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Rise and Shine: Illuminating the Elusive Chakras

The chakras: elusive, abstract, and at the forefront of trendy yoga speak. Unless we experience them firsthand, the chakras seem more of an illusion than a reality. Until then, we have to take the word of the yogis who have walked the kundalini path before us to understand the power and usage of these esoteric energy centers.

Chakra literally means “wheel” or “circle” in Sanskrit. In a yogic sense, it’s more aptly translated as “vortex” or “whirlpool.” Chakras are psychic-energetic centers: spinning points of energy connected by subtle channels (nadis) that carry prana throughout the body.

The chakras play an important role in kundalini rising. They are subtle manifestations of human consciousness, and their purification enables the kundalini energy to rise upward for the ultimate yogic goal of self-realization.

Though we’re said to possess countless chakras, there are seven main chakras (or six, depending who you ask). Each is connected to a higher brain center. Yogis are most concerned with the root chakra, muladhara, and those above it in the body. Chakras in the legs below relate to animal instinct and consciousness, while chakras above muladhara relate to human consciousness and spiritual evolution.

Symbology is very important for awakening the chakras. Each chakra is represented by a color, a yantra (geometrical shape), a beej mantra (sacred seed sound), an animal symbol, higher or divine beings, and a lotus flower with a specific number of petals. Lotuses symbolize upward growth and transformation. They arise from the mud and eventually find their way up to sunlight. Spiritual growth is much the same. Man arises from ignorance and grows toward states of higher awareness.

Anyone who experiences the chakras does so through their own point of view. This results in discrepancies in their symbology, but it doesn’t really matter. The chakras are simply interpreted by the experiencer.

While the symbolism can get pretty complicated, the basic symbols used for meditation are given here.

1. Muladhara (Root Chakra)muladhara chakra

Location: In between the anus and reproductive organs in males; posterior to the cervix in females
Lotus: Four petals
Color: Deep crimson
Symbol: Yellow square
Animal: Elephant
Mantra: Lam
Importance: Muladhara relates to basic instincts and tamasic passions. It’s not only the seat of kundalini, but the ida, pingala and sushumna nadis all emerge from this point.

2. Svadhisthana (Sacral Chakra)Svadhisthana (Sacral Chakra)

Location: At the coccyx, very close to muladhara chakra
Lotus: Six petals
Color: Vermillion
Symbol: Silver crescent moon
Animal: Crocodile
Mantra: Vam
Importance: Svadhisthana relates to fantasies, subconscious fears, and passion. It also relates to the unconscious mind and all of its stored mental impressions (samskaras).

3. Manipura (Solar Plexus Chakra)Manipura chakra

Location: On the inner wall of the spinal cord, directly behind the navel
Lotus: 10 petals
Color: Yellow
Symbol: Inverted, fiery red triangle
Animal: Ram
Mantra: Ram
Importance: Manipura is a source of energy, willpower, achievement, and ambition. It radiates prana throughout the body.

4. Anahata (Heart Chakra)Anahata chakra

Location: On the inner wall of the spinal cord, directly behind the chest center
Lotus: 12 petals
Color: Green
Symbol: Hexagon surrounding two triangles; one pointing up and one pointing down
Animal: Antelope
Mantra: Yam
Importance: Anahata is an emotional center. Although it’s not located at the heart, as many believe, it is related to the heart. It’s also called the Abode of Mercy, granting power of forgiveness.

5. Vishuddha (Throat Chakra) Vishuddha (Throat Chakra)

Location: Directly behind the throat pit at the cervical plexus
Lotus: 16 petals
Color: Blue
Symbol: White circle
Animal: White elephant
Mantra: Ham
Importance: Vishudda is a center for purification and harmonization of opposites. It’s associated with wisdom, knowledge, and the faculty of higher discrimination. Vishudda’s awakening triggers physical rejuvenation.

6. Ajna (Third Eye Chakra)Ajna (Third Eye Chakra)

Location: In the brain; directly in line with the eyebrow center and the medulla oblongata
Lotus: Two petals
Color: Indigo
Symbol: Circle with two whitish or silver petals
Mantra: Om
Importance: Ida, pingala, and sushumna nadis converge here and flow up to sahasrara. Ajna is the “third eye” chakra; giving the powers of intuition, extrasensory perception, and command.

7. Sahasrara (Crown Chakra)Sahasrara (Crown Chakra)

Location: Crown of the head
Lotus: 1000 or infinite petals
Color: Multi; overall crystal-clear white or bluish white
Symbol: Beyond symbolism
Mantra: So-Hum
Importance: According to some yogis, there is no seventh chakra. Sahasrara is said to be the seat of Shiva: the higher consciousness. Once the kundalini reaches this point, it signifies the unification of Shiva and Shakti, granting self-realization.

References:

  • Radha, Swami Sivananda. Kundalini Yoga. Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 2004.
  • Saraswati, Swami Satyananda. Kundalini Tantra. Bihar, India: Yoga Publications Trust, 1984.

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Julie Bernier
Julie Bernier
Julie Bernier teaches women the art of self-care so that they feel their healthiest and happiest in their own unique bodies. This holistic approach to individualized wellness is rooted in the ancient Indian knowledge of ayurveda: a complete medical science and way of life which explains that our wellbeing blossoms when we align ourselves with nature. Julie is a registered ayurvedic practitioner by the Association of Ayurvedic Professionals of North America (AAPNA), a Certified Massage Therapist, and a classical hatha yoga teacher. She studied each of these modalities in the US and straight from the source in India. Connect with Julie at trueayurveda.com, on Instagram, or on Facebook. True Ayurveda, Facebook, or Instagram.

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