In this article lets take a look at the seven chakras.
The Sanskrit word ‘chakra’ literally means ‘wheel’ or ‘circle’.
In yogic philosophy, they are represented as energy vortex or seats of pranic energy that are found lying dormant in specific areas in our subtle body.
The practice of Yoga helps in stimulating the flow the energy through the chakras and helps to activate them. When active, chakras become the gateway to experience higher planes consciousness.
According to medical intuitive and author, Caroline Myss who described chakras in her work Anatomy of the Spirit (1996), “Every thought and experience you’ve ever had in your life gets filtered through these chakra databases. Each event is recorded into your cells…, in effect your biography becomes your biology.”
The seven chakras are located along the pathway of sushumna nadi, starting at the base of the spine and ending at the top of the head. Each chakra vibrates at different frequencies and are depicted symbolically as lotus flowers.
Every chakra is represented with a particular number of petals (colors of the petal are linked to different frequencies of the chakra), bija mantra, yantra, associated element, presiding deity and vahana (vehicle in animal form). The colors can be different according to various traditions.
When practicing yoga asana, you first learn to concentrate and strengthen particular body part to improve asana balance. With practice, you learn to concentrate on your breath and then, gradually learn to shift the awareness inward.
By directing your concentration to a specific part of the body or to your breath, you increase the effectiveness of the posture. Likewise, shifting awareness to a specific chakra will enable you to enhance the spiritual benefits of every posture.
Let us take a look at the seven chakras and their characteristics, including poses that will help us energise and balance specific chakras.
Root or Muladhara Chakra – Feel Grounded and Connected
How would you feel if one your legs begin to tremble whilst you are holding an asan ? Or when you stumble while running or walking? You would struggle to find your balance and eventually fall! Likewise, when off-balance, the root chakra will make you feel low, disconnected, angered and turn your world upside down.
It is first of the seven chakras/energy-channels of the subtle body, located at the base of the spine. Apart from being responsible for your basic survival instinct it also helps you establish a sense of grounding.
When balanced, you feel secure, stable, courageous, confident and also in the right frame of mind to manifest and stay healthy.
When it is unbalanced or blocked, you are no better than a tree whose roots have begun to rot, making you feel insecure, unsafe, easily agitated, nervous and confused. It can result in financial worries, greed and irrational fears. It takes a toll on your health too, often leading to constipation, UTI, kidney stones, cold hand/feet etc.
To restore your balance you just have to reconnect with your roots! Try standing bare-feet on green grass and observe the sense of calmness and comfort that overcomes your anxiety. Visualizing the colour red, meditating on the sound LAM, eating earthy rooted vegetables etc., are practices that will help you balance your Root chakra. Also, the practice of certain yoga asanas can help you achieve long lasting results.
The following asanas are recommended to balance Muladhara:
Mountain pose (Tadasana), Warrior 1 & 2 poses (Virabhadrasana), Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana), Seated Stretches like Head to Knee (Janu Sirsasana), Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana) and Yogic Squat (Malasana ), Bridge pose (Setu Bandhasana), Reclining Butterfly pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) and Corpse pose (Savasana) etc., help engage the entire body, distribute weight evenly to improve sense of balance and keeps you grounded.
Location: Perineum in male body and at the cervix in the female body.
Associated with the sense of smell.
Symbol: Red lotus with 4 petals.
Yantra: Red Triangle or symbol of Shakti, with apex pointing downward, supported by elephant with seven trunks as a vehicle, depicting stability and solidarity of the earth.
Element: Prithvi tattva / earth element
Bija mantra – Lam
Swadisthana or Sacral Chakra – Feel Your Emotions
Remember the expression, ‘I have a gut feeling’ ? It all comes from the seat of our emotional life, the Swadhisthana or Sacral chakra, the second of the seven chakras which resides below the navel. Located at the sacrum, it is associated with pelvic and reproductive organs and the bladder.
