Our chakras (energy centres of the subtle body) play a vital role in every aspect of life, including health, career and relationships. Here, Swami Saradananda, world-renowned expert in yoga and spiritual development and author of The Essential Guide to Chakras, gives some practical suggestions for working with your chakras.
What are chakras?
Chakras are major centres of radiant power within your subtle body. There are seven of them, representing the energetic 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.
Working with your chakras can help you to restore and enhance your energy flow. With regular practice you may find that you are able to tap into the vast potential of the psycho-spiritual energy known as kundalini that lies dormant in your lower chakras. Chakras are centres of radiant power within your subtle (energetic) body, representing the energetic intersection between physical matter and consciousness. How smoothly your chakras function determines how fully you inhabit our body, how successful you are in your relationships and how much inner peace you enjoy.
Located along a line that approximates your spine, the seven major chakras are below – click each for more information on connecting with that chakra:
The Benefits of Working with the Chakras
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 may want to speak up, yet you are afraid to say anything. Situations such as this can cause your energy to become blocked and stagnant.
Working with your chakras can assist you in finding innovative ways to free the various aspects of your being. It can facilitate new insights for you, healthier behaviour patterns and a more rewarding lifestyle. Your chakras are energetic centres that you can use to 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 to 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 can communicate your thoughts, hopes and dreams in a healthy manner. You function in a more relaxed manner, yet are more focused. Your natural immunity is increased and you are better able to deal with stress. 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 help you to develop inner poise and keep your life in balance. These practices are most helpful when you reinforce them with regular self-analysis and bolster them with positive activities, such as a healthy diet and regular yoga practice. Chakra to be an adventure of self-discovery – and the best time to embark on your inner pilgrimage is right now!
When to work with chakra energy
If you feel spaced out or disconnected from the world around you, perhaps you need to explore working with your lower chakras for their grounding effects. But when your life seems a bit dull and you would like to experience more inspiration, you might try working with some of the higher chakras. These are also effective when you are thinking of making major changes in your life, especially ones to bring you more in line with your spiritual goals. Or you might want to work with chakra energy whenever you.
Discover more chakra exercises in The Essential Guide to Chakras.
The three bodies
To understand where the chakras fit into the bigger picture, it may be helpful have a look at the yoga theory that postulates a model of three bodies: physical, astral and causal. Each of these bodies is more subtle in nature than the previous one.
The most concrete of the three is your physical body, which is made up of the food that you eat. This is the body that you were born into and which you have seen grow and change. The second body, your astral body, includes all your qualities and attributes that are non-physical in nature. You may experience love, for example, in the region of your heart, but this has its seat in your astral body. The third body, the “seed” or “causal” body, contains the subtle kernels that germinate to produce your life. This is the storehouse of your karma and of all the subtle impressions that you take in. This body contains the seeds that determine your talents and aptitudes, your emotional make-up and even your physical appearance.
Your real essence, which is pure consciousness, is beyond the illusion of all of these three bodies. Trying to understand and identify with the true Self is the goal of all yoga practices.
Prana and nadis
The first layer of your astral body serves as the interface between your physical body and your more subtle essence. This layer has many names, including aura, etheric double and bio-magnetic field. It approximates your physical body, but it is energetic in its nature, instead of being made up of physical elements. The word “prana”, usually interpreted as “life force” or “vital energy”, has the same meaning as the Chinese word “chi” (as in tai chi) or the Japanese word “ki” (as in akido or reiki).
People who practise acupuncture, reflexology, shiatsu and most of the martial arts are working with prana. Prana is not physical in nature, but flows through your physical body, interpenetrating it as water fills a sponge, through subtle channels known as “nadis”. Approximately 72,000 nadis, referred to as “meridians” in acupuncture, make up the subtle wiring of your pranic sheath.
A chakra is any location where two or more nadis (meridians) cross; these are junctions of vibrant energy and many of the smaller chakras are used as acupuncture points. The seven “major” chakras are energetic centres located along the central nadi, which approximates your spine.
The word “chakra” is a bit misleading, as it is usually translated as “wheel”. A chakra is a vortex or an energetic toroid, meaning that its movement takes place on a circular, doughnut-like axis, in a twisting motion. Each chakra is an essential part of an energetic matrix supporting your physical body. They are conduits that conduct and transform prana (subtle energy) into material form. Proper and unrestricted flow of energy through your chakras is necessary for physical, mental and emotional good health. If chakras are not functioning properly, the associated body organs and systems will become impaired.
Each of the seven major chakras represents a particular energy frequency. When fully functional and connected, they provide incredible creative control over physical matter. Energetic flow through your chakras is largely determined by your mental state. Holding fears and misconceptions in your consciousness impedes, and even reverses, the flow of energy. By working with your chakras, you can reintroduce a full healthy flow. The real challenge is identifying the blockages and misconceptions.
How To Perform Chakra Meditation
In chakra work the macrocosm of the universe is a model for the microcosm of your own being. Chakra work aims at integrating every aspect of your body, mind and spirit by providing you with the grounding to work in the world.
There are times when you may feel the need for more stability. Working with the lower chakras gives you a firm foundation in your life and practice. You may want to start here and then return to work with the lower chakras whenever you need more grounding, for example after you have returned from travelling. It can also be helpful when you have gone through a major upset, such as a divorce or job loss. By working with the lower chakras, you enhance your stability in life. Your stability follows the path of creation. Conversely, at other times, your life may seem to be a bit stuck. This is the time to work with your higher chakras, preferably from the firm foundation that you have created. This can give you a greater sense of liberation and freedom in your life.
We’ll be going through each of the seven chakras in turn, with exercises to help you clear and access their energy. For now, try this basic chakra meditation from The Essential Guide to Chakras and become aware of your energy centres.
1. Sit in a comfortable meditation position, preferably cross-legged.
2. Close your eyes, seal your lips and breathe gently through your nostrils. Gradually, begin to make your breath longer.
3. Consciously direct your breath toward your solar plexus region. Observe how the energy in your belly seems to become stronger. Continue to elongate your breath until it reaches your body’s base.
4. As you inhale send your breath downward along the front of your body. As you exhale, direct the energy from base of your spine upward toward the crown of your head
5. It may help you to visualize your breath as a stream of bright white light, moving from your base, all the way up to the top of your head, and then down again.
6. As your breath flows through your body, notice whether you are able to experience the various energetic points (chakras) at:
- the base of your body
- your sacral region
- your solar plexus
- your throat
- between eyebrows
- crown of your head
7. Gradually move your awareness along the various energy centres in your body. Notice which one(s) you experience most strongly. Note which points are stronger, more easily experienced in front and which ones seem more dominant along the back of your body.
8. After a while, allow your concentration to remain on the chakra with which you are working.
9. At the end of each meditation, do a simple visualization exercise to ensure that you don’t leave yourself too vulnerable or overly open to negative influences. Visualize each chakra in turn as a flower that is closing its petals, as flowers do in the evening.
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