Years ago, during an intense yoga core class, I heard something interesting. The teacher said strengthening the core is not about forming beautiful, defined abdominal muscles. Rather, it is about building inner strength and fortifying a stable foundation—so when life throws you a wrecking ball, you remain standing. Essentially, core work stokes our inner fire to intensify our third chakra, manipura. This chakra is the energy center governing inner strength, self-confidence, and power.
Manipura means “lustrous gem” and this chakra is truly a jewel. Located at the solar plexus, the element associated with the third chakra is fire. Manipura is the“fire in your belly” that motivates you and propels you forward. Spending too much time in the third chakra can burn you out; however not developing it will leave you fearful, weak, lethargic, and inert.
Agni, the god of fire, oversees the third chakra. Red in color, Agni is a two-headed, non-discriminating god who treats everyone as equals. He is found in the homes of the poor, in the homes of the wealthy, among the homeless, and sometimes running wild. He is the messenger between the human realm and the celestial realm. Governing manipura, Agni sits at the border of the lower, base chakras and the upper, spiritually-oriented chakras.
Once there was a woman engaged to be married to a rakshasa, or demon. But a sage saw her, fell in love, and took her to his home. The demon was distraught looking for his beloved and, in search for her, came across Agni.
Agni, who is welcomed into every home, knows everyone’s business. The demon demanded that Agni tell him the location of his fiancé. Agni answered the rakshasa, who went and took his beloved back from the sage.
The sage cursed Agni so that he would burn up everything, both pure and impure. Horrified by this curse, Agni disappeared from the three worlds of gods, humans, and demons. Where previously there was fire, warmth, joy, and food, now became cold, dark, dismal, and barren.
The Lord of Creation, Brahma, recognized the importance of Agni in the three worlds and asked him to come out of hiding and bless everyone with his gift of fire. Unable to lift the curse completely, Brahma instead mollified the curse by saying that all Agni consumed, whether pure or impure, would be purified. Agni agreed to return to the three worlds, where he provides warmth, heat, and transformation.
The two faces of Agni represent his fiery nature. His first face, recognized as the benevolent face, is part of ceremonial circles, bonfires, hearths, and kitchens. In ceremonial rituals, people toss their prayers into the fire to be carried to the gods. From our belly, our third chakra, we move ourselves from desire into action.
Just as our digestive system converts food into energy—taking what it needs as fuel and eliminating the rest—Agni’s second face, the destructive face, eats up all the emotions of the ego. It takes anger, rage, fear, and jealousy, and incinerates them to ashes to become reabsorbed by the earth.
When we connect to our third chakra, the fire in the belly, we connect to our inner power to incinerate fear, jealousy, and low self-esteem. Manipura is the ignition switch to propel us forward on our path, help us shine bright, and make our greatest dreams a reality.
Matangi mudra activates manipura, reduces inertia, and enhances self-confidence. This is a transformational mudra connecting you with the energy of your third chakra in order to burn away confusion and doubt, aid in digestion, and utilize wisdom from your experiences.
To perform matangi mudra: