Chakra’s were first described in India, over four thousand years ago and this idea was developed over subsequent Indian text from the Veda’s (1900BC) onwards. In the 1920’s, Chakra’s were popularised in the west by 2 authors CW Leadbeater and Arthur Avalon with their books “The Chakras” and “The Serpent Power”. While these authors themselves have criticised one another’s understanding of the chakra’s in the preface to their respective books, these two books are the source for what has been taught and written about chakra’s in the west.
However, in order to understand Chakra’s and truly benefit from this wisdom, it is important to understand how ancient Indian Yogi’s and Ayurvedic practitioners visualised the human body.
How Ancients Indians Developed the Chakra System
Ancient Indians believed that the human body was not a solid, stable material structure but a dynamic collection of energy that was continuous with the larger field of energy – the universe. In order for the body to remain healthy, this energy needs to flow freely between the universe and the body.
They understood that all energy flows in patterns and follows universal laws. They called bio-energy – prana, pathways through which energy flows are Nadi and points of energy confluence are marma.
Ancient texts describe 117 marma on the surface of the body. These marma are connected to each other via nadi. Deep within the body, along the spinal column and brain these nadi converge to form larger energy vortexes, called Chakra’s.
The word chakra translates as wheel or disk and refers to spinning spheres of prana or bio-electric energy. There are 9 chakras stacked from the base of spine to the top of the head. From a modern medical perspective, these chakra’s coincide with nerve plexuses along the spinal cord and important parts of the brain.
Within ancient Indian teachings these chakra’s are seen as mini brains because they control certain body functions via reflex arcs and can give rise to feelings and emotions.
Prana Powers the Chakra’s
The flow of prana through the body is vitally important. Everything that our bodies are exposed to creates a prana flow within the body. And if this prana is not appropriately used or released then problems arise. Blocked prana results in changes in body tissues. Over time this can lead to physical pathology or mental and emotional imbalances.
Ancient Indians described 5 types of prana.
1. Prana – what we think of as breath. This is the energy in lungs and heart that enables breathing and the oxygenation of blood.
2. Udana refers to energy that flows up our necks and heads to enable conscious action, thoughts and speech.
3. Samana is abdominal or digestive energy which enables breakdown of food, absorption of nutrients and elimination of wastes.
4. Apana is the energy that flows through the pelvic area and enables reproduction and libido.
5. Vyana refers to energy that flows throughout the body to enable movement.
Disharmony in any of the 5 prana, nadi or marma has an effect on the chakra’s. Excessive stimulation can cause a chakra to dominate, while toxic build-up can result in a blockage or underactivity. And chakras in turn influence our glandular, endocrine and immune systems as well as body shape, physical alignment, feelings, thoughts and behaviours.
How to Stimulate the Chakra’s
Ancient Indians not only understood the physiology of chakra’s, they also had methods to diagnose prana blocks and developed techniques to remove these blocks. Some of the techniques used to balance chakras are panchkarma (purification & detoxification), marmapuncture (piercing or stimulating the marma), asana (physical postures), pranayama (bioenergetic breathwork), guided meditation, contemplation and visualisation. Body type (dosha), diet, lifestyle, environment and character traits are all also vital to rebalancing chakra’s.
In the west, chakras are most associated with the yoga tradition. However, in India, Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences that support each other for optimal results. Therefore, chakra therapy would always involve both Yoga and Ayurvedic techniques.
Yoga means Union. It is a discipline designed to unite all aspects of the human. The goal of yoga is achieved by passing through steps of expanding consciousness. From a yogic perspective, the chakras represent these steps.
Each chakra is a centre of organisation that receives, assimilates and expresses prana. The energy patterns of each chakra has a strong impact on our physiological and mental functioning.
The 9 Chakra’s
- Root Chakra – Mūladhāra. This governs basic survival needs – food, warmth and elimination. Related to the coccygeal and sacral plexus which innervates the legs and anal area. Blocks in this chakra can lead to irritable bowels, excessive fear, anxiety and phobia. Overstimulation can lead to anal retention and mental fixity.
- Sacral Chakra – Svādhisthāna –the area of self-esteem and procreation. Related to the lumbosacral plexus which innervates the back of thigh, piriformis muscle and the pelvic area. Once the basic survival needs of the root chakra are met, a person thinks of sex and procreation. Blocks can cause self-esteem issues or sexual dysfunction and overstimulation can present as narcissism or sexual addiction .