Also known as the ‘dwelling place of the self’, it is literally the seat of creation/vital force. It develops during the age of 7 to 14 years, when we are figuring out how to relate with others and deal with our emotions and intense hormonal shifts.
When balanced it manifests in good self/body image, innocence, balanced ego, sensuality, creativity, fertility, confidence, independence, sensitivity, optimism and enhanced physical abilities.
When it is unbalanced or blocked you feel lack of confidence, frigidity/impotence, stiff lower back, sexually abusive, over-sensitivity, insecurity, over self-indulgence, manipulation, feeling of being unworthy and fearfulness.
To balance Swadhisthana chakra, just like a flowing stream of water, we have to let our emotions flow, let it all out, cry, laugh, shout, stomp our feet, find a way to express and let it all go!
Eating fruits and vegetables with high water content (cucumber, melon etc), exercises that focus on the pelvic region (twisting, belly dancing), practicing kechari mudra or tongue lock, chanting VAM or meditating on the affirmation “I welcome and accept all my emotions. My life is full of creative opportunities” and visualizing the colour Orange are a few techniques you can practice to activate Swadhisthana chakra.
The following Yoga asanas are recommended to balance Sacral chakra:
Cow Face pose (Gomukhasana), One Legged Pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana), Bound Angle pose and reclining variation ( Baddha Konasana) , Open Angle pose (Upavistha Konasana) and Cobra pose (Bhujangasana) help stimulate abdominal organs and dispel energy imbalances and allow energy flow through the second chakra.
Location: Approximately two fingers’ width above Root chakra.
Symbol: Orange / Vermillion lotus with 6 petals.
Yantra: Crescent moon, riding on a crocodile, symbolising underlying movement of karma.
Element: Apas tattva / water element
Bija mantra – Vam
Manipura or Solar Plexus Chakra – Feel Empowered
Manipura chakra, also known as the ‘city of jewels’ is the third fiery chakra located behind the navel and below the rib-cage. It is our energy center and is associated to our stomach, solar plexus, kidney, liver, adrenal glands etc.
Are you in charge of your EGO, thus your LIFE ? Or do you feel you are a victim of circumstances? Be in-charge of your Life by balancing the Manipura chakra, the major energy center for our thinking process, personality, self-esteem, ego and will-power.
When balanced you will be in complete control over your emotions, ego and thoughts.You will be warm, playful, responsible, reliable, effective,confident, have a sense of personal power and be able to meet challenges.
When it is unbalanced or blocked you will worry too much, become judgmental, agitated, angry, react with aggression, remain stubborn, become a workaholic and too demanding/ambitious. Poor digestion, weight issues, ulcers, diabetes, liver/kidney problems etc are a few physical symptoms of imbalance.
The element is Fire and the color is Yellow. Taking a walk out in the Sun or sitting by the fire can be extremely beneficial in releasing solar plexus blockage. You can meditate on the color yellow, chant the word RAM and repeat the affirmation ‘I am confident in all that I do. I am successful and release my creative energy into this reality, effortlessly.’
Eating foods like banana, grains, brown rice, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, ginger, mint will help in improving the digestion.
The following Yoga asanas are recommended to balance Manipura chakra:
Sun Salutations, Warrior series, Eagle pose (Garudasana), Crow pose (Kakasana),boat pose (Navasana), Bow pose (Dhanurasana), Revolved Triangle (Parivrtta Trikonasana), Pyramid pose, Twists & Core Vinyasa
Location: In the spine behind the navel.
Symbol: Yellow lotus with 10 petals.
Yantra: Fiery red triangle with animal ram as a vehicle, symbol of energy and assertiveness.
Element: Agni tattva / fire element
Bija mantra – Ram
Anahata or Heart Chakra – Love Yourself and Others
Anahata chakra is the fourth chakra located in the central channel in the spine at the heart, with its kshetram (superficial activation site) between the breasts. The word ‘anahata’ means ‘unstruck’ or the primordial unstruck sound or anahad nad.
