I assume that many of you will have heard the word ‘chakras’ before, and perhaps you have an idea about what they are, or perhaps you don’t know. Well, take a few moments to read this article, and you might just find yourself a little enlightened!
Or, you may be none the wiser.
Either way, you won’t know until you get to the end, so get reading!
What are chakras?
Chakras come from Ancient Indian thought and they are believed to be energy centers in the body.
It is generally believed that there are seven chakras. These chakras are each located at some point along the spine, ascending right from the top of the head to the base of the spine.
The chakras are said to be linked with physiological, mental, spiritual and emotional interactions and nature.
In yoga, chakras play a vital role.
Each chakra has certain characteristics and associations, and the goal is to balance our chakras so our body, mind and spirit are all working in harmony with one another. Most people don’t have balanced chakras, because part of being human is being slightly imbalanced at various points in our life, so some of our chakras will often be excessive or deficient in the necessary attributes, yoga can help to balance these.
Once you have recognized and acknowledged where your imbalances are, there are asanas (yoga postures) which can help to realign your chakras.
The 7 chakras
Each chakra is connected to certain colors, mantras, elements etc, and these can all help to balance the chakra.
The first chakra is called Muladhara chakra (root chakra), and it is located at the base of the spine.
Physically, this chakra affects the lower body including legs, feet, large intestines, male reproductive organs, kidneys and the nervous system. Traditionally, this chakra is associated with the color red, but the antidote color is blue, so if your root chakra is in excess, you can use the color blue to balance it.
This chakra is largely based around stability and grounding, including financial steadiness and survival, some say it is related to unconditional love (i.e. a child who has unconditional love will have a strong root chakra).
The mantra related to this chakra is the sound ‘Lam’, which we can use in meditation if focusing on the root chakra.
There are certain attributes to a personality that can give you a clue towards how balanced or imbalanced your chakra may be. For example, if your muladhara chakra is balanced, you are generally stable, confident, have a clear sense of identity and feelings of nourishment or nurture. So, if this chakra is in excess, you can become arrogant, egotistical, wreckless, hyperactive, domineering or have addictions to wealth (generally not very grounded!)
And if you are deficient in this chakra, you will perhaps experience fear/anxiety, instability, lacking in confidence, etc.
The causes of such imbalances are common, and are lifestyle and event-based, such as lack of sleep, water or food, sudden changes in lifestyle, family traumas or tragedy.
What can we do about it? Why, yoga of course!
So, the kind of postures which will help to balance this chakra are… you guessed it, grounding postures! Such as tadasana/mountain pose, downward dog, tree, also the majority of seated postures encourage grounding through the root chakra. Other things you can do to help balance this include walking, reflexology, keeping a daily routine and using aromatherapy (particular scents related to the root chakra are putuli and geranium).
The second chakra is Svadisthana Chakra, located at the sacrum (about 3 inches below the navel).
Physically, this chakra affects the hips, sacrum, genitals, bladder and kidneys, menstruation, perspiration, etc. This chakra is strongly associated with change, thus the element is water, symbolising movement.
The mantra you can use to meditate on for this chakra is ‘Vam’.
Color-wise this chakra is associated with orange, but the antidote color to balance is Indigo.
If you are balanced in the Svadisthana chakra, you will be creative, comfortable with your sexuality, unafraid of new things, sensual, have a good sense of humor and forgive easily. Excessive in this chakra and you may have addictions and poor boundaries; deficient and you may be shy or overly sensitive and experience guilty or anxious feelings.
So, asanas related to this chakra include twists and forward folds including marichyasana, revolving triangle and hip openers are also good.
Other ways to balance this chakra are strongly associated with water, so drink plenty of water or try some relaxing or even invigorating swimming!
The third chakra is called the Manipura chakra and is located at the solar plexus (between the base of the sternum and the navel, yes that area that masters like Jackie Chan sometimes punch and wind the enemy in the movies!)
Physically, this chakra affects the major organs such as stomach, liver, pancreas, spleen and diaphragm.
The element… yes, fire!
The mantra… ‘Ram.’ (just think of Jackie Chan ‘ramming’ his fist into your solar plexus….on second thoughts, don’t do that).
The color for this chakra is yellow, and the antidote color is violet.
If you are balanced in this chakra you will have a strong sense of self, make decisions easily, trust your internal voice, have a good ethical and moral code, very self-accepting, you may be skilful and confident and can be spontaneous. If excessive you can be judgmental, arrogant, unable to relax, a workaholic and perhaps have a superiority complex.
Yep, just the opposite: low self esteem, indecisive, lacking in confidence, confusion, concerned about other opinions, and have a victim mentality.
Asanas to balance this are leg lifts, twists, and upward facing dog/cobra pose.
Also, being in the sun can do a world of good for this chakra, listening to your instincts and following your creative thoughts and perhaps spending a little time on your own and looking after your own needs.
