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)
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
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)
Location: At the coccyx, very close to muladhara chakra
Lotus: Six petals
Symbol: Silver crescent moon
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)
Location: On the inner wall of the spinal cord, directly behind the navel
Lotus: 10 petals
Symbol: Inverted, fiery red triangle
Importance: Manipura is a source of energy, willpower, achievement, and ambition. It radiates prana throughout the body.
4. Anahata (Heart Chakra)
Location: On the inner wall of the spinal cord, directly behind the chest center
Lotus: 12 petals
Symbol: Hexagon surrounding two triangles; one pointing up and one pointing down
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)
Location: Directly behind the throat pit at the cervical plexus
Lotus: 16 petals
Symbol: White circle
Animal: White elephant
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)
Location: In the brain; directly in line with the eyebrow center and the medulla oblongata
Lotus: Two petals
Symbol: Circle with two whitish or silver petals
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)
Location: Crown of the head
Lotus: 1000 or infinite petals
Color: Multi; overall crystal-clear white or bluish white
Symbol: Beyond symbolism
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.
- 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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