So… What is a chakra?
This question is not that simple because chakras were studied subjectively, and because of that there’s no real uniform consensus as to what they actually are. Every tradition and every teacher out there defines them differently
George Feuerstein defined them as “psychoenergetic vortices forming the major ‘organs’ of the body composed of life energy (prana”, while in the ancient hindu text Sat-Chakra-Nirupana, chakras are described as ‘vortices of etheric matter’ and ‘centres of consciousness.
The word itself means: disk, vortex, or wheel.
There seems to be no consensus as to the properties of chakras
Pretty much every book on the topic describes the chakras and their colors and properties differently. (Energy Ecstacy) One book might say that the Swadhisthana chakra (the one nearest to your groin) is responsible for artistic creativity and sexuality, while another might say that artistic creativity is the function of the heart chakra, while another one might say that it’s the function of the third eye. There really is no consensus at all. (body of light)
There is also no consensus as to their exact location. One tradition might say that chakras are located in front of the body, while another will say that they are inside the spine, and another one might say that they are both outside the body and inside the spine and that there are just several different chakras. (Mantak Chia reference)
This is one of the reasons why scientists really don’t want to study chakras. They are repelled by the immense amount of inconsistency present among ‘energy experts’, the lack of a specific definition of anything, and the fact that most of them are very rigid and dogmatic in their beliefs, to the point that their books read more like religious propaganda than a scientific exploration of anything real.
Although one has to remember that for ancient yogis and mystics chakras were not a literary artistic exploration, they were descriptions of very real physiological experiences that were then subsequently re-interpreted to fit the hindu mythology. This is why something ‘like’ the chakras exists in almost every tradition. It also indicates that there’s something physiological behind the chakras. Something that in the future will be measured.
The truth is that if a physical chakra system exists it would be based on the same physical structures as the meridian system. And in turn most researchers do in fact use studies on meridians in order to research chakras. As I have discussed in the previous chakras, the evidence for the existence of meridians is rather strong, although the exact mechanism of how they work is not shown. But the hypothesis with the most face validity is that chakras are nothing more but a point where the properties that make meridians what they are (whatever that might be) are the most prominent, no matter weather they are gap junctions or nitric oxide synthase
Either way this makes the proposed effects of chakras probable
A sample description of the chakras
Now I’ll give you an example description of the chakras. There are different ones out there, and each of them is about as credible, because they are a system of symbols more than anything else, and symbols are always personal. Something that symbolizes freedom to one person might symbolize oppression to another person.
The new age author Caroline Myss uses chakra mostly in this way- for her they are just symbols that show the different aspects of our personality, and this is how most modern systems of magic use chakras. They are symbolic tools, this is why I would only recommend you listen to any ‘chakra meditations’ or do any energy work which involves chakras only if the idea of them appeals to you.
Imagine a cross. It has great religious meaning to a christian, but it has almost no religious meaning to a primitive person who lived in a jungle his whole life and never heard of Christ. It’s the same with chakras- they are symbols that have a personal meaning to you. I’ll describe now an example meaning taken from one new age book (Nemri, 2004). It’s not better or worse than any other description. It’s just personal to the author. I’ll compare it with the chakra-interpretations of other religions and systems
Root Chakra – Muladhara
According to her the root chakra symbolizes your belief system, security and your connection with other people. It makes sense that someone would associate ‘ a root’ of something with those qualities, because those qualities symbolize grounding. Grounding is basically being in touch with reality and the development of this quality is emphasized in almost every spiritual system, mostly because if you don’t develop an intimate connection with reality the various spiritual and ‘magickal’ practices might make you crazy. She also associates it with physical and mental ailments. She associates it with physical dysfunctions of the lower spine (because the root chakra is in that area) the feet (grounding-feet, git it?) and rectum(it’s kind off near the ground if you think about it, it’s logical that someone would associate the two). Because she associates the chakra with a connection with your social group (which for many easterners is the most important thing- that’s why it’s the ‘root’) the author claims that a ‘disruption’ in this chakra will result in fears of abandonment by ones social group
A disruption in this chakra is also associated with very specific emotional disturbances. Namely insecurity and doubt. Some healers claim that they posses the ability to diagnose emotional problems by observing the chakra so when you’re in doubt get your root chakra checked;p.
