What Are Chakras?
Chakras are thought to be focal points of energy throughout your body.
Some spiritual views hold that our body is more than just physical and mental, it’s also an energetic system. "Chakra" is a word in Sanskrit, an ancient language from India, that means "wheel" or "cycle." In many Eastern and spiritual belief systems, chakras are seen as spinning wheels or circles that life energy flows through. When your chakras are in balance, life energy is able to move through them and connect you to the world around you.
There are seven main chakras situated along the spine, from the base of your spine to the crown of your head. This age-old belief has become integrated into many New Age styles of thought.
Chakras are thought to provide subtle energy that helps your organs, mind, and intellect work at their best level. Chakras and spiritual energy have not been thoroughly examined in medical studies, but they may help you think about your own mind and body like any religion or belief.
If you feel unwell, in addition to using spiritual practices like chakras, it's important to talk to your doctor or other health care professional.
Origin of Chakras
Beliefs about chakras started in India, at least 1,000 years ago, as part of Hindu and Buddhist spiritual traditions. Some people think chakra beliefs are even older, going back to 1500 BCE or further. Chakras are mentioned in ancient Hindu spiritual books like the Vedas and the Yoga Upanishads. People probably believed in chakras before the information was ever written down.
In India and other parts of the East, beliefs about chakras were included in many systems of healing and spirituality, including Ayurveda, yoga, Hinduism, Buddhism, and others. These systems developed around the idea of a life energy that flows through our bodies and the universe. The use of the chakras is thought to help connect with this life energy in different ways. For example, yoga uses breath and movement to bring energy into the body, and move it through the chakras. Ayurveda uses herbal medicine, meditation, and other practices to open the chakras and balance energy.
Chakras became popular in the West beginning in the 1960s-1970s as part of “alternative” spiritual movements. Western traditions that sometimes use chakras include psychology and complementary medicine, as well as spiritual practices.
The Seven Chakras
Most belief systems about chakras, especially in the West, talk about seven main chakras. These chakras form a line up the center of your body, beginning with the root chakra at the bottom of your spine, and moving up to the crown chakra right above your head.
Each chakra has a name and symbol in Sanskrit. When they became popular in the West, people also associated a specific color with each chakra. Some yoga practices link different yoga poses or movements with each chakra. Chakras can also be associated with many things, including acupuncture points, natural elements, life stages such as childhood or middle age, and Buddhist mantras (words or phrases used during meditation).
The root chakra:Muladhara
The root chakra, or muladhara in Sanskrit, is the first and primary chakra, believed to be located at the base of your spine. It is linked with the color red and the element earth.
The root chakra is thought to affect how you connect to the world and to control feelings of survival, ambition, dependency, and stability. As the primary source of energy, its unbalance can lead to feelings of deep fear and insecurity that hurt your drive to succeed, causing feelings of frustration and lack of purpose.
When the root chakra is balanced, it is thought to create feelings of security, positivity, energy, independence, and strength.
The sacral chakra: Svadhishthana
Below the navel, the svadhisthana chakra radiates the color orange and represents the element water. The sacral chakra is considered to be responsible for sexuality, creativity, intuitiveness, self-worth, compassion, and adaptability. When the sacral chakra is unstable, it’s thought to cause emotional outbursts, a lack of creativity, and sex-obsessed thoughts.
The solar plexus chakra: Manipura
The Sanskrit name of the solar plexus chakra, manipura, means city of jewels, and it’s believed to be found between the ribcage and the navel. Its color is yellow, and it is tied to the fire element.
The solar plexus chakra is considered to be the center of self-esteem and emotions like ego, anger, and aggression. It is thought to present itself on a physical level through digestive problems, liver problems, or diabetes. On an emotional level, if the solar plexus chakra is imbalanced, it is believed to cause feelings of depression and low self-esteem. When it’s balanced, it would become a source of energy, productivity, and confidence.
The heart chakra: Anahata
Connected to organs such as the heart and lungs, the heart chakra is believed to lie at the middle of the cardiovascular system. The heart chakra connects lower chakras to the higher ones. Its color is green, and its element is air.
The heart chakra is considered a link to compassion, trust, passion, and love for self and others. When it is out of balance, it is believed to cause anger, lack of trust, anxiety, jealousy, fear, and moodiness. An overactive heart chakra is thought to lead to high blood pressure, heart palpitations, and heart problems.
