by Ulrica Norberg
In yoga, chakras are understood to be internal energy centers; our internal compasses, our internal radar on which we gauge our spiritual health. Yet, what are they? Can we scientifically prove their existence? Do we have to prove in order to still grasp their existence? How could a chakra yoga practice benefit you?
Chakra means ‘wheel‘ in sanskrit and indicate that energy moves through us in spiral wheel vortexes and come to life due to junction points called nadis (energy channels) where so called prana, life force, merge.They also works as junction between how energy is vibrating on the inside and from the outside. Like calibrators. And chakrayoga is a conscious practice on maintenance on the junction points. In Ayurveda we focus on aiding the process of making energy move smoother and that the inner energy is equally as balanced as the external. When the two are compatible, then we fall into balance. So there is always an action. Yet in order to act, we need to monitor and observe. Here, breathing and reflection comes in. In order to help ourselves get stronger and more in tune with our potential throughout life, we need to act on aways to yoke our polarities as humans. And to more and more understand our individuality.
Chakras as a refined system were first described in the Indian scriptures called the Vedas thousands of years ago and according to the Tantric tradition, there are 144 Chakras within the body in total, and 7 of them run along the spine from the base of the spine to the crown of the head, and are considered to follow the curvature of the spine. There are actually several different Chakra system theories. The 5 chakra system focusing more on the collaboration in between the elements, the 7 chakra system as I touched upon above, the 12 chakra system, with its vast overview of all major joints also intertwined in the communication of energy through the joints, vertebrates and tissues. In the west we still have a long way to go to grasp the connection and then find a systemized approach, yet daily we learn more on the myofascia and its innervated tissues. So we see today that our connective tissue has a far more heightened role that we initially thought.
Chakras could be seen as the core in the seven segments of the body where each segment from base of the spine to the top, needs to communicate with the others in order to be in health. In life, these wheels spin by energy moving through them and when they all spin in synchronicity we reach homeostasis, sattva; balance in the individual. Each chakra governs certain aspects of our health and each of the seven spine oriented chakras, coincide and correspond to our major nerve ˙plexus’ or nerve ‘bundles’.
Everything is Energy
When we think, breathe, function or even resting, electrical energy is flowing through our bodies via our neurons and nerve pathways. The movement of energy is vital to life. We often refer to space as empty and matter as solid. In fact, from a subatomic level, most of what is contained within an atom is 99,9 % space and nothing of matter. Mostly unsubstantial. All matter is held together via energetic bonds and consist of these atoms, of which most, is space.
Everything that exists as far as we know connects via magnetic energy and is electrical energy. This is a widely accepted theory in quantum physics and a scientifically proven fact and in spirituality, the movement of energy is the central, and fundamental core around which energy methods are based. Ancient practices such as Marma therapy, reiki, yoga and tai chi focus on the manipulation of energy to achieve well being. The theory lies within the idea that if we can through muscle, nerv or blood manipulation release tension and energy holdups, then energy is rebalanced and the flow is restored.
By far, the most energetic processes within our bodies are caused by our nerve tissues and specifically our Nervous System. The nervous system is the communication of the body and the part in us that coordinates our involuntary and voluntary actions, and transmits signals to and from different parts of the body and brain. Our nervous system is like a grand network of liaisons and each part is both its own and in complete correspondence with the other aspects. The Central Nervous System (CNS) is associated within the brain and spinal cord, and The Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) connects the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body, via ‘rivers‘ like nerve fibres (Nadis).
This system is what correlates with the chakras. In the PNS lies different categories and relevant in the focus of the chakras is the autonomic nervous system (ANS) since it deals with automatic; involuntary responses within the body. The unconscious and subconscious as well if we look to some studies (and according to yogic philosophy). ANS regulate digestion, heart rate, sneezing, swallowing and breathing. All these processes are regulated by the hypothalamus in the brain.
