There are several different schools of thought about the Chakras. Here we are giving the standard explanations adopted by the Chopra Center, which doesn’t mean other approaches, you may have heard, are incorrect.

Chakras are Centers of Transformation within the physiology. The Vedantic Tradition states that Consciousness is primary matter is secondary, which means that Consciousness is constantly transforming into matter at every point in the Universe. If it stopped for a fraction of second, everything as we know it would disappear.

Although happening everywhere, this transformation is more lively at certain places. On the earth this is called a Vortex (Sedona, Machu Picchu, etc.), in the body it is called a Chakra. Great enlightened teachers act like Chakras to empower themselves to become like a vortex of transformation, bringing light to remove darkness, wisdom to remove ignorance.

We can’t see the Chakras physically. A surgeon couldn’t cut someone open to find a Chakra inside their body. Chakras are psychic centers in the subtle or energetic body, where everything happens prior to manifesting in the physical body. They control the transformation of subtle energies from higher dimensions into physical energy.

According to Ayurveda, the body contains 72,000 nadis or energy channels, through which the body communicates with itself. The Chakras are located at the junction points of the nadis, directing the flow of energies. Think of them like electric transformers with wires radiating out to all areas of the body. Different schools of thought give varying totals for the number of Chakras in the body. 108 is the most common number agreed upon. However, all agree that the seven most powerful ones are located along the Sushumna or Spiritual Nadi, which runs through the physical body’s spinal column. These Chakras can extend out in front of the body and there are also Chakras above and below the physical body.

The word Chakra means “wheel”, and its role is to constantly spin our world into existence. Each Chakra relates to certain different qualities in our life and are open or active to some degree at all times. However, when a Chakra is blocked or stuck, the transformation is blocked, creating disharmony and suffering in that area our life. Our Karma (seeds of memories and desires) is stored in the Chakras. This means the transformation of consciousness into matter is filtered by our memories and desires, which distorts our picture of true reality. Most people respond to situations from the stand point of the Chakra in which they feel most comfortable and therefore tend to “live” from that Chakra.

Each Chakra is associated with particular functions within the body and with specific life issues and the way we handle them, both inside ourselves and in our interactions with the world. As centers of force, Chakras can be thought of as sites where we receive, absorb, and distribute life energies. Through external situations and internal habits, such as long-held physical tension and limiting self-concepts, a Chakra can become either deficient or excessive—and therefore imbalanced.

These imbalances may develop temporarily with situational challenges, or they may be chronic. A chronic imbalance can come from childhood experiences, past pain or stress, and internalized cultural values. For instance, a child whose family moves every year to a different state may not learn what it’s like to feel rooted in a location, and can grow up with a deficient first Chakra.

A deficient Chakra neither receives appropriate energy nor easily manifests that Chakra’s energy in the world. There’s a sense of being physically and emotionally closed down in the area of a deficient Chakra. Think of the slumped shoulders of someone who is depressed and lonely, their heart Chakra receding into their chest. The deficient Chakra needs to open.

When a Chakra is excessive, it is too overloaded to operate in a healthy way and becomes a dominating force in a person’s life. Someone with an excessive Throat Chakra, for example, might talk too much and be unable to listen well. If the Chakra was deficient, she/he might experience restraint and difficulty when communicating.

When all the Chakras are clear and “awakened” and karma has been dissolved, the mind and body become balanced, spiritual energy flows freely through all the Chakras and we gain full access to higher realms of existence.

When working with the Chakras, it’s important to do so in a balanced manner. It would not be wise to merely focus on one or two and ignore the others. A few people, such as geniuses may have been born with one or more Chakras already open however this often causes imbalances in other areas of their lives. Due to “past life” experiences, a person may find that a higher Chakra is already open however, it is still necessary to open the lower chakras to complete a balanced spiritual journey.

The lotus flower is commonly used in Eastern Traditions to depict spiritual growth. The lotus begins life in the mud, rises through the water to bloom in the sunlight, just as our journey brings us from ignorance, through spiritual exploration, to Enlightenment. The Chakras are commonly expressed as lotus flowers with a varying number of petals, so the spine acts like a stem and the Chakras are like flowers blooming out from this stem.

Each Chakra is associated with a color, yantra (geometric shape), element, sense, planet, loka (plane of existence), bija sound and deity. These may vary in different traditions but can also change depending on one’s level of awareness. The following attributes are commonly accepted but don’t become rigidly attached to them if your intuition tells you otherwise. For example, in higher states of consciousness, all the Chakras might appear white and gold light.

The lower three Chakras deal more with our survival instincts, passions and personal power. The upper three Chakras reflect our higher values of communication, insight and cosmic unity. The Heart Chakra acts as a balance between them.

The lowest of the human Chakras is the highest in animals. In animals the Chakras are located in their legs.

The highest human Chakra is the lowest in Divine evolution.

Let’s look at each of the seven main Chakras:

Muladhara (Root) First Chakra

  • Location: base of the spine
  • Lotus flower: four petals
  • Color: red
  • Loka: Bhu, physical plane
  • Sense: smell
  • Element: earth
  • Mantra: LAM
  • Planet: mars

This Chakra is responsible for our survival instincts, security, shelter, food, fight or flight response. This Chakra helps to keep us grounded.

  • Physically it governs sexuality
  • Mentally it governs stability
  • Emotionally it governs sensuality
  • Spiritually it governs our sense of security

When it is blocked, it leads to anger, insecurity, fear, anxiety, violence, over sleeping, sleeping on stomach, greed, delusion, wanting more physical experiences, self-centered, inability to provide or stand up for oneself, feeling lost, poor family and social interactions.

It is associated with illnesses such as lower back pain, sciatica, varicose veins, rectal cancers, depression, immunity disorders.

When it’s open, it brings health, lightness, inspiration, vigor, stamina, inner purity, inner beauty, softness of voice, patience, self confidence, mental confidence, strength of character.

If the Muladhara Chakra is dominant, food and sleep will be the predominant factors in your life.

Swadhistana (Sacral) Second Chakra

  • Location: sacral area, behind pubic bone
  • Lotus flower: six petals
  • Color: orange
  • Loka: Bhuva subtle or astral plane
  • Sense: taste
  • Element: water
  • Mantra: VAM
  • Planet: mercury

The Swadhisthana Chakra is responsible for procreation, inter-relating with family, relationships, sexual fantasies and the inspiration to create.

  • Physically it governs reproduction
  • Mentally it governs creativity
  • Emotionally it governs joy
  • Spiritually it governs enthusiasm

When it’s blocked, it leads to a desire for physical sensations, fantasies, restlessness, confusion, envy, jealousy, violence, addictions, blame, guilt, poor ethics.

It is associated with illnesses such as lower back pain, sciatica, ob/gyn problems, sexual potency, urinary problems.

When its open, we enjoy pure relationships, freedom from anger, lust and greed, a pure and refined nature, the ability to remember forgotten or repressed information, self control.

When the Swadhisthana dominates, you become a pleasure seeker and enjoy the physical world in many ways.

Manipura (Solar Plexus) Third Chakra

  • Location: solar plexus or navel area
  • Lotus flower: ten petals
  • Color: yellow
  • Loka: Swaha, celestial plane
  • Sense: sight
  • Element: fire
  • Mantra: RAM
  • Planet: mercury

Responsible for all levels of digestion, our personal power, opinions, fear and anxiety about self-worth, intellect.

  • Physically it governs digestion
  • Mentally it governs personal power
  • Emotionally it governs expansiveness
  • Spiritually it governs growth

When this Chakra is blocked it leads to striving for personal power, vanity, being introverted, being judgmental, a lack of trust, poor self-esteem, sensitive to criticism, the need to control through anger, selfishness and general poor health.

It is associated with illness such as arthritis, gastric and duodenal ulcers, colon and intestinal problems, diabetes, indigestion, anorexia/bulimia, liver disorders, hepatitis and adrenal dysfunction.

When it is open, it gives a healthy digestion, loss of ego, the power to create/destroy, the power to command and organize, peacefulness, fantasies become practical, radiant, clear expressions, selflessness, shining with the light of 10,000 suns.

Living from this Chakra, you are a doer in the world. You are all about action and doing many different things.

