THE CHAKRAS - Secret Keys for Energy and Life Balance
The Chakras - Harnessing their Energy Potential
This post presents a comprehensive guide for understanding the subtle energy system, symbolism and potential power of the chakras. It offers a wealth of tips and effective solutions for developing self awareness and creating more energy, joy and balance in your life.
© by Marsha Silvestri
We often hear about balancing the chakras, but sorting through the vast sea of information about them from different sources, the topic can be quite confusing. This post aims to demystify their esoteric significance and offer practical methods for accessing their beneficial energy.
Though chakras do not exist in the physical plane, their imbalances or weakness can lead to imbalances or “dis-ease” conditions in the corresponding organs or systems of the physical body. That explains why balancing the chakras can often lead to physical healing, although that is not their primary function. According ancient yogic teachings, the fundamental purpose of balancing and strengthening the chakras, is to help one develop self awareness and higher consciousness. The end goal of yoga is to achieve “samadhi”, a state transcendental awareness or bliss.
As a long-time yogi, teacher and artist, I've been studying and exploring the topic of chakras for about 35 years. The first book I purchased on the chakras in 1984 was The Serpent Power by Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe), first published in 1919. I must admit, coming from a Christian background, its heavy Hindu polytheistic Sanskrit references and very foreign concepts were extremely challenging for me to grasp, let alone apply to my life in any practical capacity.
That year I also began studying kundalini yoga, which made understanding the chakras more accessible, yet they still remained somewhat shrouded in mystery, and my understanding of them was pretty simplistic. As few as 20 years ago, there was very scant information about chakras available on the internet. After the explosion of yoga hitting the mainstream threshold in the late 1990s, the topic of chakras began to catch on like wildfire, capturing the imagination of western yogis, healers, artists and writers throughout the new age circuits.
In recent years many yoga websites and alternative health practitioners have embraced the practice of chakra balancing within the context of healing physical conditions related to the organs and glands associated with each chakra's anatomical region. Today if you Google the chakras you can find hundreds of websites promoting the use of various crystals, jewelry, candles, incense, music, clothing, foods, essential oils, bodywork and other suggestions for stimulating or balancing these energy centers. Along with this wealth of offerings comes much confusion, conflicting information, skepticism and questions.
This post does not intend to promote, dispute or negate the value or benefit of these types of products, or the healing modalities that utilize them, but rather to question, do these tools actually make any significant perceptible improvement in the lives of the users? Or are they merely hyped up merchandise created for the commercial marketing and consumption of spirituality, to ride the wave of the expansive yoga niche market?
What I'd like to explore here, are experiential aspects of chakras with practices and techniques that can be applied to help improve many areas of life on physical, emotional, mental, psychological or spiritual levels, plus methods for developing higher awareness and expanded consciousness.
Understanding Subtle Energy
According to Ancient Vedic and Tantric philosophy, the chakras refer to major vortex points along subtle energy channels (aka meridians) throughout the human energy system. These points relate to physical functions, emotional / psychological development and spiritual awakening. Because chakras are not visible, tangible or measurable by western medical standards, they are often labeled as a pseudo science. Just because we don't understand or can't prove subtle energy, does not mean it doesn't exist. The subtle body to which the chakras belong, is made up of energy; where the physical body consists of gross matter of material elements. But what if there is substantial proof or evidence based on ones experience?
For example - feeling chakras on a physical level: Have you ever felt the fluttering sensation at the heart when in love, or a heaviness, ache or pain near the sternum after a major loss, heartbreak or death of a loved one? These experiences could describe the opening of the heart chakra, and conversely, the closing down of that energy center in response to powerful emotional experiences. Butterflies in the stomach, a lump in the throat, even sexual arousal and orgasm are real examples of physical sensations related to the chakras.
Esoteric Teachings and Ancient Traditions
Though commonly associated with yoga and Hindu studies, similar subtle energy systems exist in other ancient and modern traditions. In martial arts (such as chi-gong and tai chi) subtle energy circulation is cultivated through exercise, breathing techniques, and in ancient Chinese medicine with the stimulation of meridian points used in therapies such as acupuncture and acupressure.