- Solar Plexus – Manipūra. The chakra of power, prestige and position, it relates to ambition, competitiveness and aggression. Related to the celiac (solar) plexus which innervates the stomach and abdominal organs to enable digestion and absorption of nutrients. Like Mūladhāra and Svādhistāna, Manipūra belongs to our animal nature. All animals need food, shelter, sex and power. Most mammals have the ‘alpha’, bees have a “queen”, even birds have their pecking order. In order to survive animals vie with each other for dominance. For as long as humanity operates primarily through these 3 lower chakra’s – global peace and altruism cannot happen. When dominated by these lower needs – people will pursue personal gain even at the expense of other people or the environment.
- Heart Chakra – Anāhata. Ancient texts state that until this chakra is awakened, we are not yet human but just animals in human form. Anāhata is related to the cardiac and thoracic plexuses which controls heart and lungs and in turn blood supply throughout the body. It is regarded as the vital centre that enables humans to mitigate the drives of the lower 3 chakra’s by experiencing love and compassion for others. Blocks result in selfishness and egocentricity. Overstimulation results in loss of personal boundaries.
- Throat Chakra – Vīshuddhi. Located at the base of our neck and associated with the brachial and cervical plexuses. This is where our inner thoughts meet with our outer actions. It is the chakra of clarity and communication. Gandhi said that “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” This is the chakra where that harmony or disharmony is felt.
- Third Eye Chakra – Ājñā. Located at the centre of forehead and associated with the frontal lobes of the brain. This is the chakra of consciousness, insight and awareness. When prana travels to this area, we become conscious.
- Crown Chakra – Sahasrāra. Located at the vertex of the head and associated with the parietal lobe of the brain. It is regarded as the seat of awareness where all information, conscious and unconscious, come together. Its’ where the lower self meets the higher self, resulting in self-realisation, transformation and bliss.
Yoga and tantric texts differ on the number of chakra’s described. Texts written for the public describe the above seven chakra’s while texts written for Yoga teachers or Ayurvedic healers add two more. To achieve the state of bliss one needs to progress just though the 7 chakra’s. However, to develop higher abilities or the skills to guide someone else through the chakra process one needs to have full awareness and control of the additional chakras – Lalāna and Bindhū .
Lalāna is associated with the pharyngeal plexus and cerebellum of the brain linked to mapping patterns of muscle engagement in oneself and others.
Bindhū is associated with the occipital lobe of the brain, the visual cortex. It enables visio-spatial skills, that is to break down what one has seen and also to visualise alternative possibilities.
Benefits of Chakra’s
The ancient Chakra map is in keeping with modern neurological understanding of the brain and spinal cord. However, the Chakra system does not just map the body, it also helps us understand energy blocks within the body and it gives us tools to release these blocks. This remarkable system offers explanation, diagnosis and treatment.
Based on the Chakra system we have developed the Organic Apoteke Marma Body Rituals. These treatments stimulate prana along marma and nadi in a way that releases blocks and encourages balance within the chakra system.
If you would like to discover more about your chakra’s and how to use this system to enhance your life join our Chakra Consciousness Program.
About the Author
Nitasha Buldeo is a Doctor of Natural Medicine, a scientist and Yogi. She is committed to honouring Yoga Philosophy in all that she does.
Yoga has been an essential part of Nitasha’s life since childhood. And what always fascinated her was human perception and how the ability to perceive was compromised or enhanced. In her late teens she realised that just as she would not do anything that limited perception through her eyes, ears, nose and tongue, she would not limit perception through her skin. It is for this reason that she set out to formulate products that did not limit skin perception but if possible, could enhance perception by enabling the skin to function better. She therefore created the Organic Apoteke skincare range.
But the researcher in her needed to delve deeper. She realised that once we have information from the outside travelling into the body unhindered by the skin we then need to understand what goes on within the body. She began to focus her research on inner body awareness or interoception. This is in keeping with the Yogic process as interoception is no different from the 5th limb of Yoga – Pratyahara.
Based on her research, personal practice and guidance from her Himalayan gurus Nitasha developed various programs. IYogaa Performance Program – a 12-week program of daily Yoga classes with Neurofeedback cues that systematically strengthens and enhances flexibility of the body while enabling you do develop greater inner awareness and heightened perception.
She also developed the 7 Week Chakra Consciousness Program that uses a combination of Marma, Nadi and Prana practices to enable you to experience the benefits of chakra healing.
These online programs are available at iyogaa.org