The chakras are the seven energy centers in the body, identified in the yoga traditions of India more than 1,000 years ago, according to the website Sacred Centers. You may consider them actual or metaphorical sites, but physician and holistic educator Dr. Christiane Northrup says working with the chakras empowers healing. Activating chakras releases the energy to balance emotions, mind and body. Practicing yoga poses, or asanas, to open these centers restores the flow of energy from the base of the spine to the crown of the head.
Kundalini and the Seven Chakras
In the ancient Sanskrit teachings, kundalini is the coiled energy at the base of the spine in the Muladhara, the root chakra. The purpose of yoga is to awaken this energy, sending it up the sushumna, the energetic channel along the spine, opening and activating each of the seven chakras along the way. The chakras are points at which the energy may be blocked by inherited beliefs, emotional reactions, stored tension, lack of knowledge or low self-esteem. The seven chakras on this energy path are the Muladhara, the root chakra at the base of the spine; the Svadisthana, the pelvic region chakra; the Manipura, at the navel or solar plexus; the Anahata, or heart chakra; the Visuddha, the throat chakra; the Ajna, the third eye at the level of the forehead; and the Sahasrara, the crown chakra.
Chakra Characteristics and Connections
Each chakra has its own identity, but a system in which all seven are balanced is essential for well-being. According to medical intuitive and best-selling author Carolyn Myss, the condition of a chakra embodies the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual health of that area of your body and its related consciousness. For example, lower back pain, intestinal disorders, depression, addictions and varicose veins may be signs that the Muladhara, or root chakra, is blocked. Problems in the root chakra may reflect fear of abandonment, feeling homeless or rootless, financial insecurity, and loss of identity or family. Yoga poses can help restore balance to this and other chakras.
There are yoga poses that stimulate each chakra; adding specific poses to your routine helps to remove energy blockages. "Yoga Journal" offers several poses related to each of the seven chakras. Uttanasana, Standing Forward Bend for the Muladhara, stretches quads, strengthens hamstrings and creates a feeling of groundedness. Upavistha Konasana, Open Angle pose, opens the hips, groins and pelvic area of the Svadisthana. Navasana, Boat pose, strengthens the abdominal area, the Manipura chakra. Garudasana, Eagle pose, stretches the chest and upper back and opens the Anahata or heart chakra. Ustrasana, Camel pose, loosens the shoulders, neck and jaw, releasing tension in the Visuddha, or throat chakra. Supported Paschimottanasana, Seated Forward Bend, calms the Ajna or third eye and may soothe headache, anxiety and depression. Meditation in Half- or Full Lotus pose, Padmasana, stimulates the entire spine encouraging free flow of kundalini energy.
The Salute to the Sun, Surya Namaskar, is the traditional welcome to the light and the day . It is a sequence of eight basic postures, performed in a set pattern that is repeated once on each side. Asanas in Surya Namaskar include Tadasana, Urdhva Hastasana, Uttanasana, Lunge, Plank pose, Chaturanga Dandasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana and Adho Mukha Svanasana. From Mountain pose to Downward-Facing Dog, a Sun Salutation will warm you up for a longer yoga routine. Well-known author and chakra system teacher Anodea Judith says performing a daily Surya Namaskar addresses every chakra, though general physical balancing and energizing is not enough. She recommends adding specific postures to focus on blocked chakras and daily meditation to encourage the movement of kundalini energy and enhance healing.
- Carolyn Myss: Chakras
- "Yoga Journal": Asanas for the Chakra System
- Dr. Christiane Northrup: Your 7 Energy Centers
- "Yoga Journal": Here Comes the Sun
- Sacred Centers: Chakras and Asana Practice
- "Chakra Balancing"; Anodea Judith, page 89
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .