The Chakras are often mentioned in yoga classes, but mostly they are glossed over without giving a fair understanding to what they really are, when they are in fact quite a foundational part of yoga tradition. The Chakras system first appeared in ancient Indian texts called the Upanishads, and later rose to prominence through Tantric teachings, where it stemmed into Hatha yoga as we know it today. The Chakras are part of an individual's energy body, otherwise known in yoga as the Pranamayakosha (of the 5 Koshas) or subtle body. In Sanskrit, “chakra” means wheel, and refers to a spinning force of energy. There are actually over 100 known chakras in the body, but yoga practitioners mostly work with seven main ones that are centered along our spine. You might notice that the first (or lower) three chakras are more in the physical, tangible, material world, while the higher three have more to do with the spiritual realm.
While no scientist has yet measured these energy centers, the truth is that every human has an electromagnetic field of our own, and each of our organs has its own as well. And interestingly, when you look at the physiology of our bodies, the seven chakras correspond perfectly to major nerve centers and organ systems along our spine. So beware of quickly dismissing this ancient wisdom if you are a skeptic. Regardless of whether science is yet able to prove the chakra system, what I appreciate is that it is a way for humans to access some of our intangible needs in a tangible way.
Each chakra is said to be characterized by its own unique properties and abilities (as described for each one below), which you can work with to keep the energy flowing and balanced. If you are feeling stuck or off balance in relation to any of the chakras, or noticing lots of challenges coming up consistently in one of the areas, try working with the color, element, sense, or bij mantra of that chakra, as well as doing things that help you cultivate the qualities of that chakra. And a note on colors associated with chakras: There are many different beliefs and systems as to which color is paired with which chakra, as colors were not added to the system until later, so know that if you feel another color resonates more with a particular chakra to you, you could try working with that color instead - it is not set in stone. Also, check the cheat sheet below to get some quick tips for how to rebalance, and try my Chakra Balancing Meditation on Insight Timer.
The first chakra, also known as the Root chakra or Muladhara in Sanskrit, is located at the base of your spine, or near your perineum. This chakra is associated with the color red, the earth element, the sense of smell, and the bij (seed) mantra Lam. It is all about the primal needs of stability, security, and safety. Just as it is located at the base of our center, it also relates to the base or foundations of our lives and making sure our primal and material needs are met. The root chakra is also associated with our sense of groundedness and belonging. If this Chakra is out of balance, one might feel fearful, nervous, insecure, unwelcome, greedy, materialistic, resistant to change, etc. Some things you could do to balance the chakra include: Taproot visualization; Take care of your basic needs (physical, mental, emotional, financial, material, etc); Connect with Mother Nature by going on a hike, doing a nature activity, or simply spending more time in her, admiring her; Practice "earthing" or walking on the ground barefoot; Trying these grounding asanas.
The second chakra, also known as the Sacral chakra or Svadhisthana in Sanskrit, is located around the pelvis region and at the sacrum, as its name would suggest. It is associated with the color orange, the element water, the sense of taste, and the bij mantraVam. The qualities associated with this chakra are creativity, sensuality, flow/fluidity, pleasure, movement, change, emotion, relationships. You can see how all of those characteristics fit together. The region where this chakra is physically located is literally the birthing center in the human body - it is biologically where we reproduce. So it only makes sense that Svadhisthana chakra would be associated with all things related to giving life, whether that be another human or a passion project. If this chakra is underactive, you might feel stiff and closed off, and if you're over-active, you might feel extremely emotional or heightened sexuality compared to normal. Some ways that I like to balance this chakra include: Hip circles; Connecting with water by taking a shower or bath, or going to the river or ocean; Dancing or flowy yoga practice with lots of organic movement; Channeling my emotions into a creative activity; Tuning in deeper to my 5 senses while eating, drinking, or doing any activity really. This Shakti meditation would be a good practice to help you connect with this chakra's energy.
The third chakra is Manipura, or the solar plexus chakra, also nicknamed the "power center". It is located between the navel and the breast bone, in the core center region. Its color is yellow, its element fire, and its sense sight or vision. The seed mantra is Ram. This chakra is all about our ego identification, our sense of power, self-esteem, confidence, and worthiness. Just like the fiery yellow sun, this chakra brings big energy and knows its power. If it is over-active, one might come across as cocky, aggressive, and domineering. If it is under-active, a person might have low self-esteem or self-worth. Since the Solar Plexus also rules our willpower, practicing Tapas (the third Niyama of the 8 limbs of yoga) could also be a great way to work with this chakra. Manipura can also be associated with feeling over-heated or having a very active digestive system, also known as Agni (digestive fire) in yoga. Therefore, poor digestion could be a sign of imbalance. If you are feeling off in this area, some ways to work with the power center are: Practices that build heat like sun salutations, Ujjayi breath, or Kapalabhati Breath; Sunbathing; Core strengthening exercises, warrior poses, or power postures that make you feel radiant, strong, and help you take up space.