The Autonomic Nervous System is further divided into the Sympathetic Nervous System (activated in emergencies to move energy, the ‘fight and flight’ responses) and the Parasympathetic Nervous system (activated when ‘resting and digesting’). It is the Parasympathetic Nervous System (part of the automatic nerve response system) which has the greatest relevance to the areas where the Chakras are thought to be located.
Much like other forms of Body/Mind stimulating art forms, Chakra Yoga includes techniques that specifically focus on mind over matter and allows participants to move through and fully connect with different levels of energy within the body. Chakras are seven key points in the subtle body that are thought to be vortexes where energy is running through. The chakras are connected to our physical body through the spine and nervous system, since they stem from the spinal column.
The most direct way to use the chakras is to learn how each one is associated with an element in nature. As Alan Finger, founder of ISHTA Yoga, explains, the first five chakras are associated with the physical elements earth, water, fire, air, and ether (or space). The last two chakras are thought to connect us beyond the earthly realm, so they are associated with the elements of light and cosmic energy.
Once you learn the element that each chakra is associated with, you can start to figure out how that element feels in your body. And thinking about your body in these symbolic terms can help you access new stores of energy with the practices detailed in these pages. For example, the root chakra is associated with earth. When it’s in balance, we feel strong and grounded; when it’s out of balance, we may feel unrooted and insecure. Or take the pelvic chakra, which is associated with water. When it’s in balance, we feel fluid and like our creative juices are flowing. When it’s not, we might feel rigid, dry, or emotionally brittle, like a plant that hasn’t been watered enough.
In order to restore balance in your chakras, you must first tune in to how you’re feeling, then figure out which chakra to stimulate to counteract the imbalance. For example, if you’re feeling low in energy, you can do poses that target the navel chakra to rekindle your inner fire.
If you’re feeling anxious and long to feel more grounded, choose poses for the earthy root chakra. Or if you seek more courage to speak your truth, the right poses can open and stimulate the throat chakra. Start by thinking of chakras as a blueprint for your own self-care, and your yoga practice as the architect that makes that blueprint a reality. When energy becomes blocked in a chakra, it triggers physical, mental, or emotional imbalances that manifest in symptoms such as anxiety, lethargy, or poor digestion. A well-tuned asana practice can free up energy and stimulate an imbalanced chakra, paving the way for that wonderful internal shift for which yoga is known.
So no, we can’t “prove” that the chakras operate as inbound centers that govern all energy inside of us. Yet.
But what we do know in science today is that moving our bodies, doing breathing exercises and mediate everyday, makes more people create higher awareness, greater health and happiness so from that perspective, the ancient yogis were on to something.
Even the native populations of the world; Native Americans, Aztec, Inkas, Maya, Maori, Aboriginees, Sami and several African tribes, all work from that centerline-in-our-body- perspective. That when we align our inner and outer energy forces and integrate more creativity and self- realization into our living, we grow not only as an individual, but as people.
As I see it, yogis and ancient populations “got” the human architecture because they bothered and invested in looking both on the inside and outside of themselves. And the connection between them. With the benefit of humanity and future generations to come, not of their wallets and self gain. That to me is an inspiring idea.
For me personally, thanks to having studied the chakra theory and integrated a more energetic aspect on my practice and life, my health has improved greatly; physically, mentally, spiritually, creatively and emotionally. Far beyond of what I thought was ever possible. Through investigating the more energetic part of life and living, I got to more get a sense of how everything correlates to everything. I cant just pull in one direction and assume all ends fall into place. Its all integrated and once you see how, you have more choices in how to affect your health.
For me this thought is that of a humanist. And I resonate with that. Greatly.
I will always aim to inquire, investigate and explore aspects I don´t grasp or understand. And share my findings.
One motto that I have come up with and resonate with me is
“Touch it, Feel it, Move it, Taste it, Digest it, Claim it, Sit with it, Share it and you will have come full circle to let it go and begin again”. (feel free to quite me if you like)
With just a little bit of coaching, you can also tap into the chakras as a potent way of harnessing and shifting your energy in the direction you want it to go.