Chakras: an overview

Chakras are the major centres of radiant power within your subtle body. Together, the seven of them, represent the energetic points of intersection between physical matter and your consciousness. Each of your chakras is an antenna that is constantly receiving and transmitting energy.  How smoothly your chakras function determines how fully you inhabit your body, how successful you are in your relationships and how much inner peace you enjoy.

Each chakra is a multi-dimensional ball of radiant energy, a vortex that constitutes an essential part of the energetic matrix that supports your physical body, mind and emotions. Chakras are conduits that conduct and transform prana into material form. Proper and unrestricted flow of energy through your chakras is necessary for your physical, mental and emotional good-health. If your chakras are not functioning properly, your associated bodily organs and systems will deteriorate and become functionally impaired.

Each of the seven major chakras represents a particular frequency of energy. When they fully functional and connected, they provide you with an incredible amount of creative control over physical matter.

To a large extent, the energetic flow through your chakras is determined by your mental state. When you hold fears and misconceptions in your consciousness, it can impede and even reverse the flow of energy. By skilfully working with your chakras, you can reintroduce a full and healthy flow.

The real challenge for you involves identifying the blockages and misconceptions.

Benefits of working with the chakras

You have probably noticed how the traumas and challenges of daily life often pull you in opposing directions. Think of a common situation, such as getting upset with your boss. You might want to speak up, yet, you are afraid to say anything. Situations such as this can cause your energy to become blocked and eventually stagnant.

Working with your chakras can assist you in freeing the various aspects of your being in innovative ways. It can facilitate new insights for you, healthier behaviour patterns and a more-rewarding life-style. Your chakras are energetic centres that you can use to enhance the values of your daily life, connect more fully with other people and experience inner peace.  Each one is a door that can be opened to greater energetic, psychic and spiritual knowledge.

Or, it can stay closed, causing you remain within your present limitations. When your energy is flowing smoothly through each chakra and between the chakras, you tend to look after yourself better. You possess self-confidence and are able to communicate your thoughts, hopes, and dreams in a healthy manner. Your natural immunity is increased and you are better able to deal with stress-related problems. Your intuition is enhanced and you have a clearer insight into your purpose in the world.

Chakra work involves a number of simple, yet powerful techniques that can assist you in developing inner poise and keeping your life in balance. They are most helpful when you reinforce them with regular self-analysis and bolster them with positive activities throughout the day.


Muladhara - the root support

The muladhara chakra is your energetic foundation; it is about finding your path in life and standing on your own two feet. Muladhara is where you connect with and relate to your personal vehicle (your physical body) in your journey through life. It is the energy centre that enables you to ‘put down roots' and to nourish yourself physically and spiritually.

Matter in its densest, most gross form of ‘earth' (solid) is associated with the base chakra. When the energy of your root chakra is in balance, you feel secure and safe; your life seems stable, but not without excitement. Your sense of community is well developed; you are loyal and patient.

Your life is full of active and positive energy. If unobstructed, muladhara energy flows in two directions. It acts as a downward releaser of negativity, like a lightening rod, as well as drawing up energy from the earth. If the energetic flow of your chakra is not healthy, you may never feel as though you ‘belong'. You may have problems connecting with others, have frequent financial difficulties, find that you are easily disoriented and indecisive, be tired much of the time, have difficulty in holding a steady job and/or maintaining healthy relationships.

Imbalance in muladhara leads you to being overly concerned with survival and security; you may become a workaholic. You may place too much importance on the physical world and have difficulty in connecting to the spiritual aspects of life. Fear, prejudice, blind faith, hatred, intolerance, impatience and greed are the negative attributes of muladhara energy.

Muladhara chakra - imbalances

Deep seated imbalances in muladhara energy are usually the result of some trauma in your early life. Perhaps you were not properly nurtured as a child. Even if you received sufficient food, you may not have bonded properly with your family and community. You may perceive yourself as having been abandoned; perhaps you are adopted or your parents divorced.

These early traumas often exaggerate the impact of later upsets, such as the breakup of a relationship, the loss of a job or change in living conditions. Many people compensate for lack of grounding by becoming too rigid. Or, if the muladhara energy is ‘stuck', they may become overly controlling, greedy, lack imagination and initiative and be unable to adapt to changing situations.

If you are unable to make positive changes in your life, if you can't even think of what possibilities there might be, if you feel that aspects of your life are ‘set in stone', this is probably the result of overly static energy. Working with the muladhara could help you to bring new insights into your life.