The next chakra is the one we all hope to balance, and if everyone had this chakra balanced perfectly the world would be a wonderful place.
The name: Anahata Chakra, the location: the heart.
This chakra is the beginning of the movement from the physical into the spiritual, so the next few chakras are associated with the spiritual, and the anahata is the bridge towards this.
Physically, it affects the heart, lungs and hands.
The element is air, the mantra is ‘yam’ and the color is green. There is no antidote color for the heart chakra, as it is it’s own antidote.
You can probably guess what a balanced anahata individual is like: loving, compassionate, giving freely and quietly can receive happily, easily forgiving and tolerating, has a lot of self-love and cares about the planet. Excessively, one can be overly critical or overly dependent; deficiently one can be manipulative, insensitive, self-pitying, have a fear of hurt, feelings of paranoia, very closed off and generally not very open or friendly.
Traumas or tragedies in life can close the heart chakra, which is why many people who we meet who may seem unfriendly or generally cold and distant have reasons in their past for a closed heart chakra.
But never fear! Yoga is here!
Opening the heart chakra is important spiritually and emotionally, but the way to solve this is to do the same physically. Heart-opening asanas are crucial for this chakra, these include backbends such as bridge and half-bridge, fish, upward-facing dog etc.
Other ways of practicing heart-opening lifestyle techniques is to show affection (give someone a hug?), spend time with animals, particularly loving animals such as dogs, or try giving a little gesture to someone everyday. Not only will this open your heart chakra but also theirs, as they will hopefully accept and receive willingly.
Now we move into the chakras more associated with spirituality.
The next chakra is the Visshuddha Chakra or Throat chakra. This chakra is related to communication, creativity and expression.
Most of us function from our lower chakras, but children are generally balanced towards their top chakras, they are more in tune with their imaginations and creativity, so the throat chakra is often very open and nicely balanced in a child (or in some, can be a little excessive, depending how much candy they have had that day).
Physically, this chakra affects the throat, larynx, vocal chords and neck.
The element is sound. Chanting the mantra ‘Ham’ can be great for opening up the vishudda chakra.
The color is blue and the antidote color is red.
If you are balanced in this chakra, you are creative, centered, can meditate easily, open-minded, musical, a good speaker. If excessive, you are overly loud, hyperactive, self-righteous, can’t stop talking, argumentative, dogmatic. And, you can work out the deficiency attributes: shy, quiet, introverted, poor communication skills, holding back or emotionally suppressant.
So, any asanas which open your throat/neck area are great for balancing this chakra such as fish pose, and visualizing blue whilst doing this can help too. Lion’s pose is great too as it works your vocal chords and opens up the throat area.
Balancing this chakra can be difficult for many of us in today’s world, but you can try by speaking your truth, living honestly, respecting yourself, and being creative.
If excessive in the throat chakra spending some time in silence can be beneficial, as over-use of the voice can deplete this chakra.
The 6th chakra is considered the most crucial when it comes to spirituality and meditation.
This is the Ajna chakra, commonly known as the third eye chakra.
It is located between the eyebrows and physically affects the central nervous system including the spine and brain. The element here is light/energy and the mantra is ‘Om’ (although some say ‘Ham’ or ‘Soham’).
The color is Indigo and antidote color is orange.
A balanced person will be living in the present and very centered, they will be charismatic, not materialistic, have a good sense of the divine, perhaps psychic abilities and no fear of death. Excessive individuals may be dogmatic, egomaniacs, self-righteous or manipulative; deficiency may include difficulty concentrating, overly sensitive reactions or inability to be assertive.
The goal here is focus when it comes to asanas, so balance poses such as tree pose are great, but also relaxation poses like childs pose or even savasana/corpse pose can be beneficial.
And finally! The seventh chakra: Sahasrara Chakra, located at the crown of the head.
It has no physical attributes and no element, there is also no mantra, as it is strongly associated with silence.
This chakra is connected to meditation but goes even further than that, so if you are balanced there is a strong connection to the divine, and you are someone who is not attached to anything. Excessive in this chakra and again, you may be dogmatic, frustrated/dreaming of enlightenment, or you may have a messiah complex.
Deficient? No sense of joy, no sense of a higher power, very cynical about spirituality or even catatonic.
Focus and calming poses such as headstand, shoulder stand and lotus poses are great to balance this chakra.
Your chakras and imbalance
Now, if you’re recognising excess and deficiency in all of these chakras… don’t worry!
Everyone’s chakras are imbalanced constantly, and they are frequently changing. So, if you use some of these yoga asanas or other techniques to help imbalance or unblock one of your chakras, it doesn’t mean you will be balanced forever, but it will make you feel better and slowly the energy blockages will come into alignment with each other and you will also have tools at your fingertips whenever you feel the need to re-align your chakras.
The blockage or energy dysfunction within the chakra system is believed to cause physiological, emotional, spiritual and mental obstructions, so to feel better in body, mind and spirit, take a few of these tips and partake in a little yoga!