ORIGINS OF THE CHAKRAS:
There's not just one chakra system in the original tradition, there are many. The theory of the subtle body and its energy centers called chakras comes from the tradition of Tantrik Yoga, which flourished from 600-1300 CE, and is still alive today.
In mature Tantrik Yoga (after the year 900 or so), every one of the many branches of the tradition articulated a different chakra system, and some branches articulated more than one. Five-chakra systems, six-chakra systems, seven, nine, ten, twelve, twenty-one and more chakras are taught, depending on what text and what lineage you’re looking at. The seven chakra system that Western yogis know about is just one of many, and it became dominant around the 15th century.
WHY ARE THE CHAKRAS SO IMPORTANT
The 7 chakras are the wheels of energy that sustains our bodies through everything in life. If our chakras are well taken care of – free, unblocked, and balanced – our energies are balanced and there is little room for illness or diseases to enter our mental, physical or energetic bodies.
It is important to remember that our bodies are simply vehicles of our real soul, or true self. Just as one learns to take care of a vehicle through an “owner’s manual” or blueprint, we need to know how to take care of all our bodies through our very own blueprint.
At the core of this manual is an understanding of how to balance the energy centres – the 7 chakras – of our bodies. Yoga has already provided us with an abundance of tools and methods, which are centred on chakra balancing, to help us activate wholeness and health.
Let’s explore the seven chakras in our body, how they affect the body, what imbalance does to our personality and organs, and how to set it right by balancing the chakras.
- Muladhara Chakra
- Svadhishthana Chakra
- Manipura Chakra
- Anahata Chakra
- Vishuddhi Chakra
- Ajna Chakra
- Sahasrara Chakra
Muladhara is a Sanskrit term, which can be broken down into Mula, which means “root” or “main”, and dhara, which means “foundation”. It is related to survival, security, sense of belonging and grounding. This is where your earliest memories are stored; they form the basis of your perception in life. On the physical level, the root chakra is associated with the earth element, the sense of smell, and the capacity of excretion. It is also where our individual potential lies sleeping in the depths of our unconscious mind. Our spiritual journey in the universe of the body is to awaken this divine potential (kundalini) and unite her with the infinite at the crown of the head.
When your Muladhara chakra is unbalanced, you may suffer from anxiety, insecurity, low self-esteem, fear or destructive behaviors. When it is in balance, you will feel strong, grounded and confident.
The second major chakra in our body is known as the Sacral Chakra or Svadhisthana Chakra in Sanskrit. Sva means “self”, and adhisthana means “established” or “home”. The word svad also means the “activity of taking pleasure”.
As such, the Svadhisthana Chakra is the home of our emotions, creativity and fluidity. The svadishthana chakra, associated with the sacrum, the water element, and the genitals, governs taste and reproduction, as well as desire and pleasure. Our zest for life has its origin here, but if mismanaged, the power of this center can result in cravings, attachments, and addictions of all kinds. The literal meaning of svadishthana—“her own abode”—implies that the goddess Kundalini, when awakened from her slumber in the muladhara, resides here, and our desire is one and the same as divine desire. We are no longer ruled by personal likes and dislikes, but rather are instruments in the hands of the Divine at the deepest level of our being.
This chakra is closely linked to the muladhara and related to many of the same issues and yoga practices. When this chakra is in balance, you will feel positive, creative and in general like you are in the flow of life. When the Svadhisthana Chakra is out of balanced, you may feel emotionally unstable, oversensitive or lack passion in life.
Manipura ChakraManipura Chakra is related to our personal power and self-esteem. It is the house of our self-control and courage. The manipura chakra, located at the navel, regulates the lumbar spine, the digestive organs, eyesight, and locomotion. As the pranic hub of the body, the navel chakra is associated with the fire element. Fire is transformative, and since yoga is a transformative process, many hatha yoga practices focus on the navel to strengthen this fire. As the center of vitality, the manipura provides the easiest access to the pranic force in the physical body.
When this chakra is in balanced, you will feel alive, have a high level of self-esteem, and feel strong internally and externally. You are confident, self-controlled, and have the strength and conviction to follow through with your intentions.
When Manipura Chakra is unbalanced, you may feel stagnant – this manifests in feelings such as a lack of motivation, low self-esteem, and lack of energy. Physically you may also be suffering from digestive or liver problems.
Anahata Chakra is the fourth chakra, also known as the Heart Chakra. As the name suggest, it is found at the centre of the chest.
The Sanskrit word an means “without” and ahata means “struck” or “hit”. Anahata refers to the unstruck sound, a sound that is not made out of two objects hitting each other. When a person achieves Samadhi, or ultimate bliss, he is so in tune with his internal self that he will be able to hear this sound that emerges from the Anahata Chakra.When Heart Chakra is balanced, you are able to maintain strong relationships with others, are aware of your inner thoughts and emotions, and have a high level of empathy towards others.
When the Anahata Chakra is unbalanced, you may become over-attached to people or things and allow your sentiments to control your actions. On the other extreme, an unbalanced chakra may also result in a lack of emotions, which results in anti-social behaviors, bitterness or loneliness.
Vishuddha Chakra is located at the throat, in the centre of the neck. It is also known as the Throat Chakra or the fifth major chakra in our bodies.
The Sanskrit word vi means “special”, and shuddha means “purity” or “clarity”. It is the energy centre which allows us to express and listen to truth. It defines our abilities to communicate clearly, both verbally and non-verbally, internally and externally. When the Vishuddha Chakra is balanced, we are able to communicate clearly and express ourselves in healthy ways. We become better at listening to others. We are able to honor our personal truths (or purpose) without judgement.
A person who suffers from an unbalanced Vishuddha Chakra may find it difficult to speak or express themselves clearly. An unbalanced Vishuddha Chakra may also manifest itself physically as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
Ajna in Sanskrit means “order” or “command”. It is the energy centre which provides us insight and intuition to make the right decisions and act in the correct way.
The ajna (pronounced “ahgya”) is the command center, the seat of the mind, and the interface between body and mind. This sixth chakra, sometimes called “the third eye,” regulates growth and development at every level through the brain centers and the pituitary gland (the master gland). The two major aspects of the pranic force in the body, which operate as opposing forces in all the lower chakras, come together here, opening in the mind to deep inner stillness. The integration of intellect and feeling at the ajna results in divine sight, intuition, and profound self-knowledge. Without that integration, we stay trapped in the consciousness of ordinary reality and the realm of the senses.
The word sahasrara stands for “one thousand”, representing the one thousand petals of the crown chakra symbol. This is the seventh and last major chakra of our body.
According to the tantric yoga tradition, each human is a miniature universe built on the same template as the cosmos, and the chakras connect the individual and the cosmic forces. Awakening kundalini—the latent energy in the chakras that lies coiled at the base of the spine—and leading her to unity with the energy at the crown center is the spiritual process by which we grow beyond the personal and into cosmic consciousness.
The most common method to balance chakras is energy healing, which can include:
- Conscious breathing
- Tai Chi
- Chakra meditation
- Acupressure and acupuncture
The conscious awareness and the balancing of these energy centers lead to well-being and good health.