The Chakras

Chakras are energy points within the subtle body. They are mentioned in a variety of meditation practices, including Chinese Taoism, Tibetan Buddhism, Japanese Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. Each tradition describes four to seven chakras as a fundamental part of the physical body and related to the emotional and spiritual bodies.

Chakras are a useful tool for imagining anatomy as a fusion of the physical, emotional and spiritual self. Think of chakras as an avenue for emotional and psychic energy. They are nodes for prana to reside in between the nadis.

There isn’t much scientific evidence to explain the existence of chakras, but they are a helpful way to organize your thinking about the link between emotional and physical health. Whether or not you choose to believe in chakras without definitive proof, consider them as a spectrum on which to base your definition of health and wellbeing. They are a colourful alternative to the black-and-white binary perception of healthy vs. unhealthy.

Knowledge of chakras adds to the perception of what constitutes health. It’s not hard to understand that wellness includes a breadth of factors relating to body and mind. Chakras are a rubric for understanding the harmonious connection between body and mind. Furthermore, the chakra system is a means to understand patterns that shape psychological, physical and emotional health.

Each chakra is represented by mantra, colour, earth element, location along the spine and an aspect of psychological health – survival, sexuality, power, love, communication, intuition, consciousness. The association with yoga poses presents a tangible way to practice attention to the chakras.

In this section you will examine the chakras as a model for mindbody connection. Be curious about their role in philosophy and medicine and consider the chakras like you do yoga poses – no particular chakra describes everything about a person; just like no particular yoga pose will “cure” a sore shoulder or upset stomach. The chakras, like yoga, present a holistic approach to understanding health and wellbeing.

Introduction to the Chakras. Energy points in your body, related to emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing

Muladhara Chakra

Location – base of the coccyx

Mantra – lam

Colour – red

Connection – survival, grounding, calmness, strong instincts

Element – earth

Organs – kidney, liver, large intestine

Muladhara Chakra represents the connection between the earth and your unique spirit. Maintaining alignment in this chakra is to understand your strong foundation and your fundamental need for support from the earth. The earth provides nourishment and stability. Muladhara chakra is situated in the base of your spine and when you sit in meditation is connected to Mother Earth.

Your earthly foundation is represented in this chakra’s symbol of a lotus with four petals. Each pedal represents an aspect of your psyche – mind, consciousness, ego and intellect. 

The positive qualities of this chakra are growth, development and vitality. The negative aspects of this chakra are laziness, narcissism and allowing physical desires to dominate your actions.

Signs of muladhara chakra being unbalanced include a lack of connection with people in your immediate circle, ignorance of the natural world and discomfort in your home.  

You can bring this chakra back into balance by spending time observing growth in the natural world. Try paying attention to budding trees and hatching birds in the spring or falling leaves and migrating birds in the fall. Another way to bring this chakra into balance is to reinforce your connection with natural food system by planting an edible herb or vegetable and incorporating its fruit into your diet. Also, ensure that you feel comfortable in your home. “Nest” by surrounding your bed and living area with things you love and make the spot you sleep a nurturing place.

Try the following yoga poses to draw your attention to muladhara chakra:

Sukhasana (easy pose): Sit on your mat, on a block or directly on the ground. Visualize how your sit bones are connected to the firm and supportive earth.

Janu Sirsana (head to knee pose): Fold forward and stretch towards your outstretched foot. This pose will lengthen your spine, hamstrings and groin. This strong seated pose stimulates the kidney and liver.

Tadasana (mountain pose): Stand barefoot and press your weight equally into both feet. Visualize how each foot has four corners – behind the big toe, behind the little toe and both outside edges of the heel. Connect all four corners to the earth and remind yourself that you are firmly supported by the ground and that you are inextricably linked to the earth in that it feeds you, that you came from the earth and that you will return to the earth.

Muladhara Checklist

Do you feel safe in your life? If not, why not?

Can you make practical decisions?

Do you have regular bowel movements?

Do you feel at ease in your body?

Youtube Video: Muladhara Chakra Practice

Svadisthana Chakra

Location – Just above the coccyx, in line with the bellybutton

Mantra – vam

Colour – orange

Connection – creativity, safe social boundaries, freedom from addiction  

Element – water

Organs – bladder, lymphatic system, reproductive organs

Svadisthana chakra represents the connection to your own feelings and your relationships with yourself and others. You will examine the qualities of this chakra and understand your default reactions to people around you and you’ll figure out your best method for expressing yourself. Furthermore, you will cultivate a healthy relationship with pleasure and you’ll define your own boundaries in your interpersonal relationships.

