Chakra sounds hopelessly mystical, but it simply translates to “wheel” in Sanskrit. Chakras are invisible wheels of the free-flowing energy otherwise known as “prana,” or the healing force that nourishes us within and without. These spinning disks of energy correspond to nerves, major organs, and other areas of the body that affect (for better or for worse) many aspects of our emotional physical, and spiritual well-being.
There are a dizzying number of these spinning wheels–actually 114 uniquely different ones, according to Vedic scholars. Fortunately, for practical purposes, the system is seen today as comprising seven central chakras situated along the back body—from head to tailbone like a string of pearls. Each of these main energy wheels whirls over a specific area of the body from the sacrum (Root Chakra) to the crown of the head (Crown Chakra). Each also has a unique focus, element, name, color, and even food, yoga pose, and mantra associated with it. Plus a list of disorders that may occur when the chakra is blocked or out of balance. Together, the chakras create a kind of symbolic energetic healing roadmap closely linked to the practice and teachings of both yoga and Ayurveda, an ancient traditional medicine system still very much alive today.
The chakra system is thought to have originated in India somewhere between 1500 and 500 BC in the Vedas, the earliest Sanskrit literary records and the most ancient scriptures of Hinduism.
Our everyday physical maladies are often an indication that our wheels need balancing. Similarly, physical and mental discomforts can lead to misaligned energy. Headaches, dizziness, or ocular issues could be a sign of an unbalanced Third Eye Chakra, for example, just as uncertainty about your self-worth could relate to an unbalanced root chakra; and coughing and a dry throat, may point to the Throat Chakra (how we communicate and hold our truth) that is under- or over-active. Note: always consult a medical professional for persistent physical issues.
Consider the chakras that lie atop and at the bottom of the chakral system. The Root Chakra (whose color is red and whose element is the earth) lies at the base of the spine and controls survival issues, money, food, and security. Signs of imbalance include constipation, anxiety, and fear. The suggested yoga pose is warrior 1 and “I stand firmly upon the earth” might be the corresponding mantra. Healing foods affecting this chakra would be red foods like beets and tomatoes and root vegetables.
By contrast, the Crown Chakra, situated at the crown of the head, is associated with intelligence, wisdom, and awareness. Its color is white. And its element is thought. Beneficial foods for this wheel include ginger, garlic, and mushrooms. Signs of imbalance include frustration, depression, and learning disability. A mantra might be “I know.” Recommended yoga poses include headstand, tree pose, and seated half lotus.
Here are the other five chakras in brief:
Sacral chakra. Found in the lower abdomen, below the navel. Its focus is sex, emotion, and pleasure. Water is its element and orange its color. Blockages may show up as impotence, jealousy, and lower back pain.
- Solar Plexus Chakra is located between the naval and diaphragm. Its focus is personal power. Its color is yellow and its element is fire. Signs of imbalance include muscle weakness, ulcers, and egotism
- Heart Chakra lies next to the human heart, and is associated with love and compassion. Its element is air and the color is green. Asthma, hypertension, and self-sabotage may be signs of imbalance.
- Throat Chakra (includes throat, neck, and pituitary gland). The focus is communication and empathy; its element is sound and the color is blue. Blockage indicators include timidity, lying, colds, and sore throats.
- Third Eye Chakra is located between and slightly above the eyebrows. It is associated with intuition and inspiration. Color is purple and element is light. Imbalances may be signaled by headaches, eye disorders, and distractibility, among others.
When you read through the characteristics of each chakra, doubtless one (or two) will call out to you immediately as a problem area or a locus of distress or stress. This may be one you will give special attention to.
The following very common culprits may cause a chakra (or sometimes the entire chakral system) to be imbalanced.
Poor physical alignment/posture how you carry yourself. Does it project positivity or negativity?
An unhealthy diet or a diet of foods that are not targeted to your own individual needs (allowing for your allergies, sensitivities, and nutritional needs )
Self-destructive behaviors (angry outbursts, use of alcohol or recreational drugs)
Harmful or unfulfilling relationships
Lack of connection with friends, family, and community
A” yes” to more than one calls for a little inner work, especially a “body scan.” This is where you relax, close your eyes, and imagine scanning down each chakra area. Pay attention to the subtle feelings or clues you may pick up on. A blocked chakra may correlate with a heavy, stuck, or uncomfortable sensation, including tingling or numbness. By tuning in to your body, you can discover any chakra blockages. If the scan seems to take you to your heart, question whether there is an imbalance of giving and receiving in your life? Or, if the scan takes you to your throat chakra, reflect on all the ways you communicate with others using your words? If you experience stomach pain or digestive issues, the solar plexus chakra may need attention.
If you are still uncertain which chakras need attention, here is a simple three-pronged practice. Aimed at reducing mental emotional and physical stress makes it a gift to the system at large.
Try the following thirty-minute daily practice (pick just one of the following if you’re time-crunched or break it into three modules spaced out between morning and night).
1) 10 minutes a day of gentle yoga postures such as child’s, pose, mountain, supported bridge, warrior (one and two), goddess, reclined butterfly, and low cobra. See yogajornal.com for examples.
2) 10 minutes of pranayama (breathing practices) to re-establish the flow of energy throughout the body. With mouth closed, breathe in for a count of 7, retain for a count of four, exhale slowly for a count of 7. Alternate nostril breathing is another calming and balancing; practice (see yoga journal for instructions)
3) 10 minutes of meditation/mindfulness to bring about clarity of mind and purpose. Sit comfortably on a cushion, sturdy pillow or straight-backed chair. Shut out light and noise. Close eyes or focus on a candle or sacred object. Observe the silence. Use a mantra if you have one.
Add on’s: Consider some ”grounding.” Just walking (outdoors if possible) in your bare feet reestablishes your connection to the earth and the natural world.
Try a day, even a few days of social media abstinence. Bathe in brain-feeding silence. Make it a regular retreat-like practice. It is a gift to your chakra system, the crown chakra especially.