Anahata (Heart) Fourth Chakra

  • Location: heart center, middle of chest
  • Lotus flower: twelve petals
  • Color: green
  • Loka: Maha mental or plane of balance
  • Sense: touch
  • Element: air
  • Mantra: YAM
  • Planet: venus

Responsible for the functioning of the immune system, compassion, tenderness, unconditional love, balance and equilibrium, rejection, wellbeing

During deep sleep the soul rests in the Heart Chakra.

  • Physically it governs circulation
  • Mentally it governs passion
  • Emotionally it governs unconditional love for self and others
  • Spiritually it governs devotion

When this Chakra is blocked it leads to emotional turbulence, despair, dependency, resentment, bitterness, grief, anger, loneliness, self-centeredness, lack of commitment, lack of hope and lack of trust.

It is associated with illness such as congestive heart failure, heart attacks, asthma, allergies, lung cancer, breast cancer, bronchial pneumonia, upper back and shoulder problems.

When it’s open it brings wisdom, compassion, inner strength, balance of m/f energies, pure relationships, innocence, source of inspiration to others, Divine vision, ability to travel through space and become invisible.

Living from the Anahata Chakra, makes you a person who is creative in nature, like an artist, an actor or musician

Anahata acts like a transition between the three lower chakras and three higher chakras, a balance between survival instincts and the instinct to liberate oneself.

Vishuddhi(a) (Throat) Fifth Chakra

  • Location: throat area
  • Lotus flower: sixteen petals
  • Color: pale blue
  • Loka: Jana, human plane
  • Sense: hearing
  • Element: space
  • Mantra: HAM
  • Planet: jupiter

Responsible for speech, communication, the voice of the heart, growth through expression, discernment, acceptance, forgiveness

Dreaming occurs in the throat chakra

  • Physically it governs communication
  • Mentally it governs clear, fluent thought
  • Emotionally it governs independence
  • Spiritually it governs our sense of spiritual security

When this Chakra is blocked, it creates a negative intellect, the unwise use of knowledge, a poor communicator, addictions, a judgmental, sarcastic nature and a poor decision maker.

It is associated with illnesses such as sore raspy throat, mouth ulcers, gum problems, TMJ, scoliosis, swollen glands, thyroid problems.

When it’s open, it brings serenity, calmness, purity, youthfulness, freedom from distractions, melodious voice, truthfulness, command of speech and mantras, ability to compose poetry, the qualities of a spiritual teacher, cosmic consciousness, light of 10,000 moons

The Vishuddhi Chakra makes you a very powerful human being in many ways. You can become so powerful that just by sitting in one place, things will happen for you and you can manifest life beyond the limitations of time and space.

When the nectar (soma) of the higher chakras is stimulated by the tongue, it flows here to rejuvenate the body.

Ajna (Third Eye) Sixth Chakra

  • Location: between the eyebrows
  • Lotus flower: two petals
  • Color: violet, purple or indigo
  • Loka: Tapa, plane of austerity
  • Sense: beyond
  • Element: beyond
  • Mantra: SHAM or KSHAM
  • Planet: saturn

Responsible for mental awareness, higher intuition, the end of duality. It is connected to the pineal gland – the seat of consciousness and gives direction to the lower chakras.

When this Chakra is blocked you experience ego based actions, disharmony, are closed to ideas of others, have a weak intellect and are a prisoner of karma. You become dull, depressed, fearful, lonely, lack self-confidence, are mentally disturbed and sorrowful.

It is associate with illnesses such as brain tumors, strokes, neurological disturbances, blindness, deafness, seizures and learning difficulties. Because the Ajna Chakra is connected to the second chakra, if blocked, it can also lead to diseases such as cancer and general weakness in the body.

When it’s open you become free from ignorance and impurity, enjoy spontaneous fulfillment of desires, aware of refined sounds and have visions of past present and future, are able to enter the bodies of others, are filled with devotion, achieve a balancing of all opposites, Divine Consciousness and radiate brighter than a million suns.

Here you are intellectually enlightened. You have attained a new level of balance and peace within yourself. The outside world no longer disturbs you.

