A Crash Course on the Chakras

"Chakra” means, in a word, “wheel."

Imagine spiraling energetic channels along your spine. This is easy for some, but it’s like unicorn sci-fi for others. Uncomplicate the chakras with this quick, digestible overview.

Here’s what Anodea Judith, renowned author of the ultimate chakra book Wheels of Life, says about the importance of the chakras:

“The object of our work is to clean the chakras of old, non-beneficial patterns so that their self-perpetuating actions have a positive influence, and our life energy can continue to expand to higher planes.”

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If that quote didn’t click for you just yet, that’s okay. Keep reading, especially the cheat sheet toward the end, and then circle back.

There are thousands of energetic channels running through your body. Of those, 7 stack up your spine, from its base to the top of your head, as your main energetic centers. Their locations correspond to the 7 main nerve ganglia emanating along your spine and the endocrine system glands in those areas.

Let’s backtrack for a moment and break it down a little differently.

“Chakra” means, in a word, “wheel." In more words, a chakra is a spinning vortex that receives, absorbs and distributes energies. These spinning wheels are measured as electromagnetic force fields within and around all living beings.

We all have them, but not many of us have them functioning in their perfectly balanced states. Imbalanced chakras can help explain the roots of our issues.

It’s kind of like a treasure map: trace the problem to the corresponding chakra, and you know what to do to help heal it.

I’ll explain further.

Each chakra holds specific abilities for your physical and emotional life. When a chakra is spinning too little, too much, or not at all, the abilities that it houses are thrown off. Think of a houseplant. Give it too much water and it rots. Don’t give it enough water and it shrivels. Your chakras need just the right amount of energy to function at their best.

For example, if your root chakra is spinning optimally, then you feel secure about your life, grounded and independent. If its spinning is not optimal, you may feel like you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop and stuck in survival mode - both internally and with your surrounding world.

How’s your posture right now? Are your shoulders rounded forward with a concave chest? That could indicate trouble with your Heart Chakra. Look at someone’s spine - how it’s aligned or misaligned - and you may be able to tell a lot about the state of their chakras, and their well-being.

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What do you do if your chakras are imbalanced? Well, yoga helps! Certain poses can help unblock and strengthen certain chakras, clearing a path for you to feel balanced and attain higher consciousness and connection.

Like yoga poses, there are many associations to your chakras, including certain colors, sounds and elements. Visualizing the color yellow can help boost your willpower (solar plexus chakra), for example.

To make the chakras digestible, here is your complete chakra cheat sheet:

The Chakras - The Yoga Girl Comprehensive Guide

Root Chakra

  • Sanskrit name: Muladhara, “Root Support”
  • Location: Base of your spine, between anus and genitals
  • Element: Earth
  • Color: Red, black or brown
  • Sound: LAM
  • Sense: Smell
  • Astrology: Capricorn
  • Crystals: Garnet, apatite, tiger’s eye, black tourmaline, bloodstone, onyx

When balanced

  • Emotional: Grounded, centered, committed, independent, stillness
  • Physical: Energetic, strong, healthy digestion

When imbalanced

  • Emotional: Ungrounded, afraid, rage, anger, self-esteem and survival vulnerability, possessive, alienated
  • Physical: Tired, poor sleep, low back pain, constipation, depression, immune-related disorders

Yoga poses to come back to balance: Grounding into your bones and feet!

  • Tadasana (Mountain)
  • Virabhadrasana (Warrior) I or II
  • Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold)
  • Setu Bandhasana (Bridge)

Sacral Chakra

  • Sanskrit name: Svadhisthana, “Vital Force” or “Your Own Place”
  • Location: Base of your pubis between sacral nerve plexus and sex organs
  • Element: Water
  • Color: Orange
  • Sound: VAM
  • Sense: Taste
  • Astrology: Cancer, Scorpio
  • Crystals: Carnelian, citrine, moonstone, coral

When balanced

  • Emotional: Creative, compassionate, friendly, intuitive, vital, sexual, satisfied, prosperous, sense of belonging and humor
  • Physical: Healthy libido, hormones and menstrual cycle

When imbalanced

  • Emotional: Irritability, shyness, guilt, blame, sexual, power or money obsession, lack of creativity or morality
  • Physical: Low back pain, sciatica, decreased libido, hormonal problems

Yoga poses to come back to balance: Hip openers!

  • Prasarita Padottanasana (Standing Wide-legged Forward Fold)
  • Upavistha Konasana (Seated Wide-legged Forward Bend)
  • Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle)
  • Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle)

Solar Plexas Chakra

  • Sanskrit name: Manipura, “Brilliant Gem”
  • Location: On your spine at the level of your umbilicus corresponding to the solar plexus
  • Element: Fire
  • Color: Yellow
  • Sound: RAM
  • Sense: Sight
  • Astrology: Aries, Leo
  • Crystals: Sunstone, orange calcite, citrine, malachite, topaz

When balanced

  • Emotional: Confident, decisive, productive
  • Physical: Energetic, healthy digestion and mental focus

When imbalanced

  • Emotional: Lack of self esteem, depression, fear of rejection, inability to make decisions, judgmental, perfectionism, anger, hostility
  • Physical: Diabetes, adrenal imbalances, pancreatitis, arthritis, colon disease, stomach ulcers, anorexia or bulimia, low blood pressure

Yoga poses to come back to balance: Build heat!

  • Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations)
  • Virabhadrasana (Warrior) I, II, III
  • Dhanurasana (Bow) and other backbends
  • Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes) and other twists
  • Navasana (Boat) and other abdominal strengtheners

Heart Chakra

  • Sanskrit name: Anahata, “The Unstruck Bell”
  • Location: On your spine at the level of your heart, linked to the thymus and immune system
  • Element: Air
  • Color: Green or pink
  • Sound: YAM
  • Sense: Touch
  • Astrology: Libra, Taurus
  • Crystals: Emerald, green calcite, jade, green tourmaline, rose quartz

When balanced

  • Emotional: Self acceptance, hopeful, loving, compassionate, inspired, confident, generous, healthy boundaries
  • Physical: Healthy heart and immune system

When imbalanced

  • Emotional: Lack of empathy, loneliness, possessive, jealous, shy, giving too much and depleting
  • Physical: Heart conditions, asthma, lung and breast disorders, pneumonia, shoulder, upper back, arm and wrist problems

Yoga poses to come back to balance: Heart openers!

  • Bhujangasana (Cobra)
  • Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog)
  • Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel)

Throat Chakra

  • Sanskrit name: Vishuddha, “Purification”
  • Location: On your spine at the level of your throat, near the nerve plexus of the pharynx
  • Element: Ether, sound
  • Color: Blue
  • Sound: HAM
  • Sense: Sound, hearing
  • Astrology: Gemini, Virgo
  • Crystals: Aquamarine, lapis lazuli, turquoise

When balanced

  • Emotional: Creative, expressive, constructive communication, contentment, centered, conscious listening, positive self expression
  • Physical: Oral health, strong, self-assured voice

When imbalanced

  • Emotional: Lack of faith, will, decision-making abilities, personal expression, creativity, criticism, addiction
  • Physical: Thyroid dysfunctions, sore throat, stiff neck, mouth ulcers, swollen glands, gum or tooth problems, teeth grinding, scoliosis, laryngitis, hearing problems

Yoga poses to come back to balance: Neck stretches and shoulder openers!

  • Lion’s Breath
  • Ustrasana (Camel)
  • Setu Bandhasana (Bridge)
  • Matsyendrasana (Fish)

Third Eye Chakra

  • Sanskrit name: Ajna, “The Center of Command” or “To Know”
  • Location: In between your eyebrows, connected with the pituitary gland
  • Element: Ether, light
  • Color: Indigo
  • Sound: AUM / OM
  • Sense: sixth sense
  • Astrology: Sagittarius, Pisces
  • Crystals: Amethyst, black obsidian, purple fluorite, sodalite

When balanced

  • Emotional: Ability to think reality into existence, imagination, intuition, concentration, focus
  • Physical: Lucid dreams, calm mental health

When imbalanced

  • Emotional: Judgment, confusion, fear of truth, concept of reality, lacking discipline or concentration
  • Physical: Headaches, eye strain, nightmares, learning disabilities, panic, depression, blindness, deafness, seizures, spinal dysfunctions

Yoga poses to come back to balance: Draw focus inward!

  • Meditation and guided visualization
  • Balasana (Child’s Pose)
  • Palming the eyes and eye circles
  • Pratyahara (Sense Withdrawal)
  • Seated with Mudras

Crown Chakra

  • Sanskrit name: Sahasrara, “The Thousand-Petaled Lotus”
  • Location: At the crown of your head, connected with the pineal gland
  • Element: Ether, consciousness
  • Color: Violet or pure white
  • Sound: Silence
  • Sense: Beyond our known senses
  • Astrology: Aquarius
  • Crystals: Amethyst, diamond, clear quartz, selenite

When balanced

  • Emotional: Open minded, feeling at one with the universe, thoughtful, strong comprehension skills
  • Physical: Energized, able to handle large amounts of stimulus with ease

When imbalanced

  • Emotional: Lack of purpose, trust, devotion, inspiration, values or ethics, loss of identity, disbelief in any spiritual realities or trust, apathy, materialism, fear
  • Physical: Chronic exhaustion, sensitivity to light and sound

Yoga poses to come back to balance: Balance and focus awareness on your body and the present moment!

  • Vrksasana (Tree)
  • Garudasana (Eagle)
  • Savasana (Corpse Pose)
  • Sirsasana (Headstand)
  • Meditation

If your curiosity has been piqued here, we encourage you to dive deeper into studying the chakras!

Check out oneOeight.com for Kimberly Snyder’s guide to eating for your chakras and Coral Brown’s yoga sequences for each chakra!

From this article, can you gauge which of your own chakras are doing well and which could use some more attention and support? Share your epiphanies or action plans with our community in the comments below!

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