Introducing the chakras

Are you puzzled by the chakras? Do you wonder what they mean? In today’s blog, I’m taking a look at the chakras and trying to summarise some of the  information that is out there!

What is a chakra?

The word “chakra” (chakrum) is Sanskrit for spinning wheels of light (1–3). Chakras are thought to be the source of the aura’s energy and colour (2) and are believed to hold the spiritual and evolutionary consciousness of the individual and all mankind (2). Chakras act as energy vortices that absorb prana (4,5). The flow of prana through the chakras determines our daily thoughts and actions (4).

Chakra structure

Each chakra has a front (representing everyday behaviour and relationships with the physical world), a back (unconscious actions and the spiritual world) (3), left and right (representing female and male qualities, respectively), and an inner and outer side (relating to higher consciousness and personal (worldly) desires/feelings, respectively) (3).

Chakras, nadis, and marma points

There are a number chakras in the body; the seven main chakras exist along the spine (4). The seven chakras are muladhara (root), swadisthana (sacrum), manipura (solar plexus), anahata (heart), vishuddi (throat), ajna (between eyebrows), and sahasrara (crown). Each chakra acts as a main marma point which energises other marma points in the body (3). The prana from the chakras passes to the marma points via channels known as nadis (which meet at the chakras) (2,5). Each chakra is associated with different nadis and marma points  (5). The seven chakras exist along the main nadi (channel for prana) – the sushumna nadi (1). Either side of sushumna are two other nadis called ida (left side) and pingala (1). All nadis start at muladhara and branch out from the main nadi (sushumna) at various places. Figure 1 shows the positioning of the seven main chakras and the three major nadis in the body.

Minor chakras exist where fewer nadis meet (the soles of the feet, behind the knees, the gonads, the stomach, the liver, the palms of the hands, the breasts, each side of the clavicle, the eyes, the temples, the thymus gland, two at the spleen, base of the skull [alta major]) (1). In 1990, a series of transpersonal chakras were first named – these include the earth star, hara, causal, soul star, and stellar gateway chakras (1).

Chakra balancing

The chakras all work in connection with one another – if one chakra becomes imbalanced, this can have an impact on the others (6). A range of characteristics can be observed when chakras are in balance or imbalanced (Table 1).The use of yoga is one way in which balance can be achieved and some useful postures are also shown in Table 1, along with mudras for each chakra (3). Crystals and essential oils are also beneficial in balancing the chakras (Table 1).

My practice to balance the chakras

I primarily use my yoga and meditation practice to balance my chakras. I sometimes use crystals and sound meditations too – including chanting mantras, seed sounds, using tuning forks, or listening to chakra balancing music.

In my yoga practice, I particularly like to use tadasana (to balance all chakras but mainly focusing on rooting into the earth [muladhara] and up to the sky [sahasrara]), setubhandasana (focusing on muladhara, swadisthana, manipura, and vishuddi), ustrasana (focusing on anahata and vishuddi), the anahata breath (anahata) and the sphinx (rising up through all the chakras, then focusing on ajana and sahasrara). I like to use Shambavi mudra (eyebrow gazing) to balance ajna in the sphinx.  Surya namaskar and the rainbow bridge also help me to balance all my chakras. Pithvi dharanam is a wonderful grounding meditation – but more on this another time.

Sometimes when I feel I have lost my grounding, I balance muladhara by getting a good routine, cleaning myself and the house, and gardening! I find being by water, like the sea or a river also helps me retain balance – swadisthana is being balanced there I think! Gazing at a ghee flame in a diva balances manipura, but I also feel that this cleanses all my chakras and my aura. Eating Ayurvedically feels like it cleanses my chakras while it acts on imbalances in my doshas. I try to eat Ayurvedically as much as possible and I am enjoying the way it makes my mind and body feel!

Table 1: Chakra summary (created using refs 1-17)

References

  1. Mercier P. The Chakra Bible: the definitive guide to working with chakras. Alresford: Godsfield; 2009.
  2. White R. Working with your Chakras. London: Piatkus; 1993.
  3. Dale C. The Subtle Body Practice Manual: a Comprehensive Guide to Energy Healing. 2013.
  4. Barrington C, Goswāmī A, Jones A. Dru Yoga: Stillness in Motion. Nant Ffrancon, Bethesda, North Wales, U.K.: DRU Publications; 2005.
  5. Frawley D, Ranade S, Lele A. Ayurveda and Marma Therapy: Energy Points in Yogic Healing. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press; 2003.
  6. Judith A, Vega S. The Sevenfold Journey: Reclaiming Mind, Body & Spirit through the Chakras. Freedom, CA: Crossing Press; 1993.
  7. The Chakra System [Internet]. www.innersanctumyoga.com.au. Available from: http://www.innersanctumyoga.com.au/KundaliniYoga/uncategorized/page/2
  8. Hirschi G. Mudras: yoga in your hands. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser; 2000.
  9. Chakras and Kundalini [Internet]. Available from: http://www.chakras.net/
  10. Chakras, Colors & Hindu Gods: A Closer Look at the Hindu System [Internet]. Available from: http://www.lotussculpture.com/blog/chakras-colors-hindu-gods/
  11. Hindu Gods and Goddesses [Internet]. Available from: http://www.thehindugods.com/
  12. Seven Chakras and Our Health – (Muladhara to Sahasrara) [Internet]. Available from: http://www.medindia.net/patients/lifestyleandwellness/seven-chakras-and-our-health.htm
  13. Muladhara- Part 1 [Internet]. allgoodthings.com. [cited 2015 Aug 24]. Available from: http://www.allgoodthings.com/yoga/chakra/chakra1.html
  14. Thomas Gulden S. Balancing the Wheels. Blurb Creat Publ. 2014;
  15. Prana Vayu – Five vital forces [Internet]. Available from: http://sacred-earth.typepad.com/yoga/2008/07/prana-vayu-five-vital-forces.html
  16. Practice, Antahkarana, Pranas (winds) [Internet]. Available from: http://www.purna-yoga.ru/en/practice-antahkarana.php
  17. Johari H. Chakras: Energy Centers of Transformation. Rochester, Vt.: Destiny Books; 2000.