In our classes this week, we will be exploring the chakras through sound, chanting the bija mantras associated with each one. Chakras are energy centers that are central to the anatomy of the subtle body. The yogic view of the body extends beyond the physical bones, muscles and organs, and understanding and working with the subtle body is central to yoga practice.
The word chakra is Sanskrit for "wheel." It is named as such because they are continually spinning vortexes. There are seven major chakras located in the central core of the body, along the spine (there are also several minor chakras throughout the body, but our focus today will be on the seven main ones). These wheel-like energy centers are swirling intersections of vital life forces, and each one reflects an aspect of consciousness (physical, emotional and spiritual) essential to our lives.
The function of the chakras is to receive, integrate, and transmit information at particular frequencies--sort of like different radio stations along the dial.
Chakras are organizing centers for the reception, assimilation, and transmission of life energies. Our chakras, as core centers, form the coordinating network of our complicated mind/body system. From instinctual behavior to consciously planned strategies, from emotions to artistic creations, the chakras are the master programs that govern our life, loves, learning, and illumination. As seven vibratory modalities, the chakras form a mythical "rainbow bridge," a connecting channel linking Heaven and Earth, mind and body, spirit and matter, past and future. As we spin through the tumultuous times of our present era, the chakras act as gears turning the spiral of evolution, drawing us ever onward toward the still untapped frontiers of consciousness and its infinite potential. ~Anodea Judith, Wheels of Life
Although the chakras themselves are not physical things--you can't cut the body open and see them--there are nerve ganglia, organs, and glands located around and associated with each one. So there are visible corresponding physical structures that are connected with each chakra, linking the more ethereal yogic science with western anatomy and physiology. It is fascinating to see how these two streams so beautifully meet.
We are most fully alive and functioning optimally in mind, body, and spirit when our chakras are balanced, open, and aligned. The shushumna, or central energy channel that runs along the spine, then becomes a clear conduit through which prana easily flows. When one or more of our chakras are blocked, we experience various types of dis-ease. There are many yoga practices that balance and align the chakras, including specific mantras and asanas that benefit each chakra.
The chakra system is a vast exploration, as a science and a spiritual journey. I will be writing more about each chakra in future posts, but here is an overview of the names and qualities of each chakra:
- Muladhara, or root chakra, located at the base of the spine, is connected with physical survival, safety, and being grounded. It is associated with the element of earth and the color red.
- Swadhisthana, or sacral chakra, located just below the navel, is connected with sexuality, pleasure, and emotional connection with others. It is associated with the element of water and the color orange.
- Manipura means "lustrous jewel," and is found at the solar plexus. It is connected with the will, power, ego, and self-identity. It is associated with the element of fire and the color yellow.
- Anahata, the heart chakra, is located in the center of the chest and is associated with love, compassion, and balance. It is also called the "bridge chakra" because it connects the lower chakras(our more animal nature) with the higher chakras that move us toward spiritual awakening. It is associated with the element air and the color green.
- Visshuddha is the throat chakra, connected with expression, communication, and creativity. It is associated with the element of ether, with sound, and the color blue.
- Ajna, or "third eye", is located at the brow and is connected with intuition, imagination, higher wisdom, and clairvoyance. It is associated with the element of light and the color indigo.
- Sahasrara, or "crown chakra", is also called the "thousand-petaled lotus", and is found at the top of the head. It also hovers above the head, extending beyond our physical body. It is connected with universal consciousness, non-dualism, bliss and connection with the Divine. It is associated with the element of thought and the color violet or white.
These beautiful, swirling wheels of life are all essential components of our being. Some people mistakenly believe that the lower chakras are negative parts of ourselves, to be transcended so that we may live in bliss. However , all the chakras are important and operate in concert with one another. They are in constant interplay and can only be separated intellectually, for the purposes of study.
Put attention into the luminous connections
Between the centers throughout the body.
The base of the spine and the top of the skull--
The genitals and the heart--
The heart and the throat--
The throat and the forehead--
The forehead to the crown of the head.
Enter that glowing net of light
With a focus born of awe
And even your bones will know enlightenment.
~from The Radiance Sutras, translated by Lorin Roche