Many of us have experience with chakras without knowing it. Yoga practitioners especially are often guided through meditations by their different chakras, such as the third-eye chakra, all centers of energy in the body. If you are anything like me, you usually glaze over at these directions, hoping the next command is a bit more literal.
Even though your yoga pants have a chakra symbol on them (we’re looking at you, Prana), chakras are about much more than a simple decoration. They are steeped in ancient ayurvedic theory, originating in India sometime between 1,500 and 500 BCE. It makes many appearances in Sanskrit texts of the period, including the Vedas, the Shandilya Upanishad, and the Yoga Upanishad.
Chakras remained deeply rooted in Sanskrit cultural traditions, evolving through the years and passed down orally through the generations. The chakra system was made famous throughout the rest of the world, mostly the developed world, only when New Age healers started visiting India during the 1960s.
What is a Chakra?
Some people find it difficult to grasp the concept of chakras, because it is a spiritual idea about our distinct energy forces. Chakras can’t be seen or touched as with other parts of the body, but many believe chakras have a profound spiritual impact on their health and well-being.
Chakra is a Sanskrit word for spinning wheel. This direct translation refers to the spinning vortex of energy that each chakra maintains. Each is an important center of power in our bodies, interacting with our spiritual, physical, emotional and neurological selves.
Each chakra represents a vibrational energy, usually identified by a specific color and symbol. The energy within each vortex focuses on certain nearby physiological processes, and stimulates particular emotional or spiritual aspects of our lives.
Unbalanced and Blocked Chakras
Like other physiological aspects of our bodies, the chakra system may not always be open and functional. Sometimes, one or more chakras can become unbalanced or blocked. The primary purpose of the system is to move energy within our bodies, and a blocked chakra will not harmoniously or adequately move this energy. As explained under each of the seven standard chakras listed below, blockages disrupt certain aspects of our physical, emotional and spiritual lives.
The first step to chakra healing is understanding what each of the energy fields regulates. Energy healing requires an inner focus and deep understanding of what feels misaligned in your life. It can take time to make a connection between an emotional, physical or spiritual issue and the relevant chakra.
There are seven common chakras aligned from the bottom of our spine to the top of our head. They make up what we could call the energy blueprint of our bodies. Some suspect that over 100 chakras are spread through our bodies, but here we’ll focus on the seven most common ones.
A Deeper Understanding of the Seven Chakras
The root chakra, the Muladhara, or first chakra, is rooted at the very base of our spine. It lives near the first three vertebrae of the pelvic plexus. Its color frequency is vibrant red and typically it is represented by a downward pointing triangle or cone.
A healthy root chakra promotes the function of bladder and colon. It’s responsible for grounding us, making us feel safe and secure, and most importantly, maintaining the basic need of survival. When open, the root chakra grounds our energy into the Earth, and we can build off this strong life force.
When blocked, the root chakra can foster feelings of fear, paranoia, anxiety and distrust. It may also encourage greed and illusions.
The sacral chakra, the second or Svadhisthana chakra, is our sexual center of energy. It’s found near our pubic bone, just below the navel. Many yogis may recognize that some poses specifically require a hand placement on top of the sacral chakra, and an inner focus on energy during this meditation.
Its vibrational energy emits an orange glow, and it’s responsible for feelings of creativity, emotional stability and fostering relationships. Plus, as the center for all our sexual energies, it manages our sexuality. An open sacral chakra allows us to feel the outer and inner worlds, and respond to the world on an emotional basis.
A blocked Svadhisthana, not surprisingly, will have profound effects on our personal relationships, our sexuality and our creativity. When blocked, it promotes one emotion above another, and may also create a disconnect between our rational and emotional selves.
Solar Plexus Chakra
The solar plexus chakra is a bright sunny yellow. It’s represented symbolically as a circle surrounded by ten petals, a downward-pointed triangle in its center. It’s also known as the third chakra or Manipura, which means a lustrous gem. It is somewhat obviously located between our diaphragm and the solar plexus.
The energies focused within the chakra are responsible for decisions and self-control. It’s essentially the responsible chakra, managing our confidence, independence and clarity. If this chakra demonstrates instability, people may lack confidence, or have too much of it. They may have difficulty making decisions or taking control of a situation. Their lives may lack a clear direction.
The fourth chakra, the heart chakra, or Anahata, is our center of love and compassion. It’s vibrant green, symbolically illustrated as a petaled circle with two triangles forming a six-pointed star. Instead of being found exactly where our heart lies in our chest, it is at the dead center where it is responsible for the function of our immune system and hormone production.
Emotionally, it covers our love, our compassion and our empathy for ourselves and others. It’s a vital source of energy for human connection. When open, it connects us deeply to others. When blocked, it could trigger negative emotions towards others. Some examples include jealousy, defensiveness and a lack of human connection.
The fifth chakra in the line, also known as Vishuddha, or the throat chakra, is brilliant aquamarine blue. The central symbol, a triangle with a circle inside, is found in the throat. It’s multidimensional, and may even shine outside our throats on an unseen dimensional plane.
The chakra sits at somewhat of a bottleneck of energy flow between the bottom chakras and the top ones. It’s responsible for clear communication, to others and to oneself. Clear communication of ideas, of purpose, of creativity, all rely on an open fifth chakra.
A blocked throat chakra leads to losing your voice. This means not being able to communicate efficiently, getting lost in the process, and an increased secrecy.
The third-eye chakra, the sixth one, or the Ajna, is directly between our eyebrows. It is a powerful deep purple and drawn as an upside-down triangle with a lotus flower. It’s strongly tied to many spiritual qualities and has the most mystical characteristics of all the chakras.
An open third-eye chakra connects us to wisdom, visions, illumination and perception of energy. Opening your third eye allows you to be perceptive inwardly and outwardly. Closed Ajna chakras lead to reduced spirituality and perception. If it’s overactive, it may lead to difficulty discerning between illusions and realities.
The final chakra, the Sahasrara, is the seventh in the full lineup. Usually represented as a bright white circle with a thousand petals surrounding it; it may also be a deep purple. Most people place its location at the very crown of the head, but it may also be located floating just a little bit above, like a halo. It is the vital spiritual connection between ourselves and whatever else is out there.
Crown chakra is the awakened consciousness and open awareness required for higher spiritual awakening. Feelings of bliss and ecstasy stem from this chakra. Without an open crown chakra, we can never hope to reach a profoundly spiritual state.
How to Realign or Reopen the Chakras
Learning about opening chakras is an entire article in and of itself. A variety of techniques are used to unblock and refocus our chakras for optimal energy flow:
- Meditation focusing on the dysfunctional chakra.
- Physical activity focusing on the dysfunctional chakra.
- If it’s more of an emotional or psychological problem, it may require introspection and inner personal work to heal the chakra.
- Energy-healing ceremonies.
Given the deeply spiritual aspects of the chakra system, it’s not always understood or accepted by the modern world. Nonetheless, it is used by many people as a way to find and maintain a harmonious balance between their physical, emotional and spiritual selves.
Energy work is simply another way through which people improve their health and well-being. It’s connected to other popular spiritual practices, such as meditation and yoga. It encourages deep inner work and transformation. Chakra-healing pushes us to achieve higher awareness and consciousness of oneself and of the outer world. If anything, it helps create empathy and understanding in relationships, and helps us root out energies within the Earth.