Chakra System Explained. According to Hinduism and some Asian cultures, the chakras are seven energy vortices located in the subtle bodies of human beings, called kama rupa (‘form of desire’) or linga sharira (‘symbolic body’).
Chakra System in the Human Body: Location of the seven chakras
The function of the chakras is to receive, storage, process and distribute prana (‘air’ in the body, which in the West is not considered to be air but a form of invisible and immeasurable energy). Each of these centers resembles an open flower and possess certain colors that are more or less bright depending on the evolutionary state of the person. The chakra system handles a kind of energy that can heal or cause disease. Read about it here: Blocked Chakras Symptoms: Finding Imbalances In Your Chakras.
The Sanskrit word chakra (cakra चक्र in Devanagari) means ‘wheel’ or ‘circle’. The chakra system is aligned in an ascending column from the base of the spine to the top of the head. In contemporary practices, a color is assigned to each chakra and they are typically represented as lotuses with different number of petals in each chakra.
The chakra system is known to vitalize the body on physical, emotional and mental levels. The function of the chakras is to maintain spiritual, physical, emotional and mental health balanced. Traditional Chinese medicine also relies on a similar model of the human body as an energy system.
Today, there is a growing interest in chakras. This movement points to a correspondence between the position and role of each chakra and those of the glands in the endocrine system.
The chakras are described in the tantric texts as Sat-Cakra-Nirupana, and Padaka-Pancaka, as energy emanating from the spiritual being and gradually becoming tangible, creating different levels of chakras, and which eventually finds its rest in the Muladhara chakra. Therefore, this system is part of a emanationist theory, like that of the Kabbalah in the West. The energy released in creation, called Kundalini, lies dormant at the base of the spine. It is therefore the purpose of the tantric or kundalini yoga to manifesting this energy, and make it raise through the central channel via the chakras, until union with the Absolute is achieved in the Sahasrara chakra, located in the head.
Chakra System Explained
Besides Indian scriptures, some western authors have tried to explain the chakra system. Several contemporary writers have written their opinions on the chakras in great detail, including the reason for their existence and function.
It is said that the seven chakras reflect how the human sense (the immortal human being or the soul), is divided to handle different aspects of earthly life (body / instinct / vital energy / emotions / communication / contact with the Absolute).
The chakras are associated with different levels of spiritual subtlety, with Sahasrara in the highest position related to pure consciousness, and Muladhara in the lower position being related to the matter.
Origins and Development of the Chakra System
The earliest mention of chakras is found in the Hindu Upanishads, specifically in the Upanishad Brahman and Upanishad Yogatattva. The Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhist belief mentions chakras as well.
There are several other models of chakras in other traditions, including Chinese traditional medicine, the Jewish Kabbalah and Islamic Sufism.
The Tantric belief Shakta, has a very detailed book titled The Serpent Power, containing the translation of two Indian texts, the Sat-Chakra-Nirupana, and Padaka-Panchaka. It was written by Sir John Woodroffe (aka Arthur Avalon).
These ideas were developed by C. W. Leadbeater in his controversial book The Chakras, which refers to its own thinking on the subject.
The seven basic chakras
The ancient texts speak of seven major chakras located along the spine, or more precisely in a central nadi along the rachis and to the crown or vertex, called abadhuti, where the serpent called kundalini or shakti will climb, until it meets the Brahman (in the superior chakra), of major importance in the tantra:
The Sahasrara chakra or Crown chakra is the chakra of consciousness, the master chakra which controls the others. Its role is similar to the pituitary gland, which secretes hormones to control the rest of the endocrine system, and also connects to the central nervous system through the hypothalamus. It symbolized by a lotus with a thousand petals, in white or violet, it is located on the head, outside the body. Its stone is clear quartz.
The Ajna chakra, Third Eye chakra or Brow chakra is related to the pineal gland. Ajna is the chakra of time, perception and light. Symbolized by a lotus with two petals in indigo. Westerners believe it is related to the pineal gland.
The Vishuddha chakra or Throat chakra is related to communication and growth; growth being a form of expression. Symbolized by a lotus with sixteen petals, in blue. When the individual (yogi) sends the kundalini energy to this chakra, it develops siddhis (extrasensory powers). Westerners believe that this chakra is related to the thyroid, a gland in the throat that produces various hormones responsible for growth and development.
The Anahata chakra or heart chakra is related to emotions, compassion, love, balance and well-being. Symbolized by a twelve-petalled lotus in green. According to western views, it is related to the thymus gland, which in addition to being part of the endocrine system is part of the immune system. It is responsible for defending the body against pathogens, ie agents that cause stress and disease.
The Manipura chakra, Solar Plexus chakra or Umbilical chakra is related to digestion and assimilation, and corresponds to the roles of external adrenal glands or pancreas. It is symbolized by a lotus with ten petals in yellow.
The Swadhisthana chakra, Sacral chakra or Splenic chakra is related to sexuality and creativity. It is symbolized by a lotus with six petals in orange. It is linked to the testicles. According to Western it also relates to a woman’s ovaries.
The Muladhara chakra or Root chakra represents our physical, vital and ancestral roots. It is located at the base of the coccyx, between the anus and genitals, and its function in the body is related to the strength of bones, teeth, nails, intestine, legs and feet. It is the primary energy on developing other chakras, and it is symbolized by a lotus flower with four petals in crimson.
Each chakra is a vortex of energy in miniature, rotating in counterclockwise direction. Each chakra has two connected ends, one for the front of the body and one for the back. Depending on the health of the person and its evolution, it will “shine”, open and rotate with various levels of speed and energy. The more evolved the person is, the more open the chakras will be, and the more harmonious rotation and brightness it will have. As the person grows they open from bottom to top.
Upon moments of strong emotional intensity, the chakra related to the situation will increase its activity responding with sensations of tingling, buzzing, sometimes even pain. This is why the chakra system is explained usually as vortexes of energy located in the body that have to do both with biological functions, but also mental and emotional functions, that allow us to interact with the energy of the environment and the emotional energy of others.
The colors that represent chakras are arranged in the same way as those covered by human perception. One could ask whether the correspondence between the electromagnetic energy in which we perceive colors, and the different chakras, might imply a relationship between the different energies represented by them and their effects on the human body. The Muladhara represented with the color red is associated with the same concepts that this color is associated in other human areas as interior decoration and esotericism. You could create your own intuitive association between the effects of the energy released from that color and how your body processes it, based on an energy center that responds to it at a very subtle level.