Most spiritual systems associate it with materialism and the ‘physical earth plane’ so someone who has an ‘overactive’ muladhara would be called a materialist. This makes some sense since people who are atheists and have no spiritual beliefs are very often ‘down to earth’ and ‘no-bs’ simply because they find it hard to believe in anything.
According to the endoctrinal interpretation of the chakras, this chakra is related to the adrenals, and meditations, asanas and other techniques focusing on this chakra will influence the a adrenal medulla and the adrenal cortex. (cross, 2012)
One author (cross, 2012) claims different chakras are connected with different meridians, and that this particular chakra is connected to the Bladder and Kidney meridian.
Many systems of yoga also associate chakras with internal organs. This particular chakra is associated with the spinal column, kidneys, and bladder. So if you ever feel an odd sensation at the base of the spine, know that certain yogis might interpret it as a sign of kidney disease because the ‘health’ or ‘balance’ of this chakra to them signifies healthy kidneys and a disruption in it signifies that your kidneys are diseased. (I’ll show you how to ‘test the balance’ of your chakras energetically in later articles)
In yoga you’re said to focus on it when you’re doing kappal bhati pranayam and various other pranayamas. This is mostly because when you focus on a particular part of the energy system while doing an exercise it will have completely different physiological effects on your body, which actually have been observed in india. Which to me does indicate that behind the symbolic representations of this chakra there exists something very real.
But even if the more symbolic interpretation of the chakras isn’t ‘scientifically proven’ (because how can you prove something like that? Simple answer: You can’t) it’s still very useful to a practitioner of artistic energetics.
Swadhisthana means “dwelling place of the self” in sanskrit. There are many alternative names for this chakra in new age literature. Some authors name it the sacral chakra (because it’s positioned near the organs) and some call it the spleen chakra (usually when it’s positioned just below the navel).
Most authors claim that this chakra is orange, but there is no agreement here neither some claim it’s green. And as I said there is no real agreement as to where a chakra is located. This particular author claims that it’s located in the lower abdomen below the navel (Nemri, 2004), which would make it the ‘hara’ in chinese mythology. This is interesting because most ancient yogic texts said that it’s located lower, more near the genitals.
This particular author associates this chakra with creative expression and the desire to control, and the need to form relationships with other people. So for this author this chakra basically symbolises control & creativity This is why meditations done on this chakra are used to enhance creativity and sexuality. You’ll learn some techniques to work with chakras in my book Energy Therapy.(Nemri, 2004)
In general most authors associate a disruption in this chakra with envy, jealousy and lust, while they associate a healthy chakra with pleasure and enjoyment. This makes sense since those qualities are basically the qualities of ‘carnal pleasures’ or libido.
This is not to say that this chakra can’t symbolize something else for someone else. Many spiritual systems associate it with enthusiasm, joy. Incidentally those author who claim that it’s positioned near the genitals associate it with sexuality. This is because chakras are symbols- metaphors for something that’s ‘probably there’ just like the ego and superego was in freudian psychoanalysis. The logic there is simple – since the chakra is near the genitals it has to be related to them. The other authors who associate this chakra with the ‘hara’ (which is 2 fingers below the navel) claim that it’s related to coordination and pretty much does everything the cerebellum does.
This chakra is also associated with the health of specific internal organs. Specifically the reproductive system( for obvious reasons) the lymphatic system, and the ileum part of the small intestine. (Nemri, 2004)
It is also connected to the spleen and pericardium meridians
Authors who claim that chakras are associated with endocrine glands claim that this particular chakra is associated with the ovaries and testes, and that working with this chakra can potentially influence estrogen and testosterone levels. (cross, 2012)This of course was never empirically proven but is very plausible. It’s been proven time and time again that a plecebo can influence someones hormone levels just because they believe that a pill will do that, if you do a ritual with this chakra and allow yourself to truly believe that it will work, it will. It is that simple. Just allow yourself to have pragmatic beliefs.