The fourth chakra, located in the heart, is also called Anahata. The color of the heart chakra is green, the element is air, the sense is touch or feeling, and the mantra is Yam. Anahata is associated with the purest, most unconditional love, compassion, peace, and bliss. Imagine a puppy dog who joyfully runs up to anyone and everyone it sees with an openness and joy - this is the essence of Anahata. When you are balanced in Anahata, you love beyond the self, you emanate love, and you live your life from the heart. If Anahata is overactive, you might be smothering people, over-giving, forgetting to love yourself, or potentially loving another for selfish reasons. If this chakra is under-active, you probably feel cold, distant, and closed off to love. An imbalanced heart chakra causes many issues with boundaries, possessiveness, and obsessiveness. To balance, try: Connecting with the power of the heart through heart-centered meditation; Playing with a puppy or child or anything that embodies unconditional love without judgment; Giving and receiving more hugs, Gratitude practice; Heart-opening asanas; Volunteer to help people less fortunate than you; Practice seeing everyone as God in drag.
The fifth chakra, Vishuddha, is the throat chakra. It is located in the throat area, and is characterized by the color blue, the element ether (space), the sense of sound, and bij mantra Ham. This chakra is all about truth, self-expression, and communication. An imbalance in this area would cause difficulties in speaking up and expressing your truth, or conversely you might over communicate or dominate conversations. Maybe you feel very shy and quiet, or like you have too much to say. But expression doesn't only come in the form of voice. You may also have trouble expressing your authentic self in other ways. Thyroid issues could be an indication of imbalance as well. On the other hand, if you are balanced in Vishuddha, you probably feel comfortable expressing yourself in many ways - maybe you are even an artist or creative. To get Vishuddha into better balance, try: Singing, chanting or humming; Practicing speaking up more, even if your voice shakes; Neck circles and exercises; Journaling your thoughts, feelings, and ideas; Practicing breathwork (pranayama) like Ujjayi (liked under Manipura section).
This sixth chakra, Ajna, is right between your eyebrows, or at your Third Eye center. It is associated with the color purple, all elements, and the seed mantra Om or Aum. Ajna chakra is known for being the "intuitive or wisdom center." It rules our imagination, our knowing of Being, bird's eye perspective of self and life, our Higher self, and psychic feelings. If this chakra is under-active, you might be rigid in your thinking, overly logical, or relying too much on the beliefs of authority. You could benefit from opening your mind and allowing yourself to be curious about things that you might not fully understand or may not have traditional evidence for yet. An Ajna imbalance might have you feeling confused or disconnected from your own internal knowing or intuition. If this chakra is overactive, you might be living a little bit too much in the spiritual realm or the world of illusion, and could benefit from some grounding practices like the ones listed for the Root chakra. Otherwise, here are some practices I like to bring the Third Eye chakra into balance: Massage the pace between the center of your brows by gently turning your head side to side while face down on the mat in child's pose or pigeon; Connecting with your internal world on a deeper level through Pratyahara or practices like Yoni Mudra; Chanting Om; Spending more time in silence; Improving your sleep hygiene; Practicing more inward poses like forward folds or inversions to get energy flowing back toward this chakra.
The seventh chakra is the Crown chakra, or Sahasrara, and it is located in the space above your head. The Crown chakra is associated with the color white, all the elements, and the mantra So Hum (which means I am). It is all about spiritual wisdom, your sense of Being and interconnectedness with the universal consciousness. It is the feeling of being at One with the world, and being in pure bliss, detached from Ego identifications. It is knowing your True Self - that you are a unique expression of the universe, and at the same time, you hold the entire universe within you. If there is an imbalance here, you either are not very connected to your spiritual self and are intellectualizing things too much, or you are not grounded enough in reality and are too floaty. You might even be so addicted to spirituality that you feel disconnected from the earthly realm, ignoring your bodily needs, or self-harm because you don't feel at place in the physical world. Ways to help you bring the crown chakra into balance are: Meditation of any form, but especially silent; Connecting with things that ignite your soul, spirit, and spark for life; Finding something larger than yourself to have faith in. If you are having trouble knowing where to begin in connecting with your Spiritual Self, building an altar can be a great way to start.
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