Some General Notes on Chakras
The Sanskrit word “Chakra” has the following meanings : wheel, circle, vortex, circular movement.
The term Chakras is typically translated to mean “Psychic Centres” or “Energy Centres”. The idea being that they are centres (or places)
where energy / prana / awareness collects, is stored, is transformed and is distributed to where needed. And, just as electricity produces
different effects depending on which appliance it passes through (e.g. light from a light bulb, heat from a radiator, sound from a radio), so
too energy / prana / awareness will have different effects depending on which chakra it is directed to flow to or through.
Another way of thinking about chakras is as places or means for interchange and dialogue between different aspects of one’s being as
indicated by the terms physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
Personally, I find it helpful to think of chakras as different emotional / mental modes – each with their own flavours, usefulness and potential dangers.
There are said to be hundreds of chakras but most books only discuss the seven main ones (and one of these is often said
to not really be a chakra!) There is some debate as to whether they are located anywhere in the physical world – some saying
that they only become manifest when one wills them to do so and that, in theory, one can make them become manifest anywhere one
wishes. However, the majority view appears to be that the main chakras exist (in some sense) along the line between the base of the trunk
and the crown of the head. (Within this overview, there are different views about the exact location of some of the chakras).
Sankrit Name (an English Name)
Translation of Sankrit Name
|Muladhara (Base Support)
||mula – root ; adhara - place
||Base of trunk / pelvic floor
||Being, having, personal safety, survival
|Swadhishthana (Sacral centre)
||swa – one’s own ; adhishthana - abode
||In front of the sacrum
||Sensory experiences, pleasure, survival (of species)/reproduction
|Manipura (Power Centre)
||mani – jewel ; pura - city
||Near the diaphragm
||Doing and achieving things. Power – the ability to do
|Anahata (Heart Centre)
||anahata – non vibrating or unstruck
||The heart or near the heart
||One’s relationships with others, Emotional feelings, Desires
|Vishuddha (Purity centre)
||vishuddha - purification
||Communication & information. Regulation & purification
|Ajna (Third Eye)
||ajna - command
||Near middle of brain
||Perception, insight, understanding. Organizing and Orchestrating.
|Sahasrara (Crown centre)
||Sahasrara – thousand (which is a symbolic way of indicating the infinite)
||The crown of the head or above – often said not to really be a chakra as it is external to the self.
||What is not yet known (and the unknowable). The Infinite. The eternal. Universal Spirit / personal soul – Divineness / the immortal.
Because of the apparent way the chakras are located physically one above the other in sequence, there is a tendency to think of chakras in
hierarchical terms. That is, with “lower” chakras being (themselves or concerned with things that are) in some sense gross, unrefined, base
and mundane. The “higher” chakras being then regarded as in some sense progressively more subtle, refined, sublime and “heavenly”. From
this perspective, chakra work is concerned with “journeying” or evolving through the chakras – “awakening” and refining each chakra in turn
until one reaches the top chakra (where one becomes “open” to enlightenment). A related (and complementary view) is that one should work
chakras drawing down the “more refined” qualities of the chakra above to help one refine and evolve the chakra just below.
Personally, I prefer to think of chakras as being non-hierarchical and. in some sense. superimposed on each other so that they mutually
complement and support each other. From this perspective, the issue is working to develop balance and harmony between the chakras
and developing good connections and dialogue between them so that they aid and support each other’s activities. Also, because I think
of the chakras as non-hierarchical but as having different sorts of usefulness, the issue becomes one, not of getting into a “better” chakra
(in some absolute sense), but of being able to move between the different chakras according to the needs/circumstances of the moment.
“Healthy” chakras are typically described as being balanced, in balance or in harmony. Conversely, “unhealthy” (or unbalanced or
disturbed) chakras are typically described as being under-active or over-active, over-closed or over-open, blocked or unstable. Also,
if a chakra is out of balance, this may disturb other chakras – for example, if a chakra is blocked, this might mean that “energy / prana”
that would otherwise flow through it gets redirected into another chakra, or that insufficient energy / prana flows through the chakra to
reach another chakra. Chakras are also described as being dormant, as in “not yet awakened” or developed – the potential exists but it is
latent rather than realised or available to be accessed.
So chakra work is largely about identifying chakras which are out of balance and engaging in practices that are likely to encourage the chakras
to become balanced. Once the chakras are balanced and working harmoniously, then one can start working on dormancy – awakening
potential qualities that are currently dormant. To work actively on dormancy before the chakras are in harmony is to risk making less
stable something that is already unbalanced.
Which particular practices are likely to be helpful with regard to one’s chakras will be highly dependent on oneself (state of one’s chakras),
one’s circumstances (needs of the moment) and what one considers important (one’s values and aspirations). However, I give some general
pointers below – they may not be the best approach to take in all circumstances, but they will for most students and for most of the time, be
close to the safest approach.
Some general pointers for working with chakras:
- Be very cautious about actively working the chakras when feeling unbalanced or emotionally disturbed. Unless one already has a
lot of experience and understanding of chakras (or is under the direct supervision and guidance of an “expert” in chakras), the key note
is, if in doubt, do nothing. In particular, any practices that open or stimulate a chakra risk making one more vulnerable or more unstable.
- If in doubt about which chakra to start working on, start with Muladhara – if nothing else, the stillness of being grounded might yield
the mental calm in which to notice what might be useful with regard to the chakras. Then, if in doubt about which chakra to work on next,
move on to Swadhishthana, as this will help open one to sensing / feeling what is happening in one’s chakra system. And so on, moving “up”
though the chakras.
- If one works “up” through the chakras, follow this by working down through the chakras.
- If one, in some sense, opens or stimulates a chakra, then follow up (in the same session rather than necessarily immediately afterwards)
with something to close or soothe / stabilize the chakra. Very often, if a chakra is closed or inactive, there is a good reason for this so, unless
you are really sure you know what you are doing, it is best to return chakras to their starting state. A benefit of opening or activating a chakra
for a brief period and then closing or soothing it is that it increases the likelihood that the chakra will naturally spontaneously open or become
active when it is safe and appropriate to do so.
- If in doubt about what sort of work a chakra needs then work on soothing/stabilizing or closing it. Shutting things down is much safer than
activating things – the most likely result is that you give the chakra “a rest”. By contrast, opening and activating tends to make one more
vulnerable and unstable even if also more responsive, able and in some sense “alive”.
- If in doubt, go for what feels / seems right to you – no book or teacher has as much information on your chakra system as you do. Be
cautious about following other peoples’ advice (or that from books) – the advice might be good in theory but it is unlikely to be as attuned to
your particular needs and circumstances as advice from your own intuition. (Also, sad to say, some who are inclined to give chakra advice may
not have your best interests to heart.)
- Avoid trying to do too much chakra work at one time – it takes time for the effects of chakra work to ripple through the chakra system.
Similarly, avoid being in a hurry to cause change to your chakra system – go for the slow but sure approach.
- Unless you have a very good reason not to, always finish with something to remind you of your relationship with the Earth –
something as simple as briefly placing your palms on the ground is enough. This will help stabilize the benefits of the chakra work you
have just done and leave you feeling grounded.