Have you ever experienced a knot in your stomach during a particularly stressful experience? A lump in your throat as you held back from expressing something you wished to say? A “heavy heart”? It’s very likely that, at some point, you’ve heard someone refer to the “chakras” or the “chakra system” in the body, but we often don’t make the connection between physical sensations like the ones described above and our chakra system.
Yoga and Ayurvedic medicine were founded on the principles of managing the energetic body and working with this chakra system. Whether or not you practice yoga or Ayurvedic medicine, however, an understanding of our energetic body and the ability to manage it is a powerful way to support our health and wellbeing.
Now, I know…the concept of an energetic body can be a bit overwhelming and intimidating for some (What? I have another body that I need to care for??). For that reason, I’m going to take you on a brief journey through the chakras in this post and give you some quick and easy tips for understanding, working with and balancing your own energy system.
In Sanskrit, the word chakra means “wheel” or “disk” and in yogic/Ayurvedic medicine, the term refers to the energy centers (or wheels of energy) throughout the body. There are different systems of belief as to how many of these centers we have in the body, but the most common belief is that we have seven main chakras/energy centers located along the spine, from the base to the crown of the head. These points resemble a spinning wheel and the force which moves through them is sometimes referred to as Prana, Chi or life force energy. It is a blending of matter and consciousness – the very energy that is responsible for healing, growth and life itself.
Each of these chakras corresponds to an organ or system in the body, therefore, when one of these energy centers is blocked, sluggish or overstimulated, it manifests as a physical condition, ailment or disease. There is much science to support the idea that all disease begins as an energetic imbalance. Conversely, when energy is flowing through these energy centers freely and in a balanced way, the body, mind and spirit remain healthy and vital.
So now that we’ve defined what a chakra is, let’s begin our journey through the chakra system and identify what each individual chakra does. After a brief description of each, I’ll share an easy technique for bringing your chakras into a state of balance:
First Chakra (Muladhara): This chakra is located at the very base of the spine and is connected to the kidneys and adrenals. On an emotional level, it’s connected to our sense of safety, security and groundedness. Imbalances in this chakra may manifest as problems with elimination, adrenal fatigue, toxicity in the body and feelings of fear, alienation and depression.
Second Chakra (Svadhisthana): This chakra is located just below the navel and is connected to our reproductive organs. It is our sexual and creative Center. Imbalances in this chakra often manifest as reproductive issues, sexual dysfunction, chronic low back pain, excessive emotionality and a feeling of creative stagnation/being blocked creatively.
Third Chakra (Manipura): This chakra is located at the solar plexus (from the navel to the breastbone) and is connected to the stomach, liver and other and digestive organs. It represents our will and personal power. Imbalances in this area often manifest as digestive disorders, liver dysfunction and a general s nose of hopelessness and powerlessness. (Ever notice how those people with a strong sense of personal power have good posture and a solar plexus area that tends to be more open, as opposed to those who move through the world kind of hunched over and “closed up”?)
Fourth Chakra (Anahata): This chakra is located at the heart center. Where the first three chakras represent the physical experience, the upper chakras represent the spiritual experience. The heart chakra (which is right in the middle) represents the connection/intersection of the two. It corresponds to the heart, lungs and breasts and is connected to the feelings of love, compassion and connection to others. An imbalance in this chakra often manifests as problems with the heart, the respiratory system and the breasts. (There are actual, physical benefits to “keeping an open heart.”)
Fifth Chakra (Vishuddha): This chakra is located at the throat and corresponds to the neck, thyroid, parathyroid, jaw, mouth and tongue. On an emotional level, this chakra represents our ability to communicate verbally, express our truth and“speak up” for ourselves. Imbalances in this chakra often manifest as thyroid/hormonal issues, oral issues and neck pain/tension.
Sixth Chakra (Ajna): This chakra is located at the “third eye point,” in the center of the forehead, right between the eyebrows. It is the center of our intuition, clarity and judgement. We all have a sense of intuition, though many people haven’t opened this chakra enough to identify it clearly. Imbalances in this area may manifest as headaches, bad eyesight and sinus problems. Working with and opening up this chakra will strengthen your sense of intuition and give you a greater sense of clarity.
Seventh Chakra (Sahaswara): This chakra is located at the crown of the head and is said to resemble a lotus flower. It represents our connection to higher consciousness and the divine. Imbalances in this chakra often manifest as anxiety and depression. Opening up this chakra gives us a greater sense of spiritual connection and guidance, and allows us to more easily transcend the limitations of our physical world.
The best way to balance and stimulate the chakras is through yoga and meditation. The belief is that “where the attention goes, energy flows.” In other words, we can bring energy to each chakra by simply focusing on it during meditation. I do this as part of my meditation each morning by inhaling deeply and imagining each chakra filling with light. With each exhale, I imagine that light shining out from the chakra and throughout my body. I do this for each chakra, one at a time, starting from the root chakra and moving up to the crown of head. Since each chakra also corresponds to a color (as indicated in the image above), I imagine colored light radiating from each chakra (for example, the root chakra shines red, the sacral chakra shines orange, etc.). It takes no more than a few minutes and is believed to, over time, help balance the energy system. In addition, each yoga pose stimulates certain chakras so a well rounded yoga practice is also very effective at creating and maintaining balance.
Although it might seem like a lot of information, it’s actually quite easy to understand and work with your energetic body. The more you do, the better you’ll become at reading the subtle messages that your body communicates via this chakra system and you’ll reap the rewards of greater health and vitality.