If you've ever attended a yoga or meditation class, you've probably heard the term "chakra" at some point. However, while many aspiring yogis are familiar with this term, few truly understand the concept and how it can be applied to everyday life. The more you know about chakras, the more beneficial you'll find each yoga session -- and the better you'll feel as you tackle everyday sources of stress.
What is a Chakra?
In Sanskrit, the term "chakra" simply means wheel. In yoga, however, a chakra is a spinning wheel of light or energy. Ideally, each of these spinning wheels will be completely open and unblocked, allowing energy to flow through the body.
Types of Chakras
There are seven main chakras, all corresponding to major organs and nerve centers. The first three chakras are often referred to as the chakras of matter. These chakras emphasize the physical over the spiritual. The next chakra connects the physical and spiritual realms, while the fifth, sixth, and seventh chakras are primarily spiritual in nature. Keep reading to learn more about each chakra:
Also known as the root chakra, the very first chakra involves stability and security. Muladhara instigates the fight or flight response, connecting each human with his or her deeper animal nature. Memories of famine, war, and other disasters are imprinted on this chakra and passed down from one generation to the next, leaving even those who live relatively peaceful, stress-free lives ready to confront devastating challenges as they arrive.
Located near the pelvic bone, the second chakra is the center of human sexuality. This is where humans experience feelings of connection, intimacy, and pleasure. Those who successfully embrace the energy of this chakra are able to fully experience the transformational feeling of letting go. Svadhisthana is also the center of creativity, which springs from the overarching passion of the second chakra.
The second chakra focuses on letting go and embracing passion, but the third chakra is all about willpower, which is equally important. Located near the navel, this chakra encompasses the core of each person's identity. Its abundant energy helps people embrace their inner willpower and accomplish great things. A blocked third chakra can quickly lead to inertia, leaving individuals to lead life in a passive manner.
The fourth chakra connects elements of the physical body with the spiritual. It is located -- appropriately -- at the heart center, where it promotes compassion, altruism, and healing. When this chakra is open and functioning at its full level, it prompts the type of kindness and generosity that makes the world a much better place. Therefore, many yogis and meditation experts believe that the fourth chakra is the most important of all.
Found in the throat, the fifth chakra allows individuals to embrace their unique personalities and speak their own truth. When this chakra is closed, doubt and negativity can quickly take over. Linked with integrity and honor, this chakra can help people stand up for their personal beliefs.
Often referred to as the third eye, this influential chakra is located near the brow or the base of the nose. It offers the gift of inner sight, along with observation of the world at large. This holistic chakra can serve as a seat of wisdom, prompting greater understanding of the self and of the world.
The final chakra allows each person to see the bigger picture and how everything is connected. Those who experience this sense of connection know the true meaning of joy. This is where the finite (the body) meets the infinite (the universe).
Now that you understand all of the chakras and what they can accomplish, it is up to you to incorporate them into your everyday life. This can be accomplished through practicing a wide array of yoga poses, each of which is designed to open up a specific chakra or set of chakras. Awareness is the first step to opening up your chakras and enjoying a more fulfilling life.