This term I am going to be focusing on the Chakras in my yoga classes. I regularly mention them when teaching and I have used them as class themes on many occasions, focusing on each particular chakra separately, but between now and Christmas I want to bring a sense of flow and continuity to the term as a whole by focussing on one Chakra after the other (there are 7 major ones in total) spending a couple of weeks on each one to give us time to explore them in more depth. They are a fundamental element of yoga in the sense that using our practice to balance the chakras can help restore fluidity to the physical body and help balance the mind-body-spirit connection. Obviously within a class setting the way we approach each chakra is not by taking notes or theorising them but through experiencing ways to open and activate our chakras via our breathing, the use of hand gestures, or mudras, physical postures, or asanas, the use of positive affirmations and guided meditations/relaxation. For those of you who are interested to learn a little more regarding the “theory” of the chakras, however, I am planning to explore each Chakra in a little more depth on my website over the coming weeks too.
But what are Chakras?
The word chakra itself is a Sanskrit word meaning “wheel” or “circle” and literally translated from the Hindi it means “wheel of spinning energy”. Simply put, the chakras are energy centres within the subtle body (the part of you that you cannot see or touch) through which energy flows. If you imagine energy flowing through pathways within the body, in a similar way to how blood flows through the arteries and veins, where these pathways of energy intersect there is a concentration of power, in other words an energy hot spot. Where many of these pathways intersect there is a major energy hot spot and these hotspots, or energy centres, are in essence what the chakras are. The energy pathways themselves are known as nadis (or meridians).
Seven major chakras
Within our bodies seven major chakras, or energy centres, have been identified and there are many more minor ones, all of which play a determined role in regulating various processes within the body, from the level of organ function and the immune system, to our emotions and physical and spiritual well-being. Although some have doubted the existence of the chakras, modern physiology has shown that these seven chakras correspond exactly to the seven main nerve ganglia which emanate from the spinal column.
The seven major chakras run through the centre of the body, along the spinal column and are positioned from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. Each chakra has its own vibrational frequency, that is depicted through a specific chakra colour – as shown in the image above – and each one governs specific functions within the body.
Chakras regulate the flow of energy through the nadis, or energy pathways, but if they become blocked through stress, emotional or physical problems, then this energy is not able to flow freely which can lead to various problems. It is possible that having a blocked or irregular energy flow may result in physical illness and discomfort, such as lethargy, poor digestion or headaches, or a sense of being mentally and emotionally out of balance leading to feelings of stress, anxiety or even depression. This is why we use our yoga practice to help to open and unblock the chakras, to keep the energy flowing freely around the body, correcting imbalances and helping to keep us balanced in mind, body and spirit. The more connected and in tune you become with your body and your chakras the more you can use your yoga practice to your advantage and focus on whichever part of you, whichever chakra, needs more attention at any given time.
Here is a basic guide to each of the seven chakras. I will look at each chakra in more depth over the coming weeks:
Chakra 1 – Root Chakra, or Muladhara
Represents our foundation and feeling of being grounded.
Location: Base of spine around the tailbone area.
Emotional issues: Survival issues such as financial independence, money and food.
Chakra 2: Sacral Chakra, or Svadisthana
Represents our connection and ability to accept others and new experiences.
Location: Lower abdomen, about two inches below the navel and two inches in.
Emotional issues: Sense of abundance, well-being, pleasure and sexuality.
Chakra 3: Solar Plexus Chakra, or Manipura
Represents our ability to be confident and in control of our lives.
Location: Upper abdomen in the stomach area.
Emotional issues: Self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem.
Chakra 4: Heart Chakra, or Anahata
Represents our ability to love.
Location: Centre of chest just above the heart.
Emotional issues: Love, joy and inner peace.
Chakra 5: Throat Chakra, or Vishuddha
Represents our ability to communicate.
Emotional issues: Communication, self-expression of feelings and the truth.
Chakra 6: Third Eye Chakra, or Ajna
Represents our ability to focus on and see the big picture.
Location: Forehead between the eyes (also called the Brow Chakra).
Emotional issues: Intuition, imagination, wisdom and the ability to think and make decisions.
Chakra 7: Crown Chakra, or Sahasrara
This highest chakra represents our ability to be fully connected spiritually.
Location: The very top of the head.
Emotional issues: Inner and outer beauty, our connection to spirituality and pure bliss.