Manipura means “the city of gems”. It’s also called the solar plexus chakra.Most authors associate this chakra with the color yellow, but of course there are exceptions. Similarly some claim that it’s located on the spine- while others claim that it’s located just above the navel. Interestingly in the chinese system there were to points that were parallel to each other – one on the spine, and one on the stomach it could be that the different authors just described those two different points. That’s why here I’ll mostly focus on the point on the spine.
In hindu endocrinology it’s linked with the pancreas and with the health of the liver, stomach, spleen, and gall bladder and the duodenal part of the small intestine.
It’s also connected to the liver and stomach meridians.
Most authors claim that this chakra is over-stimulated in most people due to a to quick pace of life. Over-stimulation causes nervous disorders and disorders of the liver, gall bladder, pancreas, and spleen. Chronic imbalances of this chakra results in a depressed immune system and chronic fatigue syndrome. A disruption in this chakra can also cause: diabetes, stomach ulcers, acne, cancer, allergies, small intestine spasms, irritable bowel syndrome, worry, depression and anxiety. The energetic explanation as to why yoga helps for those issues is that it puts your chakras (among others the manipura) into alignment. So if you think you would like to try this odd way of helping yourself through your mind and body, you might like my book Energy Therapy, in which I describe how to do exactly that.
According to many authors a disrupted solar plexus is the cause of depression and anxiety, while a health solar plexus is the center of ‘power’ stability, control and self esteem. Interestingly at least one author (Nemri, 2004) claims that the first two lower chakras are ‘open’ at birth and this one (and the other ‘higher’ ones) isn’t. She claims that this is the reason why people need to develop self-esteem. It’s interesting how people link chakras to psychology no? Anodea Judith created a whole personality theory on the basis of chakras(Judith, 2004), which is based on bioenergetic analysis, which I’ll describe in later articles so subscribe if you’re interested.
Caroline Myss and many other new age author associate this chakra with personal power, in opposition to the first chakra which relates to group power and the second which relates to the flow of power between the self and others.
Interestingly, many people feel emotions in their solar plexus, this is why other authors associate the general feeling of emotions with this chakra.
Anahata means “unstriken” in sanskrit, this chakra is also called the heart chakra because it’s in the area of the heart. In most teachings it’s depicted as being green, although tibetan buddhists claim it’s white.
One description describes the anahata as being in front of the chest- in the heart region, and one describes it as being in the back- at the spine. Mantak Chia and other taoist authors say that there are two energy centers in the area of the heart- one in the front and one in the back. And there seem to be two very contradictory descriptions of those chakras that seem to fit the descriptions of the two energy centers in taoism.
Because it’s in the heart region most people associate it with love, and other positive emotions, and generally give to it the properties most westerners associate with the ‘heart’ such as kindness, forgiveness and compassion. This is also why practices that focus on the development on this chakra are emphasized in tibetan buddhism, their religion puts pretty much the greatest emphasis on compassion of any religions out there.
It rules the thymus gland and is responsible for the health of the heart, the blood circulation system (It’s logical that the ancients associated this chakra with the heart and the circulatory system since it’s located in that area), lymphatic system and vagus nerve.
It is connected to the small intestine and heart meridians
Most meditations focused on emotional healing focus on this chakra. One of them is the inner smile about which you can read in my book Energy Therapy. One interesting thing to note is that Israel Regardie, one of the most prominent western occultists claimed that psychosis is the result of spiritual practices without a balanced anahata. People on the spiritual path become paranoid/psychotic because they get great insight and intuition and they don’t have enough love and self-love to deal with it. At least that was his interpretation of it.
This could also be because in many cultures the anahata is considered the liver of the energy system- it is responsible for cleansing it from toxic energies. This might explain, at least in the energetic paradigm, why compassionate and loving people are generally far more resilient and why compassion training increases overall quality of life and a person’s well being.
The term “Visshudha” means ‘pure’. It’s linked with the thyroid and parathyroid and with the lungs, large intestine, upper lymphatic system, throat and larynx. It’s associated with the large intestine and lung meridians. It’s related to shyness, introverted behaviour and paranoia. When it’s healthy it gives the gift of charisma and proper expression.
