This autumn in the Tuesday class we are taking a look at the chakra system. The chakras are part of the body’s energy system, pranamaya kosha. Chakra means ‘wheel’ and in this case it refers to wheels of energy or prana at the conjunction of energy channels in the body. There are said to 72,000 of these energy channels or nadis, and they can be considered as akin to the energy channels targeted by practitioners of acupuncture. There are varying school of thought regarding the number of chakras, and as these are part of our energy body rather than the physical one, it’s not as if we can ask surgeons to dissect them out and do a definitive count!
The most commonly recognised ones are located along the central energy channel sushumna, which itself is aligned with the spine, at the pints where the two other main energy channels, ida and pingala, cross over. Coincidentally, their locations correspond to nerve plexuses along the spine and also to the position of key endocrine glands, so there are some links to the workings of the physical body too. Each chakra is associated with certain characteristics and may have an impact on our psychological make-up.
In yoga traditions the chakras are represented as lotus blossoms with varying numbers of petals and may be open, allowing the energy to flow freely, or closed, in which case the energy is blocked. When this energy system is working well we are considered to be healthy and well-balanced. In the same way the nerve plexuses of the body ensure communication between the different body parts and the endocrine glands serve to balance the body’s functions through the release of hormones into the bloodstream.
Whether or not you believe in this energy system is a matter of personal choice, but the chakras can be useful to us as a point of meditation, when we might visualise them using the colours of the rainbow, as glowing points of light in the body or through consideration of their associated elements. You might like to try this one at home:
Begin as usual, settling the body and breath. The take your awareness to the base of the body and imagine this area being filled with the colour red, for muladhara chakra. Spend a few breaths with this colour. Keep this in your mind as you work upwards, repeating this with each colour in turn.
- Orange in the pelvis (swadisthana)
- Yellow at the navel (manipura)
- Green at the heart (anahata)
- Blue at the throat (vishuddi)
- Indigo between the eyebrows (ajna)
- Violet at the crown of the head (sahasrara)
Maintain all the colours for as long as you wish before letting them fade away.