On My Bookshelf: Eastern Body, Western Mind
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One of my absolute favorite parts about yoga teacher training (and there are many) was learning about and discussing the chakra system.
After our first chakra discussion, my teacher recommended the book Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self. I was so excited about the chakras and hungry to learn more that I’m pretty sure I bought the book that same night.
“When we identify with the body,
we identify with the soul’s expression in physical form…”
Something about the chakras just really resonated with me. For one, I think they gave explanation to the physiological responses of stress, anxiety and trauma I’d been experiencing leading up to teacher training. They provided me with another route to find greater awareness and presence in my own being. They helped me learn how to bridge the connection between my physical and energetic bodies. And most of all, they were another way of proving to me that the things we experience are imprinted in our bodies. That even if we aren’t conscious of how our physical pain might be connected to our emotional pain, our bodies know. They have an innate wisdom that always knows the truth, and always knows what we need to heal.
If that sounds a little woo-woo to you, well—I guess that’s because it is :)
But here’s the thing…
Even if you don’t believe in the chakras or the energetic body or whatever, you don’t have to completely “buy into it” or even completely understand how you feel about it in order to find value in the system.
I see it similarly to the way I see astrology or human design or even a more socially-accepted system like Meyers-Briggs—it’s another means of getting to know your true self. Like all those other systems I just mentioned, the chakras provide a structure in which you can explore pieces of yourself you might not otherwise have the capacity, or courage, to explore.
“We enlarge our understanding of Self as we find our own life themes reflected in fairy tales, mythology, movies, and news stories. We experience self-reflection in the larger system. We realize we are players in a much larger drama, riding the waves of the cultural tide’s ebb and flow.”
I started reading the book as soon as I got it, but it took me the better part of a year to finish it. That’s not because it wasn’t incredibly interesting or well-written, it’s just a lot of information—like, nearly 500 pages worth. And what’s more, reading those pages is not just reading, but a massive act of self-reflection.
The author, Anodea Judith, really invites this self-reflection by structuring each section in a way that walks you through, in detail, the characteristics and qualities of each chakra. Then, she goes further by explaining how each chakra is formed in your developmental years, what traumas might cause excess or deficiency in the chakra, and how you can begin to heal that particular chakra now that you’re informed and aware of any potential imbalances. This is where the psychology component comes into play and, for me, is a huge part of what made the book so impactful.
By placing the chakra system inside the framework of different modalities of thinking (like Jungian psychology, somatic therapy, childhood developmental theory and metaphysics to name a few), she gives greater context to the themes and archetypes each chakra represents. This is what makes each case study and anecdote so relatable. I can’t tell you how many times as I was reading I would write “yes!” in the margins, or highlight literally entire pages because it all just clicked. For me, thinking about the chakras in this way just made sense.
So, are you intrigued? Let me know if you’ve read this book or are planning to read it in the comments! I would love to hear more about your chakra journey.
Also, if you’re TOTALLY new to the chakras and are like … what the hell? I’m so glad you made it through to the end of this post. If this book seems a little out of reach at the moment and you’d rather start with something a little more approachable (aka something that’s NOT 500 pages) let me know and I would be honored to share some other recommendations.
Click the image below to buy Eastern Body, Western Mind on Amazon.