The Chakras : A Brief Overview

You might be familiar with the term “aligning the chakras” since your last yoga class, but you might be left wondering, what are they exactly! I aim to answer some of your questions here in this overview into what they are and what they do. Prepare to put your thinking cap on!

Sacred Centres of the Self
The chakra system is a seven-leveled philosophical system of the universe and the Self. This system is an enquiry into the nature of our existence; a metaphysical understanding of our experience. The chakras and their importance are widely understood to be residing in the psyche, with insight into symbolology, the elements and archetypal constructs, for example, therefore relating to philosophy, although there’s strong understanding and documentation which indicates their physiological nature and corresponding ‘location’ in the body (Pic. 1 & 2). This locality insight delves into what it means to have a mind-body connection. Gary Osborn, for instance, has described the chakras as metaphysical counterparts to the endocrine glands, while Anodea Judith brings clarity to the roles described for each chakra and their corresponding physical location, including associations in child development. Stephen Sturgess also links the lower six chakras to specific nerve plexuses along the spinal cord as well as glands.
Simply put, the chakra system is a highly practical way of understanding ourselves and the mind-body connection in great depth.

The chakras first became well known here by the grace of yoga’s introduction to the West, followed by its increasing popularity in the late 60’s; including our expanding knowledge at this time of the far east’s spiritual traditions. The chakras, alike yoga, originated some 4 thousands years ago in India, their inception being of benefit to comprehend the human condition while furthering knowledge of medical health. The first known documentation of these systems is contained in ancient literature of the Vedas, 1st millenium BCE.
As you might already know, Yoga, meaning “to yoke/to join”, integrates the mundane and spiritual aspects of our lives, using mental and physical practises to “yoke” together the individual with the divine. The chakras represent the steps taken by the yogi or aspirant through these higher, ever-expanding states of consciousness.

The Bioenergetic Rainbow Bridge
The Sanskrit word chakras literally translates as “wheel” or “disc”. This descriptive title refers to the bio-energy emanating forward from the major nerve ganglia, that is branching forward from the spinal column. There are seven major chakras; the popular ones which we’re trying to align, which are stacked from the base of the spine to the top of the head. There are also minor chakras in other parts of the body (Pic. 3). But it is the seven major chakras that represent basic states of our consciousness, representing the energetic intersection between consciousness and physical matter; connecting spirit and matter; heaven and earth; mind and body.
It is said that the Chakras distribute and maintain energy; they receive, assimilate and express ‘life-force’ energy. This flow of energy in your body is connected and distributed via nadis (Pic. 4). It is said that the Nadis in the physical sense are the veins, arteries and nerves of the body. The central channel of these Nadis, the Shushumna, travels up the spine from the base chakra to the crown chakra, which as we know it in physiology, circulates the cerebrospinal fluid.

If the energy of your chakras isn’t aligned, that is to say, if one chakra is deficient while another is excessive, or one hasn’t had the ability to develop therefore function properly, this affects your overall health, and the nadis will not have a free-flow of healthy energy circulating through. But the overall health of the chakras can be regulated and maintained. This maintenance can be achieved through yoga, body work, breath work and various forms of therapy which can bring this understanding of mind/body connection together. This holistic framework for healing can bring greater harmony and health into the present moment of one’s life.

“The rainbow bridge”
Mythology, symbolism,
our connection to nature,
and the spectrum of light.

As above; So below
Chakras are not physical entities in and of themselves. Like feelings or ideas, they cannot be held like a physical object,yet they have a strong effect upon the body as they express the embodiment of spiritual energy on the physical plane. Chakra patterns are programmed deep in the core of the mind-body interface and have a strong relationship with our physical functioning. Just as the emotions can and do affect our breathing, heart rate, and metabolism, the activities in the various chakras influence our glandular processes, body shape, chronic physical ailments, thoughts and behaviour. By using techniques such as yoga, breathing, bio-energetics, physical exercises, meditation and visualisation, we can, in turn, influence our chakras, our health, and our lives. This is one of the essential values of this system-that it maps onto both the body and the mind, and can be accessed through either. – Anodea Judith


chakras colours human form
Pic 1: The Chakras and their approximate location on the human body, detailing their specific colours and names.
Pic 2: Chakra positions in relation to nervous plexi, from a 1927 textbook, C. W. Leadbeater
yoga chakras
Pic 3: illustration depicting the 7 major chakras and minor ones around the body, 1899 yoga manuscript.
nadis chakras yoga
Pic 4: An ancient Indian view of the nadi network in the astral body.
chakras flowers illustration
Chakra Flowers, Yuli Michalaki (my artwork), March 2017, mixed media illustration