The word chakra means “wheel” in Sanskrit. Ancient Indian philosophers used the term to describe the spinning vortexes of energy found within the body. The idea of this energy system is over 4,000 years old and mentions of them can be found in the Vedas, Upanishads, and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
While Chakras are not physical entities they are located around major nerve clusters and glands. There are seven major chakras, and several to several hundred minor ones (depending upon the text you read). The main Chakras are found in the center of the body, following the spine. Around and through them flow three separate but inter-related channels of energy, or nadi: Shushumna, Ida, and Pingala.
Shushumna runs straight up the center of the body. To the left is Ida and its energy runs downward. To the right with its energy running up, Pingala. These two nadis wrap around Shushumna like the medical caduceus, and where they cross you find a major Chakra. Some traditions have all three channels joining together at your 3rd eye, while others have it at the crown. All start at the base of your spine. Each Chakra spins in an opposing direction, depending on the flow of Ida and Pingala.
The spin of the Chakra is key, as it means that energy is flowing properly and all is balanced. If it starts to spin too fast, you can have an overactive Chakra. If the energy slows or stops, you end up with a blocked Chakra. You can have a Chakra that has gotten out of alignment. You can even have one that is both over- and under-active. In all instances, you end up with an unbalance that affects the whole system.
Each of the seven main Chakras hold sway over various mental, emotional, and physical systems within your body. They each represent a different and vital aspect of your growth and development. While they may not be physically present, they can be an invaluable tool for self-exploration and personal growth.
As you explore on your own, you will find a wealth of information and differing opinions on how many Chakras there are, where things begin and end, and even their colors and purpose. As will all things, take what works best for you personally and leave the rest knowing that it will work for someone else. Also know that with such depth of knowledge comes a lifetime of learning and further exploration, both of the subject matter itself and your inner world.
Each of the next seven posts will focus exclusively on one of the seven major Chakras. We will start at the base of the spine (most accurately and tellingly, the “root” chakra) and make our way to the top (the “crown” chakra).
I hope you enjoy this series, and please feel free to get in touch and ask questions.
Bailey, J (2007). Discover the Ida and Pingala Nadis, Yoga Journal. http://www.yogajournal.com/article/philosophy/balancing-act-2/
Judith, A. (2004). Eastern Body, Western Mind (2nd Edition). Celestial Arts Publishing, Berkeley CA.
Judith, A. (2012). Wheels of Life: The Classic Guide to the Chakra System (2nd Edition). Llewellyn Publications, Woodbury, MN.
Mercier, P. (2000). Chakras: Balance Your Body’s Energy for Health and Harmony. Godsfield Press, New York, NY.