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Chakras | What Are They & Can They Help?


Chakras

Let's face it, some things about yoga can seem just a little weird!

If you're a new yogi or yoga student, it's likely that you have ran across some yoga stuff that seems a bit confusing. Most of us think of yoga as physical exercise, and even more people see yoga a mere meditation and chanting.

Of course, yoga is much more than physical exercise and chanting. There's also a spiritual, mental and emotional aspect to yoga, and that's where things can perhaps get a little strange. There are many yogic terms and ideas that require some faith and deeper understanding.

For example, you may have heard the term, "Chakra". It's not difficult to run across the term while searching for anything yoga related.

So, if you're wondering, "What the hell is a "Chakra"? Hopefully, we can help!



What Is a Chakra?

In some ways, the idea or belief in chakras is widely controversial. There's no doubt that having a belief in chakras requires a faith or spiritual base, as we can't see or prove the existence of chakras.

So, what is a chakra?

The Sanskrit translation for the term chakra literally means "wheel". In the yoga community, this wheel specifically refers to a wheel or wheels of energy placed throughout the body and aligned with the spine. These wheels of energy are placed from the base of the spine to the top of the head.

These wheels spin with an invisible energy and create a life force some refer to as Prana. Believers of Prana suggest that this life force of energy is vital to our lives, health and happiness. As a result, these wheels of energy must be balanced, open and unblocked.

There are disagreements as to the number of chakras. The number can range from 6 to 12 depending on a wide variety of factors. However, in the West, most yogis stick with the widely accepted system of 7 chakras. It's worth noting, Sanskrit text can be found dating back to the 1500's which explains the system of chakras, so the belief in or idea of chakras isn't a new one.

It may be impossible to prove that these wheels of energy are real, but that may be beside the point. As with any faith based system, the power lies within the mind of the believer. If someone can feel the energy and life force from these 7 wheels and their life is improved, then this is all that matters.



Root Chakra or 1st Chakra

The very first chakra is also referred to as "Muladhara" or "Root Chakra". This first spinning wheel of energy is located at the base of the spine. This first region also includes the colon and bladder. Most believe that this chakra helps to control our emotions concerning basic needs, survival, and the feeling of being grounded.

Many believe that if the "Muladhara" isn't flowing with energy that this blockage can lead to a feeling of insecurity, fear, greed and a negative mindset.

Opening or balancing this chakra is as simple as creating a feeling of being grounded with the earth and planting your roots. Possible ways to help spin this Root Chakra energy wheel is to get in touch with nature, perhaps though gardening or a simple walk in nature, or simply lying still in the grass to feel the earth beneath you.

The Root Chakra is symbolized by a four-petaled lotus flower.

Not surprisingly, yoga postures thought to stimulate the 1st Chakra include strong standing poses that ground your feet to the earth and forward folds that allow you to bow to the earth and all it's power. Some of these poses would include Warrior I Pose, Warrior II Pose and Warrior III Pose, Humble Warrior Pose, Standing Forward Bend Pose, and Seated Forward Fold Pose.


Sacral Chakra or 2nd Chakra

The second chakra is also known as the "Svadhisthana" or "Sacral" Chakra. This wheel of energy located in the lower abdomen above the pubic bone and below the navel is widely thought of as one of the most popular and exciting chakras. This spinning energy is believed to control and influence our creative flow and our sexual desires and pleasures. As a result, some systems also include the genitals as a part of this chakra region.

If this spinning energy isn't kept balanced, it is believed to cause out of touch emotions, the feeling of being trapped or stuck in a rut, lack of sexual drive or perhaps developing am obsession with sexual feelings or desires.

Awakening or balancing this chakra can include a number of choices. Generally, allowing your body to move and flow freely without restriction is helpful. For example, dancing could do the trick, especially dancing with ample pelvic and hip motions. Using yoga to open and flex the hips could also help to balance and free this chakra. In a word, open the mind, the body and allow yourself to let go and embrace your sensual side.

This chakra is symbolized by a circle with six petals and a crescent moon shape.

Yoga postures beneficial to this wheel of energy include hip openers like Lizard Pose, and Mermaid Pose. Forward folds like Wide Legged Forward Fold Pose, Frog Pose, Puppy Pose and Cow Pose can also help create flow and balance.


Solar Plexus Chakra or 3rd Chakra

The third chakra is also called the "Solar Plexus Chakra" or "Manipura". The Solar Plexus is located in the upper abdomen between the navel and lower chest. This chakra is all about control, specifically the control of our lives and our ability to maintain self-confidence and self-worth. Clearly, this would be considered a vital chakra since our self-confidence and esteem is so critical to happiness. Taking control of our lives and asserting our power is a critical aspect of our daily lives making this wheel of energy ever important.

Keeping this wheel balanced is needed and can otherwise lead to being too concerned about short term wins and losses, wandering aimlessly through your days, trying to harshly control the people and situations around you and misleading others to attain your goals.

Trying to balance this chakra can be a challenge as it includes an effort to focus our own feelings of worth. It could help to keep positive thoughts about ourselves and our behavior. Try to focus on believing that you're capable and worthy of success in your personal and professional lives. Opening this chakra can take time and effort.

The symbol for the Solar Plexus is a circle with ten petals and an upside-down triangle.

Yoga poses for the Manipura include postures that engage and strengthen the core and twisting poses. Specific poses would include Crow Pose, Plank Pose, and Boat Pose. Twisting postures may include Crescent Twist and Chair Pose Twist.


