The word chakra means “wheel” or “rotating ring”. The individual chakras are positioned where energy channels join in the body, and work as transformers that control the energies of the body.
The three most important energy channels are ida, pingala and sushumna. Ida starts from the left nostril and pingala from the right. They cross each other several times down along the spinal column which inner channel is called sushumna and is related to fire. Sushumna symbolizes the intense energy that can blaze up inside of you. Because different energies join in these centers, they can function as accumulators. If the system is out of balance, energy can be blocked in the chakras, and it is important to try to avoid this by cleaning the energy channels and to take care of the body and mind through breath control, pranayama.
A set of chakras exists that are typically depicted as having different colors, symbols or elements, and each of these plays a certain role in the energy system of the body. Often seven chakras are described. It has been proposed that the chakras oscillate with different frequencies and thus emit light in different colors, and that sages of ancient India could sense and describe these oscillations. If you have not been working with yoga (link) and the line of thought that lies behind it, the thought of such structures residing in the body may seem abstract and even superstitious.
The positions of the seven chakras do in fact coincide with important glands, nerve centers and blood vessels known to modern anatomy. However, it is crucial to emphasize that the chakras are not identical to these organs but rather intimately linked to them.
The lowest chakra, commonly known as the “root chakra”, is positioned at the base of the spine between the sexual organs and the anus. In modern anatomy, this area is called Os sacrum, the holy bone. It is important to notice that exactly at this point the lower branch of the parasympathetic nervous system (link) leaves the spine and contacts the sexual organ, digestive system etc. Seen from a psychological point of view, this chakra is related to the most primitive instincts: survival, sexual energy and fear. It is also related to the earth element and gravitational force.
Herein lies the main lingering primordial force kundalini described as a rolled-up sleeping female snake. When it is awakened, it will migrate up through sushumna and unite prana in the top chakra, the crown chakra, located in the brain. This will lead to enlightenment and happiness in the highest state of consciousness, which, as mentioned, is the aim of all yoga.
The central chakra is the “heart chakra” that accumulates positive and cheerful energy from prana during inhalation. Anahata is the center for unconditional love, helpfulness, empathy and altruism. It is interesting that the heart has been attributed to so many different properties in different cultures. In ancient China the heart was considered the seat of joy, the Egyptians ascribed emotion and intelligence to the heart, while the Greeks thought it housed the soul.
In our culture the heart as ever is the ultimate symbol of love. Today we are aware of the fact that the heart not only functions as a pump but also produces hormones, and considering the close relation it has to the brain through the nervous system (link), it is quite natural to ascribe the traditional qualities such as joy, wisdom and soul to the heart. When the heart beats gently we feel that we are well. This also holds true for our breath and our thoughts. When our breathing is calm and restrained, the mind relaxes. It is this trinity of heart, brain and breath that you must bear in mind, since it is the source of your well-being and health. The Roman physician, Claudius Galen, was aware of this and was the first to describe the pulse as an indicator of a person’s health.
In the head is the “third eye” chakra, which is located between the two brows. It is active during concentration and meditation. The holy mantra Om is closely attached to this chakra. The Sanskrit term ajnameans “command”, and it is positioned in the center of the brain close to the hormone-producing pituitary gland, which is in contact with other areas of the brain that influence our consciousness and personality. The third eye chakra is also linked to the pineal gland, which influences our physiological rhythm and internal “clock” (circadian rhythm).
When the dynamic energy of the third eye chakra is activated and balanced, the rest of the brain functions optimally, making this chakra particularly interesting in breathing exercises and meditation. The properties associated with the third eye chakra are transparency in the internal as well as the external vision, higher intuitive perception, wisdom, spirituality and creative intelligence. From an anatomical point of view it makes good sense that we should be able to access the pituitary gland by closing our eyes and “looking inward”, because the two large nerve fibers of the eyes cross each other exactly in the area where the pituitary gland is located. By focusing awareness and energy on the third eye chakra you can manipulate the pituitary gland and its activity.
Ajna also affects the extended marrow, Medulla oblongata, which besides our breath also regulates heart rhythm and finally affects the pineal gland. In many animals the pineal gland can detect very small changes in light intensity and thus acts as a kind of third eye. In humans, however the main function is to record the daily shifts in light level – from day to night – to produce the hormone melatonin.
You have probably noticed Indians marking the “third eye” chakra with a colored dot. They often do this before they go to a temple or go on a long travel. The purpose is to make people they meet focus their attention and mental energy on the third eye chakra where it can be absorbed by the brain.
Collectively, the seven chakras symbolize different planes of consciousness. The higher they are located in the body, the higher the level of consciousness they represent. In other words at the bottom you find the primitive instincts, in the middle there is human behavior and towards the top are the more intellectual and divine aspects.
To grow to a higher consciousness and develop as a human, you have to be able to arouse the force of your basic instinct to enable prana to rise freely upward towards the brain. If you wish to avoid it from running wild, it is important to regulate the intensity and direction of prana. For this purpose several body locks are used.
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