Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Chakra Study

They say that when you're born in the hospital with bright lights and a drugged mother and wheeling carts and whirring nurses and beeping machines that it messes with your root chakra, the "muladara." Which is to say it wrenches your ability to be grounded and to have basic survival skills. Things like putting food on the table, a roof over your head, and lights that turn on can all become very tricky once they're in your hands.

I was born in a hospital. I was a C-section baby. I had amniotic fluid in my mouth when I emerged into the whirling of doctors and mother sighing and plastic ID bands. I laid in an incubator for an amount of time I'm unaware of. I even disrupted pleasant Thanksgiving day plans and halted my pediatrician's early-morning jog so that I could be delivered.

Yet, paying rent, buying groceries, getting the bills stamped and in the mail on time has never been an issue for me. In fact, I often thrive on the ritual of it all, sensing accomplishment when I see a check's been cashed on time to take care of the cable. I'm not stating these facts because I want to brag or feel like I'm above the ancient belief system of the seven chakras. It makes me curious about what went right to counteract what would seem like—by chakran standards—an incredibly chaotic, uprooting birth.

So, I talked to my dad about it. He's a psychologist by day, but moonlights as a neurological researcher with a particular draw towards life in the womb and the brain-science that surrounds it. Studies show that while our time in the womb is warm and cozy and protected, we're also incredibly receptive to our mother's hormonal levels of stress and joy and fear. And that that raw receptivity can dramatically affect us once we've left our mothers' bellies, especially in the later years of our lives. In fact, our nine months in the womb have one of the greatest affects on us as adults. Children whose mother's experience great depression or grief while they are in the womb, for example, have a much higher likelihood of schizophrenia later in life.

This got me thinking of one of my classmates whose mother died while she was five months pregnant. As she tells it, she put herself into a bubble of yoga, not allowing herself to grieve until her daughter was born. Mother's instinct? Perhaps we don't need the science behind it to know what to do when we're pregnant if we, ourselves, are receptive to what is natural. But, for society, it's still important to try to understand where mental illness stems from.

What my father said about my birth is that a baby responds to its mother's stress levels more than anything. If a mother knows how to manage her stress in times of challenge, the baby will stay protected in its amorphous home. My mother, also a psychologist, probably did breathing exercises similar to pranayama to control her anxiety. She knew, mentally, that the connection between her energy and mine were more deeply linked than just by umbilical cord. So, no matter that I was born in a tizzy of dizzying flourescent lights, she stretched a blanket around my seven pound body, after incubation, and quieted the frenzy of my hospital birth.