Heart Chakra or 4th Chakra

The 4th chakra is also referred to as the "Heart Chakra" or "Anahata". The Heart Chakra is unique as it's located perfectly in the middle of the lower and upper chakras. The 4th Chakra acts a bridge or connector between the chakras of spirit (Upper Chakras) and chakras of matter (Lower Chakras). The specific location is in the chest, just above our heart. This 4th spinning wheel of energy is believed to connect to our inner peace, our emotional connections and our ability to love. Although in the middle, this chakra would be considered a spiritual collection of energy.

If the Heart Chakra is out of balance or ignored it can lead to a variety of personal issues. Some of the issues may include feeling disconnected from your personal relationships, jealousy, trying to please everyone, and perhaps holding on to a grudge or refusal to let go of the past.

Balancing this chakra is all about being ready to open your heart. Some also feed this energy by focusing on controlling breath with breathing exercises. It's also helpful to practice gratitude in your daily life and be open to giving if you're normally the one receiving and vice versa. This chakra also benefits from letting go of past issues and allowing the heart to forgive and be open to new love.

The symbol for the Anahata is a circle with twelve petals, with both an upside-down triangle and normal triangle.

Naturally, yoga postures that best help this chakra are poses focused on opening the chest and stretching the upper body. Numerous poses fall into these categories including backbends and many other heart openers. Specific poses include Upward Facing Dog Pose, Wheel Pose, Camel Pose and Wild Thing Pose.


Throat Chakra or 5th Chakra

The 5th chakra is also known as the "Throat Chakra" or "Vishuddha". Not surprisingly, this spinning wheel of energy or life force is in the throat and includes the neck area and mouth. Naturally, the Throat Chakra is all about our verbal expression and especially our ability to communicate truths. However, it is believed that this wheel also has a role to play with our non-verbal communication. Many also consider this chakra to be naturally connected to the Sacral Chakra and its influence on our creativity. One of this chakra's greatest assets could be its ability to help us determine our purpose or vocation in life.

If out of balance or ignored, this chakra could cause us to speak out of line, speak to often, or even fear the idea of speaking out. Our speech may become timid or quiet if energy doesn't flow freely through the throat. Some believe that the most dramatic result from blocking the 5th Chakra would be an increase or comfortableness with telling lies.

The best and most powerful way to free or open the Throat Chakra is to simply speak out and make the most of your voice. Don't be afraid to state your opinions or concerns. Try to let the past go and focus on current issues. Some think that embracing the color blue in your daily life can help this wheel of energy. Express yourself!

The symbol for this chakra is usually a circle with sixteen petals. Sometimes it will include an upside-down triangle or crescent.

Yoga poses to help with this chakra include any postures that can allow for release of tension from the neck and shoulders. Make sure with any yoga poses to be aware of neck tension that can injure or block this chakra. Specific postures include Standing Forward Bend Pose, Fish Pose, Camel Pose and Cow Pose.


Third Eye Chakra or 6th Chakra

The 6th Chakra is also referred to as the "Third Eye" or "Ajna". This chakra is located right between your eyes just below your forehead. It is not located in the middle of the forehead as many believe. Some may also call this the "Brow Chakra". This spinning energy influences our ability to make decisions as well as our intuition. You could say that this chakra helps us to see the overall scenario and not just the specific details. This chakra is commonly associated with the Pineal Gland, a gland in the brain that helps to regulate sleep.

If balance isn't achieved, this can lead to a lack of focus, not being able to consider the entire scenario and only thinking of the smaller details, losing faith in matters of spirit and placing belief within the scientific. Imbalance may also lead to a lack of vision for your overall future goals.

Common ways to improve the Third Eye includes practicing meditation and embracing silence to help focus the mind. Embrace your imagination and don't fear exploring matters of spirituality. Some may also use the power of visualizations to imagine their future and desires. Meditation is also thought of as beneficial to the Pineal Gland which is closely associated with the Third Eye. Some believe the consumption of fruits and vegetables is also beneficial to this chakra.

The symbol for the "Third Eye" is also an upside-down triangle with the Lotus flower.

Yoga poses to help stimulate this chakra include forward folds and simple inversions. Inversions help create a reversal of blood flow and provide fresh oxygen to the brain and Pineal Gland. Specific postures would include Downward Facing Dog Pose, Standing Forward Bend Pose, Plow Pose, and Shoulder Stand Pose.


Crown Chakra or 7th Chakra

The 7th chakra is also known as the "Crown Chakra" or "Sahaswara". This chakra is located at the very top or crown of the head. This chakra is all about our spiritual connection to ourselves and the universe. The Crown is connected to exploring a higher and limitless wisdom and unseen power. This chakra is based on faith, spirituality and being open to powers that we can't see or sometimes understand throughout our lives.

Imbalance in the Crown Chakra can lead to a lack of spiritual beliefs and concerns. On the other hand, if this chakra is overactive it may create an unhealthy amount of focus on matters of spirituality. It's important to achieve balance between matters of faith and matters of daily life within this chakra.

Much like The Third Eye, this chakra can be nurtured with meditation and silence. It's important to connect with the spiritual with The Crown, so silence can help achieve a quiet mind and openness.

The symbol of this chakra is a simple one, a circle with a thousand petals.

Yoga poses or styles to help balance this chakra are likely to be slower paced postures with less movement. Restorative poses or meditative postures would be best, as opposed to Power Flows or yoga classes designed to keep you moving.