What are the Chakras?
And how do we work with them in yoga practice.
In order to first understand the Chakras, it is important to understand the concept of the ‘subtle body’ - the space in which energy flows through the physical body.
Our blog Relating to the Koshas outlines the different ‘bodies’ we experience as understood in yoga. When referring to the subtle body, we are talking about the Pranamaya Kosha - the space where Prana flows.
The subtle body consists of a network of Nadis and Chakras.
The word nadi literally means 'flow' or 'current' and describes the channels through which energy flows in the body. Ancient texts describe 72,000 nadis in the psychic body.
Nadis are subtle channels through which the pranic forces flow. Out of 72,000, ten are major and of these only three are most significant - Ida, Pingala and Sushumna nadi.
Sushumna nadi is the spiritual channel through which kundalini energy rises. Located at the centre of the spinal cord, it originates from muladhara chakra at the perineum and terminates at sahasrara at the crown of the head.
Ida nadi emanates from the left side of muladhara and spirals up the spinal cord, passing through each chakra in turn, forming a criss-cross pathway which terminates at the left side of ajna chakra.
Pingala nadi emanates from the right side of muladhara and passes in an opposite manner to that of ida, terminating at the right side of ajna.
Ida and pingala represent the two opposing forces in human design. Ida is passive, introverted and feminine; it is also known as the chandra or moon nadi. Pingala on the other hand is active, extroverted and masculine and is called the surya or sun nadi.
As seen in the diagram, chakras exist where ida and pingala nadi cross. Representing a central point of energy in the body.
The Sanskrit word Chakra literally translates to wheel or disk, and describes the different centers of energy found throughout the body. There are 7 main Chakra’s located in the body, each representing a different aspect of a person's energy or emotions; Chakras can fall in and out of balance - either preventing or allowing energy to flow. We can nourish or stimulate each chakra in different ways.
This is our energetic foundation. The home of primal energy, kundalini shakti. It represents an energy of material security, foundation, stability and safety. It is responsible for our basic primal urges - food, sleep, sex and self preservation.
Location: Base of spine between anus and genitals.
Out of balance: Fear, feeling ungrounded, lacking confidence, anxiety, depression.
In Balance: Stability, feeling of safety, openness, passion, vitality.
Symbol: Square, four petals
Practices to promote grounding, stability and centering can help connect with Muladhara.
The sacral chakra, Swadhisthana translates as ‘one’s own abode’. It is home to our dreams, fantasies and emotions. It represents an energy of creativity, pleasure, sexuality, control and morality.
Location: Two fingers width above Muladhara chakra in the spine.
Out of balance: Overly emotional and sexual, jealousy, loneliness, over indulgence.
In Balance: Creativity, inspiration, attention and knowledge, trusting faith, clear emotions and feelings.
Symbol: Circle, six petals
Hip opening practices and forward folds can help connect with Swadhistana.
Found at the solar plexus, Manipura is the body's central stronghold. Translated as the ‘city of gems’ it is home to our greatest asset - our sense of self. It represents an energy of willpower, fire, self esteem and transformation.
Location: One hand span above belly button.
Out of balance: Sluggish, weakness, indigestion, aggressive or domineering, controlling.
In balance: Energy, effectiveness and spontaneity, spiritual growth - radiant with vitality and energy, self esteem, positive self image.
Symbol: Triangle, ten petals
Any heating practices like core work, twisting, balances can help connect with Manipura.
Otherwise known as the heart chakra, the word Anahata literally means 'unstruck sound'. It is said to represent the vibration of the universe and human experience. It is the center of unconditional love, compassion, selflessness and devotion. It represents an energy of love, trust, forgiveness and openness.
Location: In the spine behind the sternum.
Out of balance: Asthma, love related problems, heart conditions, self pity.
In balance: Unconditional love, compassion, connection, security, acceptance.
Symbol: Star, twelve petals
Chest opening, backbends and chanting are all great practices to connect with Anahata.
Known as the throat chakra, this is the bridge between heart and mind. It is the home of communication and expression, sense of truth, choice and decisions. It represents an energy of expression, truth and purity.
Location: Base of the throat.
Out of balance: Flu like symptoms, cough, lack of communication skills, over talking.
In balance: Center for purification, good communication, speaking truth, clear with decisions.
Symbol: Circle inside triangle, sixteen petals
Practices to connect with Vishuddhi include Kirtan (chanting), ujayi pranayama and shoulder stand
Known as the ‘third eye’ or ‘mind's eye’, The Ajna chakra is the body's command centre. It is responsible for our sensory perception, conscious and subconscious mind, and regulating the other chakras and energy channels. It represents an energy of wisdom, rationality, emotional intelligence, concentration and intuition.
Location: Eyebrow center in the midbrain.
Element: Brahma / mind.
Out of balance: Negative thoughts, lack of energy, bad karma, fantasy worlds.
In Balance: Intuition, wisdom, strength of mind, control of prana, clairvoyance and telepathy.
Symbol: Triangle inside circle, two petals
We can practice mediation or nadi shodana pranayama to connect with Ajna.
Known as the crown chakra, Sahasrara sits above the head and is regarded as a gateway to the energy of the universe, or as a passageway to connecting to the higher self. It represents an energy of connection, spirituality and clarity.
Location: Whole top of the head above the hairline.
Element: Brahma (god element)
Out of balance: Poor sleep, self centeredness, narrow mindedness, low energy.
In Balance: Enlightenment, joy, spiritual connection to higher self and to the divine.
Symbol: Circle, thousand petals
Meditation is the best way to connect with Sahasrara.