We can find overlapping commonalities between Tantric, Buddhist and Ayurvedic healing arts. Similar esoteric associations are also found in Jewish mysticism, Kemetic / Egyptian teachings, plus various indigenous traditions. Each of these practices recognize the presence of spiritual and energetic aspects of health beyond our physical structural anatomy.
A wide variety of yoga styles and spiritual disciplines offer multiple theories explaining the chakras. Some teach a 5-chakra system. Others describe 12 or more, to include additional minor chakras of the hands, feet, joints, or points in or above the head. Another gives credence to the existence of 88 thousand chakras (vortices) and 72 thousand “nadis” (energy channels). Some proclaim to be the only true or accurate system. Hybrid systems synthesize both ancient eastern knowledge with modern western modalities. The most prevalent system of seven major chakras as taught by many yogis today, was actually influenced by early western occultists integrating psychology and other esoteric knowledge with the teachings of yoga.
Many illustrations from the Hindu schools of yoga contain Sanskrit text or letters on the “yantra” (sacred diagrams) symbols and lotus petals encircling them. The letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, when pronounced, represent the basic “bija” (seed) sounds originally used for invoking the different Hindu deities. These sounds are associated with the awakening of consciousness and used to stimulate the ascension of kundalini energy through the different chakra centers. The chanting of OM (AUM) is a well known example of a bija mantra.
The Hindu culture is steeped in ritual, devotion and worship of many deities. Though I do respect the history and virtue of going deep into the pure authentic source of a practice, I also understand it can be daunting for western students to relate to, accept, or adopt radically different beliefs, values and lifestyles - not to mention comprehend volumes of Sanskrit scriptures. Many students in the west are seeking a more universal, secular approach to yoga that's more relevant today and makes sense when adapted to western culture, language and lifestyles.
Yogi Bhajan was one of the first teachers to bring the technology of kundalini yoga to the west. His method of teaching presented a more open mainstream approach that American students could easily access without a lifetime of study, devotion and practice. Beginners and all levels were welcome in classes. This form of yoga did not require students to become initiates, disciples, monks, or adhere to extreme lifestyle restrictions such as bramacharia (celibacy). Yes, there are many levels of disciplines and commitment in KY, but they are not all required to practice. Students can benefit greatly from the teachings and technology without the need for a guru, worshiping foreign Gods, becoming a renunciate, or completely giving up their native culture, lifestyle, religion or belief systems. This style encourages students to become their own guru.
Note: there are many differences and similarities between kundalini yoga and Hindu-based systems having different lineages and focus of the teachings. Kundalini yoga (as taught by Yogi Bhajan) uses less Sanskrit terminology and philosophy. Being influenced by monotheistic Sikh traditions, many KY terms, mantras and concepts are derived from the Gurmkhi sacred language and scriptures. Most hatha/Hindu-based styles emphasize more the physical asanas (posture perfecting practices), where KY integrates many additional facets (mantras, mudras, kriyas, movement, meditation, etc…) with greater focus on awareness and balancing physical, mental and spiritual energy.
The Nadis - Subtle Energy Channels
In the teachings of kundalini yoga (“kundal” means coil), this snake-like energy is visualized as a dormant coiled serpent that resides at the base of the spine. Through various practices, including movement, exercises, breathwork, mantras, kriyas or meditations, this energy is stimulated to rise up through the primary “nadis” (energy pathways) - the “ida” (the left nostril, right brain, feminine creative principle and cool energy channel), the “pingala” (right nostril, left brain, masculine, analytical principle and hot energy channel) and the “sushumna” (the neutral central nerve channel located along the spine).
The imagery of this ascent is depicted in the symbol of the caduceus as 2 snakes spiraling around the winged staff of Hermes (aka the rod of Asclepius used as a symbol for medicine). Through various disciplines, circulating “prana” (life force of the ascending in-breath) and “apana” (the eliminating out-breath or descending energy), heat is generated, which moves the kundalini energy through the nadis. As it reaches each of the chakras an awakening occurs activating their potential in progressing levels of consciousness. When the energy reaches the higher chakras (represented by the wings of a swan opening at the top of the staff), the ida/pingala (Shiva/Shakti - male/female) opposite energies unite, where one may achieve “samadhi” or spiritual self-realization. The symbol of the swan (paramahansa) represents transcendence and enlightenment. The disk at the top of the staff is sometimes represented as a pine cone - a symbol for the pineal gland - which is associated with the crown chakra. Each of the chakras have associations with specific endocrine glands for each region of the body.