It is here where we invite Divine Infinite Love to flow through us, allowing it to heal ourselves and others. The lesson of the Heart is that we first must Love and Accept ourselves before we can Love Others.
When balanced you will feel a great compassion for all living creatures, you will be kind, caring, understanding, joyous and outgoing, feeling completely at ease with yourself and the people in your life.
When it is unbalanced or overactive you will be ruled by your emotions; sadness, anger, grief, despair, greediness and happiness will come over you with no or little control. When your heart chakra is under-active you will probably be very negative in your thinking, you may feel unloved, unworthy and unappreciated.
The Heart chakras’ element is Air and color is Green. Going out walking, or laying in the grass and feeling the breeze upon your skin, eating green fruits and vegetables, chanting YAM, meditating and repeating the affirmation ‘Love is the answer to everything’ are a few ways to balance heart chakra.
The following Yoga asanas are recommended to balance Anahata chakra:
Camel pose (Ustrasana), Cobra pose (Bhujangasana), Forward Bend (Uttanasana), Supine Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasana) and Dynamic Breathing like Kapalbhati are few yogic practices that will open, stretch and expand your shoulder and chest muscles.
Location: In the spine, behind the sternum and in level with the heart.
Symbol: Green / Blue lotus with 12 petals.
Yantra: Hexagon/Star formed by two interlacing triangles with antelope as a vehicle, symbol of alertness.
Element: Vayu tattva / air element
Bija mantra – Yam
Vishuddhi or Throat Chakra – Become More Expressive
Vishuddhi is the fifth chakra located between your collar bones, behind the throat pit. The word ‘shuddhi’ means ‘purification’ and throat chakra enhances this quality. It is also considered as your seat of emotion and your ability to communicate.
Are you afraid of voicing your opinion? Do you over analyse what you say or do? Balancing your throat chakra is what enables you to speak the truth and defines your desire for freedom and expression. It does not control your ability to speak alone, but also your ability to be a good listener and express your innermost feelings.
When balanced you communicate concisely, are not afraid of speaking the truth, are good at artistic expression like writing, singing or even public speaking, are content with your career choices, and love expressing without guilt and fear and with love and compassion.
When it is unbalanced you may suffer from mouth and jaw problems, thyroid, ear aches, neck pain, shoulder pain, laryngitis, etc.. At an emotional level, you may feel drained or become highly critical of everything, including yourself. Other signs include gossiping, speaking rudely, acting arrogantly, becoming over sensitive to comments/reactions from others, etc..
The Throat chakras’ element is Ether and color Blue. Singing, drinking enough water, getting a relaxing neck-shoulder massage, wearing blue apparels/jewellery, eating blue/black berries, and repeating affirmations like ‘My thoughts are positive and I always express myself truthfully and clear’, will help balance throat chakra.
The following Yoga asanas are recommended to balance Vishuddhi chakra:
Inversions and backbends will help balance and foster energy flow through Throat chakra. Fish pose (Matsyasana), Plow pose (Halasana), Upward Plank (Purvottanasana), Bridge pose (Setu Bandhasana), Pigeon pose (Kapotasana), Child’s pose (Balasana) and Supported Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana) are a few yoga postures that help balance and stimulate throat chakra.
Location: At the back of the neck, behind the throat pit.
Symbol: Blue / Violet lotus with sixteen petals.
Yantra: White circle with elephant as a vehicle, depicting right understanding.
Element: Akasha tattva / ether element
Bija mantra – Ham
Ajna or Third Eye Chakra – Become Aware and Intuitive
Ajna is the sixth chakra and is located slightly above the center between the eyebrows. It is also known as tirveni, meaning the confluence of three rivers, or Guru or the eye of Shiva. The word ‘ajna’ means ‘command’ and it is through this chakra the disciple receives initiation or commands from his Guru or the Divine to be guided into higher states of meditation.