The connection to your personality is represented by this chakra’s symbol of a lotus with six pedals. The six points correspond to negative qualities that are to be overcome – anger, jealousy, hatred, cruelty, desire and pride.

The positive qualities of this chakra are comfortable and joyful relationships, healthy sexuality, inspired creativity and a feeling of buoyancy and mobility in your joints.

Signs of svadisthana chakra being unbalanced include addiction, unhealthy sexual relationships, urinary tract infections, bladder and kidney complications, chronic low back pain and inability to conceive.

You can bring this chakra back into balance by reinforcing your relationships through mutually beneficial interactions.

  • focus on your creative application at work.
  • nurture your interpersonal relationships by thinking of the relationship as its own entity. It is not a reflection of who you are as a person but rather a positive addition to your life. If seeing a particular person fills you with feelings of anger or jealousy, reduce the amount of time you spend on that relationship.
  • Focus on time spent with people who fill you with joy
  • Refrain from checking up on people on Instagram.
  • Don’t validate your own choices by posting about your life on Snapchat.
  • Pursue activities because they make you feel creative and fulfilled. Ignore social pressure to do things because “everyone else is doing it.” 

Try the following yoga poses to cultivate balance in svadhisthana chakra:

Upavistha Konasana (wide angle forward fold): Sit on your mat or a block, separate your feet as wide as you can and fold forward. Visualize the stretch through your low back and engage your abdominal muscles to hold the position and lengthen your spine.

Eka Pada Kapotasana (one-legged flying pigeon): Add on to the familiar pigeon pose by attempting an arm balance. The recruitment of deep core muscles will stimulate svadhisthana chakra

Ardha Chandrasana (balancing half moon): This creative balancing pose recruits your core muscles for stability. The awareness of belly, breath and stability will encourage good balance. Reaching towards the sky represents freedom of mind.

Svadisthana Checklist

Do you nurture safe and respectful relationships?

Do you feel creatively inspired in your work?

Do you feel confident in your sexuality?

Are you respectful of your sexual partner(s)?

Do your joints feel comfortable and mobile?

Youtube Video: Svadisthana Chakra practice

Manipura Chakra

Location – behind the solar plexus

Mantra – ram

Colour – yellow

Connection – Confidence, good decision-making, calm demeanour.

Element – fire

Organs – pancreas and digestive organs

Manipura chakra represents the connection to vitality, self-esteem and confidence. A strong connection to this chakra equates to a feeling of control over your own decisions.

Your connection to this chakra is closely linked to your diet. A disorganized approach to food or enthusiasm for junk food will make this chakra feel out of balance. Manipura chakra connects to your gut. The gut is referred to as the second brain because of the nerve bundles that transmit information from the gut to the brain. The digestive system contains cells that produce serotonin (happiness neurotransmitters). Since most of the serotonin for the body is produced in the gut, and the gut is linked to the brain, mood regulation is closely linked to what you eat and how it is digested. Manipura chakra coordinates the food-mood connection.

The positive qualities of this chakra are self-confidence, knowledge, sound decision making, clarity of purpose and an even temper.

Signs of manipura chakra being unbalanced include digestive disorders, low or high blood pressure, problems with circulation and reactive emotional outbursts.

You can bring this chakra back into balance by applying a balanced and disciplined approach to what you eat and being accountable for your actions. Junk food is a poisonous toxin. It is created in labs with the sole intention of attracting your taste buds. Giving in to the cravings for junk food will overtax your manipura chakra, cause digestive issues, bad moods and excessive emotional outbursts.

Harness your desire for junk food and nourish yourself with regular and balanced meals. Good wholesome food will keep manipura chakra in balance. Freeing yourself from the distraction of junk food, digestion and circulation issues and erratic moods will give you clarity to understand and pursue your life’s purpose. By keeping manipura chakra in check, you will be able to make good decisions and react to situations around you with a calm and rational outlook.

Try the following yoga poses to cultivate balance in manipura chakra:

Kapalabhati pranayama: Not a yoga pose, but a technique to create inner fire. Start with ten rounds of breath and work up to 30.

