At the risk of repeating some of what was said in my first blog about the chakras, it is important to remember that the chakras (pronounced CHAR-kras) are energy. They occur wherever two or more energy channels intersect. As there are many, many energy channels (called nadis) in the body, there are many chakras.
Most people are only interested in those chakras that are in the spine (except that the top few are actually in the head, not the spine). That’s because there are three major nadis in the spine. These three nadis have names: IDA (pronounced EE-da), PINGALA (pronounced PING-gala) and SUSHUMNA (Sue-SHOOM-na). Sushumna goes straight up the centre of the spinal cord, while Ida and Pingala criss-cross their way up the spinal cord. Where they cross over, there’s a chakra. They end at the Third Eye chakra – Ajna.
Some people are very concerned about the colours of the chakras. The only purpose I can think of for giving a chakra a colour is to make it easier to picture it in meditation. However, a few years ago I was complaining to a friend that I find it difficult to feel an ecstatic “high” – I’m a very two-feet-on-the-ground person – very earthed. My friend said, “Well, no wonder. You wear red so often. You should wear lighter, higher chakra colours”. She was right.
So, if you look at any chart of the chakras showing colours, you see the heavy red and orange at the bottom and the softer, lighter colours higher up. In fact, on most of those chakra colour charts you’re likely to see the chakras coloured from bottom to top according to the seven colours of a rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue indigo and violet.
To me, that is just too neat. Nature is not usually that neat.
Besides, as we saw in the previous blog, there are actually EIGHT major chakras, not seven, so the colours of the rainbow don’t actually fit the chakras. As we have seen, especially in relation to the chakras above waist level, there is a lot of disagreement about the chakras’ colours.
My guess is that not many people actually see the colour of the chakra they’re concentrating on. Even if they do, they are going to see the colour of their own chakra, and if it is not perfectly balanced, then the colour they see will correspond to its own level of balance, which probably won’t be perfect. So we can each only “see” the colour of our own chakras, and then it will be only if we’re lucky, determined and fairly well-practised at meditation.
Much more important, in my opinion, is that we work on balancing each of the chakras separately, and also as a set. This we can do by concentrating, meditating on them. At the very least, acknowledging them.
Chakras are also generally presented as if they have evolved alongside the evolution of our species. To some extent that is a reasonable way of understanding the chakras. The lowest, “base-est” chakra is way down in the nether regions of our bodies and it relates to the “base” physical activities: elimination, procreation and security – the things that all animals have in common.
Once we have the base needs met, we want some pleasure, some enjoyment. In comes Svadhisthana, the second chakra, clad in orange. After having some fun, we become concerned about our position in society – hence the power tool of Manipura.
But wait! We said we had the base needs met by Mooladhara, the lowest chakra, but we haven’t mentioned food yet. The digestion of food is the preserve of the third chakra, Manipura. So this schema doesn’t quite fit the evolutionary model because obviously, food is surely a basic need of all life forms – including ours.
The evolutionary model doesn’t seem to fit when we get to Anahata, either. Although Anahata relates to love, emotions and compassion, it also relates to our blood’s circulation and to our breathing – both of which are even more basic than food. We can go days without food, but we can’t even go minutes without breath or the circulation of our blood. So seeing the chakras in evolutionary terms, I think, is mis-leading.
Notwithstanding, it’s true that the top three chakras, Ajna, Bindu and Sahasrara are seen to represent the highest spiritual achievements of humans. However, it is almost certain that pre-historic people had wisdom, insight, intuition and spiritual achievements – the qualities that relate to the top three chakras. So again, we can’t rely on an evolutionary model for the chakras.
In the previous blog, I returned attention to the yamas and niyamas [AHIMSA – kindness, SATYA – truth, ASTEYA– not stealing, BRAHMACHARYA– not being ruled by our senses, APARIGRAHA – non-covetousness, SAUCHA – cleanliness, SANTOSHA – contentment, TAPASYA – self-discipline, SWADHYAYA – study, ISHVARA PRANIDHANA – surrender, gratitude]. By practising these yamas and niyamas we will improve the balance of each of the chakras as well as balancing them as a set.
We should remember that EVERYONE has each of these chakras – the most enlightened, spiritual person and the worst criminal. The most godly people have base chakras, and the most wicked people have crown chakras. So although the chakras are often seen as going from the basest to the purest, it’s good to remember that each and every person has the potential to reach enlightenment. My Dad used to say “There’s a bit of good in the worst of us and a bit of bad in the best of us”. I’m sure he was right.
People who are highly influenced by Mooladhara chakra would be concerned ONLY with their own safety, security and material possessions and would likely be lazy, self-centred and dominated by physical desires (eating, sleeping and sex). On the other hand, the base chakras of people who are more highly evolved or spiritual would have them full of vitality and vigour and concerned about the security of ALL – people, animals, plants and the world.
The same could be said of Svadhisthana, the second chakra, also located way down low in the spine. People dominated by this chakra would be pursuing sex and pleasure, often in inappropriate contexts, whereas the Svadhisthana chakra of people with more balanced energies are likely to be joyous, popular, and mindful of the needs of others.
People dominated by the third chakra, Manipura, are likely to be bullies or “control freaks”; on the other hand, people with a well-balanced Manipura chakra are likely to love power for the work it can produce, not for ego.
The middle-level chakras, Anahata and Vishuddhi are mostly thought as having only positive qualities. However, even they can present as negative in some people. For instance, a person with an unbalanced Anahata chakra may be uncaring of others and live with negative emotions. Similarly, people with unbalanced Vishuddhi (throat chakra) may either be very poor communicators or complainers, fast-talking sales people or poison-tongued trouble-makers.
The top three chakras, Ajna, Bindu and Sahasrara are much less likely to have negative qualities.
For the sake of your physical body, your health, be aware of your chakras. At the very least, be aware that they’re there, even if you can’t feel or visualise them. Be aware that the yoga asanas will help to stimulate and balance them.
If you’re afraid or insecure, attend to Mooladhara (base chakra); if you realise that there’s been a lot of inappropriate sexual activity, or conversely, there has not been enough joy in your life, then concentrate on Svadhisthana (the second chakra). If you seriously lack self-esteem and confidence, then work on Manipura chakra (the solar plexus). If you are feeling love-less, stimulate Anahata, the fourth chakra, and if you are having difficulty communicating effectively then work on balancing Vishuddhi, the throat chakra. As often as you can, bring attention to the eyebrow centre, Ajna, because we can all, always, do with greater awareness and insight. Practise “Bumble Bee Breath” as often as you can to stimulate your seventh chakra, Bindu, for overall health improvement, and meditate as often as you can to stimulate the Crown chakra, Sahasrara.
I know that many – maybe most – people are only interested in yoga to maintain a reasonable level of fitness and flexibility. However, it seems to me that it would be a pity to deny ourselves the opportunity for greater happiness while we have the chance.
Love your chakras.
I would like to acknowledge the wisdom of Dr Rishi Vivekananda & his book, “Practical Yoga Psychology” (2005). His words constantly inspire me and his knowledge of chakras deeply supports this particular blog.