Understanding the Chakras

There are 7 major chakras in the human body, aligning with the spinal cord, plus another 4 minor chakras in the arms. A chakra, or wheel in Sanskrit, is a rapidly-rotating disc which emits energy and a certain frequency, moving in a up-down spiralling motion rather than being fixed. These are found at the points in our body where Kundalini or cosmic energy flows, or the 7 Nadis located around the major energy centres of the body. Starting at the base of the spine and working up to the top of the head, these are:

  1. Muladahara – found at the root of the body, pelvic floor, coccyx, represented by the earth element, fulfilment of basic survival needs and more animal instincts such as food, water, shelter and sex;
  2. Svadhisthana – genital and lower abdomen area, sacral area, represented by water element, drive to go beyond basic survival to imagine and create;
  3. Manipura – navel, solar plexus and lumbar area of spine, represented by fire element, calm, self-actualisation;
  4. Anahata – behind the heart, represented by air element, compassion and spirituality;
  5. Visuddhu – based of throat, cervical spine and thymus, represented by ether, knowledge and understanding;
  6. Ajna – between eyebrows, 3rd eye, pituitary gland, spirituality and connection;
  7. Sahasrara – crown of the head, the brain and pineal gland, intuition.
  8. Some also include an 8th chakra which is what we emit as a whole person – Aura – the bioelectric field or vibrations we emit from our body. (Iyengar 2014; Tirsula Yoga, 2015)

A fully healthy, balanced human will have balance and harmony between the different chakras, with their energy – somewhat akin to Chi or lifeforce in Taoist philosophy – flowing naturally. However, blockages can occur in different chakras leading to distortions of the mind and body. Namely, our healthy functioning mind and body become affected by trapped energy in one or other parts of the body, in turn leading our mental, emotional and behavioural energy to be over-emphasised in some parts of life rather than others. In order to deeply connect with the chakras, we need to work through the 8 Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga and to overcome the 6 evils (greed, desire, anger, pride, infatuation and envy), allowing us to connect the human body with our divine self (Iyengar, 2014).

With sustained practice, we can gently activate the chakras through asana practice. For example, grounding asanas such as Utkatasana (chair) tend to help activate the root chakra, Muladhara, whereas asanas such as Sirsasana (headstand) help to activate the crown chakra, Sahasrara.

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Meditation, mantra chanting, pranayama and mudras (healing hand and body gestures which help to receive energy as well as set our intentions) are particularly useful to activate the chakras (Electric Energies, 2016; Rice, 2015). For example, to promote activity at the Anahata (heart) chakra, we can practice Padma Mudra (shown in the photo above), where a lotus shape mudra is made with the hands whilst using deep breathing and chanting YAM. I find this a really powerful meditation myself, though I feel I am already quite balanced in this area. The resonance of this mantra and the lotus mudra hand formation help to draw energy to the heart centre. If we are experiencing a major blockage in the Anahata, we will tend to have low spiritual connection, lack compassion towards others, and lack ability to love and understand ourselves and others. Opening this area up can, as with the other chakras, help us to flourish as fully-rounded and spiritually connected individuals.

By shifting the energy evenly between the chakras, we can heal and re-align our physical and emotional conditions, redirecting negative energies and habits towards positive ones (Singh Khalsa and Sauth, 2001).

References:

Eclectic Energies (2016) Working with the Chakras, https://www.eclec*cenergies.com/chakras/working. Php

Iyengar, B. K. S. (2014) Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health, New York, Dk Publishing.

Singh Khalsa, D. and Stauth, C. (2001) Meditation as Medicine: Activate the Power of your Natural Healing Force, New York: Fireside.

Tirsula Yoga (2015) Tirsula Yoga Training Manual, 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training Course, Singapore: Tirsula Yoga.

Rice, A. (2015) 7 Mudras to Unlock Your 7 Chakras, http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-20543/7-mudras-to-unlock-your-7-chakras.html.