Parvittra trikonasana (revolved triangle): Start from pyramid pose and revolve your belly, mid back and shoulders in the opposite direction from your hips. Strong twisting poses will stimulate digestion. They also draw attention to uncomfortable digestion when you haven’t been eating well! Virabhdrasana B (warrior two): Warrior poses represent stability, strength, self-esteem and confidence. Imagine you are reaching one hand behind you and holding on the past. The other hand is reaching forward into the future. But your core and your mind are firmly grounded in the present.

Manipura Checklist

Can you make calm decisions?

Do you feel in control of what you eat/drink/consume?

Are you free from addiction?

Do you acknowledge your own worth?

Do you feel as though you are in charge of your daily activities?

Can you control your reaction to annoyances?

Youtube Video: Manipura Chakra practice

Anahata Chakra

Location – chest, lungs

Mantra – yam

Colour – green

Connection – radiance, joy, generosity

Element – air

Organs – heart

Anahata chakra represents the connection to knowing yourself with confidence and taking care of others with protective and supportive energy

Your connection to your divine self is represented by anahata chakra. The twelve pedals in its symbol represent qualities of your true self – bliss, unity, compassion, empathy, purity, harmony, understanding, forgiveness, kindness, harmony and love.

The positive qualities of this chakra are generosity of spirit, knowing that you are abundant and that you have energy to share with others.

Signs of anahata chakra being unbalanced include feeling unworthy of love, manipulative behaviour and reliance on co-dependant relationships.

You can bring this chakra back into balance by focusing on what you are grateful for, spending time in a place where you feel safe and loved and dispensing love without expectation of reciprocation.

Try the following yoga poses to cultivate balance in anahata chakra:

Urdhva danurasana (upward facing bow): Start on your back. Press your palms into the mat beside your ears, press the soles of your feet into the mat. Lift your spine, head and neck off the mat. Be strong and brave as your open your chest up. Press your heart towards the sky.

Setu bandhasana (bound bridge pose): Lie on your back with the soles of your feet pressed into the mat. Lift your spine up and off the mat and press your heart and chest towards the sky.

Nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing): Use this calming pranayama technique to stop obsessing over thoughts. Aligning anahata chakra is knowing that what you possess in your heart is enough. Find balance by using nadi shodhana to feel calm and abundant. Do not let thoughts of what you don’t have or of what you should be distract from the knowledge that you are enough as you are.

Anahata Checklist

Do you forgive easily?

Are you kind to the people you come in contact with?

Do you feel empathy to the human condition?

Do you love yourself?

Do you avoid negative self-talk?

Youtube Video: Anahata Chakra practice

Vishuddha Chakra

Location – throat

Mantra – ham

Colour – blue

Connection – hearing, vibration, expansion

Element – sound

Organs – thyroid, parathyroid, voice box

Vishuddha chakra represents the connection to self-expression and openness to ideas. Alignment in vishuddha chakra is apparent when speech and communication is kind, wise and uplifting. Deep and compassionate listening is another quality of this chakra. An individual who can listen carefully to what the world is saying is truly able to understand her place in the world.

Your connection to vishuddha chakra gives you the energy to communicate clearly to yourself about what you need.

The positive qualities of this chakra are a strong sense of self, ability to listen to your self, and understanding of truth.

Signs of vishuddha chakra being unbalanced include inability to make decisions, monotonous thinking and voice, headaches, toothaches, sore throat. Scattered thoughts and incoherent speech also demonstrate lack of balance in this chakra.

You can bring this chakra back into balance by chanting, singing, tuning into your surroundings and paying attention to the repercussions of your speech.

Try the following yoga poses to cultivate balance in vishuddha chakra:

Sarvangasana (shoulder stand): Maintain a strong core, press the soles of your feet towards the sky while supporting your lower back with your palms.

Savasana (corpse pose): Lie on your back with your palms turned to the ceiling. Silence your inner voice and let the swirling vortex of thoughts calm down. Listen to your breath. By silencing your voice for a bit, you can tune into kindness that comes from within. Stay for awhile. Believe in your wise self.

Sukhasana (easy pose): Sit outside. Listen to the wind, the birds, the leaves, the rain. Listen to whatever is happening in the world around you. Tune into the natural world and believe in your own place within your surroundings. Sit down. Calm down. Breathe deeply. Be open to the ideas and knowledge that will be provided.