It is important when doing inner work to not let yourself become ungrounded or overly airy. As you become increasingly aware of your spiritual dimensions, do not lose touch with your physical needs. In addition to eating a healthy diet and getting enough rest, purifying and balancing muladhara energy will enable you to function more fully in the present moment. It will aid you in bringing your creative and spiritual ideas to full fruition.


Muladhara chakra – imbalances in the physical body

In your physical body, the muladhara chakra governs the immune system, skeletal system (i.e. support); lower digestive tract, i.e. colon, rectum, anus. If the energy is blocked or unhealthy, it might manifest in physical symptoms such as arthritis; ME; constipation, IBS or haemorrhoids; obesity and weight problems; foot, knee and leg problems; poor balance; lower back pain or sciatica.

By taking some time to work with the energy of your muladhara chakra, you will probably find yourself undergoing various improvements in your energy levels and general health. You will experience a greater sense of well being, be more secure in yourself, develop courage and inner strength, and be blessed with the fulfilment of your earthly needs. Remember that the energetic balance, or lack of it, of the muladhara determines the state of the foundation on which all the other chakras rest.

Brahma granthi, the first of three psychic knots, is tied in kundalini.  It blocks your entry to the higher realms of consciousness. The knot keeps the kundalini in the lower chakras by creating an extreme attachment to security and fear of losing it. When the brahma granthi is untied, you experience your whole being as being pervaded by divine energy.

Muladhara – starting to work with your root chakra

Daily, preferably after your meditation practice, start working with a journal. The following questions may help you to understand how you may be blocking your energies, and what you might be able to do to reverse this condition:

  • How can I reconnect with my own body?
  • Am I able to maintain healthy lasting relationships and let go of ones that have proven to be unhealthy?
  • What can I do to make my eating habits less erratic? Do they reflect a lack of balanced earth energy?
  • When I feel ‘weak-kneed' (the minor chakras in the knees are governed by muladhara), how can I be more decisive?
  • How prepared am I to embrace positive changes in my life?
  • Do I allow myself to become ‘stuck'? Or do I enjoy both giving and receiving when they are expressions of a healthy exchange of energies?

Working with the energy of your muladhara chakra can assist you in connecting with your body in a healthier manner. It can facilitate new insights into relationships with your family and members with your community. It enhances your ability to eliminate what you no longer need or want in your life, including negative thoughts and emotions.

It can help you to free yourself from prejudices and intolerances that you may have held for a long time – or even enable you to release yourself from negative ways of looking at the world that you may have “inherited” from your family.

For more information on chakras, consult “The Essential Guide to Chakras” and "Chakra Meditation" by Swami Saradananda

Introduction to the second (Swadhisthana) chakra

“Meditation on the pure lotus, which is named Swadhisthana, frees you from the control of enemies such as egoism, ignorance, lust and greed”.- Shat-Chakra-Nirupana, verse 18

Meditation on your swadhisthana chakra frees you from the idea that all liquid matter is real. You gain the mastery of over the sense of taste. Your body and mind become fluid, adaptable and pure.

Swadhisthana is the seat of your instinctive power. Its energy relates to issues of sex, money and your need to create. When this chakra is properly open and balanced, you don’t need to always win, control, get even and/or impress others.

It is important to be able to discern when to open and close your second chakra. You may want to open up emotionally or sexually when you are with friends or family members. Yet you wouldn’t want to have the same openness when you walk down a crowded street.

Symbol of elementFluidity, flexibility, flowing, adaptive
Positive emotionSensitive, idealistic
Negative emotionLust, betrayal, jealousy, envy, sexual perversions, pornography, manipulative, devious
Geometric shapeCrescent moon
Symbol of shapeMoon controls the water and tides
Pattern radiant energy6-petaled lotus
AnimalMakara – mythological crocodile with fish tail
Controls in physical bodyAll liquid elements: blood, mucus, lymph, urine, saliva.
Seat of kidney energy, basic vigor of life. Urinary tract, reproductive correct maintenance of water level in body, viscosity of blood.
When balancedYou are able to accept change without resistance and “go with the flow”.
Benefits of working withhelps create flexibility & flow in all areas of life, ability to ‘taste’ all life has to offer
AsanasSitting poses, forward bends, hip-openers, kneeling, squatting, Crescent moon, cat pose, Bridge, Fish, Cobra, Yoga mudra