In most traditions this chakra is blue and located on the throat. And this is why it’s mostly associated with communication and speech. Some authors also associate it with willpower (Nemri, 2004)
When it’s disturbed it will produce migraine, sore throat, asthma, loss of taste, acute and chronic bronchitis and other respiratory tract infections, laryngitis, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, ileocecal valve syndrome, shyness, introverted behaviour, paranoia, and chronic skin lesions such as eczema.
It is primarily disturbed by lying, so don’t lie if you want a healthy throat chakra! Many pranayamas balance this chakra. So if you want a healthy Visshuddha you can read more about them in Energy Therapy.
Ajna means “authority, command and unlimited power” in sanskrit. It’s color is indigo. violet or deep blue. (Depending on the tradition or spiritual author). It’s associated with the lower brain, central nervous system, ears, nose and left eye and with the gall bladder meridia n. It’s also associated with anger, rage and intuition. So people with very powerful ajna chakras get angry easily and are very intuitive.
I think one of the most interesting facts about the chakra is that not all systems of spirituality say it’s located at the third eye. Some actually say that it’s located at the inion, which is the junction of the base of the skull and the atlas. It’s pretty much linked with extra-sensory-perception in every culture. Some spiritual teachers claim that by focusing on the third eye while imagining something you’re raising the chances of it becoming reality.
It’s primarily responsible for the pituitary gland (which was considered the seat of the soul by descartes, because he thought that this gland does not exist in animals (which it does)
An imbalance in the ajna chakra will result in migraines acute catarrh, sinusitis, deafness, arthritis, vertigo, sleep disorders, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and parkinsons disease.
Sahasrara means “thousand-petalled” and “dwelling place without support” in sanskrit. It’s more often than not associated with the colour white and with the pineal gland. It’s also associated with the upper brain and the right eye (the ajna chakra is associated with the left eye). It’s also associated with the triple warmer meridian.
When it’s disturbed it can produce melancholy and severe phobias, along with headaches, symptoms of upper motor neuron diseases, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, paralysis and seasonal affected disorder.
When it’s healthy and balanced it makes transcendental experiences easier to attain.Because it’s associated with higher consciousness and with other ‘transpersonal’ things most experts claim that this chakra is not fully functional until a high degree of inner maturity has been reached.
You can activate this chakra by regularly practicing deep meditation and yoga
The Functions Of The Chakras
In the more physically oriented systems of yoga and in some other healing traditions chakras are used to modify the secretory activity in related endocrine systems. Their function is modified through concentrating on them while doing various asanas and through deep focus on them during meditation.
The theory that focusing deeply on a nerve or any other center of neuronal communication has an effect has a lot of face validity, since focusing on a point on your body activates it. (This is also why you can stimulate acupuncture ‘points’ by imagining that you touch them or just putting your attention on them). This is all consistent with the theory that meridians and chakras are just an unexplored facet of intercellular communication, and that focusing on chakra and acupuncture points is simply a form of communication to the unconscious part of your nervous system.
One author claims that chakras spin and that they are responsible for pulling energy from your environment and distributing it into your body. According to her a chakra that spins in the clockwise direction sends energies out, while a chakra that spins in the counterclockwise directions suck energies from the environment in. (Eden, 2008)
From an energetic perspective this explains why you sometimes feel sick when you enter a ‘toxic place’ or that you feel elevated/happy when you’re near cool people or your friends. This of course could be nothing more than a metaphor for biological process but as I’ll write in another article. This energetic way of thinking is a very useful way of thinking for people who are more on the right brain side.
Chakra balancing and neuroplasticity
Yoga is generally said to strengthen the chakras (weather it is by opening them, balancing them or any other metaphor) this could be because yogic exercises basically exercise the part of the very part of the nervous system that’s responsible for them. This would make the practical training of the ‘energy system’ no different from the training of any other muscle. One researcher states that gap junctions between cells could be the mechanism of how the energy system manifests, and that yogic asanas and pranayamas basically increase the amount of gap junctions between cells in our body. Of course this is currently only a hypothesis, but the probability that there is an equivalent of this biological mechanism is very very high.
So one could say that all the asanas, and all the yogic meditations are just ancient ways to train the nervous system and the brain. Nothing more, nothing less, and that chakras are just manifestations of an unexplored part of the nervous systems.