Vishuddha Chakra Checklist

Do you feel inspired to be your best self?

Can you communicate clearly?

Do you take time to listen to people around you?

Youtube Video: Vishuddha Chakra practice

Ajna Chakra

Location – between the eyebrows

Mantra – om

Colour – purple

Connection – intuitive understanding of the unconscious

Element – the mind

Organs – pituitary gland, eyes

Ajna chakra represents the connection to a mystical state of consciousness. Tune into your intuition and allow it to guide your decisions. If you find yourself constantly seeking distraction, you are well-advised to question why by listening to the wisdom of ajna chakra.

Connection to your innate knowledge and intuition is through ajna chakra. Tuning into this chakra and balancing its attributes will lead to understanding of purpose and ability to make decisions with clarity and intention.

The positive qualities of this chakra are inner peace, stillness of mind and a feeling of harmony with your surroundings.

Signs of ajna chakra being unbalanced include susceptibility to distraction such as too much social media. Constantly checking your phone for updates may be a sign your ajna chakra is out of alignment – you are seeking validation from external sources rather than looking within.

You can bring this chakra back into balance by practicing meditation or deliberately taking time for quiet reflection. Quiet reflection can occur on a yoga mat, but it can also occur outside on the land or water.  

Try the following yoga poses to cultivate balance in ajna chakra:

Balasana (child’s pose): Connect your third eye to the mat or to a block. That connection represents the union between your intuition (third eye) and the earth. Stay in the pose for several breaths and observe what thoughts and emotions come up. This is the preliminary connection to your intuition.

Garudasana (eagle pose): Balance on one foot. Wrap your other leg around the standing leg. Interlace your arms and press your palms together. Focus your drishti on your third eye. Breathe deeply and balance.

Bhujangasana (cobra pose): Hold the pose for several breaths and focus your attention on the third eye. Do several rounds, rest on your belly between each round.

Ajna Chakra Checklist

Do you pay attention when something doesn’t feel “quite right?”

Are you able to refrain from constantly seeking distraction?

Are you able to let go of things/relationships that no longer serve you?

Youtube Video: Ajna Chakra practice

Sahasrara Chakra

Location –  Just above the head

Mantra – aum

Colour – white/all the colours

Connection – infinite reality of the self

Element – awareness

Organs – the entire body

Sahasrara chakra represents the connection between all the chakras and the infinite divine. Sahasrara is the seed of the soul that has sprouted up through the earth, water, fire, air, sound and light of the lower chakras and culminated in ultimate freedom and awareness of the self.

Awareness of sahasrara chakra is the selfless realization that every aspect of the universe is connected. Although “selfless” and “awareness of the self” sound contradictory, the two concepts coexist as understanding your connection to every earthly and universal thing.  Sahasrara chakra is the intersection of finite (the body) with infinite (the soul). Time (a life) meets timelessness (every life).

The positive quality of this chakra is awareness of who you truly are. Similarly, balanced sahasrara equates to understanding that everything is connected and part of a larger scheme than just the individual self. Fear and anxiety melt away and make room for ultimate awareness of a higher purpose.

Signs of sahasrara being unbalanced include excessive materialism and arrogance. By refusing to be receptive to spirituality, the ego takes over and becomes obsessed with the confines of the material world. An unbalanced sahasrara chakra leads to obsession with possessions and relationships thus blocking the underlying meaning of life.

You can bring this chakra back into balance by detaching yourself from perceptions of ownership and attachment to relationships. By practicing calm detachment, sahasrara chakra will help you see through the delusions of the ego and provide a pervasive feeling of ease. 

Try the following yoga poses to cultivate balance in sahasrara chakra:

Vrksasana (tree pose): Balance on one foot. Press the sole of the other foot into your inner thigh. Extend your fingertips to the sky and press your palms together. Links ground chakra with crown chakra!

Sirsasana (headstand): Press the crown of your head into the mat. Support the back of your head with interlaced hands. Walk your feet towards your face. Keep your knees together and with control, lift your feet towards the sky.

Sahsarara Chakra Checklist

Are you able to let go of material objects if they break or get stolen?

Do you feel free to express yourself honestly?

Are you able to practice indifference to the actions of significant people in your life?

Sahasrara Chakra Practice: Vrksasana and Sirsasana

20-minute Chakra Sound Meditation