The full moon shines in her completeness, for a moment embracing the glory of maximum potential. And then, like a deep exhale, she slowly retreats, shrinking down to her new moon identity, for a moment immersed in silent stillness. And then, like a deep inhale, she begins anew—birthing, growing, reaching, and retreating, again, and again, and again. The ocean waves crash to the sands and then sink back into the ocean, all the while shifting from high to low tides by the influence of Moon, Sun, and Earth. The planets spin around themselves, around each other in cyclical patterns, a spinning solar system in a spiraling galaxy in an endless universe. Even down to a tiny atom, the electrons spin circles around the central nucleus. Continuously, repeatedly, over and over, again and again, infinitely interconnected is this cycle, this circle, this wheel that exists within all that is. And so, we too hold within our own beings wheels of spinning energy, vortexes of life—the chakras.
In today’s Western world, most of us have heard the word “chakras,” but a complete comprehension of their vast meaning has not yet been immersed into our culture. Historically, while it is true that the chakras have deep roots in Vedic knowledge, to say exactly where and when the concept of the chakras originated is a bit like asking where and when the universe originated. The Sanskrit word, chakra, means “a wheel, a disc, or any arrangement in circular form or organization,”1 a concept that we cannot correlate with a timeline. As Swami Satyadharma writes in her translation of Yoga Chudamani Upanishad, “[t]he beginning of the Vedas is lost in the remote past. The eternal message of the Vedas was passed from one mind to the next, from one generation to the next, from one civilization to the next. It was probably passed on to the Aryan civilization by the previous civilization as it breathed its last breath. Knowledge is eternal; man is not.”2 More tangibly, we can see ancient reference to the chakras prominently in the Vedas, specifically in the Yoga Upanishads, which “…represent an important cultural merging of the vedantic and tantric traditions.”3 However, while we may think of the chakras from a yogic or tantric perspective, in reality (although interpreted in a multitude of ways), the chakras are weaved into cultures, religions, practices, and writings throughout human history. To know the chakras, we may look to the ancient Egyptians, the Sufis, the Kabbalists, the Chinese and their system of acupuncture, the Hopi Indians, the Theosophists, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Celtic traditions, the Bible, etc., as well as a growing number of New Age healers and intuitive beings.4,5 “[The chakras] are not confined to one system, for they constitute the fundamental makeup of man.”6
The chakras exist within the subtle body—another concept that defies the structure of definition. We can interpret the subtle body and its makeup in a myriad of ways, while still coming to the general consensus that we are not merely our physical form. According to Ayurvedic psychology, there are three bodies: the physical body (which is our gross, dense, tangible structure of feet, hands, skin, organs, etc.), the subtle or astral body (which is an energetic counterpart of the physical, relating to our mind, deep thoughts and emotions), and the causal or karmic body (which contains our karmic records and serves as the Divine connection to universal consciousness, or Purusha).7 In this sense, the chakras can be seen as a part of a bridge between our physical existence and the limitless potential of pure consciousness. Also within the subtle body are thousands of energy channels called nadis, which carry prana (vital life-force energy) throughout the body. As prana flows through the nadis, it collects in vortices known as the chakras. There are thought to be 72,000 nadis,8 and thus there are also thousands of chakras within this network.9 In her book Wheels of Life, Anodea Judith creates a useful analogy; we can think of the nadis as “back roads” or “telephone network[s],” and the chakras as “sacred chambers” or “temple[s]”.10 Essentially, the nadis serve as a transportation system for prana to flow, meeting and pooling at the chakra points.
“The chakras are nonphysical centers of spinning energy,”11 “swirling intersections of vital life [force],”12 “which control the circulation of prana [throughout] the entire human structure.”13 Although there are thousands of chakras and thousands of nadis connecting them, in most systems (or at least those most well known and talked about today) we focus upon seven main chakras and three main nadis. The seven main chakras are as follows: Muladhara (root), Svadhisthana (sacral), Manipura (solar plexus), Anahata (heart), Vishuddha (throat), Ajna (third eye), and Sahasrara (crown).14 The three main nadis are Sushumna, Ida, and Pingala.15 Remembering that the chakras and the nadis are part of the subtle body, which is an energetic template of the physical, we can correlate them to specific locations of the physical body. Specifically, the Sushumna nadi “flows straight up through the centre of the spinal cord,”16 and along the Sushumna rests each of the seven chakras from root to crown, Muladhara to Sahasrara, each residing within a region of the physical body (or really, its energetic counterpart).17 “Ida emerges from the left of mooladhara and pingala from the right. They ascend the spinal pathway alternately, crossing over at each chakra point.”18
“Like flowers, chakras can be open or closed, dying or budding, depending on the state of consciousness within.”19 As Joy Gardner explains in Vibrational Healing through the Chakras, “As [we journey] through life, [we] respond to various events by opening up or closing down physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually. Theoretically, a person who is fully enlightened is [fully] open at all the chakras and is not susceptible to these kinds of fluctuations.”20 According to modern day quantum physics, “the universe is nothing more than vibrating strings of energy”21 and everything in existence has its own vibrational frequency. This includes our chakra centers. Our experiences in this life and the many preceding it (if one believes in past lives) influence the state of our chakras.22 That is, whether our energy centers are vibrating at low or high frequencies, in or out of harmony, rests upon our karmas (actions) and our samskaras (the “grooves” that we instill deep within our psyche, our habits, our patterns, our deep-rooted tendencies).23 One may say that the goal of working with these subtle energy centers is to shift into a high frequency state of being, in which we are aligned with our highest Self, Universal Truth, the Divine, or any other title one chooses to associate with the state of pure harmonic existence. Similarly, the tantric and yogic texts speak of kundalini, “the primordial energy,”24 depicted symbolically as a serpent, dwelling at the root of the spine, in muladhara chakra. This energy lies dormant, until our consciousness allows it to awaken. Here in muladhara, rests Shakti, the feminine primordial energy, “the Great Mother of the universe[,][…] the inventor of maya.”25 Her male counterpart, Shiva, pure consciousness, rests at the crown of the head, in sahasrara. When kundalini awakens, Shakti begins her ascent up the sushumna nadi, awakening the major chakras. “When Shiva and Shakti unite in sahasrara, one experiences Samadhi, [and] illumination occurs.”26 After they remain unified in Sahasrara for a time, “Shiva and Shakti both descend to the gross plane and there is again knowledge of duality.”27 While this may seem counter-intuitive, Swami Satyananda explains that through the descent of kundalini, we can return to the physical plane with a “transformed consciousness,” with the complete understanding that life is maya—an illusion—and that we are “just playing a game.” He writes, “[i]t is at this time that the genius or the transformed consciousness manifests through you.”28 Regardless of the language or symbolism that we choose to associate with awakening the chakras, the concept is the same: to bring awareness to every layer of our being, and thus clear blockages that may be inhibiting our chakras from spinning at their highest frequency potential, leading us to a more blissful existence. Because truly, for what else other than bliss, do we live?
While the chakras are subtle in nature, and thus not visible or tangible through the standard five senses, many people have associated various colors, symbols, animals, deities, sounds, elements, etc. with each of the main chakras, as a way of making them relatable and more easily accessed through the rational mind; these symbols can also help instill in our minds the powerful messages that each chakra has to share. Still, it is wise to remember that nothing of the subtle realm is set in stone, and all are entitled to their own perception. In tantric and yogic teachings, a lotus flower symbolizes each chakra. “Growing from mud, [the lotus flowers] symbolize a path of development from a primitive being to a fully blossoming consciousness, mirroring the base chakra rooted in Earth, which evolves into the ‘thousand-petaled lotus’ at the crown of the head.”29 Each symbol holds a different number of petals, representing the number of nadis leading to and from the chakra.30 According to Sankhya philosophy (one of India’s oldest philosophical systems), the entire universe is built upon the five great elements (pancha maha bhutus): ether, air, fire, water, and earth. And in this creation of the universe, came the tanmatras, or the potential for sensory experience: sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell. Our human forms then acquired the five sense organs (pancha jnanedriyani)—ears, skin, eyes, tongue, and nose—so we could perceive our reality. And finally, to act in the world, we developed the five organs of action (pancha karmendriyani): hands, mouth, feet, genitals, and anus.31 Thus, each of the first five chakras is associated with an element, a sensory organ, and an organ of action. Coming back to vibration, each of the five elements has a corresponding seed sound or bija mantra, and thus we link the elemental forces of the chakras to specific sound vibrations.32 Ayurveda (ancient Indian medicine) and yoga speak of the five vayus (apana, prana, samana, vyana, and udana). These are “the vital airs, active in all beings, which are responsible for existence and life;”33 and thus, each chakra corresponds with a vayu. Physically, the chakras correlate to specific locations, body tissues and glands. And perhaps most importantly, each energy center correlates with a specific function on a physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual level.34 Knowledge of the way the chakras function individually as well as in relationship to one another can be a powerful tool along the journey to inner harmony. Through this process of knowing the chakras, it is wise to remember that we can choose to wear any pair of glasses we wish in order to “see” them. We can choose the yogic and tantric lenses, transporting our awareness into a world of symbolic lotus flowers, shapes, colors, and deities reminding us of their meaning, we can switch our lenses and see them as bright, glowing, orbs of light, or we can craft glasses of our own, showing us exactly the image that truly resonates in our own personal frame of existence. There is no right way; that which allows the individual to obtain the deepest level of healing is that which should be utilized.
When we look at a tree, we see its trunk, branching into leaves and flowers, gathering energy from the sun that dances through the vastness we call sky. Yet deep below that trunk is a network of intertwining roots, gathering nutrients and the support it needs to grow sturdy and tall from the sweet nectar of Mother Earth. Her branches could never blossom into decadent fruits if it were not for the strength gathered deep below. We can see muladhara chakra within our own beings like those roots. Just from the name, ‘mula’/’moola,’ meaning ‘root’ and ‘adhara’ meaning ‘support,’ we can clearly see this truth; the base chakra, muladhara, is our ‘root support.’35 Physically, muladhara chakra resides just inside the perineum (in men) and at the cervix (in women).36 Through the tantric/yogic lenses, we can visualize this chakra as a lotus of four, deep crimson petals, enveloping a golden square, its four corners like that of the four directions—a symbol for the element of Earth. Standing strong within this lotus is the seven trunked elephant, Airavata, teaching us of strength, support, and grounded stability, her seven trunks symbolizing the seven dhatus (tissues) of the physical body, “which are nourished on a cellular level by the earth element.”37 Rising up from her back rests a red triangle of creative energy, and within it lies kundalini-shakti, in a coil of three and a half; the number three represents the three gunas [the three states of matter—tamas (inertia), rajas (motion), and sattva (harmony)] and the one half symbolizes her ascent to the crown.38 Thus it is here in muladhara that our infinite potential of pure conscious existence begins to blossom—awaken. Through our sense organ of the nose, we perceive smell, our most primitive human sense,39 and with the downward-moving wind of apana vayu,40 we eliminate earthly waste through the action organ of the anus. This vayu of apana, this downward motion, also allows for the birth of a child, who is only able to grow with protection and nourishment from the womb’s earthly tissue. And if we listen, we hear the bija mantra of the earth element—‘Lum,’ ‘Lum,’ ‘Lum,’ vibrating steadily within.41 Changing our lenses to that of which some healers of modern time refer to as “The Rainbow System,”42 (relating to the visible light spectrum) we can see muladhara as a red, glowing light. Recalling that all is vibration, the color red has the slowest frequency of the seven colors we perceive with our human eyes.43 Again we are filled with this earth energy: slow, dense, heavy, grounded. Any system we choose, new, ancient, or not yet imagined, we always come back to this one element—Earth. Muladhara is Earth. And thus, its functions within our being are that of Earth. Muladhara chakra serves as the energy of security, survival, and form. In the physical sense, muladhara governs aspects of building as well as eliminating; when properly working, muladhara allows for strong asthi dhatu (bones), healthy elimination of waste, healthy ejaculation and ovulation, and a healthy sense of smell.44 We can correlate muladhara with the legs and feet (connecting us to the earthly force of gravity) as well as with the sciatic nerve, running down through the legs, “function[ing] much like a root for the nervous system.”45 In our mental/emotional body, muladhara chakra “is the centre of primitive and deep-rooted [survival] instincts,” ruling our sexual drive in its most basic sense: for “recreation and continuity of [the species] in the material world.”46 When muladhara functions in harmony with the universe, we experience security, “physical vitality, grounding and stability.”46 On a deeply spiritual level, “[a]ll of the passions are stored in mooladhara, all the guilt, every complex and every agony has its root here.”47 In awareness of this, the aspirant of spiritual transformation takes steps to purify lower vibrational, potentially detrimental thought patterns from the psyche, so that healing and growth may unfold, as kundalini rises toward Divine awareness. In a balanced state, muladhara creates the container for spiritual ascension—“the springboard to more elevated levels of [consciousness].”48 When muladhara chakra is functioning out of harmony, we may see this manifestation physically in the legs, feet, sciatic nerve, large intestine, sexual organs, bones, teeth, hair, nails, and sensory perception of smell. Psychologically, we can see this imbalance manifested as fear, instability, or being overly “stuck” in the material realm. Spiritually, one may be unaware that anything other than the physical world exists, creating limitation in his or her ability to blossom; contrarily, one may become lost in the ethers of spiritual transcendence and lose the earth needed to maintain physical health and balance.49
