Chakras for beginners
Most of us have heard of chakras, whether in yoga class or someone talking about
energy medicine. But you may have wondered, what the heck is a chakra?
Simply put, a chakra is a virtual spinning disk, wheel or vortex. In ancient Eastern
medicine, there are 7 of these spinning energy centers in and around your body.
The locations of the chakras begin at the very base of the spine and run up the
center of the body. And it’s important to understand their physical, emotional and
Knowing more about the chakras will help you become happier and healthier. So let’s
explore their physical and subtle dimensions, and how you can benefit from their
What are the 7 chakras?
Each chakra is physically associated with the region where it is located in the
body. Each represents the state of health or disease of nearby organs, and can influence
Chakras also have a big effect on the spiritual or developmental sides of beings.
Each chakra houses specific meaning regarding your inner development, emotional
health and even deeply-rooted memories. Certain yoga poses give you the chance to
access the chakras.
1st Chakra: Root Chakra or Muladhara, meaning root or foundation
Basics: Located at the base of the spine, the
Muladhara is associated with the earth element, the seed (Bija) sound “Lam,”
and the color red.
Physical association: The perineum, the
genitals, the base of the pelvis, with connections to the legs and feet.
Psychological and spiritual influence: Survival,
stability, grounding and trust. The wisdom from past lives, ancestors, our earliest
childhood memories and our connection to family reside here. The Kundalini (uplifting
spiritual and physical yoga practices with movement, dynamic-breathing techniques,
meditation and mantras) serpent energy lies coiled in the root chakra.
Best yoga poses: Standing Warrior poses that
stabilize the feet and legs help strengthen and clear this chakra. Seated postures
invite security. Connect your lower half to the Earth — stand firm, sit well, lie
down and breathe into that intention.
2nd Chakra: Sacral Chakra or Swadhisthana, meaning self’s dwelling place
Basics: Located from pubic bone and sacrum
to just below the navel, the Swadhisthana is associated with the water
element, the seed sound “Vam,” and the color orange.
Physical association: The small and large
intestines, womb, reproductive system, urinary bladder.
Psychological and spiritual influence: Creativity,
sensuality and sexuality. Like a womb, the qualities of a strong second chakra offer
comfort, care, sweetness, a feeling of hominess. Guided by faith, trust and healing,
your health and wellbeing are here. This chakra rules the waters of the body and
embodies flow, movement, your ability to let go, adapt and move forward. It also
allows you to love physically, and create.
Best yoga poses: Postures that target opening
in the pelvis and hips stimulate an open flow of energy in this region. Practice
asanas such as lunges, squats, hip openers like Pigeon Pose, and seated shapes like
3rd Chakra: Solar Plexus or Manipura, meaning lustrous gems
Basics: Located between navel and lower rib
cage, the Manipura is associated with the fire element, the seed sound “Ram,” and
the color yellow.
Physical association: Governs many vital
organs, including the liver, gallbladder, stomach, pancreas, spleen, kidneys and
Psychological and spiritual influence: Identity
and individuality, willpower and ambition, strength and courage live here. The 3rd
chakra supports the ability to move forward on life’s path using logic, cunning
and confidence. Your inner self, which manifested in the first two chakras,
now has an identity, purpose and power.
When this chakra is balanced, you live authentically, with something to offer the
external world. But when it’s out of balance, you either feel you have no purpose
or direction, or the total opposite comes forward: heightened ego, aggression, and
hunger for power.
Best yoga poses: Twists and belly-down backbends
(Sphinx, Locust, Cobra) release blockages and stimulate flow in this energy center.
4th Chakra: Heart Chakra or Anahata, meaning unstuck sound
Basics: Located in the heart space at the center
of the chest, the Anahata is associated with the air element, the seed
sound “Yam,” and the color green.
Physical association: Rules the heart, pericardium,
thymus and lungs, with an extension of the chakra moving through the arms and hands.
