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What are they?
Most people have heard of the seven chakras (Sanskrit for “wheels”) and have perhaps read about their interpretations, which can become very complex. A simple and practical way to view the chakras, though, is as meeting points, or interfaces, between mind and body.
Every bodily sensation is part of a conversation between the brain and some part of the physiology. At a subtle level, according to the chakra system, these signals aren’t purely physical but relate to meaningful parts of our lives.
Through this simple mind-body connection, the chakras give us ways to balance the whole system. Each of the seven chakras, aligned invisibly up and down the spinal column, stand for an important aspect of being in balance. Starting at the base of the spine and working upward, here’s what the chakras can tell you about yourself, according to the Indian tradition.
(base of the spine): This is your foundation, or grounding. When in balance, the first chakra gives you a sense of physical security, safety, and feeling centred. People who feel well-supported have a strong first chakra.
(sacrum): This is your source of pleasure, creativity, and sexual energy. When in balance, the second chakra makes life enjoyable. People who are enthusiastic and can accept pleasure naturally, without excess, addiction, or inhibition, have a strong second chakra.
(navel/solar plexus): Commonly called the power chakra, the third chakra converts energy into physical form, beginning with good digestion and hormonal balance. When in balance, this chakra makes you feel empowered and able to bring your intentions to fruition. People who have self-confidence and self-esteem are strong in the third chakra.
(heart): The subtle or spiritual qualities of love, compassion, and empathy are governed by the fourth chakra. When in balance, this charka is soothing, comforting, and nourishing. People who are warm-hearted, sympathetic, and loving have a strong fourth chakra.
(throat): The fifth chakra is about communication and expression. When in balance, this chakra allows you to express yourself with a sense of safety and confidence. People who can speak their truth and think clearly have a strong fifth chakra.
(forehead): The sixth chakra traditionally sits like a “third eye” that gives inner vision and access to higher or spiritual reality. When in balance, this chakra allows for intuition and insight. People who trust their inner perceptions have a strong sixth chakra, with the added potential for wisdom and a powerful spiritual life.
(top of head): Commonly called the “crown” chakra, the seventh chakra is the connection to pure consciousness. When in balance, this chakra gives the individual awareness knowledge that it is universal awareness—the lower self (Jiva) is the higher Self (Atman), and both are merged into the One (Brahman). People who experience states of unity consciousness have a strong seventh chakra.
These descriptions don’t have to be taken literally, although the chakra system has a long tradition in Yoga as a model for the anatomy of the subtle body. To translate your understanding of the chakras into practical benefits, here are three main areas that you can take advantage of.
1. Achieve Overall Balance
You can devote time every day to each of the seven “flavours” of awareness represented by the chakras. The key words listed above, such as security, power, love, and insight, are active potentials in your own awareness. By focusing your attention for a few minutes every day on each chakra, you will subtly encourage the qualities it stands for. Some people find it beneficial to sit with closed eyes and place their hands on the seat of each chakra as they pay attention to it.
2. Develop Energetics
Traditionally, the chakras are the gateways through which the life force (Shakti) moves through the mind-body system. This energy gets transformed into mental, physical, and emotional expressions. For example, “support,” a key word for the first chakra, is associated with feeling emotionally supported, mentally confident, physically stable, and independent. You can examine your relative strength or weakness for each of these aspects as you look at your chakras. In this way, you map your “energy flow” so that you know how to improve where you feel weak (physically, mentally, or emotionally) and expand where you feel strong. This can be a very practical approach to becoming whole.
3. Enhance Your Well-being
In traditional Yoga, the life force travels upward from the root chakra, joining at the sixth chakra with spiritual energy as it descends from the seventh chakra. From this basis, many types of meditation have developed, some of them extremely specific or complex. But in simplest form, when your consciousness is balanced in all seven areas, you are in a natural state of harmony and well-being. In practical terms, this means that finding ways for your life to “be in the flow” is the most effortless, natural way to approach well-being.
From these three areas—balance, energy, and well-being—the chakra system allows us to organize life from a level that is all-inclusive.
The specific things to do, such as daily meditation and Ayurvedic practice, fall into the general scheme. It’s not necessary to be rigidly literal about the chakras, to approach them mystically, or even to visualize them. What’s important is to gain access to the subtle levels of life where hidden potentials can be activated and greater fulfillment is born.
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