What’s right and true for you? Each of us knows, somewhere within us. But sometimes it’s hard to tune in to your intuition. Yoga can help you turn up the volume on that inner wisdom that says, “Yes—this way!” or “No—hit the brakes.” We’re not just talking about poses on a mat. We’re talking about quiet mornings, deep breaths and, yes, life-giving foods.
“Most people associate yoga with an asana practice,” writes Kimberly Parsons in her new book, The Yoga Kitchen Plan, “but yoga isn’t just about flowing through a series of poses, twisting yourself up like a pretzel and sweating your butt off (though that part is fun and highly beneficial both physically and mentally). Yoga is also about how you live your life in all contexts.”
Whether you’ve mastered inversions or are still a little tippy in tree pose, The Yoga Kitchen Plan provides a week-long guide to a yogic life that can help you level up. Each day has its own meditation, affirmation, breathing exercises, suggested poses and recipes, many of which are vegan. (A yogic diet “means we get to enjoy the plant kingdom in its total abundance,” writes Parsons.)
The purpose of all these dishes and exercises? To nourish a different chakra every day. In yoga and Ayurveda, chakras are wheels of energy throughout the body. Seven main chakras are strung from the base of your spine to the top of your head. “To visualize a chakra in the body, imagine a swirling wheel of energy where matter and consciousness meet, with the wheels perfectly aligning up and down the spinal column,” writes Parsons. “The invisible energy pulsing through this system is vital life force, chi or prana, which keeps us vibrant, healthy and alive.”
Each chakra has different characteristics—the root chakra at the base of the spine offers a sense of safety and security, notes Parsons, while the heart chakra is (no surprise here) the seat of love. Between the eyebrows is the third-eye chakra: the incubator for intuition.
Here’s an adapted version of Parsons’s third-eye chakra lifestyle and meal plan. Because whether you’re trying to decide if a relationship is right for you or better understand what your body needs, we could all use a little help to follow our intuition.
From The Yoga Kitchen Plan: A day to support and nourish your third-eye chakra
Third eye | Intuition | Ajna
The sixth chakra, Ajna, is in the area of the third eye, which is found in the space between the eyebrows. This is your center of intuition. It encompasses the pituitary gland, eyes, head and lower part of the brain. A spiritual chakra that means “beyond wisdom,” Ajna leads you to an inner knowledge that will guide you if you let it.
It’s this intuition and wholeness that allows us to look at our physical body as an integrated whole. Instead of limbs and organs, we are able to take a holistic view of each and every aspect of our physical selves and bring ourselves to oneness.
This is where we can find an understanding of our true health. No longer concerned by mere symptoms, our minds are able to process and see the body as a complete system. Reaching a deeper understanding of our health means we are able finally to listen to what our bodies need and act accordingly.
Your day plan
Wake with the sunrise
In order to fit in a fantastic morning, you’re going to need some extra time compared to your normal routine.
Body scanning is easy and should only take 30 to 60 seconds to complete. Upon waking, just before your brain engages in the day’s activities, allow yourself to have a moment with your body to scan for any signs or symptoms it may be indicating to you. Pay particular attention to your eyes, head and brain. Do you have a headache or dry eyes? How is your disposition? Do you feel happy, irritated or particularly moody? Are you more tired than usual? Do you feel cold? Do you feel hormonal? Keep a notepad next to your bed and jot down the top three things you notice.
Asana practice (yoga poses)
After your body scan, empty your bladder and bowels as required and put on some comfortable clothes for your asana practice.
Roll out your mat and begin with some simple sun salutations to awaken the physical body, then move into an asana sequence to relax any tension and oxygenate areas of inflexibility.
Poses that support the Ajna chakra include supported forward bends: Add an extra bolster or blanket to press upon and stimulate the third-eye area. Or, simply drop into balasana (child’s pose) and rest your forehead on your mat.
Other poses to help connect to your inner self include adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog), vajrasan (thunderbolt pose) and anjaneyasana (low lunge pose).
Morning pranayama (breathing exercise): Brahmari
Following your physical asana practice, practice pranayama to settle your internal dialogue and quiet the mind.
A great breathing exercise to help balance the third-eye chakra is known as brahmari, or the bee breath. To do this exercise, sit comfortably, with your back tall and shoulders relaxed. Start by taking a few natural breaths and close your eyes. Then, keeping your lips lightly sealed, inhale through your nostrils. Exhaling, make the sound of the letter “m,” essentially a humming sound. Sustain the sound until you need to inhale. Then repeat: Inhale through your nose, then hum like a buzzing bee as you exhale. Continue by inhaling then exhaling with this sound for 15 breaths.