Introduction to the navel (Manipura) chakra

“At the root of the navel is the shining lotus of ten petals of the colour of heavy-laden rain clouds. Meditate there on the region of fire, triangular in form and shining like the rising sun. Meditate upon Him (Agni, the fire god) seated on a ram.” - Sat-Chakra-Nirupana, verse 19-20

Meditation on the manipura chakra assists you in gaining mastery over your sense of sight as well as your ability to move about in the world. Your mind and body become radiant, with a shine to your skin and eyes. Manipura is your energetic centre for transforming energy into matter and matter into energy –it energises the other chakras.

Your inability to connect with or understand the nature of your own power, i.e. imbalance in manipura chakra, may lead to your misuse of power. Anger, rage, bitterness and resentment are
all expressions of imbalances or blockages of energy at the manipura chakra. These negative emotions are energetically stored in your solar plexus region, often for many years. This happens whether you are a person who gets angry easily, are irritated by small things or stoically resist any external expression.

Symbol of elementTransforming power, energy in manifested form
Positive emotionSelf-confident
Negative emotionAngry, vanity, hatred
Geometric shapeTriangle
Pattern radiant energy10-petaled lotus
AnimalRam: angry, fighting temperament
Controls in physical bodySeat of digestive fire. Controls of digestive system, muscles
When balancedYou feel protected, spontaneouse and energetic. People have confidence in you.
Benefits of working withDevelop self-confidence, harness will and realise ambitions in life
AsanasTwisting poses and side bends: spinal twist, triangle, cat-dog, uddiyana bandha, agni sara, matyendrasana, parivritta trikonasana, parivritta utkatasana, marichyasana

Introduction to the heart (Anahata) chakra

The heart chakra is the energetic centre of your body, acting as a powerful link between the physical and spiritual realms. It transmutes the higher vibrations from the upper three chakras into grosser forms so that they can manifest on the physical plane. It enables the downward movement of energy, transforming consciousness into matter. Simultaneously, it converts the energy from your lower chakras into the upward moving more-subtle energy of ideas, thoughts and inspiration.

Your heart chakra enables you to give of yourself, to express unselfish love and to be compassionate. It also makes it possible for you to accept what life has to offer.

This is where life “touches” you. Your heart chakra controls the minor chakras in your hands, enabling you to “reach out” to others. When the energy at your heart chakra is balanced and free of blockages you have the ability to forgive and are able to express sympathy.

Symbol of elementMatter in gaseous form; wind; expansive in nature; you can feel it, but you can’t see it
Positive emotionCompassion
Negative emotionGrief, jealousy, broken heart
Geometric shapetwo-equilateral triangles superimposed on each other to form a six-pointed star
Pattern radiant energy12-petaled lotus
AnimalAntelope: an animal that is ‘faster than the wind’
Controls in physical bodyrespiratory and circulatory systems. Physical problems, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, and lung and breast cancer, may be connected with imbalance of heart chakra.
When balancedSelf- acceptance, empathy, sympathy
Benefits of working withDevelops your ability to forge unselfish relationships
AsanasBackward bending: urdhva-mukhaswanasana – upward-facing dog pose; ustrasana – Camel pose; dhanruasana – Bow pose; chakrasana – Wheel pose; gomukhasana – Cow’s head pose

Introduction to the throat (Vishuddha) chakra

“At the base of the throat is the Vishuddha chakra, where the goddess of speech resides”.- Sir John Woodruff, The Serpent Power

The throat chakra is your centre of self-expression. It enables you to listen deeply, as well as speak with conviction. Its energy is expressed in language, not emotions, pronouncing blessings and sweet words. But it can also enable you to articulate too much negativity if you are feeling blocked, so it is important to keep its energy pure and open.

When the energy at your throat chakra is balanced, your words are kind, thoughtful, clear and truthful. You use your speech to express yourself in a manner that is alive and pulsating with expression. Your voice is strong and vibrant. You tend to be at ease in writing, speaking, and sharing your thoughts and feelings with others. You are able to listen to and express what is in your heart. You are as comfortable with silence as you are with speaking.

