Whether you're a pro yogi or you've only made it as far as the door of your meditation class, chances are you've probably heard about the seven chakras. But for those of you who aren't experts on their meanings and purposes, here's a breakdown of what I've discovered and what you need to do to keep them better aligned.
While the concept of chakras and spiritual energies are far from modern (first mentioned in the Vedas, an ancient text dating back nearly 3,000 years) their study and popularity have only just come to flood the mainstream of popular culture in the west. The symbols of the chakras can now be quite commonly seen in any yoga studio or fitness centre around the world, but what exactly are they, and why should anyone care? Well, in fact, they hold the key to an individuals overall health and enlightenment, in other words, are very important! The term 'chakra' translates from Sanskrit to 'wheel' or 'circle', describing the different energy points/levels within our being. It is possible, and necessary, for us to activate and level up our chakras to achieve peace, wellbeing, and possibly, enlightenment. Each chakra associates itself to a certain point in our body, a certain colour, element, and symbol. Starting from the bottom going up, each chakra and its purpose becomes more and more complex, more difficult to keep activated. It is said that the ability to keep them all activated and aligned at once, from Muladhara (the root chakra) to Ajna (the third eye chakra), you will be able to open up Sahasrara (the crown chakra). The crown chakra is the highest point of the being and is thought to connect us with a divine energy, in other words, it's going to take a very long time for me to get there, if ever. If you are currently navigating a journey to inner peace, keeping in tune with your chakras and the different energies that your body holds could be the key to deepening the connection you have to yourself and the earth around you. It may seem almost inevitable, especially the world of today, that we will start to feel out of touch with our inner-selves, depressed, anxious, and unfocused. So far, throughout my mental health and wellbeing journey I have never met a fellow yogi, including myself, who did not believe in the powers of the chakras to heal our mental and physical troubles. Doing something as simple as listening to the energies in your body and focusing on what they need can completely transform your state of mind and take you on a journey to connecting to yourself on a much deeper level. In yoga there are different asanas, or poses, that can be used to open up each chakra.
Here are the seven chakras-
Muladhara/ the root chakra
This chakra lies at the bottom of your spine, closer to the cervix area for women. The root chakra is associated with the colour red and the earth element, and controls our basic survival instincts and primal urges, so when this chakra is balanced you will feel a sense of being grounded and stable. Yoga asanas that will help balance out your root chakra are ones that work on strengthening anything from the bottom of your feet up to your pelvic floor, such as:
-Apanasana (Knees to chest)
-Malasana (Wide-legged squat)
-Supta Sukasana (Reclining Cross Shin Position)
Image: The symbol of the Muladhara
2. Svadhisthana/ the sacral chakra
This chakra is located at the pelvis and associated with the colour orange and the water element. The sacral chakra controls feelings of sexuality, creativity, emotions and desire. When this chakra is balanced you will feel in control of your desires and be able to calmly navigate your flow through life to find a sense of self and passions. Yoga asanas that will help to balance out your sacral chakra are ones that work on opening up the hips, such as:
-Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Half king pigeon)
-Bhaddha Konasana (Butterfly pose)
Image: The symbol of the Svadhishthana
3. Manipura/ the solar plexus chakra
This chakra is located at the naval, or belly button, and is associated with the element of fire, and again red. The solar plexus is home to our sense of motivation, determination, and power. By balancing this chakra, we lend ourselves the power to achieve our deepest ambitions. Yoga asanas that will help to balance out your solar plexus chakra are ones that work on your core, such as:
-Utkatasana (chair pose)
-Chaturanga (four-limbed staff pose)
-Vasisthasana (side plank)
Image: The symbol of the Manipura
4.Anahata/ the heart chakra
This chakra is located at the heart centre and above the lungs, and is associated with the air element and the colour green. Often alluded to in yoga practice, the heart chakra is a very spiritual chakra. The heart chakra is related to our feelings of - you guessed it - love! As well as compassion, peace, forgiveness, and empathy. I've learned that this is where our physical and spiritual chakras meet. Yoga asanas that will help to balance out your heart chakra are ones that open up your chest, such as:
-Dhanurasana (bow pose)
-Urdhva mukha svasana (upward facing dog)
-Camatkarasana (wild thing pose)
Image: The symbol of the Anahata
5.Vishuddah/ the throat chakra
This chakra is located at the base of the throat and is associated with the element of space, or ether, and the colour blue. The throat chakra quite clearly guides how we communicate, more specifically, how we are able to communicate our true selves and express our deep inner truths. Shoulder stands, or salamba sarvangasana, will help to open up the throat chakra, however so do expressive arts and affirmations.
Image: The symbol of the Vishuddah
6. Ajna/ the third eye chakra
This chakra is located between the eyebrows. This chakra is not associated with any element as it is considered to surpass the physical, in other words, this is where things get complicated. In order to open up your third eye chakra, meditation is required. The third eye chakra is considered the center of your wisdom, inner knowing, intuition, self assurance, etc. This is where you are able to make contact with your greater inner powers, if you have opened up your Ajna chakra you're going to feel at peace.
Image: The symbol of the Ajna
7. Sahasrara/ the crown chakra
Here we are! Standing at the doorstep of divine energy, in touch with our highest selves. The crown chakra has no element and is instead associated with a "thousand petaled lotus with a pinkish aura". Once you open up this chakra you will feel a connection to all life on the planet and submit to a "universal consciousness" - yeah, I get confused too. The only way to open up this chakra is to devote yourself to a meditation practice.
Image: The symbol of the Sahasrara, or the Om symbol.