understanding your chakras

Understanding Your Chakras

Chakras (pronounced with a hard ch, as in cheese) can be a bit mysterious. Chances are, you’ve heard them mentioned in your yoga classes with little explanation of what they are or why they’re important.

Chakras are energy centers in the body. There are actually thousands of them, but the seven primary ones are the ones we’re usually referring to. Each chakra has its own characteristics, and each governs specific areas of our bodies and our lives. Understanding them, and learning the poses that activate them, can help us deal with and move beyond some of the challenges we face.

Let’s take a look at the seven primary chakras.

Muladhara Chakra

This is the root chakra, located in the area of the pelvic floor.

muladhara chakra

It associated with the earth element and is our source of stability, security, groundedness, and confidence. It is also governs our relationships with our ancestors and food addictions.

Muladhara at a glance:

  • Yantra: Yellow square
  • Petals: 4 dark crimson
  • Associated endocrine gland: None
  • Associated organ of knowledge: Nose
  • Vedic mantra:  Bhu
  • Tantric mantra (seed sound): Lam

Yoga poses and techniques for the muladhara chakra:

  • Uttolanotkatasana
  • Naukasana
  • Gomukasana
  • Kapalabhati
  • Mulabandha

Swadhisthana Chakra

This is the sacral chakra, located in the area of the low belly, between the hips.

swadhisthana chakra

It is associated with the water element. It governs our reproductive system, creativity, desires, and lower will, as well as our friendships and other non-family relationships, and drug and alcohol addiction.

Swadhisthana at a glance:

  • Yantra: Silver crescent moon
  • Petals: 6 bright crimson
  • Associated endocrine gland: Gonads
  • Associated organ of knowledge: Tongue
  • Vedic mantra:  Bhuva
  • Tantric mantra (seed sound): Vam

Yoga poses and techniques for the swadhisthana chakra:

  • Chandrasana
  • Bhujangasana
  • Garudasana
  • Kapalabhati
  • Mulabandha

Manipura Chakra

This is the navel chakra, located in the area of the belly button.

manipura chakra

It is associated with the fire element. Our vitality, determination, will power, and self-image stem from here, along with feelings of anger and jealousy.

Manipura at a glance:

  • Yantra: Fire-red inverted triangle
  • Petals: 10 rain-cloud colored
  • Associated endocrine gland: Pancreas and adrenals
  • Associated organ of knowledge: Eyes
  • Vedic mantra:  Swaha
  • Tantric mantra (seed sound): Ram

Yoga poses and techniques for the manipura chakra:

  • Mandukasana
  • Dhanuhasana
  • Vakrasana
  • Marjariasana
  • Uddiyanabandha

Anahata Chakra

This is the heart chakra, located in the chest.

anahata chakra

It is associated with the air element, and is of course related to love and compassion, empathy and forgiveness.

Anahata at a glance:

  • Yantra: Blue-green six-pointed star
  • Petals: 12 deep red
  • Associated endocrine gland: Thymus
  • Associated organ of knowledge: Skin
  • Vedic mantra: Maha
  • Tantric mantra (seed sound): Yam

Yoga poses and techniques for the anahata chakra:

  • Matsyasana
  • Ustrasana
  • Kapotasana
  • Brahmaree
  • Kumbhaka

Vishuddha Chakra

This is the throat chakra, located in the throat.

vishuddha chakra

Vishuddha is associated with ether. Surrender, trust, and communication stem from here. It also allows for creativity, devotion, and an openness to our higher will.

Vishuddha at a glance:

  • Yantra: White circle
  • Petals: 16 smokey purple
  • Associated endocrine gland: Thyroid and parathyroid
  • Associated organ of knowledge: Ears
  • Vedic mantra: Jana
  • Tantric mantra (seed sound): Ham

Yoga poses and techniques for the vishuddha chakra:

  • Halasana
  • Suptavajrasana
  • Matsyasana
  • Ujjai
  • Jalandharabandha

Ajna Chakra

This is the third eye, located in the middle of the brain at the level of the eyebrows.

ajna chakra

Ajna is associated with intuition and logical judgment as well as mental clarity.

Ajna at a glance:

  • Yantra: Moon-glow circle
  • Petals: 2 luminous
  • Associated endocrine gland: Pineal
  • Associated organ of knowledge: Mind
  • Vedic mantra: Tapa
  • Tantric mantra (seed sound): Om

Yoga poses and techniques for the ajna chakra:

  • Sasankasana
  • Sirsasana
  • Anuloma Viloma
  • Trataka

Sahasrara Chakra

This is crown chakra, located at the top of the head.

sahasrara chakra

The crown is represented by the thousand-petaled lotus: bliss, enlightenment, peace, grace, and illumination. From here we experience connection to all that is.

Sahasrara at a glance:

  • Petals: 1,000 multi-colored
  • Associated endocrine gland: Pituitary
  • Associated organ of knowledge: None
  • Vedic mantra: Satyam
  • Tantric mantra (seed sound): None

Yoga poses and techniques for the sahasrara chakra:

  • Sirsasana
  • Padmasana
  • Brahmaree
  • Anuloma Viloma
  • Meditation

There are many poses that act on each of the chakras, usually a few of them at the same time. Knowing which poses stimulate which chakras is useful. For example, if you are having trouble standing up to someone and saying something you need to say, you can focus on inversions and other poses that affect the vishuddha chakra. If you’re struggling with a romantic relationship, you might focus on swadhisthana. Well-rounded yoga practices include poses for all the chakras, which translate into poses for the entire body.

This is a basic overview of the chakras, and I know there might be some terms or ideas presented here that don’t make a lot of sense to you. What’s the difference between Vedic and Tantric mantras? What do the petals represent? How were the colors for each chakra decided upon?

That’s okay. 🙂 Everything I know about chakras, I’ve learned from Yogrishi Vishvketu and Akhanda yoga. We’ll keep breaking it down, piece by piece, both in the newsletter and here on the blog. In the meantime, keep in mind that yoga is a science; nothing about it is arbitrary or accidental, and tell me about how you think about your chakras during your yoga practice.

 

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