Guts and glory: Insights on why Manipura chakra is the power center of the body-mind

Manipura is the third of the seven chakras  – i:e: at the navel center and relates to power, action, willpower, self-esteem, vitality and ego. It governs the digestive system. The manipura chakra is also known as the solar plexus. To me this has such a rich texture of meaning and it seems not by coincidence that the golden yellow, ten-petaled lotus center is also called “solar” plexus.

The manipura chakra then, is driven by the colour yellow, the energy of the sun and yellow fresh foods that we eat. When I looked online for the exact meaning of solar plexus, this is what I found:

1. “The large network of sympathetic nerves and ganglia located in the peritoneal cavity behind the stomach and having branching tracts that supply nerves to the abdominal viscera.”

2. “The pit of the stomach.”

And then I discovered what was most interesting and an echoing of my own insight:

Referring to resemblance between the radial network of nerves and ganglia and the rays of the sun”

Brilliant, isn’t it!

Digestive fire, immunity, self-esteem and power

One’s mood and general behaviour is a good indicator of the strength of the solar plexus and the digestive system. The reverse is also true leaving mind and body inextricably connected.  This realisation brought me to a new understanding of the adage “you are what you eat”. Diet is everything and eating to keep the gut healthy, replacing micro-flora on a regular basis is an essential aspect of feeling well. The gut is then, a second brain of sorts and it is no mistaking that we do think with our guts – I guess we can all relate to a “gut feeling” or “a sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach”.

Powering up the intuition through good gut health

Sounds absurd? I honestly believe in eating in tune with the body – that is, by treating the body like an intelligent entity that will always tell you what it wants or doesn’t want. A healthy gut sends messages to the brain, and in spiritual terms, we might say, it sends messages to the higher self. Messages are sent to and fro between brain and guts and in the reverse order too.

Digestive fire, immunity, self-esteem and power

One’s mood and general behaviour is a good indicator of the strength of the solar plexus and the digestive system. The reverse is also true leaving mind and body inextricably connected.  This realisation brought me to a new understanding of the adage “you are what you eat”. Diet is everything and eating to keep the gut healthy, replacing micro-flora on a regular basis is an essential aspect of feeling well. The gut is then, a second brain of sorts and it is no mistaking that we do think with our guts – I guess we can all relate to a “gut feeling” or “a sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach”.

Powering up the intuition through good gut health

Sounds absurd? I honestly believe in eating in tune with the body – that is by treating the body like an intelligent entity that will always tell you what it wants or doesn’t want. A healthy gut sends messages to the brain, and in spiritual terms, we might say, it sends messages to the higher self. Messages are sent to and fro between brain and guts and in the reverse order too.

A sagging self-esteem, or depression, absent mindedness or anger-driven communication could indicate that the power center needs fixing.

A healthy gut then is a sign of overall health and well-being. Science has established that there is a definitive link between the brain and the gut, which is why the gut has been rightly named “the second brain”.

Expressions such as “butterflies in my stomach” and “gut wrenching” are actually saying more than what we read on the surface. Whether one’s tummy is in knots over a speech or one lacks the guts to undertake something, the fact remains: We think and feel with our guts as much as we do with our brains. Isn’t it logical, then, that a strong and healthy gut will spawn a healthy body and strong mind?

Research suggests that the gut micro-flora lining the intestines are much more than just “good” or “bad” bacteria, and that their most important function is to regulate the body’s immune response, especially when faced with stress. This is a two-way street: Psychology and psycho-social factors influence the physiological functioning of the gut, and a healthy strong gut can help one stay mentally agile and fit.

A recent scientific study in Nutrition in Clinical Practice shows that the micro-organism or gut flora living in the human intestines form a network of natural controls that regulate mood, appetite, body weight, nutrient absorption, stress and immune response. No surprise then that the human digestive tract is home to 70 percent of the immune system. Simply put, our every-day food can help or harm our mind-body health.

Another example that proves the brain-gut connection is when we think of food and the appetite is stimulated. Similarly, a gut in distress can cause stress and mental depression. Nearly every brain-controlling chemical is generated in the gut, including hormones and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, GABA and nor epinephrine. The gut is home to 100 million neurons – more than what the spinal cord has. It also contains 24 minor brain proteins, major cells that regulate immune function, one of the body’s in-built opiates, and native bensodizipine. Recently there has been one more addition to the nervous system: The gut, also known as the enteric nervous system. It is ensconced inside sheaths of tissue found in the lining of the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine and colon. It is known to have an important function in regulating our emotions. Isn’t it obvious why symptoms from the two brains are often the source of confusion?

How intestinal flora aid digestion and foods that help build them

Cells in the human digestive system lack some of the enzymes needed to break down certain types of food. The good bacteria in our gut have what it takes to break down those types of food, however. These micro-flora also make the B vitamin complex and hence aid the absorption of lipids, calcium, iron and magnesium.

The act of re-seeding the gut in order to sustain gut-life can be done with probiotics and fermented foods. Fresh leafy vegetables, fruit and fiber, whole grains, lentils, garlic, green tea and miso are but some examples.

So the next time you find yourself wondering what to cook for dinner, spare a thought for the millions of microscopic bugs for whom your gut is home and look into yogic practices that stimulate and calm (by turns) the yellow lotus behind the navel.

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