Psychological and spiritual influence: Love,
compassion, joy. Your ability to love and nourish others, as well as your own self,
is cultivated through a clear Heart chakra. When the Anahata is strong, you are
guided by love, feeling and heart rather than logic, thought and head.
Your capacity for forgiveness, acceptance and gratitude dwells here. When this area
is blocked, you can’t open up into all kinds of love, and can experience loneliness
and hold grudges.
Best yoga poses: Backbends of all kinds (active
or restorative) open up this energy center. Pranayama (breathing exercises)
expands the lung and heart region for more clarity and light. Meditations on love,
compassion, gratitude and forgiveness strengthen this chakra.
5th Chakra: Throat Chakra or Vishuddha, meaning pure
Basics: Located at the throat, the Vishuddha
is associated with the ether element, the seed sound “Ham,” and the color blue.
Physical association: Throat region and
its glands, the thyroid
and parathyroid, metabolism, the voice.
Psychological and spiritual influence: Expression
and communication (speaking and listening). This is the passageway where the other
chakras converge and metabolize (break down and rebuild) so that you can express
your true and unique self to the world. When in harmony, it is the site of clear
speech, truth and purity.
A balanced 5th chakra allows you the capacity to know when and how to speak, and
conversely, when to be quiet. When blocked or over stimulated, issues arise such
as the inability to speak your thoughts and needs clearly, or the inability to recognize
when to be silent and listen.
Best yoga poses: Postures that stimulate the
throat through compression (Bridge Pose, Shoulder Stand, Plow) and expansion (Fish
Pose, Camel.) Chanting the bija sounds for all the chakras brings awareness
and clarity to each respectively. Nourish and purify this energy center through
the subtle vibration made when you chant the sacred sound, “Ham.”
6th Chakra: Third Eye or Ajna, meaning command
Basics: Located at the center of the forehead
between the eyebrows, the Ajna is beyond the elements. The seed sound is
“Om,” and the color is indigo.
Physical association: Pituitary gland, hypothalamus,
brain, eyes, ears, nose.
Psychological and spiritual influence: This
is the seat of the mind — knowledge, intellect, memory, intuition, vision and clarity.
Deep perception, concentration and understanding reside here.
Best yoga poses: Two major energetic pathways
of the subtle body, the Ida and Pingala Nadis, merge in this region and
exit through the nose. The Pranayama technique of alternate nostril breathing
purifies this area, while meditations on the “third eye” deliver conscious awareness
7th Chakra: Crown Chakra or Sahasrara, meaning thousand petals
Basics: Located above the crown of the head,
the Sahasrara is beyond time, space and elements. The seed sound is “Om”
followed by silence, and the colors are purple and white.
Physical association: Pineal gland.
Psychological and spiritual influence: This
is the site of infinite consciousness and highest knowledge. Bliss and transcendence
of the self happens here — you are stripped of divisiveness, time, space, and the
material plane, and connect as one with everyone else — all of nature, spirit, the
cosmos, the divine.
Best yoga poses: Headstands bring direct balance
to the crown chakra. Visualizations and meditations that focus on opening the area
above the head also attract clarity toward this gateway to enlightenment and bliss.
The beautiful design of the chakra structure
The stages of life are mapped out within the chakras, from root to crown. Like a
seed longing for life, there is a beginning, a need for survival (root), and so
life unfurls (sacral). The seed fills with empowerment (navel) and discovers a capacity
for love (heart), expression (throat) and deep understanding (third eye). Eventually,
the contents of the seed rise out of its small singular self, and upward toward
a union with the universe (crown).
Like with all things in life, the chakras can spin out of balance and be either
too wide open or overly blocked. Becoming aware of your own chakras, where they
are, along with their physical and emotional patterns, can help you maintain balance.
They also allow you to practice yoga with more intention.
May this offering inspire such awareness that the chakras of your subtle body reside
in peace, harmony and balance.