When your yoga teacher starts talking about chakras or ‘wheels of energy,’ do your eyes glaze over? You would be exonerated for zoning out for a moment, as sometimes these teachings can sound a little ‘out there’.
However, understanding the chakras are like understanding ourselves on a completely new level. The chakra system can give us an enormous intuition into why we crave certain things, why we might sometimes feel ungrounded, how to connect emotionally to others, how to access a sense of power, why we may sometimes find it difficult to express our truth, and how to connect our natural perception.
What are chakras?
The word chakra means ‘wheel’, and in this sense, we are indeed referring to wheels of energy. Our bodies, minds, thoughts, emotions, actions, and everything around us is made of energy.
The chakras are basically points of energy located throughout the subtle body (‘subtle’ refers to something we can’t see but can feel energetically), and it’s thought there are approximately 114 of them in total. The seven main chakra points are located along the spine, from the tailbone right up to the top of the head, and they link to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. There is lots of discussion around where accurately the chakras are located and how many there are, but this overview is all about understanding the basics of this complex system.
The chakra system is as old as yoga itself and has been something yogis turned to for thousands of years before the invention of physical medicine. The chakras link very closely to the nervous and endocrine systems, and this important relationship between them gives emphasis to the essential nature of combined and holistic health.
The seven main chakras points
The seven main chakra points in the body, are linked to the elements, and expand further, relating to all areas of the body, mind, and soul. Moving from the tailbone upward, these are the seven main chakras:
- English Name: Root Chakra
- Location: Tailbone
- Element: Earth
- Colour: Red
- Sense: Smell
- Emotions: Security, safety, feeling grounded, primal urges, stable, steady, confidence, having sufficient energy
- Relation to body parts: Feet, legs, bladder, lower back, nose
- Practices to balance this chakra: Going barefoot, walking in nature, warrior poses and mountain pose, pranayama, chanting the bija mantra LAM.
- English Name: Sacral Chakra
- Location: Pelvis / sacrum
- Element: Water
- Colour: Orange
- Sense: Taste
- Emotions: Joy, sensuality, creativity, self-worth
- Relation to body parts: reproductive organs, tongue, Hips and pelvis, gall bladder, adrenal glands
- Practices to balance this chakra: Spending time near water, swimming, doing something creative, yoga postures that focus on the hips, experiencing joy, cooking and eating, chanting the bija mantra VAM.
- English Name: Solar Plexus
- Location: Just above the navel
- Element: Fire
- Colour: Yellow
- Sense: Sight
- Emotions: Willpower, ego, determination, inner strength, focus, dominance
- Relation to body parts: Stomach, mid-back, digestion, liver, intestines, spleen, eyes
- Practices to balance this chakra: Tratak, core-strengthening postures, doing something challenging that needs courage, Kapalabhati pranayama practices, chanting the bija mantra RAM.
- English Name: Heart Chakra
- Location: Chest / Heart
- Element: Air
- Colour: Green
- Sense: Touch
- Emotions: Love, concern, connection, energy, generosity, authenticity
- Relation to body parts: Heart, lungs, hands, nerves, blood
- Practices to balance this chakra: Giving or receiving a massage, being kind to yourself and others, honesty, backbends, charity work, spending time in nature, gardening, meditation, chanting the bija mantra YAM.
- English Name: Throat Chakra
- Location: Throat
- Element: Ether
- Colour: Blue
- Sense: Hearing & Speech
- Emotions: Self-expression, authenticity, communication, confidence
- Relation to body parts: Vocal cords, Throat, upper lungs, ears, mouth
- Practices to balance this chakra: Expressing yourself, speaking your mind, listening to others, listening to music, singing, talking to others, humming, spending time in silence, chanting the bija mantra HAM.
- English Name: Third Eye
- Location: Between the eyebrows
- Element: Ether
- Colour: Indigo
- Sense: Intuition
- Emotions: Intuition, Trust, intelligence
- Relation to body parts: Lower brain, Pineal gland, sensory organs of the head
- Practices to balance this chakra: Meditation, Using your intuition, trusting your gut instincts, visualization, chanting the bija mantra AUM.
- English Name: Crown Chakra
- Location: Either at the top of the head or slightly above
- Element: Beyond elements
- Colour: Clear / White
- Sense: Beyond senses
- Emotions: Calmness, serenity, balance, spiritual connectivity, enlightenment, wisdom
- Relation to body parts: Upper brain and beyond
- Practices to balance this chakra: Meditation, headstand, silence after chanting.
Recognizing each of these chakras and their connection to our own lives can give a deep insight into areas of ourselves we may have ignored, or those that would benefit from being balanced. Try the various practices related to each chakra, and observe any changes that occur along the way. As with all sides of yoga, working with the chakras is about self-discovery, and this system provides a lifetime of exploration.