Sahasrara (Crown) Seventh Chakra

  • Location: top of the head or slightly above
  • Lotus flower: thousand petals
  • Color: gold or multi colored
  • Loka: Satyam, plane of Truth and purity
  • Sense: beyond
  • Element: beyond
  • Mantra: OM
  • Planet: ketu

Responsible for inner wisdom, release of all karma, end of physical attachments, end of illusions, the Guru within.

Beyond knowledge (nothing left to be known), liberation, pure bliss, all emotions and desires dissolve, individual self dissolves, we have all yogic powers but no desire to use them, “in the world but not of it”, ecstatic beyond all reason.

It is associated with disorders such as lack of energy for no physiological reason, being highly sensitive to light, sound or environmental factors and spiritual depression.

Our spiritual path is a journey from the Muladhara Root Chakra, at the base of the spine, to the Sahasrara Crown Chakra at the top of the head, which takes us from one dimension to another.

Various yogic practices can support the movement of energies from Muladhara, lowest Chakra, to the second highest, Ajna Chakra. However, to move from Ajna to Sahasrara, there is no path or techniques. You can only jump there when ready. Because of this, most people, get stuck in the Ajna Chakra. When this happens, peacefulness is the highest state they will know. But for someone seeking his/her ultimate essence, peace is only the beginning, not the ultimate goal.

Balancing the Chakras

Regular meditation is the most powerful way to purify and balance your Chakras. Most Yoga Asana practices will also help to open and enliven the Chakras as will massage and conscious choice-making.

The following are some additional yogic practices for you to use Whenever we put our attention in an area of the body, we purify and enliven that area. Try to focus your attention in the appropriate Chakra while performing any of these practices. As mentioned previously, it is important to awaken all the Chakras equally.

Body Movements for Opening the Chakras

Begin by standing firmly, with sufficient space to extend your arms. Proceed at a comfortable speed, pausing between each exercise. Stop and sit down if you feel dizzy or light headed at any time. You may also reduce the number of repetitions as you wish.

  1. Turn head from left to right 16 times.
  2. Nod head up and down 16 times.
  3. Circle head 16 times to the left and then 16 times to the right.
  4. Extend your arms to the sides and circle them forward 16 times and backwards 16 times.
  5. With your left arm by your side and the right arm raised straight up, stretch to the left side 16 times. Reverse to the other side.
  6. Slightly bending at the waist, without moving the hips, rotate the upper body 16 times left and 16 times right.
  7. Keeping the upper body vertical, circle the hips, 16 times in one direction, 16 times in the other.
  8. With arms extended forward do 16 squats (hold onto a chair if necessary).
  9. With hands on the hips, raise right foot and rotate the ankle in each direction 16 times. Repeat with the left foot (hold onto a chair if necessary or do this sitting down).
  10. Sit and rest.

Chakra Pranayamas

The breath has cleaning and energizing effect when directed into a Chakra. The following breathing exercises may be done at separate times for a few minutes each, as comfortable, with the attention in the specific Chakra.

Root Chakra – Deep, steady and complete breaths, especially on exhale

Sacral Chakra – pelvic breath

Sit cross legged on the floor or lie on your back with knees bent and your feet on the floor near the pelvis. Relax the body and the breath and close your eyes. Bring your

attention to your pelvic floor. Contract all the muscles between the pubic bone and the tail bone, including the urinary and anal sphincters, and the perineum, which lies between them. (For men, the contraction centers on the perineum; women should also experience the contraction at the cervix.) Inhale and relax.

Exhale, then repeat the exercise: Tighten as deeply and strongly as possible. Inhale and release. Repeat 10 times. Make sure that the breath is easy and the rest of the body stays relaxed.

Finish by holding the contraction for as long as possible, while continuing to breathe normally.

Navel Chakra – Breath of Fire, Kapalabhati or Bastrika

Forced exhale by sucking in the belly and a passive inhale OR a forced inhale and exhale. The speed may be increased as is comfortable.

Heart Chakra – Alternate nostril, Nadi Shodhana

Using the right hand, close the right nostril with the thumb, exhale and inhale. Release the thumb and close the left nostril with the ring and little fingers, exhale and inhale. Continue without forcing the breath.

