The term Chakra might be a word that you have become familiar with as you navigate yoga classes online or attend classes in a studio. It is popular for yoga teachers to theme and sequence classes around the concept of the Chakras and, therefore, I thought it would be useful to explain what Chakras are and what they can mean for our yoga practice.
To fully understand the concept of the Chakras, we need to understand the term Prana. In yoga philosophy, Prana is life-force energy that flows through the body via Nadis. There are 72,000 of these Nadis and a Chakra (the Sanskrit word for wheel) is where these energy channels intersect. These Chakras also correspond with the nerve plexuses in the physical body. There are three major Nadis; the Shushumna, the Ida and the Pingala, and they all intersect seven times throughout the body resulting in the seven major Chakras.
Through the system of yoga, the aim is to purify, rebalance and awaken these seven Chakras, allowing Prana to flow harmoniously throughout the body. Each of these seven Chakras correspond to different parts of the body, different parts of our emotional life and different parts of our spiritual life and therefore, by balancing each Chakra, the hope is that we can balance our overall sense of well-being. What I personally like about the Chakras is that by thinking about each Chakra and how it corresponds to our lives, we can use the Chakras as a blueprint to help ourselves to take better care of ourselves. So, what are the seven major Chakras?
The Root Chakra (Muladhara)
The Root Chakra is associated with the colour red and the Earth Element. It is located at the base of your spine and is linked to yoga poses that focus on the feet and the legs. This Chakra is connected to your stability, security, and sense of prosperity in life. It is concerned with your basic needs for survival and when this Chakra is balanced, you feel confident, grounded, flexible, safe, resilient, and strong. Statements associated with this Chakra are: 'I am safe' and 'I am healthy'.
The Sacral Chakra (Svadhisthana)
The Sacral Chakra is associated with the colour orange and the Water Element. It is located just below your belly button and is linked to yoga poses that focus on the hips, the lower back and the lower belly. This Chakra is connected to your sexuality, emotions, creativity, passion, pleasure, and fluidity. When this Chakra is balanced, you can easily connect to others, you feel content and calm, you let things go, you are open to joy and pleasure, and you express creativity. Statements associated with this Chakra are: 'I am creative' and 'I am deserving of an abundant and pleasurable life'.
The Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura)
The Solar Plexus Chakra is associated with the colour yellow and the Fire Element. It is located in the upper belly and is linked to yoga poses that focus on the mid belly and the mid back such as twists and core work. This Chakra is connected to your confidence, your enthusiasm for life, the 'fire in your belly', your passion, your inner strength, heat, power and transformation. It is also associated with digestion both physically but also in how you process (or digest) your life. When this Chakra in unbalanced you can feel depressed, lazy, withdraw, irritable, angry and aggressive. Statements associated with this Chakra are: 'I am strong', 'I am worthy' and 'I am complete'.
The Heart Chakra (Anahata)
The Heart Chakra is associated with the colour green and the Air Element. It is located near the heart and is linked to yoga poses that focus on the chest, the upper back and shoulders. This Chakra is connected to love, freedom, openness, compassion, self-acceptance, intellect, frivolity, and positivity. When this Chakra is balanced, you can freely give and receive love, you feel light and open, you are compassionate, you feel motivated and innovative, and express mental agility. Statements associated with this Chakra are: 'I am love', 'I give and receive love' and 'I am loved'.
The Throat Chakra (Vishuddha)
The Throat Chakra is associated with the colour blue and the Ether Element. It is located at the throat and is linked to yoga poses that focus on the throat and the neck. This Chakra is connected to truth in communication and when it is balanced you can freely communicate, listen and express yourself. Statements associated with this Chakra are: 'I speak the truth of my heart' and 'I listen to the truth of others' hearts'.
The Third Eye Chakra (Ajna)
The Third Eye Chakra is associated with the colour indigo. It is located at the point between the brows and correlates with your mental energy. A yoga class themed around the Third Eye Chakra will focus on meditation and pranayama (breathing techniques). This Chakra is connected to your intuition and when it is balanced you have insight, clarity, you trust in your own wisdom and you are connected to your higher purpose in life. Also, your sleep cycles and circadian rhythms become regulated. A statement associated with this Chakra is: 'I hear and respond to the truth of my inner guidance'.
The Crown Chakra (Sahasrara)
The Crown Chakra is associated with clear, white or luminous light. It is located just above the crown of the head and correlates with your intellect, your beliefs and attachments. When this Chakra is balanced, you have the innate wisdom that you are connected with the entire universe and there is no distinct separation with the world around you. Statements associated with this Chakra are: 'I am divine', 'I am light' and 'I am connected to all'.
Here are a couple of books that I used to research this article:
Prana and Pranayama by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati
Eastern Body, Western Mind by Anodea Judith
The Perfect Chaturanga by Jennilee Toner