The word chakra (correctly pronounced chuck-ra) is defined as a wheel or vortex of energy. There are seven primary chakras in the human body’s energetic system. They are situated in the spinal cord and represent different energy levels at well-defined areas along a specifically defined flow. In yogic terms, the vital energy that flows through these seven main energy centres energises the body and balances the physical, mental and emotional states of being. Known as “windows to the soul” … the chakras provide subtle connections into soul consciousness.
An Overview of the Chakras*
Each chakra relates to a particular gland of the endocrine system and each has been given a “trigger point” in the front of the body, which, when concentrated on, helps to awaken the corresponding chakra. The trigger points are in the front because it is easier to concentrate on them than the corresponding places in the spine. There is a direct connection via various minor nadis (energy channels) between the trigger points and the chakras. Each chakra is also associated with an element.
Mooladhara, the base or root chakra, is related to the element earth, as it is in the most gross part of the body. It has four petals and its colour is deep red. It is said to be the seat of the sleeping kundalini (potential force of the body). The trigger point is the cervix in women and the perineum in men.
Swadhisthana, the sacral chakra (located at the coccyx at the base of the spine) is traditionally associated with the unconscious mind. Its colour is vermilion and it has six petals arranged symmetrically around the centre. The element of this chakra is water. Its trigger point is located in the front of the body at the level of the pubic bone, and it is linked to the ovaries and testes.
Manipura, the solar plexus chakra, is the centre of heat in the body, and according to many it is the main reservoir of prana. Its colour is bright yellow, its element is fire, and it is associated with the vital heat, the fire of digestion and energy. Manipura has 10 petals. Its trigger point is the navel, and it is linked to the pancreas and spleen.
Anahata is the seat of unstruck sound … the sound of the celestial realm. It is the heart chakra, the centre of spiritual love. Its colour is blue and it has 12 petals. Its element is air. The trigger point is at the level of the heart behind the breastbone. Anahata is linked to the thymus gland.
Vishuddhi, the throat chakra, is regarded as the centre of purification of various secretions in the body. It is visualised as a violet coloured lotus with 16 petals. Its element is ether-space, subtler than air. The trigger point is at the base of the throat where there is a small depression. Vishuddhi is linked to the thyroid, parathyroid and hypothalamus glands.
Ajna is known as the third eye, the centre of intuition, the guru chakra or the command chakra. It is said that when ajna chakra is awakened, the practitioner can view events on different planes of consciousness with complete awareness. Its colour is silver blue and it has two petals. It is situated at the top of the spinal cord, the point where the nadis ida, pingala and sushumna merge. (See below for an explanation of the nadis.) From ajna these three nadis travel as one up to the next chakra. The trigger point of ajna is situated at the eyebrow centre, where Indian women as well as many Hindu Brahmins make a red mark.
Sahasrara, the crown chakra, is the most subtle of the chakras. It is visualised in meditation as a shining red lotus with an infinite number of petals, or 1,000 as its name suggests … sahasrara means a thousand. In the physical body its location is at the crown of the head, and it is linked to the pituitary gland. Sahasrara has no element. It symbolises the threshold between the physical realm of space and time, and the transcendental realm beyond. This realm of space is beyond normal physical laws, and the practitioner who awakens this chakra experiences a state of mind that is indescribable in terms of emotions, thoughts or feelings.
Bindu visarga, at the back of the head, is considered one of the most important chakras in kundalini and kriya yoga. Inner sounds manifest in this chakra due to the movement of pranic energy. It has no petals and its symbol is a tiny crescent moon on a clear night. Bindu visarga is considered the source of creation and beyond the realm of all conventional experience; therefore very little has been written about it. The trigger point is the small depression at the back of the head, where Brahmins traditionally wear a tuft of hair. Its element is ether. Bindu is not connected to the physical body but to the energy body, so it is not associated with the endrocrine system as such.
The body contains approximately 72,000 nadis transmitting the life-force known as Prana. Like the Chinese meridians, the nadis constitute channels of flow of subtle vital force connected to the chakra system.
The three major energy channels or NADIS are known as the Sushumna, Ida & Pingala. They ensure a healthy flow of prana energy through the chakra system.
- Ida Nadi (on the left side) is the channel that gives energy to our emotional aspect
- Pingala Nadi (on the right side) is the channel that gives energy to our action aspect
- Sushumna Nadi (in the centre) is the channel of evolution.
Chakra Awareness and Activation
Asanas (postures), pranayama (breath work), meditations and chanting of mantras all relate to the chakras in some way. These practices can be used as a focus to activate specific chakras, depending on which practices you choose. Many yoga teachers, especially in the Satyananda tradition, focus on chakra awareness in their regular or more advanced yoga classes or guide students appropriately. One suggested practice is Surya Namaskara (Salute to the Sun), which consists of 12 postures that address the whole body. Each posture relates to a specific chakra and can be performed (with practise) with chakra awareness.
Guided meditations, chanting and yoga classes that focus on the chakras are available on CDs from Anahata Yoga Retreat in New Zealand. www.anahata-retreat.org.nz
Take from: Nature’s Creation – Knowledge & Guidance through Healing Plants – www.naturescreation.biz