The potential scientific explanation for kundalini energy
It’s actually very common for neurological diseases to feel like ‘electricity’ and many of the descriptions of seizures and many other neurological diseases are strikingly similar to those of ‘kundalini experiences’. Although the exact mechanism of how yoga changes the nervous system is not clear (Do you guys even know how much money it would take to study something like this? ) what is clear is that yogic asanas, pranayamas and meditation change your nervous system and prepare it for a drastic change that lasts for a lifetime.
It might be likely that awakening of the kundalini is just a form of controlled brain damage. Damaged neurons do not regenerate, so this might explain why ‘awakening of the kundalini’ is considered a very quick event one has to prepare for years, and why it sometimes happens to individuals who did not do any formal yogic training at all (Such as Eckhart Tolle), and why some people are far more predisposed to it than others. It might just be that some people are more predisposed to this particular form of brain damage than others
This explanation makes sense because the amount of kundalini awakening among indians is very very large, larger than in any other country, even if they don’t do anything to achieve it! Which means that simply through natural selection the indian population has a higher instance of a gene that’s responsible for the kundalini awakening. This would make sense since in india many tantric sects praised sexuality so it’s not unlikely that an ‘enlightened master’ in india had a lot of children. While in the west enlightened masters were more often than not celibate.
To learn how to feel this yet unexplored facet of your nervous system, and to learn how to use it to improve your mental health without hurting yourself like I did; I invite you to read my book Energy Therapy: A Practical Analysis Of Energetic Modalities
Of course this is not to say that kundalini awakening has to be brain damage. There are numerous other explanations that are at the moment of writing this article just as probable. It could be that a kundalini awakening is the opposite, it could be that through yoga and meditation a yogic practitioner trains the physiological process that is the energy body, and therefore the nervous system so much that he experiences a radical change. This might be aligned with the raports of those that claim that a kundalini awakening didn’t really diametrically change them, but instead was just evidence of greater,slower changes happening of their lives. It’s actually really easy to feel something like a kundalini awakening. One just has to do kappal bhatti pranayama for a month. (I’ll explain how one does it further in this article). It could be that what we westerners conceptualize as the kundalini awakening – namely the feeling of energy coming up the spine, which many yoga and pranayama practitioners feel, is just a manifestation of our nervous system. People with neurological diseases (including myself) very often feel chronic paresthesia, which feels just like the energy one feels through yogic practices. So for me it seems very probable that a kundalini awakening is just a beneficial change in the nervous system, a manifestation of an exercise of a yet unexplored system of the body. Our cardiac system can be trained through exercise, and even our brain can be trained through brain-gym exercises and through studying, why not our energy system?
In this view an enlightened person could be compared to a bodybuilder. Just like the bodybuilder the enlightened person has build a normal human capability beyond that of an average human.
Which interpretation is correct? At the point we don’t know. You have to decide which one speaks to you more. There are still unexplored questions in science. This is one of them. At this point of time we can only say ‘probably’ not yes or no.
But is there something esoteric to the chakras?
I for one believe that there really is a chance there is something esoteric to the chakras. In neuroscience there’s even a slowly developing discipline called neurotheology, which explores how god manifests in our brain. If god, or any other higher power that designed us would exist he would design us as we are now biologically, so it would be very probable that the spiritual mechanism through which so called ‘esoteric’ things would happen could have a basis that could be explored in real life. Just like our previous pope John Paul II said “There are no miracles, only things we haven’t explored yet” To learn how to feel this yet unexplored facet of your nervous system, and to learn how to use it to improve your mental health without hurting yourself like I did; I invite you to read my book Energy Therapy: A Practical Analysis Of Energetic Modalities
Weather chakras are just manifestations of our nervous system, mere symbols or collections of meridians the thing is that the meditations and techniques which use them simply work. For me chakras are, if anything, a useful metaphor one can use to create practical techniques for self-improvement. When doing yoga you’re very frequently asked to focus on a particular chakra, and this has a very noticeable effect, and even if the effect could be explained in terms of just focusing on nerves the metaphor of a chakra is still useful and appealing to many people. This is why I included some chakra-related techniques in my book Energy Therapy.
Category: energy therapy