In yogic philosophy, we view the body in terms of koshas or layers of which there are 5. First of all, there is the Annamayakosha or physical body, which we can see, touch, smell and so on. Second of all, there is the Pranamayakosha or energy body. This kosha is often less tangible for many people. It is related to our breathing which draws Prana/energy into us. It can also be experienced through our level of energy and our zest for life. Forms of alternative medicine such as homeopathy, acupuncture and acupressure, Bach flower remedies and some others can be considered to act upon the Energy body. The energy body also includes channels through which this energy travels in the body; in yogic philosophy these are referred to as Nadis. The chakras are places in the Energy body where groups of Nadis meet and connect, like hubs of energy. We could use the analogy of a train station, the Nadis are like train tracks on which trains and their passengers (energy / Prana) travel and the chakras are like the train stations where the tracks meet and the passengers connect and move on to other trains and so on. The literal translation of the Sanskrit word chakra is disc or wheel. The chakra system then, is made up of seven(spherical) centres along the spinal column where subtle life force energy (Prana) accumulates. This energy is generated and dispersed through the constant spirallic movement of the chakras, each of which is the meeting point for many other smaller energy channels (nadis). Each one of these chakras is associated with it’s own characteristics such as symbols, colours, sounds, emotions, body parts, aspects of the nervous system etc. Blocks or excesses in each chakra are also associated with different emotional, psychological or physical manifestations. Thus the chakras form an interlinking energy system within which each manifests in its own unique and specific way.
With the advent of modern science, it has come to light that the areas associated with the chakras correspond closely with the Neuro-Endocrine system and with specific Endocrine glands. In any exploration of the chakras, we can choose to focus more on the physical aspect of the Chakras: where they reside in the physical body, how they relate to the specific glands and so on and what kinds of physical movements or yoga postures might stimulate them. We can also emphasize the Psycho-emotional qualities associated with the individual chakras and work more with this aspect both as a tool for personal exploration and for rebalancing aspects of ourselves which may have fallen out of balance.
Overview of the 7 Chakras
The first or Root Chakra is located at the base of the spine and is associated with the Element of Earth; with grounding, survival and basic needs. In terms of the Neure-Endocrine System it is associated with the Coccygeal bodies. Root chakra deficiency may manifest as an inability to feel grounded or secure. A person experiencing this kind of deficiency may face constant challenges associated with survival such as financial worries, being underweight, and a sense of not really being physically present. On the other hand, a person with an excessive first chakra may have problems with obesity and sluggishness, they might be quite rigid and opposed to change, and quite obsessed with financial gain and material wealth. This chakra is the foundation of the entire chakra system and the health of this chakra affects that of all the others, if the flow of energy is restricted at this level, the flow of energy through all the chakras will also be restricted.
The 2nd chakra / Sacral Chakra is situated approximately at the spot where the sacrum forms a joint with the tail and more generally is associated with the pelvic bowl and with the Gonads. The associated element is water, thus it is not surprising to find that it is associated with movement, sexuality, sensuality, emotion, touchÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ Whereas the first chakra qualities were all about the earth, about grounding and holding, the second chakra is all about flow and change. In the same way as a cup holds water, so a healthy first chakra will support the flow of the second chakra. Likewise, the movement of the second chakra stimulates us and prevents us from becoming stuck in the solidity of the first chakra. Once our survival needs have been taken care of, we can turn to our own pleasure and sensuality. A person with a second chakra deficiency may be uninterested in sex, may find it difficult to relax their bodies and deny themselves pleasure, particularly sensual pleasures. A person with an excessive second chakra on the other hand may suffer from sexual addiction, may be ruled by their emotions and may become emotionally dependant on others. In the second chakra, we may encounter many aspects of ourselves that have been lurking in the shadows, unexplored and unexpressed. An exploration of these hidden qualities associated with second chakra can therefore be an empowering experience.
The 3rd Chakra / Naval Centre is located at about the level of the umbilicus, it is associated with the Pancreas and Adrenal glands and with our sense of self and with the element of Fire. Other issues associated with this chakra are power, activity and autonomy. The third chakra is the last of the lower chakras and as such creates the basic ground for the heart chakra and the upper chakras. If the third chakra is healthy, we have a grounded sense of self as the foundation for the love expressed through the heart chakra thus enabling us to love as an individual free of neediness and clinging. A healthy third chakra enables us to relate to the world around us without losing ourselves and at the same time without feeling the need to dominate that world around us. A damaged third chakra will often be the result of feeling insecure, of not having an innate sense of self. This may be due to an overly domineering and critical upbringing and shaming for instance. A person with an excessive third chakra may be very domineering and overpowering. Typically this person may be highly ambitious and intent on being ‘successful’. A person who is deficient in the third chakra may be easily dominated and manipulated and suffer from a weak will. They may be quite passive and low in energy.