‘Vum,’ ‘Vum,’ ‘Vum,’50 vibrates within as we remember the rivers, the oceans, the lakes, the streams, the fluids of our bodies, the tears we cry, the rains that renew—water, “a symbol of the soul,” “the prime substance of the universe.”51 Even the roots of muladhara could not sustain without water, and thus we journey up the sushumna to svadisthana chakra—the six-petaled, vividly colored, red-orange lotus flower. Within the lotus is a silver crescent moon, symbol of the water element, the feminine aspect of creation. The female body is intertwined in a deep connection with the moon; her monthly cycle aligns with the lunar phases, allowing for creation of new life—new life that is nourished through the fluids and waters of the womb. And it is through the water element that we feel the depths of emotions, flowing and shifting like the ocean waves. Looking to the name, ‘svadisthana’ breaks into ‘sva’ meaning ‘self’ and ‘adisthana’ meaning ‘dwelling place;’ thus, svadisthana is the resting place of the self. 52 We find deep spiritual meaning in this ‘self-abode’ by looking to the vayu of svadisthana—prana, the inward moving air.53 Prana is contained within the water element, and within svadisthana chakra, we hold “the seeds of birth and rebirth.”54 As “the seat of the unconscious mind” and “the storehouse of karmas,”55 svadisthana chakra essentially collects and retains vibratory imprints of our actions, patterns, and tendencies, storing them within this water element of the second chakra. Masaru Emoto elaborates upon this concept through his studies of water; by exposing water to words, images, music, etc., he observed and photographed physical changes to their molecular structure. For instance, water given positive intention through words such as ‘love’ formed beautiful, snowflake-shaped crystal structures, and when exposed to more negative vibrations such as hateful words or music, the water shifted into patterns of disarray.56 Just as a lake can become murky with mud, our unconscious minds can become clouded with vibrational blockages, inhibiting our pure, sattvic potential. However, by “[w]itnessing the deep-rooted samskaras […] and realizing them one at a time,” we begin to “[awaken] the unconscious mind,”57 allowing for the release of negative vibrations and the open space for higher frequency energy patterns to emerge. At the level of the senses, we see svadisthana associated with the tongue, awaking the sense of taste. This water element, saliva (rasa), flows through our mouth, enlivening the taste buds and the subsequent pleasure we feel. Next, we look to the organ of action, the genitals, and we see again that svadisthana is the center of sensory pleasure. Moving past muladhara, which relates to sexuality purely for survival of the species, svadisthana brings desire for sexual union with another. Here, is the force of duality, attraction, and connection. Physically, svadisthana is located at the coccyx or tailbone, while its chakra kshetram (contact point in the front of the body) lies just above the pubic bone.58 Svadisthana relates to the shukra dhatu (egg and sperm), the prostate gland, testes, ovaries, as well as the kidneys, which assist in water regulation in the body.59 Thus when balanced, we see healthy egg and sperm, urination, and a well-functioning sense of taste. Imbalances can occur physically in any of these regions. In the mental/emotional realm, we see sexual desire, feeling, emotion, creativity, and attachments.60 To assess the state of balance psychologically, we can look within and observe our own subtle state of water. Do we desire in excess? Are we nourished on a soul level by our sexual relationships? Do we love conditionally, creating judgment around what does or does not deserve love; or do we love unconditionally? Are we overly attached to the physical world? Are we able to channel creativity? Asking such questions can help one to recognize the state of pranic flow through svadisthana chakra, and consciously shift the energy to a harmonic state.61 “The rishis say that the same energy which flows through passion, when channeled, manifests as devotion. Channel this same energy again and it manifests as spiritual experience.”62 In accordance with spiritual growth, it is important to address the role of sexual energy. Some schools of thought encourage the idea that celibacy is necessary for spiritual ascension; however, according to tantric ideals, this is not necessarily the case. Unless someone chooses celibacy entirely by personal choice, unwillingly suppressing this energy can lead to far greater imbalance. As explained by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, “Sexual relationships are not a sin, but the consciousness must awaken and the purpose of the whole act must be transmuted…If you think that to be a yogi you must give up sex, why don’t you also give up eating and sleeping? Yoga has nothing to do with giving up these things; it is only concerned with transforming their purpose and meaning.”63
It starts as a spark, then a flicker of blue light, slowly traveling up to a center of pale, golden yellow, finally shifting to pure white light at the tip: a flame; growing, leaving red and orange embers in its tracks, as it burns, transforms. Just as the earth holds a core center of glowing yellow, burning hot iron, we hold in our bodies a core center of heat, light and power—manipura chakra, a bright yellow lotus64 with ten blue petals. Inside the lotus is a red triangle, holding a ram—a symbol of fire. ‘Mani’ means ‘gem’ or ‘jewel,’ and ‘pura’ means ‘city;’ thus, manipura is the ‘city of gems.’65 Through our sense organ of eyes, we perceive sight, only made reality through light—the light of fire. And with our organ of action, feet, we walk our path with clarity. Physically, manipura rests in the center of the spine, behind the navel center, where the bija mantra of fire, ‘Rum,’ pulsates within this solar plexus: our core.66 The wind that rules is samana vayu, moving from periphery to center,67 stimulating our inner fire, our digestive force (agni), “responsible for the absorption of nutrients and distribution of [energy] to the entire system.”68 Manipura, related to our red blood cells (rakta), the small intestine, liver, spleen, pancreas, adrenal glands, and eyes, “is the centre of vitality in the physical body, where the heat necessary to maintain and support life is generated.”68 It is here in our third chakra that the fire element transforms earth and water (inherent in all food) into energy (nutrients). When physically balanced in manipura, these body tissues function optimally: agni (force of metabolism) digests food completely, keeps our body temperature stable, and functions in harmony with samana vayu, which absorbs prana and vital nutrients from food. However, imbalance in manipura chakra may result in numerous forms of digestive disturbance or disease as well as issues of the eyes and blood.69 The mental/emotional influence of manipura relates to “dynamism, power, control, status and ego identity,”70 words often viewed in negative context, because of the cultural power systems that have influenced our relationship to inner strength. Essentially, as Anodea Judith explains, there is a collective imbalance of the manipura chakra:
