What are Chakras?
In Yoga the chakras are known as Sushumna Nadi which means centres of subtle and vital energy. These wheels or discs are situated along the spine and receive and express prata our life force energy. There are 7 main Chakras in the human body.
The chakras are wheels that enable energy to flow through the body at different speeds, in different directions and at different orbits from a centred point in the body.
The Chakras revolve on a horizontal plane in line with the spine. When actions are performed that increase a chakras energy frequency they rotate clockwise as shakti energy rises upwards. When the chakra is blocked or an action performed that decreases frequency, the chakra rotates anticlockwise.
Each Chakra represents a state of consciousness and subtle awareness – It is associated with a particular function in the body and with specific life issues, including the way we handle it internally and externally in the world. Each centre represents a specific feeling, tone or emotion and has its own unique characteristic.
Each Chakra has a number of petals with a Sanskrit letter on each. There are a total of 50 petals.
Why we work with our Chakras?
Chakras can be thought of as sites where we receive, distribute and store life force.
Working with our Chakras or energy system involves attuning to our intuitive abilities and learning the wiser distribution of our energy and life forces. Along the path of life chakras can become blocked or over active and therefore imbalanced. In yoga we seek to restore balance.
What we give our energy to becomes our investment in the process of life. This investment gives returns to you and life either positively or negatively. For example, imagine every day you have $100 worth of energy to invest. Will you invest in positive circumstances, relationships and thoughts that bring high interest returns to your system and others, or make bad investments where you build debts, need to get a loan from your cell tissue, or borrow from other peoples energy because your running out of your own?
Managing our energy so it flows and manifests appropriately in the world can help us to realise our potential and to choose to act more consciously in the world for our own and others benefit. Shakti energy when awakened and travelling through all the chakra’s, leads to an enlightened state.
1st Chakra – Muladhara
- Located at the base of the spine which corresponds to the coccyx in the physical body
- 4 petals
- It’s element of earth
- Has a square yellow mandala
- The bija mantra is LAM
The first chakra is about base needs of food, shelter and finances and tribal energy. This energy gets connection from nature – groundedness, sense of earth through you, and you through it.
In terms of self identity and your tribe – where you fit in this world, do you feel that you belong? Do you uphold and feel pride in your history and traditions? respecting them.
The purpose of tribe is physical survival, to stand for the self, work with others, to act with honour. It is about loyalty more than love. This chakra thrives in a stable family system with strong community contacts.
Fear is associated with this chakra as it is an emotion that distracts us from getting secure information from our surroundings. It is useful to learn how to feel your fear and reactions to it. What part of your body is holding that fear? Through yoga resolve it and let it go.
2nd Chakra – Swadhisthana
- Is the abode of the self and located in the genital area (4th bone of the sacrum)
- It controls the lower abdomen in the physical body
- It has 6 petals
- Its element is water
- It is a white crescent moon
- The bija mantra is VAM
This is the centre of survival – sex, power, and control in the physical world. One to one relationships and connection sit here. Positive and negative relationships come from here as we learn to work with ourselves and attitudes towards others. We learn to manage jealousies and work generously with ourselves and others.
3rd Chakra – Manipura
- Located at the navel it corresponds to the solar plexus (4th lumbar spine)
- It has 10 petals
- It has a red triangle mandala
- It’s element is fire
- Its bija mantra is RAM
This Chakra vibrates power that makes us comfortable in our external work. A bit more than just survival it is the centre for self esteem, and developing a positive self concept.
How do you feel about yourself? How do you feel about your physical body?
It is the seat of confidence and personal honour.
The development and empowerment of this Chakra is to know what it means to maintain strong personal boundaries – learning how to manage the self with self respect and personal dignity and to be able to give yourself your own word.
If you keep breaking your word to yourself you will develop a powerless relationship to yourself if you have that how can you have an empowered relationship to others?
This centre of personal strength, endurance, personal respect when activated is to know what it is to feel good about the way we are, to take pride in our work and how we breathe our energy into acts of creation.
4th Chakra – Anahata
- Located in the heart region (the 9th bone at the thoracic)
- It is a smoked coloured mandala
- It has 12 petals
- It’s element is Air
- It’s bija is YAM
The heart is mission control. Our objective as yogis arguably is to learn the energy of the heart in the most spiritually sophisticated way we can. It is the place where we cope with forgiveness, internalise the love of family, feel and show compassion, develop our own self love and realise the healing power of love.
5th Chakra – Vishuddha
- Located at the base of the throat (4th bone of the cervical)
- Corresponds to the laryngeal plexus in the physical body
- It’s within a pure blue circle
- It has 16 petals
- It’s element is Ether
- It’s bija is HAM
Above the waist the climate isn’t as defined – the 5th 6th 7th flow together more as a team For example, it is harder to divide a thought from an emotion, they flow together. Tis upper chakra region is also often referred to as the spiritual region.
The 5th chakra is about listening and speaking truth with presence, kindness and compassion. Chanting is a tool used to open the 5th chakra.
6th Chakra – Ajna
- Located between the eyebrows (pituitary gland)
- The third eye
- OM is its seed letter in a pure white circle
- It has 2 petals
- The element is avyakta
The third eye is believed to offer wisdom and deep insights that transcend the physical and material. It is said that meditation on Ajna destroys the karma of past lives and gives liberation and intuitional knowledge.
7th Chakra – Sahasrara
- Above and beyond the other six Chakra centres
- Situated at the crown of the head corresponding to the pineal gland of the physical body
- 1000 petals
- It is the abode of Siva
The energy from the 7th Chakra comes from heaven, it is our connection with the divine.
It is not old guidance or memories but fresh! new! it’s wide open, no feeling, no history. This is the jewel of potential and has transformative powers. When shakti is united with Siva at Sahasrara the yogi experiences enlightenment.
Working with our Chakras
Humans are a perceptual structure always in motion – perceiving our past simultaneously with our present. We are able to receive any number of energies from all directions past, present, future and from nature to people to traffic… that is the complexity of human life. So we ned to learn to keep it simple.
We can learn to focus our attention like a laser beam. Yoga teaches how to tame the mind, to claim attention back to the present by focusing on the Ajna, Vishuddha or Anahata chakras.
We can learn to stop receiving energy via the 5 senses or the personal door of our own emotional history. It’s a challenge to get more impersonal about the self but it’s a great tool to develop – impersonal doesn’t mean not caring, but learning to assume a position that allows us to centre and focus in a healthy way, chakra by chakra in the present moment.
Pranayama and asanas can help to release blocks in the body that correspond to our chakras, and clear the path for higher consciousness.
(Sept 17 YTT)