Do you at times feel that you already know what is going to happen? This is your intuition and wisdom guiding you which are developed or enhanced by the Ajna chakra. It works like a psychic doorway which helps increase your inner awareness, expand your mind and connect with your inner Guru so you can find answers to your life’s questions.
When balanced you feel a heightened sense of awareness and trust and allow your intuition to guide you. You also learn to see life as it is and are able to take the right decisions. One can also enhance their psychic faculties in clairvoyance or telepathy. You feel that your mind is steady, strong and calm in any given situation.
When it is unbalanced it can affect your neurological function and metabolic function as a result of which you may often fall sick, or suffer from symptoms like migraines, sinusitis, insomnia, poor vision, sciatica or high blood pressure. You may also find yourself becoming highly skeptic or even having frequent nightmares.
The element of Ajna chakra is Mind, the color Indigo and it governs the pituitary gland. Since it is related to clarity of thoughts and connecting with your inner guide, practices like meditation, aromatherapy and sound healing meditation will help you feel restored and calm. . Eating ‘brain foods’, plums, eggplants, etc., or wearing shades of Indigo will help. Repeating affirmations like ‘I hear my inner voice. I trust my creative imagination. I embody my spiritual gifts’ will bring more clarity and make you more receptive to your inner voice.
The following Yoga asanas are recommended to balance Ajna chakra:
Forward bends and inversions will help balance and open the Third Eye chakra and help us see life as it truly is. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), Child’s Pose (Balasana), Supported Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana), Standing Half Forward Bend (Ardha Uttanasana), Big Toe (Padangusthasana) , or a meditative posture like Hero pose (Virasana) will help calm the mind and stimulate energy flow through the sixth chakra.
Location: At the top of the spine, in the midbrain, behind the eyebrow.
Symbol: Indigo / Silver lotus with two petals.
Yantra: Light grey circle with eagle as a vehicle, depicting intuitive power.
Bija mantra – Aum
Sahasrara or Crown Chakra – Become Light. Become Love. Become Divine.
Sahasrara chakra is the seventh chakra located at the top of your head, at the crown. This is your abode of highest consciousness where the union of individual soul with supreme soul, or the union of Shiva and Shakti takes place when the Kundalini awakens and merges with its source.
This is the center of spiritual awakening or moksha. That feeling of intoxicating bliss, complete surrender, unconditional love and trust, pure happiness, the feeling of oneness, and the need to move beyond materialistic needs, are all characteristics of Enlightenment, which is experienced at this magical and mystical point.
When balanced you feel in control and completely aware of your inner being and what surrounds you. All your fears and doubts are overcome by a feeling of compassion, gratitude and love for the world around you. You feel grounded, in control of your emotions and connected with the Divine light.
When it is unbalanced it can create a mental fog, making you feel tired and depressed, over-sensitive to light and sound, fill you with a feeling of dissatisfaction and greed, and even result in learning disability, constant headaches, migraines or neurological and endocrine disorders.
Shining as a lotus of 1000 petals vibrating at neutral colors, White or Violet, the element for Crown chakra is void, because matter and energy merge into pure consciousness, beyond birth and death. Because of its spiritual significance, silence, pranayama, meditation, sound of Aum, fasting and detox are the best practices to balance and awaken the higher chakra. Repeating affirmations like ‘I am Love. I am Light. I am Whole. I am Universe. I am’ will help increase awareness and energy flow to the highest chakra.
The following Yoga asanas are recommended to balance Sahasrara chakra:
A combination of restorative and inverted postures such as Supported Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana), Plow (Halasana), Supported Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana), Lotus (Padmasana), Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana), Reclining Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasana) have a healing effect on the seventh chakra and help prepare the body and mind for meditation, which is considered the most effective practice for awakening the highest chakra.
Location: At the crown of the head.
Symbol: Violet / Neutral, shining lotus of a thousand petals.
Yantra: Beyond, containing 50 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, twenty times over. It depicts the Enlightened Being.
Element: Void /thought and light.
Bija mantra – Aum