Overview of the Chakras
Chakra, from Sanskrit, means ‘wheel’ or vortex. In yogic anatomy there are over 1000 chakras in the subtle body with 108 considered to be the most important and 7 primary ones.
The 7 chakras are often described in the following ways:
- They are the major psychic centres in the subtle body, located from the base of the astral spine (the root) to the top of the head (the crown).
- The chakras influence our spiritual awareness.
- Each chakra has a physical component in the body related to nerves, glands and surrounding muscle and tissues.
- The chakras are associated to specific needs and behaviour and to different aspects of our personality.
- Each chakra is represented by a colour and shape (often used for meditation) and a mantra. Note the colours and shapes presented further are based on the Tantric system; you may notice other texts associate different colours to the chakras.
The chakras each have their own distinct qualities, they are interrelated and work together. When chakras are balanced, i.e. energy is flowing and if they are neither over nor under-stimulated, a person likely will feel good physically, mentally and emotionally. When one or more chakras are out of balance, a person may feel a disturbance in the energetic body or emotionally. A disturbance can manifest in the physical body as well.
Under-stimulation, or blockage, is when the flow of energy is restricted, not necessarily stopped altogether. Over-stimulation happens when the capacity of the junction point is not sufficient for the surge of energy being channelled through the nadis. This can be created from premature yoga practices; asana, pranayama or meditation, where the individual is not prepared on many levels. In working with the chakras in yoga, one intention can be to discover where blockages are occurring and to return them to a state of balance.
Pronounced: Mool-a-dar – the root chakra.
Location: At the base of the spine in the perineum. When engaging moolabhanda to stimulate mooladhara you are squeezing the centre of the pelvis (cervix for women).
Colour/Shape: Golden/yellow square.
Mantra: Lam (Tantric), Bhu (Vedic)
Personality Aspects: Deals with one’s personal security whether in the home or for getting money and retaining personal possessions.
Chakra imbalance: Ungrounded, lacking roots in society or less interest in having solid relationships with family or close friends.
Yoga practices to stimulate or balance: Gomukasana, Garudasana.
Pronounced: Swad-ees-stan – the sacral chakra.
Gland: Ovaries and testes. Release sex hormones, influences how the blood circulates and determines mental vigour.
Colour/Shape: White crescent.
Mantra: Vam (Tantric), Bhuvah (Vedic)
Personality Aspects: Creative core. Deals with pleasure seeking, joy, humour, enjoyment of sexuality.
Chakra imbalance: One may be overly sensitive or emotional.
Yoga practices to stimulate or balance: Yoga Mudra, Pavanmuktasana – good for chakras 1-3. If rocking back and forth you can stimulate all chakras.
Pronounced: Man-ee-poora – the navel chakra.
Location: Navel, solar plexus.
Gland: Adrenals – responsible for releasing adrenalin and cortisone (fight or flight), and pancreas – responsible for producing insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.
Colour/Shape: Red triangle.
Mantra: Ram (Tantric), Swaha (Vedic)
Personality Aspects: Related to personal power, self-esteem, assertiveness, and action to get things done.
Chakra/gland imbalance: Person may experience digestion problems, angers easily. Symptoms of adrenal exhaustion from chronic stress are fatigue, muscle weakness and low metabolism.
Yoga practices to stimulate or balance: Paschimottanasana, Dhanurasana, Bhujangasana, spinal twisting.
Pronounced: An-a-hat – the heart chakra.
Location: Between the breasts.
Gland: Thymus – important in maintaining healthy immune system. It’s primary role is to process white blood cells into t-lymphocytes, which stimulate the production of antibodies and help destroy foreign or abnormal tissue.
Colour/Shape: Green six-pointed star.
Mantra: Yam (Tantric), Maha (Vedic)
Personality Aspects: Deals with love, compassion and empathy.
Chakra/gland imbalance: Immune system may not be functioning optimally. A well-functioning thymus is important in helping the body respond to disease invasion. One may feel slightly disconnected emotionally from the world, or having less compassion for others.
Yoga practices to stimulate or balance: Matsyasana, Ustrasana, standing twist with tapping chest.
Pronounced: Vee-should – the throat chakra.
Gland: Thyroid – metabolism, if underactive one gains weight easily, and parathyroid – regulates calcium levels in body. Calcium absorption into the bloodstream is controlled by vitamin D (we can obtain from the sun and some foods).
Colour/Shape: Blue circle.
Mantra: Ham (Tantric), Jana (Vedic)
Personality Aspects: Expressing our feelings with the outer world – communications and interpersonal relationships. Connected with 2nd chakra (where we feel our emotions, they are expressed outwardly in the 5th chakra from the throat).
Chakra/gland imbalance: If overactive thyroid one may have difficulty in maintaining healthy body weight. If calcium levels are not kept in balance, one’s muscles may not work as effectively as they should. A person may have trouble speaking their truth or expressing themself.
Yoga practices to stimulate or balance: Sarvaungasana, Halasana, Jalandhara bandha (throat lock), fish pose, camel pose, cobra pose.
Pronounced: Aag-na – the third eye.
Location: Between the eyes and upwards approximately one inch.
Gland: Pineal gland releases serotonin – responsible for promoting relaxation and cheerful mood. Melatonin (stimulated by darkness and sensitive to light) for regulating sleep/wake cycles.
Colour/Shape: Snow white, shapeless.
Mantra: Om (Tantric), Tapas (Vedic)
Personality Aspects: Intellect, intuition and wisdom, psychic abilities.
Chakra/gland imbalance: Low levels of serotonin are associated with anxiety and depression. Person may feel they are lacking in intuitive abilities.
Yoga practices to stimulate or balance: Yoga mudra, Ardha Yoga Mudra, Shashaungasana. Meditation on the 3rd eye.
Pronounced: Sass-ha-ra – the crown chakra.
Gland: Pituitary. The ‘master gland’ as it regulates itself as well as other glands in the body.
Colour/Shape: None, thousand petal lotus.
Mantra: Om (Tantric), Satyam (Vedic)
Personality Aspects: Enlightenment, bliss.
Chakra/gland imbalance: Bliss can’t really be out of balance! But if pituitary is not functioning properly one may experience weakness, fatigue, low libido, difficulty maintaining stable body weight.
Yoga practices to stimulate or balance: Inversions such as Sirasana, Padmasana (lotus pose for meditation), Vistriit Padhastasana.
It is important to think of the chakras working together as a whole as a representation of a person’s progression on the spiritual path. Once the lower level chakras (security, sexuality and power) are in order, one can evolve the higher qualities (love, communication, intuition) of the upper level chakras. The heart chakra, at the centre, is symbolized as the bridge between the lower and upper levels.
It’s recommended to examine and work on all chakras at once instead of simply focusing on just one. The personality qualities of each chakra have varying degrees of evolvement in each of us, as we are all unique individuals.
Regular yoga practices of asana and pranayama are intended to stimulate the glands, improve strength and flexibility and increase the flow of prana, thereby promoting the balance of energy in our bodies and an overall sense of well-being.