- When our world is ruled by strangers, we see only through machines; when our voice seems too small to be heard, estrangement is reinforced. It makes individuals easy to control, easily manipulated into serving some larger body that promises to return elements of our lost power to us piecemeal[.][…]We are taught from a very young age to submit our will to another[.][…]With an absence of power within, we may constantly seek stimulation, excitement, and activity, afraid to slow down, to feel the emptiness inside.71
However, we can cleanse and harmonize manipura by fully embracing and embodying inner strength in its highest sense. “True will requires deep communication with the self, trust in your own volition, and the willingness to take risks and accept responsibility for those risks […] Power within is an openness to the flow of power around us, and our wills wrap themselves around our purpose gracefully when these powers [within and around] are aligned.”71 That is, when our own will is “in harmony with the greater Cosmic Will,”71 manipura radiates with the quality of light needed to “manifest [our] dreams and desires.”72 “According to Buddhist tradition and many of the tantric texts[,] mooladhara is the seat of kundalini, swadisthana is the abode, and the awakening takes place in manipura. This is because from manipura the awakening becomes ongoing […] Up to this point, kundalini may awaken and arise many times, only to recede again, but awakening of manipura is what we call a confirmed awakening.”73 And so we begin to see that in a spiritual sense, if our consciousness is able to rise from the density of earth, and work through the unconscious layers of our karmic waters, then “fire [will] ignit[e] the light of consciousness,” and “as we activate our power, we direct our activites toward a higher purpose.”74 Through this we “[gain] the ability to discern truth from illusion. The mind becomes single pointed on the highest goals of the soul.”75 It is in this space of conscious, high vibrational existence that manipura truly shines like a ‘city of gems.’
“Breathe in deeply, drawing in the air . . . as softness, depth and wisdom. As you breathe, spirit comes within your heart and touches you . . . moving you . . . changing you [. . .] Be thankful for this vessel that receives […] Anahata, Anahata, Anahata, Anahata. The sound of love.”76 Anahata means ‘unstruck,’ referring to unstruck sound or “the cosmic sound (shabdha brahman) . . . a sound that does not arise as a result of two objects hitting each other as do other sounds. [This sound] is uncaused.”77 It is “the internal, unborn and undying vibration, the pulse of the universe,”78 “AUM, the seed of all sounds.”79 Hence, it is here in the heart center, anahata chakra, that “the jivatma or individual soul resides.”80 The heart is the first organ to form in a budding fetus;81 in Ayurveda, it is the “seat of consciousness.”82 Within the symbol of anahata (a lotus of twelve deep red or blue petals), rests a six pointed star, two overlapping “colorless, gray or smoky green” triangles—a symbol of Air, “which moves in all four directions as well as upward and downward.”83 The upward-pointing triangle represents Shiva while the downward-facing one is symbolic of Shakti, joined together in harmony in anahata, the central chakra between the three above and the three below.84 Physically, anahata chakra lays “directly behind the centre of the chest.”85 Related to the heart, thymus, and lungs, states of physical imbalance of anahata chakra may manifest as asthma, high blood pressure, circulatory problems, or other ailments related to these tissues.86 However, Swami Satyananda Saraswati reminds us that, “although its physiological component is the cardiac plexus of nerves, the nature of this centre is far beyond the physiological dimension.”87 Some texts relate anahata to prana vayu, others to vyana vayu; both hold significance. Prana vayu, the inward moving air,88 flows down into the chest, drawing life-force energy into the body; through prana, we are reminded of the importance of this breath of life that sustains.89 Through vyana, “the all-pervasive force [of circulation90] which moves in every direction throughout the body,” we see anahata’s role in circulating this life-force throughout our beings; “if any prana becomes depleted, vyana steps in and maintains the balance.”91 Therefore, we see that, physically, psychologically, and spiritually, a major key to harmonizing the heart center is this force of balance: “balance between mind and body, inner and outer realms, self and other, giving and receiving.”92 It is through balance that the true essence of anahata emerges—that of unconditional love, compassion, serenity, patience, unity, artistic creativity, and inspiration.93 Relationships become no longer about duality and ego, but pure love and unity: “[ego] can never be subdued or eliminated unless you develop the highest form of love. Just as the sun removes darkness, love removes ego.”94 In opening the heart chakra, “one begins to love people and the objects of the world for what they are…,” accepting one’s own “nature, with its faults and positive qualities,” realizing “that everyone and everything is [perfect].”95 Perhaps easier said in words than truly embodied, we must begin the journey toward embracing unconditional love by first cultivating self-love. Anodea Judith beautifully conveys a message about harmonizing the heart center:
- Many people lose their alignment by giving too much, losing their ground, or giving when their energy is depleted. We are taught that selfishness is bad[.][…] In balance between all things, we need to get out of the polarities of ‘good’ and ‘evil.’ We need not be puritanically good to stroke our delicate egos, nor need we be selfishly evil. True love flows from one center to another, allowing each the freedom to dance their own part in their own unique way[.][…] Love is not something that is attached to an object. Love is a state of being in harmony with oneself[.][…] We need only to believe that it is around us at all times and in all things to find it within ourselves.96
As pure love resonates deeply within our own personal heart space, bija mantra ‘Yum’ singing sweetly within anahata chakra, we can then bring the associated sense (touch), sense organ (skin), and organ of action (hands) to a higher place of healing not only ourselves, but healing others as well.97 “Opening the heart chakra and developing compassion, connection, and understanding for those around [us] naturally gives rise to the urge to heal. The realization that we are all one dictates that, like a Bodhisattva, we cannot advance alone while others are ailing.”98
What is the medium that sound must travel across to reach our ears? Is it air? Or something that came before it? If I cup my hands to my mouth and breathe in all the air, what is left? Not air, you see. So certainly there must be an element even subtler. We know it as ether, akasha, or space; it is “the substratum of sound,”99 the source of all matter, the container of life. Vishuddha chakra, meaning ‘purification centre,’100 is portrayed as a lavender gray,101 sixteen petaled lotus. Within the petals, a white elephant rests inside of a circle that is “white like the full moon,”102 symbolizing ether. Through our sense organ of the ears, we hear the whispers of the bija mantra of ether: ‘Hum.’103 Then with the action organ of the mouth and wind of udana vayu (upward, outward moving air),104 we speak our Truth. Located just behind the pit of the throat, vishuddha chakra relates to the thyroid and parathyroid glands, larynx, pharynx, throat,105 mouth, vocal cords, and bronchi.106 Thus, one may experience physical imbalance of vishuddha through manifestations such as hearing, speech or breathing problems, neck or throat pain, thyroid disorders, as well as issues of self-expression. On a mental level, vishuddha is the “centre of communication and self expression.”107 “To enter the fifth chakra is to tune our consciousness into the subtle vibrational field that is all around us.”108 In doing so, we “begin to flow with the current of life,”109 surrendering as it unfolds in its own perfect way. When aligned to the high frequency potential of vishuddha, this ‘purification centre’ truly becomes pure, and hence “arises the ability to discriminate between the lower mind and the higher mind, vidya and avidya, and thus to speak the truth.”110 To gain a clear and vivid understanding of a harmoniously functioning throat chakra, we can look to the words of Shalila Sharamon and Bodo J. Baginski:
- With a completely open throat chakra you express your feelings, thoughts and inner knowledge freely and without fear, […] capable of revealing your weaknesses or […] your strengths. Your […] honesty towards yourself and others is expressed by your upright posture. […] If appropriate, you can also remain silent and listen to others with all your heart and understanding. Your speech is imaginative and colorful, yet at the same time perfectly clear. It communicates your intentions in the most effective way for achieving the fulfillment of your wishes. Your voice is full and melodious. When faced with difficulties and resistance, you remain true to yourself and are able to say “no”, if that’s what you mean. Other people’s opinions do not sway or manipulate you; instead you maintain your independence, freedom and self-determination. Being free of prejudices and possessing great inner spaciousness, you are open to the reality of subtle dimensions. From them you [trustingly] receive the guidance of your inner voice, which leads you on your way through life. […] You recognize that all manifestations in Creation have their own individual message[.][…] All the means you employ for creative expression […] convey wisdom and truth. Out of your inner independence and the free expression of your entire being arise deep joy and a feeling of completeness and integrity.111
Take a moment to imagine that you are in a magical forest. Surrounded by enchantingly sweet-scented flowers, you hear the dancing footsteps of birds, as they sing soft melodies; feathered wings emerge from your back, a warm breeze lifts you up, and you gracefully fly into a violet sky. Surely in reality you sit here with black letters before your eyes, but for a moment, you were able to embrace, perhaps even see, a fantastical reality. It is through this eye of the mind that we are able to think, to imagine, to perceive that which is beyond the physical dimension. We know it as the Third Eye—“the eye that looks inwards instead of outwards:”112 ajna chakra. Depicted as a “luminescent white”113 lotus of two petals, one petal holds a symbol of the moon (representing ida nadi), while the other holds a symbol of the sun (pingala nadi). “Ajna is the point of confluence where ida, pingala and sushumna merge into one stream of consciousness. The merging of these three forces represents the transcendence of duality, and hence of ego and individuality.”114 As ajna chakra transcends physical matter, its element can be thought of as “subtle ether,”115 essentially, the mind. It is here that bija mantra, “Aum,” reminds us of “the source of all sounds.”116 ‘Ajna’ means ‘command,’ as the functions of this energy center are both “to perceive and to command;”117 through ajna, we access the window of perception, where we are able to visualize and thus create, or command, our reality.118 Physically, ajna chakra is located “directly behind the eyebrow centre.”119 While some texts relate ajna chakra with the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus (as these are the master glands of the endocrine system),120 others link ajna with the pineal gland (often referred to as ‘the third eye’), which helps regulate the body’s internal cycles, or circadian rhythms.121 Specifically, the pineal receives information from light entering the eyes, which in turn regulates the production of melatonin.122 It is interesting to note that sleep disorders are highly prevalent in the blind;123 that is, without the physical eyes to relay light messages, the pineal cannot properly regulate melatonin, and consequently, sleep cycles. Thus, with a physical imbalance of the ajna chakra, we may experience issues with sleep, vision, headaches, or other disorders related to malfunction of the pineal gland;124 in terms of the pituitary and hypothalamus, we may experience issues related to hormonal imbalance.125 However, with a highly developed ajna chakra, the functions of the physical body become irrelevant to the wisdom that lies within.126 “Like a doorway, [ajna] opens into higher realms of awareness beyond the manifest dimension.”127 “Ajna chakra is the centre of wisdom. It represents the level of awareness where one begins to see and realize the hidden essence behind all visible things. It is the centre of intuition where one tunes in with the underlying essence, rather than the manifested forms[.] […] Ajna is the witnessing centre. One becomes the unmoving witness of all events, including those of one’s own mind and body. Though involved, passively or intensely, in the play of life, one merely observes.”128 As ajna chakra blossoms, we may become more attuned with the clairvoyant potential within: “to be clairvoyant, we need to look in the spaces that are clear—to look at the fields of energy, not at the objects themselves; to look at relationships, not things; to see the world as a whole, and to reach with our minds directly and clearly for the information we want. The more clarity we have within ourselves, the better we’re able to see the subtle properties of the world around us.”129
Sahasrara is everything and yet also nothing. It is Consciousness. It is Oneness. It is Higher Self. It is Soul. It is Spirit. It is the Universe. It is the Divine. It is God. It is Brahman. It is All That Is. Depicted as the ‘one thousand’ petaled lotus at the crown of the head, sahasrara is the home of Shiva and Shakti, as they unite as one, in enlightenment: nirvana.130 Sahasrara is not really a chakra,131 rather a gateway to the Infinite: “[it] transcends all concepts and yet is the source of all concepts.”132 Sahasrara can be seen as the “causal ether:”133 the seed from which all things manifest. Ajna chakra is the gateway to this center, and all the preceding chakras like rings of a ladder, waiting for us to ascend.134 “The chakras are only switches. All the potential lies in sahasrara.”135 Here, we recognize that we are all one; all individual manifestations are simply pieces of the greater whole.136 A seed begins in its potential form, then starts to sprout, becoming a stalk, then a bud, finally bursting open to meet the light, where it radiates in its full potential. The flower will eventually descend and decay, returning to the Earth, but now, with the knowledge that it is in essence, a flower, and can carry this energy through its infinite layers of potential existence. We are just as this flower. Within us, a seed, the seed of universal consciousness, waiting to be remembered, so we may plant it and allow it to grow into its highest potential of pure, infinite bliss.
“As soon as frequencies flow into the chakras that are higher and purer than the energies present in the chakra itself, they begin to vibrate faster, and the slower frequencies of the blockages dissolve step by step. […] It is as if a fresh breeze were blowing through our energy system. […] The nadis […] pulse with vital energy, and body, mind and soul begin to vibrate on a higher plane and radiate with health and joy.”137 Surely health and joy are common goals, although it seems not a simple task. Collectively, our world is full of imbalances at each chakra level. By gaining awareness of the cultural influences so deeply ingrained into our subtle bodies, we open the door for growth individually, and ultimately, as a whole species. In brief observation of the societal chakra system, we see the following imbalances:
Muladhara: we are disconnected from Mother Earth, abusing her resources, consuming denatured food, and most have forgotten the sacredness of the land
Svadisthana: sex is advertized as a commodity, shamed, suppressed, and exploited; we are not taught how to process our emotions or channel our creativity in healthy ways
Manipura: we are exposed to wars, violence, manipulation, control and greed, while our personal power is repressed
Anahata: we love others conditionally because self-love is not valued; our breathing is shallow (which inhibits fresh prana from rejuvenating our beings)
Vishuddha: we are surrounded with lies and massive overuse of technology; we are “lost” in the ethers, with no stable ground to support us, and thus we are unable to express our true and highest selves
Ajna: society provides little encouragement to go within or develop our intuition; we are unaware of our true abilities to visualize, manifest, and create the reality we truly desire
Sahasrara: many religions and belief systems are skewed, enforcing fear and placing power outside of the self; hence we are disconnected from Oneness
With such surroundings and teachings as these to shape us, it is no surprise that most individuals have deep-seated imbalances in the chakras. However, through awareness, we can understand our own set of blockages and work through them to establish inner balance. Despite living in a tumultuous world, we are blessed with a multitude of tools to guide us on the healing journey, including aroma, touch, light, color, sound, crystals, herbs, flowers, foods, affirmations, yoga, meditation, breath work, and the list is essentially endless. As the chakras are an interconnected network, any healing technique can affect any or all of the chakras. However, using their related element and sense can provide more specific healing. The following is a small introduction to the plethora of chakra healing techniques:
Earth : Muladhara : Smell
Aromatherapy: Scents, especially pure essential oils (abbreviated as EOs) of plants and flowers, have profound healing effects. Studies show that EOs decrease anxiety,138 promote relaxation, relieve stress, “have an effect on brainwaves and can also alter behavior.”139 Just as every human emits their own energy, so do plants, and thus, each type of essential oil has a particular gift to offer our chakras. Ways to incorporate include: putting EO drops into base oil (like sesame, sunflower, etc.) and massaging onto the chakra points, bathing with drops of EO in water, spraying aromatherapy mister on/around the body, using an aromatherapy diffuser in the home, etc.
Gem Therapy: “[Crystals] have been used for centuries to act as catalysts and to assist one in becoming re-united with [the universal source of perfection].”140 Taking millions of years to form “out of the elements of […] Mother Earth, [crystals] connect us with the protecting, fortifying and nourishing energy of this earth.”141 Again, like people, plants, and all that exists, each crystal carries a unique energy, and thus certain types can be used to help heal different imbalances. Ways to incorporate include: lying down and placing crystals on the chakra points (this allows the crystal to clear blockages and re-harmonize one’s energy), holding them, meditating with them, wearing crystals as jewelry, etc.
Time in Nature: “Nature operates…via relationships…, constantly communicating, balancing, altering, merging, evolving, creating, and transmuting. When aligned, and not resistant, to the nature of Nature, we enter into the dynamic creative flow of life.”142 Therefore, when we commune with the flowers, the grasses, the mud, the birds, the leaves, the branches, the roots, and all the wonders of the earth, we allow our energy bodies to realign with the harmonic resonance of the Universe. Ways to incorporate include: walking in nature, camping/backpacking, hiking, gardening, etc.
Water : Svadisthana : Taste
Diet / Food: We are what we eat. Many roots of imbalance come from the mass produced, packaged, denatured food we habitually consume. How can our chakras vibrate at their highest frequency if we feed ourselves low frequency food? Ayurveda strongly values both what we eat and how we eat. Shifting our diet to embrace whole, local, organic foods prepared and consumed with gratitude and LOVE is a key factor in balancing the chakras.
Water Therapy: Studies prove that water retains and responds to our thoughts and intentions,143 and thus can be an incredibly powerful tool in healing. Ways to incorporate include: drinking water that we infuse with a positive intention/affirmation (ie. ‘Thank you’ or ‘I love you’), cleansing in oceans or rivers, setting intentions at the time of the new moon and full moon, using flower essences, gem essences, etc.
Fire : Manipura : Sight
Chromotherapy: “Chromotheraphy provides colors to the electromagnetic body or the aura (energy field) around the body, which in turn transfers energy to the physical body.” Thus, “colors have a profound effect on us at all levels—physical, mental, and emotional.”145 According to the “Rainbow System,” the colors of the visible light spectrum relate to the chakras: muladhara / red, svadisthana / orange, manipura / yellow, anahata / green, vishuddha / blue, ajna / indigo, and sahasrara / violet. The specific vibrational frequency of each color can be used to treat imbalance. For instance, “when the first chakra has excess energy it manifests in conditions that we associate […] with red, such as inflammation, […] body heat, anger, jealousy, and rage. Blue […] can be used to calm and cool the energy.”145 Ways to incorporate include: colored lamps/light bulbs directed onto the body, wearing a certain color, color meditation, drinking color-charged water, wearing colored sunglasses, choosing foods based on color, exposure to sunlight, candle-gazing (trataka), spending time in nature, etc.
Air : Anahata : Touch
Touch Therapies: Countless methods of touch therapy (massage, marma, shirodhara, reiki, reflexology, etc.) can be of great assistance in balancing mind, body, and spirit. The Ayurvedic treatment known as Chakra Basti can be especially beneficial, as it works directly with the chakra points and allows for the “release of deep seated emotions”146 that may be causing blockages in the subtle body.
Breathing / Pranayama: Breath is the bridge between the body and the mind;147 “[it] is one of our most powerful tools for transforming ourselves: for burning up toxins, releasing stored emotions, changing body structure and changing consciousness.”148 As said in the ancient text, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, “[A] person who only half breathes, only half lives. He who breathes correctly acquires control of the whole being.”149 Most of us breathe on autopilot, allowing shallow breaths to guide us through life. By bringing awareness to the breath, whether through the various yogic techniques of pranayama (breath control) or by simply taking conscious and complete inhalations and exhalations, we can create a space of great harmony within.
Yoga Asana (Body Postures): There are many forms of yoga asana practice (Kundalini, Hatha, Iyengar, Vinyasa, etc.), but their basic principle is the same. “Asanas aim at influencing [body, mind, and consciousness] and molding and yoking them into one harmonious whole…Asanas loosen up the joints of the body, stretch and tone the muscles[,] remove [accumulated] poisons[,] harmonize the nervous [and endocrine] system[s] and…improve the functioning of all the internal organs…As such the uninhibited flow of prana brought about by asanas, leads to mental equilibrium and calmness…When the aches and pains and ailments of the body are removed and one is emotionally and mentally relaxed, then…the fetters of individuality can be released and one’s true nature – pure, infinite, all pervasive consciousness – can be realized.”150
Ether : Vishuddha : Sound
Sound Therapies: “Scientific findings confirm that all the particles in the universe…are determined by musical structures, frequencies and patterns.”151 “Everything has a peak range of vibration, and that range is known as resonance. When we are in balance, we are in resonance.”152 To relate, we can think of the common phrase, ‘that resonates with me;’ when we say this, we are indicating that our frequency is in harmony with that frequency, and it ‘feels right.’ Thus, we can use resonant sound frequencies to bring our chakras into alignment. Sound healing techniques include: chanting bija mantras (elemental seed sounds: Lum, Vum, Rum, Yum, Hum, Aum), repeating positive affirmations, listening to harmonious music such as classical, Indian ragas or nature sounds, singing, using singing bowls, tuning forks, etc.
Subtle and Causal Ether : Ajna and Sahasrara
Meditation: “People wander all over the world trying to find themselves, not realizing that the greatest marvel lies within…It is only by knowing the depths of the mind that we can really know ourselves as well as the world around us.”153 The purpose of meditation is to “enhance, soothe, and harmonize the vibrational aspects of the mind and body, cleansing the mind of its habitual clutter,” and ultimately, to attain self-realization—“the…act through which consciousness realizes itself.”154 While there are countless techniques of meditation (ie. Transcendental Meditation, creative visualization, chakra meditations, color meditation, yoga nidra, etc.), the true state of meditation cannot be taught. “It is only the personal experience of mediation, even if it is the faintest glimmer, that can make us realize the power, knowledge and joy that are our heritage.”155
Collectively, it is apparent that we have a great deal of growth and healing to do. But in nurturance of our heart chakras, it is wise to remember that all is perfect just as it is, right now. And through awareness, intention, and love, we each hold the power to realign with the Oneness that binds us all. As each of us journey further within, taking responsibility for our own selves, working to harmonize our inner chakra centers, we will find the strength to assist our fellow beings along the healing journey; and some day, the chakra system of the collective consciousness will begin to shine in its True state of Pure, Blissful Harmony.
Blessings on your journey. Namaste.
1. Harish Johari, Chakras: Energy Centers of Transformation (Destiny Books, 2000), 1.
2. Swami Satyadharma, Yoga Chudamani Upanishad (Yoga Publications Trust, 2003), 7.
3. Ibid. 20.
4. Swami Satyananda Saraswati, A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya (Bihar School of Yoga, 1981), 546-549.
5. Joy Gardner, Vibrational Healing Through the Chakras (Crossing Press, 2006), 12-20.
6. Ibid. 4, 546
7. Dr. Marc Halpern, Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine (Dr. Marc Halpern and the California College of Ayurveda), 199-201
8. Ibid. 2, Mantras 14b,15, p. 62-63.
9. Elephant Journal, 108 Ways to Heal Your Chakras. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/06/the-ultimate-guide-to-self-healing-with-yoga-chakras/
10. Anodea Judith, PH.D. Wheels of Life (Llewellyn Publications, 1987), 17.
11. Joy Gardner, Vibrational Healing Through the Chakras (Crossing Press, 2006), 6.
12. Ibid. 10, 4.
13. Ibid. 4, 545.
14. Ibid. 13.
15. Ibid. 2, 69.
16. Ibid. 2, 70.
17. Ibid. 7, 215 – 217.
18. Ibid. 16.
19. Ibid. 10, 16.
20. Ibid. 11, 29.
21. Altered States, Everything in Life is Vibration. http://altered-states.net/barry/newsletter463/
22. Ibid. 10, 24.
23. Ibid. 7, 31.
24. Ibid. 2, 93.
25. Ibid. 10, 29-30.
26. Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Kudalini Tantra (Yoga Publications Trust, 2000), 81.
