Yoga & the Chakras
In traditional Indian medicine and spiritual science, the physical body is more than merely bones, muscles, and organs encased in skin. Instead, it includes layers of energy fields that surround the physical body. These interconnected metaphysical layers create the body's electromagnetic field, also known as its aura. This is what's known as the subtle body, also referred to as the "light body," "etheric body," or "spiritual body."
Intro to the Chakras
In yoga, the life force energy (otherwise known as "prana") travels through the subtle body in a series of channels, called "nadis." These nadis intersect at points of intensified energy, called "chakras." A Sanskrit word for "wheel," chakras are spinning vortexes of energy in the subtle body that correspond to various glands along the spine and inside the skull. According to yoga philosophy, the human body has seven major chakras which will be further explored in the latter sections of this guide.
Each chakra governs specific behaviors and values in our lives, such as material security, communication, and love. They also regulate various bodily systems, like the skeletal system. Every chakra also corresponds to an element, to a "mantra" (a "repeated syllable"), and to a specific color along the rainbow spectrum.
When the nadis get blocked because of poor habits and old patterns, the chakras stagnate. This causes the life force to become sluggish, which can lead to depleted physical, mental, and emotional health. Practicing yoga purifies and revitalizes the nadis and chakras, and allows prana to once again flow freely.
Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.
Yoga for the Chakras
Yoga is one of the most basic ways to balance each chakra because it creates alignment in the physical body. Balancing and stabilizing your physical body through asana (yoga posture) practice also rebalances your subtle body. This realigns the chakras, which regulate specific behaviors, and makes it easier to overcome outdated patterns, beliefs, and habits.
Below is a description of the seven major chakras, along with yoga postures that will help to stimulate and balance each one.
1. Root Chakra — Muladhara Chakra
- Location: Base of the spine
- System: Skeletal
- Gland: Gonads
- Associations: Security, survival, safety, money, physical vitality
- Color: Red
- Element: Earth
- Mantra: Lam
Root Chakra Yoga Pose: Mountain Pose
- Stand with your feet together and your arms at your sides. Press your weight evenly across the balls and the arches of your feet. Breathe steadily and rhythmically. If you have trouble balancing, stand with your feet six inches apart (or wider).
- Straighten your legs, draw down through your heels, and ground your feet firmly into the earth. Draw the top of your thighs up and back.
- Slightly tuck in your tailbone, but don't round your lower back. Keep your hips even with the center line of your body.
- As you inhale, elongate through your torso. Exhale and release your shoulder blades away from your head toward the back of your waist.
- Broaden across your collarbone, keeping your shoulders in line with the sides of your body.
- Press your shoulder blades toward the back ribs, but don't squeeze them together. Keep your arms straight, fingers extended, and triceps firm.
- Elongate your neck. Keep your breathing smooth and even. Relax your gaze. Hold for up to one minute.
2. Belly Chakra — Svadhishthana Chakra
- Location: Pelvic basin
- System: Reproductive
- Gland: Adrenals
- Associations: Sexuality, appetite, creative powers, desires, sensations
- Color: Orange
- Element: Water
- Mantra: Vam
Belly Chakra Yoga Pose: Warrior II
- Stand with your feet wide apart. Point your right foot to the top of the mat, and turn your left foot slightly inwards.
- Raise your arms parallel to the floor, reaching out actively from fingertip to fingertip.
- Bend your front knee to 90 degrees, making sure to keep your knee over your ankle. Press back through the outer edge of your left foot.
- Keep your torso perpendicular to the floor, lengthening the space between your shoulder blades, broadening across your collarbones.
- Draw your tailbone slightly downwards, and gaze out across your right middle finger. Hold for up to a minute. Repeat on the other side.
3. Solar Plexus Chakra — Manipura Chakra
- Location: Solar plexus and navel
- System: Muscular and digestive
- Gland: Pancreas
- Associations: Power, determination, self-control, intellect, introversion/extroversion
- Color: Yellow
- Element: Fire
- Mantra: Ram
Solar Plexus Chakra Yoga Pose: Plank Pose
- Begin on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly under your shoulders.
