear physically and energetically impede the process.
Dance and free-flow movements are a wonderful way to connect with and unblock second chakra energy.
Manipura: The Third Chakra
Fire / Navel Chakra / Manipura meaning City of Gems/Palace of Jewels
Seed Sound: Ram
Mani means Gem and pure means City. so the city of gems is located Behind the navel, near the solar plexus and in front of the lumbar spine.
Manipura has domain over the organs of digestion which includes the abdomen, upper intestines liver, adrenals, gallbladder kidneys and pancreas but also the metabolic system, the pancreas the, gut and its feelings, the liver, the immune system and the skin.
The capacity to maintain and sustain physical health is central to Manipura. As an energetic hub it creates the vitality and energy you need to carry on, to persevere in the world.
Fiery Manipura Chakra is your power centre. Your hara. Your Vital heart. It is the fire of your digestion on the physical plane transforming the raw foods you put into your body into prana or energy. On the subtle planes there is assimilation and processing as you manifest your desires and demonstrate your ability to get your needs met in the world. It is the fire of your ambition, power and transformation. The seat of your will and the birthplace of ego identity.
Women have been conditioned to reject power. However childbirth is one of the most empowering acts a women will ever experience. It has a significant effect on the navel chakra. As spiritual midwife Ina May Gaskin has said: A woman remembers her births for the rest of her life.’ My wish is that every woman remembers her birth with deep appreciation and wonder.
The solar plexus is the centre of confidence and empowerment. In a society where childbirth has been monopolised by the health system, it is easy for a new mother to feel disempowered.
Women have been conditioned to trust their Drs even more than their own innate female wisdom. This is intimate disempowerment. This is why Birth is a feminist issue.
The heroic journey from maiden to mother must be the journey from vulnerability to responsibility and empowerment. The practice is commitment.
Being informed about your maternal rights and birth choices, taking responsibility for ensuring your support people really know what you need and how to support you and learning how to ´stand in your power´ and do what is right for you and your baby. This is also the spiritual journey of pregnancy.
In pregnancy, as the uterus expands upwards into the abdominal cavity, this whole region is destablised. We share this space with our growing babies. On the physical realm the uterus pushes the abdominal organs aside; shifts the centre of gravity forwards putting pressure on the lumber spine and lower back.
In the emotional realm our hitherto self-serving ego now has to accommodate the needs of our new houseguest. This reframing of the maternal experience will be intensified after the birth when the mother’s altruistic focus becomes almost exclusive on the needs of her new born baby as she learns how to mother.
Women often grieve their lost identity even as they rejoice in new motherhood. The two are not mutually exclusive. The tussle between the new all-encompassing role of mother and the women lost beneath her continues through the baby’s infancy and childhood.
Anahata: The Fourth Chakra
Air / HeartChakra / Anataha meaning Unstruck
Seed Sound: Yam
The meaning of word unlocks the essence of the the heart chakra. ‘Unstruck’ points towards that aspect of the self that cannot be hurt or harmed by the experience of life. It introduces the self that is beyond ego and the love that is beyond condition.
Whilst the ego is insubstantial, the true self is indestructible. This is why all spiritual traditions reference the heart as the seat of the soul – the individual expression of spirit.
The heart chakra is represented by two inter-penetrating triangles one pointing up and the other down reminding us that this is the middle chakra where the downward descending spiritual and intellectual energies meet with the upward ascending physical energies the result of living in this plane. Put simply, the heart centre is where the heavens and the earth connect.
Located in the space between the thoracic spine and the sternum, anataha chakra has domain over the upper torso, the ribcage, the heart and lungs, also the lymphatic systems and the Thymus gland – essential parts of the immune system. The lymphatic system destroys that which is destructive to us.
The sense is touch and our hands are our agents of touch. Touch is the language of love which is the expression of the heart. Passively we receive touch with our skin which is loaded with touch receptors all over our bodies.
We show our babies love by touching them and holding them; newborns who re touched and carried thrive in contrast to those who are left alone, un-held and untouched.
The heart is the seat of the higher emotions of compassion, empathy, gratitude, kindness, self-love, faith and devotion which have a mature altruistic aspect to them. Often these are represented as the qualities of the mother archetype as represented by the Christian Mary mother of Jesus who is depicted radiating tenderness, patience, altruism, compassion and empathy not just towards her child but for all beings.
This passive pure heart energy image of the mother, wonderful as it is, undermines the fulness of the maternal archetype for mothers must also be fierce warriors connected to their power chakras if their young are to survive.
Cultivating self love during pregnancy is essential. It is such a tumultuous time and it is easy for a pregnant women to feel emotionally vulnerable and physically fragile as her body morphs and transforms. During childbirth it is easy to feel unsupported and disempowered.
