We are complex and layered beings. Almost all spiritual and religious cultures have some belief that we are more than just our body and mind. At the very least, we are made of three parts: body, mind, and spirit. Some beliefs state that we are an infinity of complex and intertwined layers. I'm more drawn to the last idea, since I think every action, thought, and atom in us allows us to become the complex selves we are.
It is most commonly understood by spiritual practitioners that we all have an etheric or energetic body. This fabric weaves throughout our bodies, minds, and spirits, and both informs and responds every part of our existence. Building an awareness to these subtle energies can be one of the first, and most powerful, steps for spiritual evolution. Here, I'll explain the basic structure of our energies by covering the most commonly understood layers and structures in our energy systems: the chakras.
The word "chakra" comes from Sanskrit word meaning "wheel" (or sometimes "turning" or "whirlpool"). It originated in Hindu, Tantric, and Vedic beliefs, but has spread to almost all major energy practices present today. The chakras are seven wheels or balls of energy along the midline of our body. They are considered absolutely vital energy centers, despite existing in the subtle (non-physical) body. Each chakra does tend to correspond to one or more bodily systems that are essential for a healthy human life. Often, chakra damage (cause by a variety of factors) contributes to physical ailments. I know when my chakras are imbalanced, my body reacts almost immediately with a physical counterpart! This association, to specific organs, originated through Western adaptions of chakra beliefs, though I've found it to be insightful and intuitively true in my own experience.
We all have energy and matter as a part of ourselves, the chakras are just a specific concentration of these energies. Our cells respond, electrically, to emotional and thought based signals (that's how signals travel along our nerves and to and from our brain!), so this energy is well accepted in the scientific community. The chakras are an energy specific body that functions in a similar way. It works with your physical body by means of energy, and this energy is affected by similar things like emotion and thought. Our energy bodies are similar to our physical nervous systems.
The chakras themselves are the main points of integration between the physical, mental, emotion, and spiritual bodies we all contain. They are central organizations of these connections and vital parts of our complete selves. Chakras can become blocked if they are overcome with negative energy, and can reopen through many healing techniques. First, though, it takes a learned awareness of these energy wheels to begin to understand where you need to heal your subtle energy system. Since these chakras connect all parts of our being, healing them heals us completely. Your chakras are like flowers, they need nurturing and love to blossom.
The Chakras Themselves
Beliefs about the chakras differ from practitioner to practitioner, but there are several generally understood concepts about them. There are usually seven main body chakras, which span the spine and up through the skull. Sometimes this seven body system is expanded to twelve chakras, some of which expand past the body and directly connect to more ethereal realms. Chakras are an essential part of the subtle energy body, and work with other energetic pathways (like nadis, vayus, meridians, even auric fields). Each chakra is the center that all parts of our being connect to: body, mind, emotions, spirit (like the Vedic theories of the layered being). They are essential to work with because of their intensely connected nature.
The chakras now are theorized to correspond with the rainbow arrangement of colors, red at the bottom/root chakra and violet or white at the top/crown chakra. This was a new concept introduced when the chakras became Westernized and was not a part of the original Vedic system.
I'll briefly expand on the main principles of the seven body chakras, though if you'd like an in-depth discussion on the chakras, this eBook can provide that for you!
The Root chakra "Mūlādhāra": The first chakra of the system, located at the base of the spine. Generally known to be in charge of primal urges, safety, protection, and security. When associated with a color, it resonates with deep brown, red, or maroon.
The Sacral chakra "Svādhisthāna": The second chakra, located around 3 finger widths beneath the navel (generally around the womb). Generally known to govern sensuality, sacred sexuality, emotion, creativity, and femininity. When associated with a color, it resonates with sunset orange or bright orange.
The Solar Plexus/Navel chakra "Manipūra": The third chakra, located between the base of the ribs and the belly button. This governs willpower, strength, assertive behavior, and self-control. When associated with a color, it resonates with warm yellow, bright yellow, or gold.
The Heart chakra "Anāhata": The fourth chakra, located in the middle of the sternum or towards the top of the sternum (wherever feels right for you!). This is the chakra of love, compassion, kindness, and harmony. When associated with a color, it resonates with a deep forest or bright spring green.
The Throat chakra "Viśuddha": The fifth chakra, located at the base of your neck under the Adam's apple. Generally known to govern communication, expression, speaking your truth, and talking. This chakra starts to relate to less physical states and more spiritual expression. When associated with a color, it resonates with an electric or turquoise blue.
The Third Eye chakra "Ājñā": The sixth chakra, located between the eyebrows or on the lower forehead. This is in charge of intuition, spiritual sight, non-physical communication, visualization, and insight. When associated with a color, it resonates with deep purple or indigo.
The Crown chakra "Sahasrāra": The seventh (and last!) main chakra, located at the top/crown of the forehead or right at the top of the head (sometimes even at both). This controls your divine expression, your connection to the Source/Universe, wisdom, completion with the world, and full potential through spiritual awakening. When associated with a color, it resonates with lavender, light purple, and/or white.
Each person's own energy system is variable. Often the locations of the chakras is not directly where the "textbook" location is said to be, and sometimes the colors shift hues. It's all about trusting your own energy system and learning from it.
Things that affect the chakras:
The chakras are such a sensitive part of our being, and everything affects them. Our thoughts, emotions, diet, exercise, health conditions, the people we interact with, the place we live, the air we breathe, the energy we work with. The chakras control so much of our being, especially our connection from physical bodies to divine spirits; it is so crucial that we all begin to pay attention to even the smallest parts of our lives. We don't have to be perfect, especially with thoughts and emotions, but we do need to begin a path towards awareness. Understanding your chakras are being able to feel when they are negatively affected by something will start you on an intuitive journey to heal and protect your energy.
Here are some common things that can negatively affect our chakras:
- Pesticides, Artificial Ingredients, Preservatives, and Artificial Food Chemicals
- Toxic relationships
- Childhood trauma, difficult experiences, neglect, and poor parenting
- Sudden life changes
None of these are completely avoidable in our world, and fortunately our chakras are incredibly resilient. Experiencing something that really shakes your energy up isn't the end of your journey, it will just take some concentrated healing. This is a part of life, though!
Ways to explore and begin to work with your chakras:
A great way to explore your chakras through a small creative endeavor is to whip out some drawing or painting materials. