As Westerners we tend to just see and take care of our physical body. But this is not all we are made up of - we also have our ‘subtle’ body which is the energy field that surrounds us. This energy interacts with our physical body by collecting and spiralling at certain points - Chakra is a Sanskrit term meaning ‘wheel’ - known as the chakras. We refer mainly to the seven major ones, six of which reside along the Sushumna nadi and the seventh at the crown of the head, although there are also 21 minor ones that have also been identified.
Each chakra is depicted as a lotus flower with a certain number of petals, representing the number of nadis that flow from them. Coincidentally or not, the seven main chakras are located near the glands which make up the endocrine system and for this reason it is vitally important that we keep the chakras healthy and balanced as they affect every function of the human body. The energy that the chakras hold is the very universal energy that is necessary for all life. Through yoga we tap into this energy, awaken it, and release the divine power within us. Within each chakra also lie specific emotions, good and bad, which are awakened when we work on unblocking and balancing our chakras. It is said that the even numbered chakras – sacral, heart and brow – are more feminine in nature, and focus on feeling, love and insight; and the odd numbered chakras – root, solar plexus and throat – are more masculine in nature, focusing on assertiveness, decisiveness and holding your place in the world.
Yoga is used to awaken the chakras by freeing up prana in the body. As you move, bend and stretch your body in asanas, or perform breathing exercises during pranayama, you allow prana to flow freely through the nadis, or energy channels. Yoga can be particularly helpful for kundalini energy, if you perform appropriate asanas for each chakra, starting at the root, the kundalini energy can rise through the body. There are both appropriate active and passive asanas for all the chakras. We perform active asanas as we ascend from the root to the crown, clearing excess or negative energy from the body. We then perform passive asanas as we work back down the body, drawing prana back into our core, harmonising our energy as we go.
Root Chakra. This is our fight for survival and self preservation chakra. People who have a balanced root chakra have lots of energy at their disposal and a strong will to live. It represents our need to feel trustful, secure and protected. When your root chakra is balanced, you are physically and emotionally grounded and have secure foundations to build your life on. You feel comfortable with your place in the world, in your own skin, and are steady and consistent when life throws you a curve ball. You are patient, calm and confident. Conversely, a deficient root chakra leads to apathy, weariness and stagnancy – the ‘lust for life’ that balanced root chakra characters are known for disappears. You are flighty, on edge and ‘in the clouds’. A person who has an overactive root chakra is greedy, possessive and likely to overeat for comfort.
Sacral Chakra. This is the centre of the Self. A balanced sacral chakra allows us to live our lives creatively with emotion and fluidity. It allows us to ‘go with the flow’ and to make decisions based on our own feelings and desires rather than by what is expected or required of us. Therefore a person with an open sacral chakra is passionate and creative, takes pleasure in life, is connected to their sensuality and sexuality. A deficient sacral chakra leads to stagnated creativity, ‘writers block’, feelings of not being comfortable with their bodies and a lack of passion. You would also resist change and have trouble connecting with your feelings. If you have an overactive sacral chakra, you may not have sexual or emotional boundaries and feel out of control.
Solar Plexus Chakra. This is the centre of our ‘gut feelings’ and people with an open solar plexus chakra tend to act on these as they are self-confident and self-aware. They take risks and are assertive yet warm. Our human fears about life, death, illness etc are often caused by a deficient sacral plexus chakra and there are often problems with digestion and low self-esteem. If you have an overactive solar plexus chakra you are a perfectionist, obsessive-compulsive and suffer from anger, resentment and defensiveness.
Heart chakra. Balanced anahata chakra people are compassionate, altruistic and tolerant. They have a loving acceptance of themselves which has a calming effect on others. They are people who shine positivity and make a difference in their communities. Those deficient in the heart chakra are suspicious, shy and self-centred. They tend to be stuck in their head and physically recoil from life around them leading to resentment and sadness. Physically they tend to have hunched shoulders and laboured breathing. Asthma and other lung problems are frequent. Overactive heart chakra leads to always putting others before yourself to the detriment of your own wellbeing. Also a tendency to over-love thereby suffocating those that it is directed towards, and jealousy leading to loneliness.
Throat Chakra. This is the chakra for speaking your inner truth. It helps us to find ways in which to express our inner selves to the outside world. Music, singing, writing and dancing are all ways that balanced throat chakra people express themselves. Deficiency in the throat chakra would give you a fear of public speaking and render you inarticulate. It would also lead to physical problems like frequent sore throats, stiff neck and shoulders and an underactive thyroid. Those with an overactive vishuddha chakra talk excessively, gossip and aren’t good listeners.
Brow Chakra. Balanced third eye chakra people are those who have a good intuition for things that others cannot see. They are people who strive to know all things and find it easy to reach their full potential. They can see beyond the practical and physical, making them well rounded and balanced people. If you have a deficient ajna chakra you may have trouble seeing clearly, both literally and figuratively. You will also be proud, angry, jealous and have a tendency to dominate. If your ajna is overactive, you can become disconnected with reality and from those around you. The danger is that this can lead to severe emotional disturbances including schizophrenia.
Crown Chakra. A healthy crown chakra enables us to lead a long and healthy life. A balanced sahasrara chakra enables us to see our divine nature. Deficiency in his chakra leads to spiritual scepticism, apathy, materialism and a lack of self-confidence. Overactive crown chakra leads to an appearance of being overly intellectual and ‘above others’ spiritually.