27. Ibid. 26.
28. Ibid. 26, 83.
29. Ibid. 10, 16.
30. Ibid. 2, 40.
31. Ibid. 7, 15-17.
32. Ibid. 30.
33. Ibid. 2, 72.
34. Ibid. 7, 218-230.
35. Ibid. 4, 553.
36. Ibid. 26, 138.
37. Ibid. 1, 89.
38. Ibid. 26, 139.
39. Big Think, The Evolutionary Paradox of Our Sense of Smell. http://bigthink.com/videos/the-evolutionary-paradox-of-our-sense-of-smell
40. Ibid. 7, 64.
41. Ibid. 2, 41.
42. Ibid. 11, 22.
43. Ibid. 11, 61.
44. Ibid. 7, 218.
45. Ibid. 10, 60.
46. Ibid. 2, 42.
47. Ibid. 26, 142.
48. Ibid. 4, 553.
49. Ibid. 10, 64-71.
50. Ibid. 7, 220.
51. Masaru Emoto, The Healing Power of Water (Hay House, Inc., 2004), 3.
52. Ibid. 1, 95-96.
53. Ibid. 7, 60.
54. Ibid. 2, 44.
55. Ibid. 2, 58.
56. Ibid. 11, 2.
57. Ibid. 2, 59.
58. Ibid. 2, 42-43.
59. Ibid. 7, 220.
60. Ibid. 10, 112-121.
61. Ibid. 11, 35.
62. Ibid. 26, 154.
63. Ibid. 26, 142-143.
64. Ibid. 2, 44.
65. Ibid. 1, 105-108.
66. Ibid. 2, 44-45.
67. Ibid. 7, 61.
68. Ibid. 2, 45.
69. Ibid. 7, 221.
70. Ibid. 68.
71. Ibid. 10, 162-169.
72. Ibid. 69.
73. Ibid. 26, 159.
74. Ibid. 10, 151.
75. Ibid. 69.
76. Ibid. 10, 188.
77. Ibid. 4, 629.
78. Ibid. 2, 46.
79. Ibid. 1, 119.
80. Ibid. 78.
81. EuroStemCell, The heart: our first organ. http://www.eurostemcell.org/factsheet/heart-our-first-organ
82. Ibid. 7, 223.
83. Ibid. 1, 113.
84. Ibid. 1, 114.
85. Ibid. 26, 163.
86. Ibid. 10, 190.
87. Ibid. 85.
88. Ibid. 7, 60.
89. Ibid. 10, 196.
90. Ibid. 7, 62.
91. Ibid. 2, 75.
92. Ibid. 10, 198.
93. Ibid. 2, 46-47.
94. Ibid. 26, 171.
95. Ibid. 4, 629.
96. Ibid. 10, 206-207.
97. Ibid. 78.
98. Ibid. 10, 213.
99. Edwin F. Bryant, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (North Point Press, 2009), III.41, 375.
100. Ibid. 26, 173.
101. Ibid. 1, 123.
102. Ibid. 26, 174.
103. Ibid. 2, 47.
104. Ibid. 7, 63.
105. Ibid. 2, 48.
106. Ibid. 7, 226.
107. Ibid. 105.
108. Ibid. 10, 243.
109. Ibid. 4, 663.
110. Ibid. 105.
111. Shalila Sharamon and Bodo J. Baginski, The Chakra Handbook (Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 2000), 107-108.
112. Ibid. 4, 667.
113. Ibid. 1, 133.
114. Ibid. 2, 49.
115. Ibid. 7, 227.
116. Ibid. 1, 135.
117. Ibid. 10, 296.
118. Ibid. 10, 282.
119. Ibid. 26, 130.
120. Ibid. 7, 227.
121. Ibid. 4, 679-680.
122. Booth FM, “The Human Pineal Gland: A Review of the “Third Eye” and the Effect of Light,” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3435677
123. Adeoti C, Akang EE, “Disorders of the Sleep-wake Cycle in Blindness,” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20665459
124. Ibid. 10, 280.
125. Ibid. 7, 226.
126. Ibid. 26, 133.
127. Ibid. 2, 50.
128. Ibid. 4, 680-681.
129. Ibid. 10, 298-299.
130. Ibid. 127.
131. Ibid. 26, 189.
132. Ibid. 26, 189-190.
133. Ibid. 7, 228.
134. Ibid. 26. 135.
135. Ibid. 131.
136. Ibid. 10, 327.
137. Ibid. 111, 44.
138. Lee YL, Wu Y, Tsang HW, Leung AY, Cheung WM, “A Systematic Review on the Anxiolytic Effects of Aromatherapy in People with Anxiety Symptoms,” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21309711
139. Lis-Balchin M, “Essential Oils and ‘Aromatherapy’: Their Modern Role in Healing,” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9519666
140. Melody, Love Is In The Earth – A Kaleidoscope Of Crystals (Earth-Love Publishing House, 1995), 32.
141. Ibid. 111, 149.
142. The Alchemy of Holism, The Self & The Whole Symbiosis. http://www.thealchemyofholism.com/the-self
143. Radin D, Hayssen G, Emoto M, Kizu T, “Double-blind test of the Effects of Distant Intention on Water Crystal Formation,” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16979104
144. Samina T. Yousuf Azeemi and S. Mohsin Raza, “A Critical Analysis of Chromotherapy and Its Scientific Evolution,” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1297510/
145. Ibid. 11, 98.
146. Ayurveda Sanctuary, Chakra Basti. http://www.ayurvedasanctuary.net/treatment-chakra-basti.html
147. Ibid. 7, 203.
148. Ibid. 10, 214.
149. Ibid. 4, 23.
150. Ibid. 4, 45-48.
151. Ibid. 111, 135.
152. All Things Healing, Chakra Healing With Sound. http://www.allthingshealing.com/Music-Therapy-Sound-Healing/Chakra-Healing-With-Sound/9918#.VuTsVYyAOkp
153. Ibid. 4, 198.
154. Ibid. 10, 333-334.
155. Ibid. 4, 201.