- Spread your fingers and press down through your forearms and hands. Do not let your chest collapse.
- Gaze down, lengthening the back of your neck and drawing your abdominal muscles toward your spine.
- Tuck your toes and step back with your feet, bringing your body and head into one straight line.
- Keep your thighs lifted and take care not to let your hips sink too low. If your butt sticks up in the air, realign your body so your shoulders are directly above your wrists.
- Draw your pelvic floor muscles toward your spine as you contract your abdominal muscles.
- To deepen the pose, try lifting one leg at a time.
- Hold for five breaths, and then slowly lower your whole body onto the floor and rest.
4. Heart Chakra — Anahata Chakra
- Location: Heart
- System: Circulatory, respiratory, immune
- Gland: Thymus
- Associations: Compassion, love, acceptance, emotional openness, relating, giving
- Color: Green
- Element: Air
- Mantra: Yam
Heart Chakra Yoga Pose: Camel Pose
- Begin by kneeling upright with your knees hip-distance apart. Rotate your thighs inward and press your shins and the tops of your feet into the floor. Rest your hands on the back of your pelvis, fingers pointing to the floor.
- Lean back and take hold of each heel. Hold the outside of each foot with your thumbs. Turn your arms outward without squeezing your shoulder blades. Keep your head in a neutral position or allow it to drop back.
- Hold for up to a minute. To release, bring your hands back to your front hips. Inhale, lead with your heart, and lift your torso by pushing your hips down toward the floor. Your head should come up last.
5. Throat Chakra — Vishuddha Chakra
- Location: Throat
- System: Metabolism
- Gland: Thyroid
- Associations: Expression, abundance, manifestation, intuition, communication
- Color: Blue
- Element: Ether
- Mantra: Ham
Throat Chakra Yoga Pose: Bridge Pose
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
- Press your feet and arms into the floor as you lift your hips toward the ceiling. Keep your thighs and feet parallel.
- Roll your shoulders back and underneath your body, clasp your hands, and extend your arms along the floor beneath your hips.
- Hold for up to one minute. To release, slowly roll your spine along the floor, one vertebra at a time.
6. Third Eye Chakra — Ajna Chakra
- Location: Between eyebrows (third eye)
- System: Endocrine
- Gland: Pituitary
- Associations: Insight, wisdom, self-awareness, spiritual awareness, self-realization
- Color: Violet
- Element: Light
- Mantra: Om
Third Eye Chakra Yoga Pose: Tree Pose
- Begin in Tadasana. Slightly shift your weight to your left foot. Bend your right knee, reach down and clasp your right ankle. Use your hand to draw your right foot alongside your inner left thigh. Do not rest your foot against your knee, only above or below it.
- Rest your hands on your hips and lengthen your tailbone toward the floor. Fix your gaze softly in front of you. Press your right foot into your left thigh.
- For a deeper pose, extend your arms above your head, reaching your fingertips towards the sky. To deepen your pose, try closing your eyes.
- Hold for up to one minute. Step back into Tadasana, then repeat on the opposite side.
7. Crown Chakra — Sahasrara Chakra
- Location: Crown of the head
- System: Nervous
- Gland: Pineal
- Associations: Universal consciousness, intuition, connection with the divine, peace of mind
- Color: White
- Element: None, beyond the elements
- Mantra: None
Crown Chakra Yoga Pose: Corpse Pose
- Lie on your back and close your eyes. You may want to cover your body with a blanket.
- Allow your body to feel heavy on the ground. Let your legs and arms drop open.
- Working from the soles of your feet up to the crown of your head, release each body part, every organ, and every cell. Let your eyes close heavily. Invite deep peace and silence into your mind, body, and soul.
- Stay in Savasana for 5-15 minutes. Then, deepen your breath, bringing gentle movement and awareness back to your body. Roll to your right side. With an inhalation, gently press yourself into a comfortable seated position. Take this peace you've created with you throughout the rest of your day.
A Fine Balance
Practicing yoga regularly is a fun and easy way to bring your chakras into alignment. Through yoga and meditation, you can find balance in your body, mind, and spirit. Purifying your energy centers allows your health and wellbeing to flourish.