Learning to hold yourself with compassion during the difficult moments of the pregnancy, during the long night of the birth and in the early hours of the morning when the world is asleep except for you and your hungry baby. Pregnant women must learn how to mother themselves so that they don’t fall prey to negativism and self-criticism a they find their way.
The early weeks of mothering are so challenging; breastfeeding is often hard and many women feel that they are failures and castigate themselves whilst they attempt to feed. The breasts are channeling liquid love. How can they fulfil their function when the mother is at war with herself?
Babies are especially good at unlocking blocked heart energy. The smile on a baby face is enough to open a closed heart.
Meditating on loving kindness during pregnancy helps to expand your awareness around love towards yourself and your unborn child.
Visuddhi: The Fifth Chakra
Space/ Throat Chakra / Vishuddhi meaning Purified/ the pure place
Seed Sound: Hum
The Vishuddhi Chakra (5th Chakra) is located in the vicinity of the Larynx- and is therefore also known as the Throat Chakra. It regulates the functional regions of the thyroid, parathyroid, jaw, neck, mouth, tongue, and larynx.
This is the domain of communication. Where thoughts are transmuted into words. The words themselves are empty shells – labels which can have potency or fall on closed ears. An open throat chakra produces communication that comes from a place of authenticity, self-confidence and presence. The speaker transforms with her words which are agents of change.
Our throat and vocal cords share an interesting connection to the pelvic floor muscles – both to look at, structurally, and via the fascia. There is a powerful energetic link between the throat chakra and the cervix – when the throat is relaxed and open, our cervix follows.
For this reason singing and chanting have been proven to be powerful birthing practices encouraging vocal and pelvic release simultaneously.
There are many stories of women transitioning from an unconscious screaming of the word ‘No’ to an empowered expanding articulation of the word ‘Yes’ during the active and expulsive phases of labour. Words are like spells that can shift energetic movements if they contain the intention the word represents. ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ are charged and powerful words. Us them wisely. A softy spoken ‘No Thank you’ can maintain an important boundary for you or gently refuse consent for a procedure your instinct tells you to reflect. In the same way a broken ‘Yes’ can change the mood in a labour room from deflated to surrendered to accepting becoming empowered.
The throat chakra also connects back to the second and third chakras with regard to expression for this is where emotional, and sexual energy flows unrestricted.
Expressing yourself freely through sound and song is one of the most powerful ways to unlock the throat and sacral chakras.
Silencing women in labour is one of the greatest calamities pf clinical birthing. The epidural brought a swift end to the drama of childbirth and meant a labour ward filled with pregnant women on a full moon could be rendered civilised for the Drs and matrons presiding over it.
Part of the reclamation of childbirth for women is the vocalisation of her needs.
The main transformation during maternity in the realm of communication is that between mother and unborn child. Babies in the womb not only hear their mothers voice and recognise it but they understand its intonations too.
Singing and reading to your babies is a beautiful way to deepen mother baby bonding during pregnancy.
It has been shown that babies who are sung to whilst in the womb, recognise and are soothed by those same songs after the birth.
Ajna: The Sixth Chakra
Space/ Mind Chakra / Ajna meaning Command
Location: Third Eye
Seed Sound: Om
Your mind which usually tends to manifest as one thought or another is, in its essential nature, pure consciousness.
The sixth chakra is the doorway to pure consciousness.
Its name translates as the Command Centre. It is also known as the third eye. The third eye refers to the pineal gland which is located in the centre of the brain. It was believed that the pineal gland was the access point for deep perception, insight and clear seeing.
The pineal gland produces melatonin, which helps maintain circadian rhythm and regulate reproductive hormones. The energetic body and the pineal are associated with the oscillation from night to day, sun to moon, light to dark, rest to activity, and all the dichotomies that arise from there.
This chakras governs the physical domain of the brain, eyes, ears, nose, neurological system, pineal gland, and the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland which also goes by the name of the master gland, is deeply connected to the Central Nervous System.
Because of this connection with the CNS and our fight/flight systems this chakra is intimately bound up with our stress response which originates deep in the ancient brain.
The birth process is governed by the ancient brain. Four major hormonal systems are active during labor and they all originate in our mammalian or middle brain, also known as the limbic system.
These hormones are oxytocin, the hormone of love; endorphins, hormones of pleasure and transcendence; and prolactin, the mothering hormone. These hormones are secreted by the pituarty gland in the middle brain. The fourth group; adrenaline and noradrenaline are secreted by the adrenal gland and activate the sympathetic fight/flight/freeze nervous system. For birth to proceed optimally, this ancient part of the brain must take precedence over the neocortex, or rational brain. This shift can be helped by an atmosphere of quiet, warmth, perceived safety and privacy (muladhara chakra). Under such conditions a woman will move deeper into labour and intuitively will choose the movements, sounds, breathing, and positions that will birth her baby most easily. Conversely, if a woman feels observed, unsafe, instinctively as opposed to intellectually, adrenalin will be released activating the sympathetic nervous system and potentially slowing down the labour.