Intuition meditation (10 to 20 minutes)
Try to stay in silence and avoid talking to anyone before you begin, if possible. Find a comfortable place that is quiet and peaceful. Wear something warm, light a candle or use dimmed lighting if indoors. Sitting in front of a window with natural light, taking in the view is my preferred indoor space, but sitting on the earth outdoors in nature is always the best place to meditate.
Begin to tune in to your intuitive power—your ability to perceive, know and experience with all your senses beyond the realm of the physical and into the realm of the divine. Breathe deeply into your lower abdomen, letting it fill up with the light of the divine that is all around you. Breathe in and breathe out. As you exhale, let go of any tension, worry or struggle, any energy that is not yours. Breathe in the divine light that is all around you, and as you breathe out, feel yourself relaxing deeply, entering fully into this present space and time, becoming aware and becoming present.
Focus on your breath, and as you take in another deep breath through your nose, breathe air into your lower abdomen, filling yourself up with the light of the divine. As you exhale, tune in to your energetic field, which is infused with the divine light all around you. Imagine your energy as a sort of hourglass shape, receiving with open arms the light of the divine, intuitive guidance, infinite wisdom, well-being, healing and love, which flow down into your being from above. Imagine the middle of your hourglass energetic form strong, stable and present.
Visualize your core energy filled with light, helping you to increase your awareness, to be fully present at this time. Then, imagine the light flowing out and down, grounding you to the Earth. Follow this light down to the core of Earth, and then you will feel your oneness with the divine.
Now ask yourself these questions:
- Do I trust myself?
- Do I allow myself to dream and visualize my future?
- Do I enjoy spending time in my dreams?
- How is my intuition a part of my daily life?
- What does wisdom mean to me?
After your yoga practice, it’s time to get ready for the day ahead.
- Rehydrate. Before doing anything else, pour yourself a cup of tepid to warm water and add a slice of fresh lemon and a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar to wake up your liver and digestive system. (Don’t stop here: Drink lots of water throughout the day—just not with meals.)
- Set your intention for the day ahead. Jump in the shower and go about getting dressed and packed for the day. While you are in the shower, I recommend coming up with your intention. An intention is more than a wish; it is a direction you work toward, like a goal. But instead of focusing on the result, you focus on the path toward getting there. Stay open to infinite possibilities and always state your intention in the positive. For example, use language like, “I will be peaceful and balanced in every situation.” Once you have decided on your intention, surrender it to the universe and enjoy the freedom of not having to try to control everything in your life.
Intuition elixir: Blackberry, Ginger and Aloe Vera Elixir
It’s important to take this on an empty stomach, as it should feel like a shock to your system. Resist the urge to wash it down with water; instead, try to enjoy the sensations as it enters your body and wakes up your senses.
At some point today, spend some time in visualization. Imagine a goal you would like to achieve. Then, find a comfortable place to sit and begin to visualize what it would feel like to wake up in your body once you have reached that goal. Walk around in your imagination as if you are living the life you visualize, with your successes and dreams realized.
Afternoon pranayama (breathing exercise): “Walking into gratitude”
This breathing exercise is best performed during your lunch break or during the day while you are taking a short walk somewhere. If you are at home, take a short walk around the block or enjoy a walk around your house while breathing and meditating at the same time.
This is actually a walking meditation with a breathing exercise as the main component. It is best done to the beat of your steps while walking. It doesn’t need to be a long walk—try three to five minutes as you walk to work. It’s the perfect way to find calm amid the chaos of the day and remind you of the inner strength and peace you cultivate in your morning meditation.
- As you start to walk, become aware of the regular pace of your steps. Start by counting 20 paces and bring attention to how each foot goes back down to earth with every step. Notice how the outer parts of your feet touch the ground and how your toes feel as they find the ground. Bring all your attention to your feet and these first 20 paces.
- Now take a deep breath in and count to four while taking four steps.
- Then hold your breath for the next four steps.
- Then exhale for the next four steps.
- Then hold again for the next four steps.
- Repeat the inhale to the count of four steps. In your mind you can say to yourself, “Inhale two, three, four; hold two, three, four; exhale two, three, four; hold two, three, four.”
- Focusing on the breath and the count of four, repeat the process until you become relaxed.
If you’d like to bring some gratitude into your walking meditation, try this technique.
- Inhale and begin your count of two, three, four. Think of someone you’re thankful for in your life (quick: You’ve only got four counts).
- Hold and count two, three, four and think of something from today that you’re thankful for.
- Exhale and count two, three, four and think of something from nature you’re thankful for.
- Hold and count two, three, four and think of something else from today you’re thankful for.
- Continue this pattern for as long as you can continue to think of things to be grateful for.
Keep making this affirmation through the day: I am connected to and honor my intuition always. It is safe for me to see the truth and transform.
Recipes and day plan excerpted and adapted with permission from The Yoga Kitchen Plan by Kimberly Parsons, published by Quadrille February 2019, RRP $24.99 hardcover.