In kundalini yoga, the “aura“ (protective electromagnetic field) which surrounds the physical body and encompasses the 7 major chakras, is often referred to as the “8th chakra”. The aura is part of the subtle body which contains several layers or sheaths known as koshas. These represent different aspects or levels of consciousness, similar to the levels of awareness associated with each of the chakras.
- The material body kosha (annamaya) is the layer which defines and contains the physical body. It's associated with, food, diet, physical sustenance and is grounded to the earth through the first chakra.
- The next layer, the etheric body (pranamaya) the life force sheath, is balanced and sustained through the breath. This is where the chakras reside.
- Next is the astral or emotional body (manomaya). This is the mental sheath which stores emotions, fears, negative thought forms, experiences and unresolved issues from this, or previous lives. Emotions and trauma from our parents, family, or ancestral experiences can also be stored in this layer.
- Next is the mental body (vinanamaya), the sheath of our intellect, where our knowledge, truth and thought patterns reside. This is where gifts, talents and abilities gained from previous lives are stored.
- The outer aura field that radiates spiritual consciousness is the spiritual bliss body or causal body (anandamaya). This is our infinite soul layer where we may experience supreme bliss. The soul (atman) is eternal pure divine consciousness and continues to exist after the death of the physical body.
- The “I AM” body, (atman sharia) or spiritual body, is the seat of the higher self that dwells in a celestial realm of higher truth (satyam loka).
- The “God” body, (Brama sharia) is the cosmic body of unconditional love and pure light dwelling in the God body (Brama loka).
- The absolute body (nirvana sharia) is a formless state of oneness of the supreme self with the universe.
- A relationship layer, is where connections to other beings are stored from our current and past lives.
Certain sensitive individuals, clairvoyants and healers have the ability to see or read the energy of the aura. Special cameras can even photograph its colors.
A weak aura might extend just a few inches from the physical body. When the aura is weak, the physical body becomes vulnerable to illness, accidents, disruptions or other negative influences. An unhealthy aura may exhibit dark muddy colors, spots, irregular shape distortions, or have ruptures that hinder its ability to protect the physical, emotional and energetic bodies.
An average healthy aura extends about 2–3 feet from the body as an egg-shaped ovoid having smooth, uniform outer edges. Its colors vary and shift indicating ones current mental or emotional states and physical health. When the aura is healthy its colors are radiant and bright, with brilliant vivid hues like the colors of the rainbow spectrum.
A strong aura can extend 50–60 feet or more in diameter. These individuals have a strong radiance or presence that can be felt, sensed or seen by others, even among a large crowd. When someone is described to be a “bright light”, it is likely that the person has a strong expansive aura. Strong auras are typical in powerful leaders, teachers, performers or those who command a powerful or charismatic influence in the world.
Haloes: In highly spiritually developed individuals, a halo of brighter light or golden sub-aura sphere (aka the arcline) surrounds the head and upper chakra region. Haloes are recognized across many cultures and religions as depicted in paintings of Jesus Christ, Mother Mary, Buddha and many saints, ascended masters, angels and deities.
The aura can be strengthened or enhanced through various spiritual and lifestyle practices. Our auras intermingle and are impacted by the auras of all the people we come in contact with. There are some people who you just feel good being around, and others who make us feel uncomfortable for no logical reason. Often we can feel the aura of another person without even seeing or being aware of them!
