Yoga is an individual art focused on asanas (poses), pranayama (breathing exercises), and maintaining physical and mental balance in our lives. Practitioners develop personal relationships with the Hindu practice regardless of how often they attend Hatha classes, practice at home, or sweat out toxins during Hot Yoga.
Part of this personal relationship is recognizing the chakras, which are a fundamental aspect of achieving inner peace and balance through yoga. The Sanskrit word for ‘wheel’, the seven chakras are arranged vertically in the body from the base of the spine to the top of the head. Chakras are thought of as spinning vortexes of energy that, when balanced, lead to higher consciousness and peace.
Each of the seven chakras receives and transmits energy in the body and each is responsible for a specific physical region, a range of emotions, and set of movements.
The Root Chakra (Muladhara) – located at the base of the spine, tailbone area. This red chakra represents our foundation and feeling of being grounded. “I am…”
The Sacral Chakra (Svadhishthana) – located in the lower abdomen, two inches below the navel and two inches in. This orange chakra represents our connection and ability to accept others and new experiences. “I feel…”
The Navel Chakra (Manipura) - located in the upper abdomen in the stomach area.This yellow chakra represents our ability to be confident and in control of our lives. “I do…”
The Heart Chakra (Anahata) – located in the center of the chest just above the heart.This green chakra represents our ability to love. “I love…”
The Throat Chakra (Vishuddha) – located in the throat.This blue chakra represents our ability to communicate. “I speak…”
The Third Eye Chakra (Ajna) – located on the forehead between the eyes (also called the Brow Chakra).This indigo chakra represents our ability to focus and see the ‘larger picture’. “I see…”
The Crown Chakra (Sahasrara) – located at the very top of the head, at the crown.This purple chakra represents our ability to be fully connected spiritually. “I understand…”
With each chakra corresponding to different bodily functions and life issues, they are all areas of the body where we typically receive, absorb, and distribute life energies. Often blocked by tension and low self-esteem, they need to be balanced at all times, with energy evenly distributed between them. Life’s problems offset the balance of the chakras and it is manifested as stress. Yoga is an effective way to restore balance, thereby reducing stress.
The types of yoga that focus primarily on meditation, such as Hatha yoga, are particularly effective. Anahata yoga (a subset of Hatha) opens up the heart center (Anahata chakra) and is beneficial for bad posture, shoulders, and lungs. Kundalini yoga focuses on the energy of the lower spine and surrounding area (Muladhara chakra). Generally practiced at a faster pace, Kundalini helps to relieve tension in the lower back and strengthen the body’s core and abdomen.
From sacrum to crown, yoga positively affects each of the ‘wheels’ of our being: I am. I feel. I do. I love. I speak. I see. I understand. With the corresponding colors and shapes, chakras are the gates opened by yoga and have various positions that address blockages and imbalances. Keeping the chakra system in mind, asana and pranayama are fine-tuned and your yoga experience is taken to the next level.