May be performed with continuous breath or with a short pause at the end of the inhale and/or a short pause at the end of the exhale.

Throat Chakra – Victorious or Ocean Breath, Ujjayi

Take long, steady, full breaths through your nose, completely filling and emptying your lungs. Slightly contract your throat, making a sound like the ocean as you inhale and exhale.

Third Eye Chakra -Alternate nostril, Nadi Shodhana

Crown Chakra – Alternate nostril, Nadi Shodhana

Chakra Mudras

Mudras are positions of the eyes or hands, which cause the energy of the body to enliven certain areas, in this case, the Chakras.

The standard eye mudra for the Chakras is to gaze inwardly towards the Third Eye or Sixth Chakra without straining. This can be done while sitting quietly with eyes closed or, if it can be effortless, during a meditation practice.

There are several hand positions associated with opening the Chakras. The following is a simple set. The attention should be in the appropriate Chakra for each mudra. Move through each mudra, holding each for 1-2 minutes.

Root Chakra, Muladhara

Siting cross legged on the floor, place the fingertips of your right index and middle fingers on the floor, pressing them gently against the Earth, while the other fingers can naturally curl into the palm of the hand, to be held in place by the thumb. The palm of the left hand rests on the top of the left knee.

Sacral Chakra, Swadisthana

Interlace the fingers inward in front of the lower abdomen. Extend the index fingers, with their fingertips together. Do the same with the thumbs. The index fingers and thumbs should point in opposite directions.

Navel Chakra, Manipura

Interlace the fingers and thumbs in front of the solar plexus. Extend the middle fingers, pressing them together.

Heart Chakra, Anahata

Place the palms of the hands together in front of the heart. Keep the base of the palms together. Keep the thumbs pressed flat against each other and the little fingers pressed flat against each other. Spread the other fingers wide and outwards, like an unfolding flower.

Throat Chakra, Vishuddha

Rest the back of the hands on the top of the knees. Press the tips of the middle fingers into the palms of the hands at the root of the thumbs. Secure the middle fingers with the thumbs. Extend the other fingers outwards.

Third Eye Chakra, Ajna

Rest the back of the hands on the top of the knees. Place the tips of the thumbs and index fingers together, extending the other fingers.

Crown Chakra, Sahasrara

Place the tips of all the opposite fingers and thumbs together with space between the fingers. Hands are held in front of the solar plexus.

Chakra Toning

Each Chakra has its own sound or mantra, again these vary depending on the tradition. The following is the set we use at the Chopra Center. As everything in the Universe is sound or vibration, by directing the correct vibration into an area, we can help to re-harmonize that area.

Sitting quietly with eyes closed, start with your awareness in the Root Chakra and chant its mantra silently or aloud, several times. Continue moving your awareness upwards through each Chakra, pausing to chant each mantra as before.

  • Root Chakra LAM
  • Sacral Chakra VAM
  • Navel Chakra RAM
  • Heart Chakra YAM
  • Throat Chakra HAM
  • Third Eye Chakra SHAM or KSHAM or OM
  • Crown Chakra OM or AUM or Silence

Gayatri Mantra

The Gayatri is the Mother of the Vedas, the essence of the Upanishads

The Gayatri is the most purifying of all mantras, the destroyer of all ignorance

It is particularly powerful when chanted with the attention focused in either the Ajna or Anahata Chakras.

Om Bhur Bhuvah Suvah
Om Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bargo Devasya Dhimahi
Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayat

Balancing with Crystals

Different crystals radiate different vibrations, which can help to harmonize a Chakra by being placed on or near it.

  • 1st Chakra – Black Obsidian, Garnet
  • 2nd Chakra – Carnelian, Tiger’s Eye
  • 3rd Chakra – Citrine, yellow Jade
  • 4th Chakra – Green Jade, Rose Quartz
  • 5th Chakra – Turquoise, Aquamarine, Lapis
  • 6th Chakra – Lapis Lazuli, Azurite
  • 7th Chakra – Amethyst, Opal

Quartz Crystal will activate all chakras.

Selenite attracts cosmic energy and so can be used with any Chakra

A Sri Chakra, which is a three dimensional Sri Yantra, represents Mother Divine and will activate all the chakras in the body.