Once I was riding the subway feeling fine, relaxed, engrossed in reading a book, and not paying attention to passengers getting on or off the train. The car was not very crowded, maybe a foot or more space between most of the riders. Suddenly for no apparent reason I felt a strong discomfort and inner agitation, almost sick to my stomach. I had a powerful urge to move away from the spot where I was standing. When I turned to walk away, I noticed a drug addict had been standing right behind me. He wasn't there when I got on the train (when I felt fine). He must have entered at a later stop. He was extremely agitated, shaking with nervous tremors. Just after I moved away he began thrashing, lashing out, shouting and getting aggressive with the other passengers around him. I moved away just in time. I felt his agitated presence before actually seeing him with my eyes. It was my subtle body feeling, absorbing and responding to the impact of his discordant energy that made me suddenly feel ill.
Strength, Qualities & Elements
Similar to auras, chakras can be weak or strong having variable sizes, or characteristics that impact their function. These qualities are not always uniform in all seven centers. One or more chakras in the same person may be weak or imbalanced, while the others are strong and healthy.
The average energetic size an individual chakra is about 4–5 inches in diameter. If closed, they may only be about 2 inches wide. Shapes may be round or spherical, although some theories claim that the shapes are more like double cones or funnels joined at their narrow central points along the spine, protruding outward forward & back, above or below. In Hindu traditions, the word “chakra” means “wheel”, which refers to what has been described as spoke-like formations that resemble lotus petals when the chakras rotate at different speeds or frequencies
Each of the first five chakras from the root up to the throat, are associated with a specific “tattva” or element. I also include here their most basic essence, issues, qualities and associations.
- First (muladhara) root chakra = base, foundations, support, earth tattva
- Second (svadhisthana) sacral/sex chakra = sweetness, sexuality, pleasure, creativity, water tattva
- Third (manipura) navel chakra = lustrous gem, solar plexus, personal power, fire tattva
- Fourth (anahata) heart chakra = unstriken, heart center, unconditional love, relationships, balance, air tattva
- Fifth (vishuddha) throat chakra = purification, communication, ether/akasha tattva
- Sixth (ajna) brow/third eye chakra = command, intuition, exists beyond tattva elements as pure light & telepathic energy
- Seventh (sarashrara) crown chakra = tenth gate, thousand petal lotus, union, expands into cosmic energy
Healing and Strengthening the Chakras
Many specific disciplines and activities, if practiced regularly, can help one develop and maintain healthy function of each or all of the chakras. That in turn may improve one's overall mental, spiritual and emotional health, as well as the health of the physical systems that correlate to each of the chakras.
Several kundalini yoga exercises and kriyas are designed to enhance the energy related to the chakras, either individually or combined.
Mantras and affirmations can also help balance chakra energy to promote healing through mental repetition, sound frequencies and the stimulus of the tongue on the meridians of the mouth.
If someone's throat chakra is blocked, that may manifest as shyness or an inability to speak up for oneself, fear of public speaking or expressing one's truth. The voice may experience a cracking, stuttering, sound shaky, weak, or have trouble getting the words out when required to speak. A remedy practice to help balance or purify the throat chakra is regular chanting specific mantras or singing aloud. Singing and chanting help to exercise, tune, tone and strengthen the vocal chords to clear and enhance the throat energy and thus allow for a clearer expression, which is the function of the throat center..
Activities to Help Stimulate & Balance Each of the Chakras:
First Chakra - Barefoot, grounded styles of dancing (like African), walking barefoot on the Earth or in nature. Frog exercises are excellent for the first chakra, as are exercises like spinal flexes, sat kriya and body drops. An important function of the first chakra is elimination, so getting rid of clutter, letting go of things you don't need can energetically help to balance that chakra. (Hoarding and greed are first chakra issues or disorders related to the inability to let go. They come from a fear of not having enough.) Apana (eliminating energy) is the natural flow of the lower chakras to cleanse and release what is not needed.
Second Chakra - Ecstatic or sensual dancing, shaking the hips, and getting in touch with one's sensuality can help open or strengthen a blocked sex center. Frogs, spinal flex and Sat Kriya are also beneficial for the second chakra and all 3 lower chakras. Pelvic and Kegal exercises help to strengthen the sex center and increase orgasmic pleasure. Creative activities, following your passion, doing things that bring you joy, play and sexual fantasy can help stimulate that chakra.
