The Chakra Energy System
Since I will be teaching a workshop at The Personal Wellness Center next month on the Throat Chakra, I decided to write a blog post about the Chakras!
The word Chakra can be translated as "Wheel". These are energy centers located along the spine from our tailbone to our crown. In different traditions, the number of chakras vary. Some traditions speak of 12 chakras, which includes the traditional 6 lower chakras from tailbone to 3rd eye or forehead, plus 6 higher chakras, including the crown chakra and 5 more chakras connecting us to the Universe. Other traditions include a chakra center beneath the earth, connecting us to the ground beneath us. "It has to be noted that the earliest Sanskrit sources (the most ancient Upanishads) list only four chakras, while the Yogatattva Upanishad (sloka 83-101) lists just five as it describes them as being interrelated with the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, space." (Win Borsboom, http://thekundaliniprocess.blogspot.com)
Most modern traditions agree on 7 main centers of energy that align with our endocrine system and govern various physical and psychological aspects of our lives.
Ideally, all 7 chakras are balanced. The chakras govern various emotional issues, from our survival instincts and self-esteem to our ability to communicate and experience love. When there is a block in one of these centers, it can affect our physical, emotional and mental health. The chakras are connected by the ida and pingala nadis which intertwine and run along the central column of the spine. Part of the practice of yoga is to balance the chakras and nadis, creating psycho-somatic harmony.
The first 5 chakras are connected with one of the 5 elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space. Each chakra is represented by a lotus flower with a different number of petals, representing the qualities associated with that chakra. As light flows through the chakras, it activates them. You can imagine this as the wheels 'spinning' or the lotuses 'blossoming'. The greater the number of petals the chakra has, the higher the frequency or vibration. Each petal is also associated with a Sanskrit letter. The total number of all petals of the chakras is the same as the number of letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. The number of petals also corresponds to the main "vrittis" or qualities associated with each chakra. Each chakra is also associated with a "bija mantra" or "seed sound" that balances the vibration frequency of that chakra.
Let's take a closer look at the 7 main chakras:
The first chakra or Root chakra, Muladhara, is located near the base of the spine. It is sybolized by a 4-petaled red lotus with a yellow square at the center. Within the square is a down-facing triangle with a serpent representing Kundalini that lies coiled at the base of the spine, ready to be awakened.
It is associated with the earth element, the eliminatory system, adrenal glands, bones, legs and feet. It represents our basic survival needs and first chakra issues center around abandonment, scarcity related to survival needs, and feeling ungrounded.
The second chakra, the Sacral chakra, Svadisthana, located at the center of the sacrum, 4 finger widths below the navel. It is symbolized by a lotus with 6 orange petals with a circle inside and a silver crescent moon at the bottom of the circle. It is associated with the water element, the pelvis, reproductive glands, kidney, bladder, prostate, muscles and circulatory system. Issues here center around our relationships, healthy sexuality and fertility, ability to feel and express emotions, living in balance with the rhythms of nature, addictions and boundaries and creativity.
The third chakra, located at the Solar Plexus is Manipura Chakra. It is symbolized by a lotus with 10 yellow petals and a downward pointing triangle inside. It is associated with Fire energy, digestion, the stomach, small intestine, liver, pancreas, gall bladder and spleen. This is where imbalances occur with our personal power, ego, self-image, how we identify in the world, racism, sexism, nationalism, imbalanced energy use, chronic stress issues, ability to build community and engage in ethical behavior. This is where we convert the power of ego into the willpower needed for spiritual transformation.
The 4th chakra, Anahata, located at the heart center is the center between the lower chakras and the higher chakras. It is symbolized by a lotus with 12 green petals containing 2 triangles one facing upward, and the other downward, forming a hexagram. They represent Shiva and Shakti and a harmony between the upper and lower chakras, when balanced. The heart chakra is associated with the Air element, the respiratory and circulatory system, heart, lungs, arms, hands and shoulders, ribs and scapulae. Issues when not balanced here include separation from nature, isolation, conditional loving, self-neglect, depression, cynicism and cruelty, and being unworthy of receiving love.
The 5th chakra, VIshuddha is located at the base of the throat. It is symbolized by a lotus with 16 petals and a circle in the center representing the full moon. The moon reprsents purification and the nectar of amrita - or immortality that results from spiritual practices. It is associated with the element of Space, the ears, nose and throat, neck, mouth, teeth and thyroid gland. Issues here include attachment, being undisciplined, lack of faith, lack of clear purpose, feeling trapped and hopeless, stuck in old patterns, unable to transform personality, or express who you are in the world.
The 6th chakra, known as the Third Eye, or Ajna Chakra is located at the center of the forehead. It is symbolized by a lotus with 2 large indigo petals on either side of a circle with a downward pointing triangle with the shape of an eye in the center. It is associated with the pituitary gland, the eyes, and hypothalamus. Issues include eye problems, headaches, nightmares, neurological problems, dementia, and a lack of connection to spirituality.
The 7th and last chakra for our purposes here is the Crown Chakra, or Sahasrara. It is located at the crown of the head and consists of a thousand white petals with an orb in the center. It is associated with the pineal gland and nervous system. Issues include separation from Spirit, Unity consciousness or lack thereof...
You can find more about the 7 chakras here: