Posted on August 30th, 2011
Question: I am not very clear about what chakras mean. I am a beginner in yoga practice, so please pardon my ignorance. I have read a little about the 7 chakras, the areas they are present and the activities they govern. Often in yoga classes, instructors talk about chakras as sources of energy. What do they mean by this? Is there any biological significance of chakras as the source of energy? Is there any evidence?
Answer: Most people are quite familiar with the concept of ‘physical body’ and the physical practice of yoga postures or asanas.
We also have an energy body and energy practice. In Yoga, it is believed that everything and everyone is made of prana or life-force energy. This energy is brought into the body via breath hence the practice of pranayama (breathing exercises). This pranic energy circulates through a vast network of energy channels. These energy channels funnel into one main energy channel (called the Sushumna) that starts at the base of the pelvis and travels up to the crown of the head.
Along the line of the Sushumna are specific energy centers. These energy centers are called chakras.
Anatomically, the seven major charkas are located either along, or just in front of, the Sushumna. At the base of the spine lies the first chakra, called the Muladhara. Within the first chakra, latent pranic-energy called the kundalini-shakti exists. The Kundalini-shakti can be aroused and directed up the Sushumna. This energy can ascend through each chakra until it reaches the seventh or crown chakra, called the Sahasrara. It is believed that when this higher-level energy reaches the crown chakra, one moves into a greater state of internal connection and realization.
Each of the seven major chakras has its' own distinct character and relates to a unique aspect of our being. The chakras correlate to levels of consciousness, body functions, colors, elements, sounds, and much more. The blockage or energetic dysfunction in the chakras is believed to give rise to physiological, psychological, emotional, and spiritual disorders.
Some Yoga practices are designed so that specific Yoga poses, bandhas (energy locks) and meditation techniques target specific chakras to promote greater energy balance and well-being. You will notice that, anatomically, the chakras are situated in the same region as fundamental endocrine glands and organs. This gives insight and reasoning to the correlation that this energy centers govern specific bodily functions and through balancing these energy centers, one balances those organs, which then creates balanced function.
Yoga is considered a science in India and is treated as such with great amounts of study applied to all aspects of this practice. Just as we have people in Western universities mastering in specific areas of academics, there are specific areas of study and research conducted in India. As Yoga grows in popularity and importance in the West, eventually more concrete research will be conducted and made available.
For some, practicing with the intention to target energy centers can be a "philosophical challenge". It is a distinct practice in itself. To achieve the benefits of Yoga, one does not need to delve into the study of energy work. But by being open-minded, practicing past the obvious physical poses and connecting into the deep energy layers can be highly rewarding and, in many ways, very grounding experience - the practice moves to a greater state of purpose and moves out of the physical.
This is a huge area of study and I encourage you to research books in your local library and bookstore. One caution I offer is that you do not get attached to the concept of chakras. Some people become obsessed by chakra analysis and try to evaluate every negative feeling to possible "chakra imbalances". They then try to engage in energy work that may not be necessary or may be convoluted. Another caution is if you pursue energy work like receiving reiki or reflexology treatments, please go to those who are highly trained and experienced as energy work is a highly sensitive practice.
Expert Q & A provided by My Yoga Online teacher and Co-Founder, Kreg Weiss.
Tags: Kundalini, Yoga, Wellness, energy, Balance, health, chakras, prana, nadis, yoga expert, energy channels, life energy, Sushumna, reiki
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