The throat chakra: Vishuddha
Vishuddha, the throat chakra, is thought to control the neck, mouth, tongue, and other parts of the throat area. The throat chakra's color is blue, and its element is ether. The throat chakra is tied to self-expression, communication, and confidence. Balancing throat chakra is believed to regulate the flow of hormones and help inner thoughts to be spoken in a positive manner.
The third eye chakra: Ajna
The third eye or Ajna chakra is set between the eyebrows. The third eye has no elemental association but is represented by color indigo. Often used in asana practice as a focal point, the third eye chakra is believed to control your intellect, intuition, wisdom, and spiritual power.
According to this belief system, an open and balanced third eye chakra allows you to notice the connections in this world and beyond.
An underactive third eye chakra is thought to manifest as a headache, a migraine, or blurry vision. When balanced, the third eye is believed to free you from earthly attachments.
The crown chakra: Sahasrara
Sahasrara, the crown chakra, is at the top of the head, the highest of the seven main chakras. The crown chakra color is violet or white. Also known as the “thousand petal lotus” chakra, this is considered the most spiritual of the central chakras.
Opening the crown chakra is believed to connect a person to their higher self since it’s the place of spirituality, enlightenment, and energetic thoughts. It is tied to inner wisdom and the cosmos. When unbalanced, the crown chakra is thought to influence depression, disconnection from the outside world, frustration, and destructive emotions.
Spirituality can be a great tool for many. Some people may find this belief system helpful in understanding their lifestyles, but it is still important to keep all avenues of support open. Talk with a health care professional if you’re having issues with mental health or physical health.
For many people across the world, chakras and energy are part of health and healing. According to belief systems like Ayurveda, yoga, Buddhism, and Western “new age” spirituality, working with the chakras can improve mental and physical health.
According to these belief systems, life energy (prana) ideally flows through the chakras in a balanced way. If energy can’t move through the chakra or becomes blocked or too concentrated, a chakra is thought to be unbalanced. Many people believe that aligning your chakras can help energy flow smoothly through your body and into the universe, creating a state of connection and well-being.
There are many practices that people might use to unblock, balance, heal, or align chakras that are out of balance using chakra-based therapies, including:
- Meditation and breathing exercises. Meditation is a way to calm your mind, be present in your body, and focus on the moment. Breathing exercises are often part of meditation. Some styles of meditation relate to the chakras. For example, people might picture a light or warmth on the area associated with each chakra. This may help to align your chakras, reduce stress, and help you respond more calmly to challenges in your life.
- Yoga. Yoga, an ancient system for building spiritual and physical well-being, teaches that prana, or life energy, moves through your body and connects you to the universe. According to people who believe in the practice, yoga can help balance chakras through techniques like focused breathing, poses (exercises), and meditation and can help reduce stress and make you feel healthier.
- Reiki. Reiki is a system of energy healing that began in Japan. With Reiki, a practitioner helps direct the flow of energy and light through your body and unblocks areas where energy might be stuck. Some Reiki practitioners use the chakras as energy centers. People who get Reiki often say it's relaxing, and some think it helps their well-being.
- Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a holistic system of health care based on ancient Indian texts. Many people still use it today. Ayurveda uses herbs, plants, metals, yoga, meditation, physical and spiritual exercises, and other treatments to balance chakras and improve well-being.
- Color therapy and crystal healing. People might associate certain colors, crystals, or stones with each of the chakras. Some people will look at a color or hold a crystal in their hands, or put it directly on the area of their body that’s near the chakra they want to balance.
Chakra healing in Western science
Western science hasn’t studied chakra healing very much and doesn’t have a clear understanding of if or how it works. Most Western research about chakras has looked for links between the chakras and the parts of your endocrine and nervous systems that are near them on your body. For example, scientists might study the pineal gland, a part of your endocrine system, which is in the same part of your body as your third eye chakra (ajna).
Some research has tried to measure changes in electrical energy where your chakras are located on your body. Other studies have asked people how they feel after they do treatments to balance or open their chakras. Most people say that doing practices to balance their chakras helps them deal with stress and anxiety and improves their mental and emotional health.
Many Western doctors think about chakra balancing practices as a form of complementary or alternative medicine. These are healing practices that people might use along with other, more standard treatments to help themselves feel better emotionally, physically, or spiritually.
They recommend also talking to a health care provider in addition to using chakra healing practices if you don’t feel well.