An Introduction to the 7 Chakras
If you've spent any amount of time near yogis, you've probably heard the word "chakra." If not directly, at least in passing. But what exactly are your chakras, how many are there, and what do they do?
I'm glad you asked :)
The word "chakra" is Sanskrit, which is the ancient language of India and what you'll find most yoga-related things written in. "Chakra" loosely translates to "wheel." Put simply, chakras are energy wheels in your subtle body - as in the part of your body that is spiritual, metaphysical, and *felt* but not *seen*.
You have seven chakras that run along the length of your spine, from the base of your tailbone to the crown of your head. Each chakra has a color dedicated to it, along with elements, mantras, and more. Generating a deeper understanding of your chakras and learning to recognize when they're out of whack is a key step on the journey to becoming the most powerful version of yourself.
You can think of the energy that passes through your chakras like water, with the chakras being like dams. When all your chakras are open and healthy, the energy can flow freely through your body. When one or more of your chakras is blocked or unhealthy, it creates a blockage and buildup of energy that can cause a whole bunch of negative effects.
Let's take a brief look at each chakra, what it means, and what it does.
Sanskrit Name: Muladhara
Your Root Chakra is located at the base of your spine and is connected to your identity, your sense of groundedness and safety, and your connection to your community. It also governs your needs for basic survival, including shelter, water, food, and safety.
When unbalanced, the Root Chakra can be the source of anxiety, lethargy, nightmares, and the feeling of being ungrounded.
You can balance or connect to your Root Chakra by practicing "earthing," or walking barefoot in grass, sand, or earth. You can also use the color red in your decor or in your meals to help soothe this chakra.
Sanskrit Name: Swadhisthana
Your Sacral Chakra is located just below your belly button and is connected to your emotions, creativity, and sexual desire. It connects you to your feelings of abundance, wellness, joy, and all creative energy.
When unbalanced, the Sacral Chakra can be the source of fear, creative blocks, depression, addiction, and even cause stagnation in your intimate life.
You can balance or connect to your Sacral Chakra by spending time near bodies of water, chanting the mantra "vam," or surrounding yourself with the color orange.
Solar Plexus Chakra
Sanskrit Name: Manipura
Your Solar Plexus Chakra is located between your belly button and your sternum. It's connected to your self-confidence, goals, ambition, and self-esteem, as well as your digestion.
When unbalanced, the Solar Plexus Chakra can cause bouts of low self-esteem, difficulty with decision making, outbursts of anger, and sometimes even digestion issues.
You can balance or connect to your Solar Plexus Chakra by practicing a flame meditation, sitting around a bonfire, or enjoying the warmth of the sun. You can also surround yourself with the color yellow, and try eating yellow foods.
Sanskrit Name: Anahata
Your Heart Chakra is located in the middle of your chest and is connected to love, compassion, forgiveness, and your relationships with other people and animals. It also governs your ability to accept yourself and others in the present moment.
When unbalanced, the Heart Chakra can cause experiences of sadness, jealousy, lack of compassion, hopelessness, and self-loathing, as well as hatred of others.
You can balance or connect to your Heart Chakra with *pranayama*, or breathing exercises, designed to deeply connect you to your breath. You can also surround yourself with the color green or bring more green foods onto your plate.
Sanskrit Name: Vishuddha
Your Throat Chakra is located in the middle of your neck and is connected to your ability to express yourself vocally, your communication abilities, and your ability to speak with integrity.
When unbalanced, the Throat Chakra can cause difficulty in effectively communicating or expressing yourself, as well as mood swings and speaking harmfully about others (i.e. gossiping).
You can balance or connect to your Throat Chakra by practicing meditations centered around relaxation and self-expression or by chanting the mantra "ham." You could also try listening to calming sounds, eating blue foods, or surrounding yourself with the color blue.
Third Eye Chakra
Sanskrit Name: Ajna
Your Third Eye Chakra is located in the middle of your forehead and is connected primarily to your intuition. It also governs your "hunches," intuitive decision making, imaginative abilities, and your ability to sit in self-reflection.
When unbalanced, the Third Eye Chakra can cause difficulty in "trusting your gut," or believing in your innate ability to simply know something. You may also lack concentration, have a poor sense of judgment, or find yourself frequently confused.
You can balance or connect to your Third Eye Chakra by meditating in a brightly lit room while either repeating the mantra "sham" or focusing your awareness to the center of your forehead. You can also surround yourself with indigo or eat indigo colored foods.
Sanskrit Name: Sahasrara
Your Crown Chakra is located just above the top of your skull and is your connection to the Divine Source, the Universe, and Divine Knowing. This chakra governs your spirituality and knowing ability.
When unbalanced, the Crown Chakra can lead to sensations of aimlessness, boredom, lack of drive or inspiration, fear of spirituality, and excessive greed.
You can balance or connect to your Crown Chakra by sitting in silence. Try starting with 30 seconds, then one minute, then two minutes, and keep building on the time to connect more deeply. Engage in your spiritual practice of choice, or surround yourself with the color violet.
Feeling Stuck? Try Chakra Healing!
Just like any other part of your physical body, your chakras can get "sick," so to speak. In theory, when a chakra is unhealthy, it means that it's no longer spinning and no longer giving off its light. This can result in you feeling stuck, less than confident, unable to speak, or finding it difficult to be compassionate, along with a multitude of other "symptoms."
Fortunately, we have access to all the tools we need to heal the chakras when they're block, stuck, or generally unhealthy. Powerful tools include yoga and meditation. You can dedicate a pose or an entire practice to opening a certain chakra, or you can meditate to visualize that chakra opening, among other practices.
Another fun healing tool is to "eat for your chakra," meaning that you dedicate a meal, a day, or more to eating foods known to empower a specific chakra.
If you find yourself feeling stuck or disconnected, try discovering which chakra your specific feeling is tied to. Try out some healing tools and see what happens!