ElementEther - space
Symbol of elementall-pervading; space which can exist when no other elements are present
Positive emotionTruthfulness; artistic expression
Negative emotionDeceit, lies, shyness, writers block
Geometric shapeCrescent moon
Pattern radiant energy16-petaled lotus
AnimalMythical white elephant with 7 trunks
Controls in physical bodyneck, throat, oesophagus, thyroid and parathyroid glands, vocal chords, trachea, cervical spine (the seven vertebrae in your neck), mouth, teeth and gums, hypothalamus, tonsils, ears and audio mechanisms. When its energy is blocked, you may be prone to sore throats, speech impediments, eating disorders, deafness, teeth clenching, thyroid imbalance
When balancedAble to express yourself fully and communicate with others, rather than just taking or just listening
Benefits of working withDevelops your ability to forge unselfish relationships
AsanasBackward bending: urdhva-mukhaswanasana – upward-facing dog pose; ustrasana – Camel pose; dhanruasana – Bow pose; chakrasana – Wheel pose; gomukhasana – Cow’s head pose

Introduction to the brow (Ajna) chakra

“I think that contemplation on the space between the eyebrows is the best way to experience a blissful state. This is a suitable way to meditate, even if you are a person without extensive training. Its practice enables you to quickly become absorbed in the Infinite”. -Hatha Yoga Pradipika 4.80

Popularly known as your “third eye”, the ajna chakra is the command centre of your subtle body and the source of your intellectual understanding. It is the seat of your judgement, emotional intelligence, rationality and wisdom. This is where you integrate your perception of the outer world to create your inner reality. Its energy enables you to understand and develop symbolic concepts, abstract thinking, and organisational skills.

Ajna chakra is your “sixth sense” that manages your five physical senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch). It regulates the five lower chakras and the nadis (meridians) leading into them.

Positive qualityRationality, disciplined imagination, able to see the ‘big picture’, i.e. your greater purpose in life
Negative qualityToo intellectual, self-righteousness, paranoia, anxiety, obsessions, hallucinations, cynicism, denial of reality
Geometric shapetransparent luminous globe
Pattern radiant energyTwo pure white petals that make ajna chakra look a bit like a winged seed
AnimalyArdhineshwara: Shiva and Shakti together in one body
Controls in physical bodyBrain, skull, eyes
When ajna’s energy is blocked, you may be prone to frequent headaches, learning disabilities, dyslexia, lack concentration, frequent nightmares or be very forgetful.
When balancedYou are able to control your thoughts, focus your attention, concentrate and meditate
Benefits of working with

Develops your intuition, concentration and memory
Balances the rational and logical thought of your left brain, with the intuitive non-linear thinking of your right brain

AsanasHeadstand, eye exercises


Introduction to the crown (Sahasrara) chakra

“By focusing on the light emanating from the crown of your head, you become able to see enlightened Masters”.- Patanjali, Yoga Sutra 3.33

The sahasrara chakra is your gateway to infinite consciousness; it enables you to connect with and experience the blissful state of Absolute Knowledge that yogis call “Sat-chid-ananda”. This is beyond the realm of your individual consciousness, and it is outside of the limitations imposed by the ego.

The sahasrara provides the energetic connection by which you are able to transcend your mundane sense of duality, i.e. your experience of myself and other, subject and object, masculine and feminine. The crown chakra is at the top end of the central meridian (sushumna nadi), where the other two major meridians (ida and pingala, i.e. ordinary consciousness) are not able to reach.; it provides an enhanced metaphysical framework for your life.

ElementBeyond all elements, time and space
SenseBeyond all physical senses and the mind
Positive qualityA sense of wonder; enables you to lead a life filled with JOY; intuitive guidance, mystical awareness
Negative qualityIf unbalanced, you lack faith and live in a state of spiritual ignorance
Geometric shapeThere is no geometric form, only a symbolic lotus with an unlimited number of petals. In Indian tradition, the number “one-thousand” represents the infinite
Pattern radiant energyInfinite number of petals of all colours, including some that are beyond ordinary perception. In Western tradition, the sahasrara is often associated with the colour violet; yet many people experience it as white, the composite of all colours.
AnimalyNone – beyond all such representation
Controls in physical bodypresides over all aspects of the vital energy in all living beings.
When balancedYou are able to go beyond the boundaries of your individual mind and limited consciousness
Benefits of working with

This brings you intuitive knowledge, deeper understanding and strong spiritual links. It enables you to connect with other planes of existence and to discover divine “mysteries”.

AsanasHeadstand, scorpion pose; high namaskar


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