Learning how to cultivate safety in the body trough mental and physical training, learning how to calm the nervous system through movement, mantra and breath is essential pregnancy yoga training.
On a subtle level Ajna Chakra has domain over the mind in all its mental expressions including intellect, clear perception, enhanced knowledge, telepathy, sixth sense, imagination, visualisation and clairvoyance.
In the ancient scriptures the seer was the one whose third eye is open which means they are self-realised and able to see across time, space and duality. While your physical eyes see the material world, Ajna helps you look into deeper unseen realms: intuition, clairvoyance, imagination, creativity and visualisation.
We access the subtle aspect of Ajna through meditation and visualisation.
Working with affirmation and visioning are essential Ajna practices for shifting and re-channelling mental energy during pregnancy as we prepare for the birth. Empowering a women with knowledge of the architecture of her mind, its neuroplasticity and capacity for change will enable her to literally use her mind to change her mind.
Birth visioning accompanied by divine surrender are two of the most potent pregnancy practices for the women who wants to commit to her baby and her birth experience – but with the mature understanding that childbirth is not hers to control.
Sahasrara: The Seventh Chakra
Seed Sound: Gong
The Sanskrit name of the seventh chakra means “thousandfold.” the number 1000 is not meant literally; it implies the infinite nature of this chakra.
It is positioned four finger-widths above the crown and is the gateway to the superconsciousness in the realm beyond the body The seventh chakra is like a halo atop the head. In art, Christ is often depicted with a golden light surrounding his head, the could be interpreted as an open crown chakra.
It is at Sahasrara that the masculine and feminine forces, Shiva and Shakti, are said to unite and imbue the meditator with clarity and awakening. Although some sources associate this chakra with the colour violet, it is also associated with white, a combination of all colours, just as this chakra synthesises all the other chakras, and all other sounds within silence.
As the earth chakra grounds us to the earth, (feminine), the crown chakra connects us with the spirit (masculine). We embrace the body as a means to experiencing the divine.
When we can embrace both fully, grounded and open then we enter the sate of yoga which is to unite with our highest natures and experience our wholeness and connection with the superconsciousness. This is the path of chakra yoga.
It is directly below Sahasrara on the actual crown itself that we have the open soft spot of the anterior fontanelle as babies. This is the point in the body where the material and subtle meet.
In order to be born in material form each baby must pass their spiritual centres through their mothers lowest earth centres grounding them fully in the material world. Ideally this is done without excess trauma and disturbance to the baby’s energetic field.
For some women, pregnancy is a truly spiritual experience.
As they marvel at the wonder of the growing life inside their body and they recognise how they have become vessels in an ancient process which is moving through them in spite of them. An awareness of something higher that they have not connected with previously arises within them.
As they approach the birth event; the great unknown mystery which will bring them their baby, they may also seek out the more spiritual aspects of the experience to support and carry them.
Spirituality has been cut out of childbirth. It is the missing link. However as feminine spirituality assert itself once again, as it is doing now, the spiritual aspects of birth will rise again.
Despite the clinical models sterilisation and control of birth, it remains an inherently spiritual event; in the gratitude and relief we experience as the labour progresses smoothly; in the prayers we make at uncertain points, in the loving way we are accepted as ourselves by our carers, in the way we let go into the unknown at transition point and as we transcend our limitations in order to birth our babies. The immense beauty of the moment we first look upon our newborn is a moment never forgotten.
These essentially spiritual aspects of the childbirth experience remain despite secularisation as wherever there is mystery, fear, a connection with the deceased, or a transcendence you will find spirit.
As a woman moves towards transition, she will face a moment where she is required to surrender her control – in that moment she will transcend herself and be immersed briefly in the superconscious sea of unconditional love before the adrenaline hormones summon her to wakefulness to get ready to meet her baby.
´Getting out of my own way´ is a phrase used by mothers who have surrendered to receive loving guidance from higher spiritual realms during labour.
To activate the crown chakra practice meditation, listening, and and connecting with the life behind the thinking mind.
The modal of the chakras is a powerful template for women to reconnect with the spiritual dimension of birth. They offer a deeper dimension of yoga practice which in turn guides the mother to a fuller deeper experience of her pregnancy and herself.
If you have enjoyed reading this article and are interested to work more in this way please check out my 121 Chakra Healing & Awakening Pregnancy Path Programme – a holistic pregnancy support and birth preparation programme designed for those who want to experience pregnancy as an opportunity for healing and awakening. Contact Nadia@nadiaraafat.com for more information.
If you are a tecaher, Join the Maternity Chakras Teacher Training which starts this September 2022 LIVE online with Nadia every Thursday evening. If you can’t make the LIVE Session recording are available.
If you’d like to join a class, see my timetable on the Book A Class Page.