At first blush it may seem as though Yoga and Ayahuasca could not be more different. Most people think of yoga as a series of exercises, whilst Ayahuasca is often viewed as a psychedelic tea from the Amazon. Yet, both the systems of Yoga and the process of working with Ayahuasca seek to do the same things–open our energy centers in the body and lead us to divine consciousness.
The Energetic Body
Everyone is familiar with their physical body–the body that is nourished by food and the body where health and disease present themselves in manifest form. But, beyond the physical body are many layers of the subtle body. In yoga these layers are known as the kosha (also translated as sheaths). They progress from the material physical body through the energetic body where prana, or life force energy, flows through the energy channels.
Throughout the energetic body are channels known in yoga as nadi where prana flows. The nadi are similar in their non-physical nature to the meridians in Traditional Chinese Medicine through which chi flows. In yoga, it is believed that there are 72,000 nadi in the energetic body. Wherever nadi intersect and become bound up, energy centers known as chakra form. In some ways the chakra become choke points that prevent prana from flowing freely.
The three main nadi running along the spine form interconnections at the seven main chakra. Beginning at the root of the spine, these seven chakra or choke points, can prevent the upward movement of energy from the base of the spine. This stuck energy at the base of the spine is often depicted as a coiled snake and known as kundalini.
Opening the Chakra
The chakra are generally blocked off due to a lifetime of internalizing our traumas, or can be blocked off at birth due to karma from a prior lifetime. In order to unblock them, the yogi must not only tune the physical body but must resolve traumas and learn to cultivate the precious kundalini energy to draw it upward. When the chakra become unblocked, the kundalini energy rises up through the central channel known as the sushumna until it reaches the third eye. The third eye then opens and energy begins to flow through the crown of the head. In this state, the yogi achieves union with the divine and experiences divine consciousness where vast arrays of knowledge and insight are gained. The process of opening the chakra through yoga is never easy, nor does it occur for many but the very devoted yogi.
In the same way that yoga opens the chakra through a variety of practices, so does working with Ayahuasca. Ayahuasca has a way of finding blockages in the energetic body and forcing us to deal with them. These blockages are often revealed through visions or insights into the nature of ones patterns or prior behavior. Each time a prior trauma is resolved in an Ayahuasca ceremony, the chakra become more and more open. Through this process, which can also take years, gradually the chakra open completely such that the kundalini energy at the base of the spine rises all the way up to the third eye, which is the pineal gland. At the moment the gland awakens, connection with the divine is experienced and the person experiencing this awakening gains access to immense insight and receives incredible healing that manifests in the physical body.
Ayahuasca and the Chakra
In addition to helping resolve blockages through visions and insight, Ayahuasca is also powerful medicine for physically moving energy. Most people in our society live in a form of survival mode, which keeps them stuck in their lower three chakra. Ayahuasca often will release energy from the lower chakra through powerful purges of the digestive system. While these purges are usually viewed as physical cleanings, they are also energetic purges that help to release stuck energy in the lower energy centers. Eventually the opening of the lower energy centers allows the energy of the medicine and the internal kundalini energy to reach the higher centers around the heart, throat, third eye (pineal gland) and crown.
Ayahuasca as Energetic Medicine
While the western view of medicines focuses on their chemical structure, Ayahuasca’s power comes not from its structure so much as from its powerful energetic content. The Ayahuasca vine, banisteriopsis caapi grows from the jungle floor hundreds of feet up to the canopy to collect energy from the sun in the form of sunlight. That sun energy is then concentrated back into the vine where it is stored. When the vine is cooked for hours, this energy is concentrated even more, so much so that the resulting brew is often thick and black. The resulting brew, which is consumed, is nearly pure concentrated sun energy that enters the energetic body shortly after being consumed.
When the energy in Ayahuasca is consumed and builds up inside the energetic body, it gets stuck in areas of blockage (the chakra). However, because the energy content of the Ayahuasca is so high, it begins to force open the blocked chakra through any means necessary. This can include the visions that make Ayahuasca famous, but often the opening is forced through purging, sometimes physically and sometimes through the emotions or through deep insights. Once the energy of Ayahuasca enters the blockages it must be purged out in some way during the ceremony, whether that is by movement of the body, yawning, burping, vomiting, crying, using the bathroom, singing, or expressing emotions. In this way, the Ayahuasca ceremony is always a purge of some type, each ceremony cleaning out the energetic body and preparing the body for the awakening of the pineal gland.
When the blockages are cleared and energy rises up to the pineal gland (third eye) whether from yogic practices or work with Ayahuasca, connection with the divine is experienced. People experiencing this type of awakening may gain insight into the non-material realm of existence, past lives, a deep understanding of God, and the ability to resolve nearly any type of illness. In this way, yoga and Ayahuasca are merely two different roads leading to the same place.
These similarities explain some of the reason many yoga practitioners are seeking to work with Ayahuasca. Those who have cultivated advanced third eye practices and worked on clearing their chakra tend to naturally understand the Ayahuasca process and benefit from it. This is not to say that advanced yogis always have an easier time with Ayahuasca. Many people who have practiced yoga for years have simply created new blockages, or strengthened their egos, which take a lot of time to undo through working with Ayahuasca.