Third Chakra - A weak or imbalanced navel center could result in a lack of drive, will power or personal power. This could manifest as low self-esteem, feeling powerless, or digestive problems. The practice of martial arts or activities that stimulate or strengthen the navel/chi-center can help one develop a stronger, more balanced navel chakra. There are also conditions where a chakra can be imbalanced with excess energy. The power principle associated with a strong third chakra, if over-stimulated, can appear as aggressive, dominating forcefulness, imposing ones will or power over others, or being a control freak. Stretch pose (lying on the back with head, shoulders and feet raised about 6 inches off the ground) and holding the pose with breath of fire, for about 3 minutes or longer, activates the navel point, as do many abdominal strengthening exercises.
Fourth Chakra - For the heart center, various pranayama techniques help to expand the lungs and stimulate the entire chest region where the heart chakra resides. Thymus thumping or lightly rhythmically tapping or beating the chest with the hands helps to stimulate that chakra's energy circulation. Lung and cardiac health are essential for the function of this chakra. The inflow or inspiration of pranaic life force energy through the breath is vital to this chakra. Various arm exercises also help to draw energy into this center. Holding the arms up at a 60° angle with breath of fire helps to open the chest and channel life force to the heart through the arms and the breath.
Fifth Chakra - Neck rolls can release neck tension to help clear blocked throat energy. Music, chanting and sound vibrations (preferably high vibration music, mantras or sacred sounds) create frequencies that can stimulate and harmonize the chakras, especially the throat center. Singing is a form of creative expression, one of the most elevated 5th chakra activities. Kirtan, Gurbani and various styles of spiritual music give power to the voice and also uplift the spirit. It's no coincidence that so many powerful singers have come from a gospel music background. Singing also is beneficial for the lungs and 4th chakra as it requires breath control. Certain instruments and music styles also can have a balancing, harmonizing effect on the chakras. Each of the musical notes are said to resonate with one of the chakras.
Sixth Chakra - For the third eye, meditations, focused concentration and “tratakam” gazing are beneficial techniques for improving intuition, one of the primary functions of the 6th chakra. Shoulderstand helps stimulate all 3 higher chakras. Also headstand (not usually practiced in kundalini yoga) draws physical circulation and energy to the head and upper chakras. If one is unable to practice headstand or shoulderstand, there are other inverted postures or techniques that help to bring blood and circulation to the head. Supported inversions may be practiced hanging from a yoga swing or inversion racks or chairs. These eliminate the potential for neck strain or injury.
Seventh Chakra - Meditation & chanting specific mantras can help balance or strengthen all the chakras, but is particularly effective for the 6th & 7th. Inversions as mentioned for the 6th chakra also stimulate energy flows to the crown. Gong meditations can help balance each of the chakras and the aura.
For the Aura (8th Chakra) - wearing white helps to balance the aura, as white contains the vibrations of the full spectrum of light. Arm swinging exercises and circular sword movements (from martial arts like gatka) that slice through the aura help to strengthen the electromagnetic energy. Triangle pushups, martial arts, spending time in nature, swimming, showering or bathing in cold water and walking barefoot in nature are all activities that help cleanse or strengthen the aura. Various aura purification rituals include: the Native American tradition of “smudging” (burning herbs such as sage, sweetgrass and cedar, waving the smoke of these herbs around your aura and/or space), salt baths, certain crystals and mantras can all be used to help to purify negative energies in or around the aura. Tibetan bells and wind chimes also help to dissipate negative energies through sound vibrations.
To Recap Briefly:
The most effective methods for keeping the aura and chakras strong and balanced include:
- Regular physical activity - (exercise, martial arts, dance, yoga, sports…) Exercise keeps the life force and energy circulating so it doesn't stagnate or become stuck. Movement helps to release blocked energy and builds vitality in the physical and energetic bodies. Each individual is unique, so you need to find a form of activity that resonates with you, your lifestyle, interests and abilities. That may change over time or with changing health conditions.
- Deep breathing / pranayama techniques
- Meditation - (There are many types of meditations.)
