Chakras (Introduction)

The chakra system originated in India more than four thousand years ago. References to chakras have been found in the ancient literature of the Vedas, the later Upanishads, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and most thoroughly in the 16th century by Swami Purnananda in a text called the Sat-Chakra-Nirupana.

The word chakra literally meanes “wheel” in Sanskrit. Chakras are whirling vortices of energy which exist on the level of the Pranamaya Kosha (pranic body). A chakra is a center of activity that receives, assimilates, and expresses prana (life force energy) through the network of prana vayus and nadis. The chakras collect, transform and distribute prana to each and every part of the body-mind system. Each chakra is located at a major nerve plexus of the body and, through the intake and distribution of prana, it’s involved in keeping the body organs of that area in proper working order. Each chakra does not just govern its corresponding body parts but also influences corresponding psychological and emotional qualities and represents particular functions of our being. If the intake and assimilation of prana is disturbed, a chakra becomes deficient or excessive, which eventually leads to corresponding dysfunctions or diseases. Yoga helps keep chakras in balance and maintain mental, emotional and physical health.

There are many chakras all over the pranamaya kosha but the minimal number of major chakras is seven. They are all located along the sushumna, the central energy channel which runs from the perineum to the crown of the head. In many of yoga’s practices we focus our awareness on the chakra trigger points along the spinal cord. However, many people find it easier to concentrate on the chakra kshetram - a contact center or trigger point of a chakra located at the front of the body. The kshetrams can be regarded as reflections of the original chakra trigger points, and when we concentrate on them, it creates a sensation which passes through the nerves to the chakra itself and then travels up to the brain.

Various esoteric cults and spiritual systems use different symbols to represent the charkas, but in tantra and yoga the chakras are symbolized by lotus flowers. As a symbol, the lotus is very significant. We have to pass through three clear stages during spiritual life, which represent our existence on three different levels: ignorance, aspiration and endeavor, and illumination. The lotus also exists on three different levels – it sprouts through the mud (ignorance), grows upward emerging from the water in order to reach the surface (endeavor and aspiration) and eventually reaches the air and direct sunlight (illumination). Thus the lotus symbolizes our growth from the lowest states of awareness to the awakening and blossoming of human potential.

Each chakra can be envisaged as an energy field that resembles a rotating color wheel, somewhat funnel or vortex-like, that can be seen as divided into a number of segments which according to tradition are called petals. On closer investigation, these petals appear to be small rotating vortices spinning at very high rates. Each vortex metabolizes an energy vibration that resonates at its particular spin frequency. The Muladhara, for example, has 4 small vortices and metabolizes 4 basic frequencies of energy, and so on for each chakra.
The colors observed in each chakra are related to the frequency of energy being assimilated at its particular rate. If during your concentration on a chakra you see a color different to the one others are referring to, do not worry as that color is the truth for you. Your experiences are just as valid as the ones of other yogis, but one thing is definite: as you move up through the chakras, the frequencies of the colors become more subtle and more powerful.

Each chakra is also associated with a particular vibration represented by beeja mantra (literally “seed sound”) and a symbolic design used for concentration and meditation called yantra (literally “instrument”). Each chakra is considered to possess a tanmatra – a specific sense of modality, a jnanendriya – the organ of sense perception, and a karmendriya – the organ of action.

Learning about the chakras helps to start seeing the body-mind-spirit through these energetic centers, and gives us powerful tools to heal the whole person rather than a particular symptom by balancing the chakra system.

Anatomy of the Spirit: the Seven Stages of Power and Healing by Caroline Myss

Chakra Yoga: Balancing Energy for Physical, Spiritual, and Mental Well-being by Alan Finger and Katrina Repka

Hands of Light: A Guide to Healing Through the Human Energy Field by Barbara Ann Brennan

Kundalini Tantra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati (BSY)

Satcakra-Narupana (Description of and Investigation into the Six Bodily Centres) by Swami Purnananda. Translated by Arthur Avalon

The Chakras by C.W.Leadbeater

The 7 Healing Chakras: Unlocking Your Body's Energy Centers by Brenda Davies

The Eight Human Talents: Restore the Balance and Serenity within You with Kundalini Yoga by Gurmukh

Wheels of Life: A User's Guide to the Chakra System by Anodea Judith
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