The 4th Chakra / Heart Chakra is located at the heart region of the spinal column. It is associated with the element of Air. At the level of the Neuro-Endocrine system, this chakra is associated with the Heart (shown now to have an endocrine function) and with the Thymus. Anahata chakra is the bridge between the lower and higher chakras. Based on the sense of self we established in the third chakra we are now able to form compassionate relationships, not just with others but also with the different aspects of ourselves. The heart centre can be easily damaged by loss, rejection, death and grief, conditional love and so on. The pain resulting from any of the above can lead to a person being either deficient or excessive in this chakra. A person with an excessive heart chakra may be clinging, have a tendency towards co-dependency and have poor boundaries. They may also be overly sacrificing, willing to martyr themselves for someone else. A person with a deficient heart chakra may be fearful of intimacy and relationships, they may be unable to open their hearts to someone else and find themselves lonely and isolated. They may also have a tendency to be cold and critical and lacking in empathy. An exploration of the heart chakra can help us to recover our ability to love and to connect with others and ourselves in a compassionate and empathetic way.
The 5th Chakra / Throat Chakra is located at about the level of the Ã¢â‚¬ËœAdams AppleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and is connected to the Thyroid and ParaThyroid glands. It is associated with the element of Space and with the qualities of communication and creativity. As we move into the realm of the fifth chakra we move into the realm of the symbolic and start to leave behind our exploration of the physical body and go more deeply into our energy/vibrational body. In Indian mythology, sound is considered to be the primordial element of creation, the basis of our universe. The vibrational power of sound is considered to be very powerful. Furthermore, words create a bridge between the mental concept attached to a thing and the thing itself; as such words are symbols for things that allow us to share our experiences with others and to order them in our own minds. The throat chakra may become imbalanced due to verbal abuse or criticism, authoritarian parents, an alcoholic family background and an atmosphere of lies and secrets. A person with an excessive fifth chakra may speak excessively or in a dominating way and may be a poor listener. On the other hand a person with a deficient fifth chakra may be very quiet or shy and speak very softly, they may also have difficulty putting into words what they feel. A person can be both excessive and deficient, for example they may be a very fluent person, able to hold forth about almost any topic, they may even be excessively loud and forceful with their opinions yet may find it almost impossible to express the feelings they hold close to their heart. A blocked fifth chakra might be compared to a blocked bottleneck and a person with such a blockage may experience dissociation between their body and their head as the energy is not able to flow smoothly between the two.
Third Eye Chakra
The 6th Chakra / Third Eye Centre is located at about the level of the top of the spinal column or at the location of the Pituitary Gland. The element associated with this Chakra is Light. It is associated with wisdom, insight, intuition, clairvoyance and the general ability to interpret our experiences and surroundings though the medium of visual symbols or archetypes. Having an excessive or deficient sixth chakra is not necessarily contingent on our intuitive or clairvoyant abilities but more reliant on the balance or imbalance in our lower chakras. For instance, we may be completely ungrounded and have clairvoyant ability but without grounding we are not able to approach or interpret what we see in a meaningful or insightful way. Blockages in the sixth chakra may result from witnessing very frightening occurrences such as war or violence. Invalidation of psychic occurrences and being given messages about what one is seeing that do not correlate with what one is witnessing can also lead to blockages. A person with an excessive sixth chakra may experience hallucinations, delusions and nightmares. They may become completely lost in a make-believe world. On the other hand a person with a deficient sixth chakra may have poor vision and memory, a lack of imagination, difficulty remembering dreams and may be in denial about the true situation they find themselves in.
The 7th Chakra / Crown Chakra is situated at the crown of our heads and symbolizes our inner guru or teacher. While the root chakra has the quality of bridging the earth and our internal energy system, so the crown chakra creates another bridge, between our individual self and the nature of the universal ‘self’. According to Indian philosophy, once the Ã¢â‚¬Å“kundaliniÃ¢â‚¬? energy has passed through all of the six previous chakras and then passes into Crown chakra, one will obtain realization of the non-dual, non-conceptual nature of reality and of the Divine. The seventh chakra is associated with self-knowledge and enables us to witness the movements of our own minds, enabling us to develop self awareness. A balanced seventh chakra will not only enable us to exercise self-reflexivity and self-awareness but will also enable us to gain awareness of our connection to the universal, or the divine within ourselves. A person whose crown chakra is excessive may have a tendency to over-intellectualize and/or become mentally confused, they may be inclined to spiritual addiction or they may live in their heads, dissociating from their body. Often an excessive crown chakra may be the result of insufficiently strong and grounded lower chakras. A person with a closed or deficient crown chakra may be excessively cynical of spiritualities, they may have learning difficulties and cling rigidly to belief systems. Often a deficient crown chakra is the result of excessive lower chakras. Opening the crown chakra enables us to ultimately transcend our dualistic clinging to an ego and an identity which is dependant on the ‘other’ for its existence. The crown chakra is the link between our universal nature and the nature of the universe, it enables us to be aware of the screen on which the dramas of our lives are played out while allowing us to examine the dramas themselves.
This article is a very brief introduction to the Chakra system which is extremely complex and a very rich catalyst for exploration and study. Through the practices of Hatha yoga such as Asana, Pranayama, Meditation, Chanting and Mudras, we can learn to recognize where we may be experiencing imbalance and thus restore balance to our Chakras. At the same time, by working with the Chakras, we can strengthen the flow of energy through our body and increase our awareness of the interconnectedness of body and mind.