- Mantras, chanting, music, singing, rhythm & sacred sound vibration, the sound of the gong, singing bowls, bells,
- Creative or artistic activities
- Spending time in nature
The Controversial and Contestable
Working with crystals, gems, massage, bodywork, aromatherapy, and other enhancements can offer health and energy benefits, but most of these require specialized knowledge plus expense for products or qualified practitioners.
Also many trends making health claims may have questionable value or be worth little beyond their decorative appeal. Just as it is difficult to prove the reality of the chakras, it is even harder to prove the effectiveness of many products that claim to help balance them.
Meditation recordings using binaural beats may claim to help activate the chakras. Though these may not hurt, they are passive activities, meaning listening to them, you're not doing anything to actively transform your energy. It's more effective to raise your consciousness on your own by active methods, than to expect a product, person or object to passively or magically do it for you.
Certain foods, nutrients, dietary and lifestyle practices can definitely enhance physical health and purify the body, which can benefit ones physical energy when working towards raising your consciousness, but these alone will not open the chakras.
Also, some traditions utilize psychoactive substances to open the third eye and expand perceptions. Though certain plants or drugs may stimulate the pineal or pituitary glands to temporarily access heightened levels awareness, they can be dangerous and lead to psychosis and other imbalances. Their use is depending on a substance to provide an unnatural shortcut, which can come with unexpected or undesired consequences. Generally I don't recommend them, especially for experimentation or recreational use.
These topics are too controversial and complex for this post, so I prefer to explore them more in future posts.
The Body Mind Spirit Relationship
We are all made up of energy and spirit. Imbalances in the energetic, emotional, mental and spirit levels can allow the physical body to manifest symptoms that serve as wake-up calls that life changes or corrections need to be made.
Unresolved emotions creating imbalances in the subtle body, can lead to disease. Cancer is a metaphor for unresolved anger. Something is eating away at you. Many ancient cultures recognized the relationship between body, mind and spirit, that respecting these aspects of the self were essential for healing. Western medicine acknowledges the negative health impacts of emotional stress and its relation to a number of health problems including a shorter life expectancy.
The chakras are just one aspect of health among many. They're not the source of imbalances, but rather a reflection of internal conditions and external influences, more of a symptom than a cause. It's important to understand that chakra balancing is not about healing these energy vortices, but rather balancing or correcting the mental, emotional or physical conditions that are preventing their healthy flow of energy.
Self-actualization for Lasting Change
What I see as an important aspect of chakra balancing, is the impact of applied “action”, and self initiative for self-healing, where one actively utilizes techniques or practices to help resolve or correct issues associated with the chakras if weak, deficient or imbalanced. I mean this in the context of taking responsibility for ones own health, or healing, rather than passively depending, relying on, or expecting a drug, healer, or external objects or forces to provide healing or balance for you.
Some passive solutions can be effective, but similar to psychoactive drugs, they may offer only a temporary fix or enhancement, and if the underlying issues remain unresolved, the same imbalance may reoccur, or manifest in another form. One may also become dependent on certain fixes, and unless they've done the inner work or made active shifts required to heal, any benefits or transformations may be superficial.
In upcoming posts I'll go into more details about each individual chakra, as well as several minor chakras not covered here. This article just scratches the surface of chakra philosophy, its goal to offer a basic understanding, plus practical tips and applications for how to enhance their function.
Many suggestions I've mentioned are simple and free to practice on your own (or require minimal cost to learn). With so much free content and videos on the internet, you need not spend money on books or classes unless you choose to. This is the DIY method, accessible to anyone with the willingness to learn and explore these practices.
NEW - Chakra Lotus Collection Art Products!
I've created a series of original art images that can be used to help better understand various aspects of the chakras. These illustrations include the traditional yantra symbols, plus key references for each chakra (including colors, elements, mantras, affirmations plus associated physical, mental and emotional qualities).
For yoga teachers, they can serve as visual teaching tools as well as wearable art. They also make beautiful, practical and meaningful gifts for the yoga enthusiast in your life.
I hope this article has helped you gain some new insights to this topic. If it has, please give us a “like” or “share” on Facebook, or leave a comment.
Sat Nam, Namaste, Blessings & Peace,
© 2018 by Marsha Silvestri - PureLifePlanet.com
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