A Beginners Guide to the Chakra System
Depending on your own yoga practice, you may have heard the term chakra before. But if you’re not familiar, then the word ‘chakra’ could seem a bit mysterious. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be. To give you the best yoga experience possible, I’ll be explaining what chakras are, each of the body’s seven chakras and what each one does.
Chakras and Energy
In Yogic philosophy, everything in the universe is made of energy. The term chakra (चक्र) comes from the Sanskrit word for ‘wheel’ or ‘cycle’ in reference to that same universal energy. You can consider each of the seven chakras as the center of a spiritual energy for different parts of your body. At the same time, cach chakra regulates that particular part of our body in order to keep us well balanced as a whole.
By learning and understanding each of the seven chakras, you can be more aware of the natural rhythms and flow of your body. At the same time, you can adjust your yoga practice to create the best yoga workout for your needs in particular. You can even go further once you know more about your chakras and start practicing with chakra crystal healing.
So, get ready! I’m going to explain each chakra to you, its location and its significance in your body. And you’ll also learn how to energize each of these chakras thus keeping yourself in balance.
Muladhara – The Root Chakra
Starting with the base of your body, we have the root chakra. This chakra is the place that connects your body’s energy with the Earth. You have heard this called ‘grounding.’ Your Muladhara is located at the base of the spine near your tailbone and has been traditionally given the symbol of a four-petaled lotus with a yellow square at its center to represent the element of earth. It has a strong association with the color red.
The root chakra connects our energy to the world at large. As such, the Muladhara can feel out of balance when you’re not in tune with your basic physical needs or when you are out of touch with nature. One of the best ways to re-energize your Root Chakra is to evaluate your relationship to the physical and address what your body needs. This can be done with yoga poses that keep us close to the ground, such as Head to Knee Forward Bend (Janu Sirsasana) and Garland Pose (Malasana).
Svadhisthana – The Sacral Chakra
The next chakra is connected to our creativity. The Sanskirt word Svadhisthana roughly translates to ‘where you are established.’ This makes sense as the Sacral Chakra is very important for our sense of self-identity. We can feel our sacral chakra as it regulates our creativity and desire to produce artistically, as well as our sexual energy. The Svadhisthana is located just below your belly button and is symbolized with the color orange and the element of water. Traditionally, this chakra has been illustrated as a white lotus with six vermillion petals.
If you want to feel balance within your sacral chakra, you can align it by enjoying physical intimacies and creative output. However, true balance comes from doing these without excess. This chakra is most often blocked by our fears and the fear of death in particular can occlude it. The best yoga poses for your sacral chakra include Low Lunge and Goddess Pose.
Manipura – Solar Plexus
The next chakra is most concerned with different kinds of transformation. The chakra has a strong association with our fire essence which is responsible for our digestive system as well as our metabolism. As such, Manipura regulates our bodies’ conversion of food into energy.
Manipura is the chakra you can physically feel most easily. As the center of confidence and personal power, you can often feel these sensations manifest as a sense of strength in yourself. Likewise, when we have a ‘gut feeling’ about something, it is often our Manipura communicating with us.
The Manipura is located above the navel and just under the solar plexus and translated to ‘resplendent gem’ or ‘radiant gem’. This chakra has several color associations depending on the tradition, being represented with blue in the Tantra tradition of classical Hinduism and with red in the newer Nath tradition of Hinduism. In most other practices, it’s given the color yellow. You can keep your Manipura in balance by being mindful of what you eat and how it affects your body. You can also try engaging with certain yoga poses such as Plank and Warrior 1, 2 and 3 to center the Manipura.
Anahata – Heart Chakra
The next chakra is probably the easiest to understand. As we already associate the heart with love, it’s easy to understand that the Heart Chakra is where our sense of compassion, kindness and love become more empowered. Here, love means both our love for others as well as love for ourselves. Appropriately, the heart chakra is most concerned with health and healing.
As you might expect, the heart chakra is located in the spinal column near the heart. It has a particularly strong association with the color green. It’s also associated with wind, as you cannot suppress the heart chakra, but only stabilize it and keep it in balance.
Anahata holds a special importance as the middle chakra that connects our lower chakras with our higher chakras. Energizing your Anahata requires having both a balanced love for others as well as yourself. With that in mind, you can understand that for many of us, the heart chakra is also one of the most difficult to return to balance. If you want to realign your Heart Chakra, the best yoga poses are those that engage with your chest, like Camel, Wheel and Melting Heart poses.
Vishuddha – Throat Chakra
The Throat Chakra is all about your voice and the power of speech. The name itself means ‘very pure’ as speech is said to be able to break the veils of Maya (illusion) and express oneself honestly. It is said that the Throat Chakra is what allows us to speak our individual truths clearly.
As you might expect, Vishuddha is located in the throat near the spine. Most often it’s associated with the colors blue or white. On a physical level, the Vishuddha is also said to regulate our thyroid gland and endocrine system. These are seen as important for producing the hormones needed for growth.
Keeping our Throat Chakra in balance is important for our ability to verbalize our truths and our love. Stress and the fear of speaking out are said to throw the Vishuddha out of balance. Conversely, singing is one of the best ways to stimulate and energize the Throat Chakra as are poses that engage the spine, such as Fish Pose and Plow.
Ajna – Third Eye Chakra
The Third Eye Chakra is more abstract than the first five chakras and opens your consciousness to the world beyond the five senses. Ajna is often considered as the focal point of intuition and intellect. Things seen by the mind’s eye such as dreams are said to be seen by Ajna. In the Hindu tradition, Ajna often signifies the unconscious mind and connection to the non-physical world.
Different traditions name different locations for the Third Eye Chakra. This includes the space behind the eyebrows and where the spinal column meets the brain stem. It’s most often associated with the color indigo.
To have the Third Eye Chakra in balance means to feel attuned to both the material and the spiritual world. Energizing the Ajna is more difficult and requires time. Solitary meditation is one the best ways to get connected with your spirit and feel the signals of the non-physical world.
Sahasrara – Crown Chakra
Of the seven chakras, Sahasrara is the hardest to explain as it is the most subtle chakra in the system. It is said that the center of Sahasrara is at the crown of your head where it extends downward to your eyes and upward infinitely forming a connection between you and the greater universe as a whole. You can think of the crown chakra as the tether between your lower six chakras and the infinite spirit of the universe.
The name Sahasrara means ‘thousand petaled’ and the chakra is traditionally symbolized with a lotus flower with a thousand petals of various colors and is often said to be violet or white.
The Crown Chakra represents the soul in a state of enlightenment and subsequent liberation. It is through the Sahasrara that we can feel the union between ourselves and the greater world. This can only be reached through first balancing your lower six chakras. After that you can attune your Crown Chakra by connecting with your spirit through meditation.
Understanding Your Seven Chakras For Yourself
Once you have a better understanding of the seven chakras, you can work on aligning your own chakras more effectively. Just know that working on our chakras is an ongoing practice that we never really complete, but should work on daily.
From here you can learn the best yoga workouts for energizing each of your chakras. Likewise, you can take this information to learn more about chakra crystal healing. Taking all of this together should help you get the most out of your own yoga practice.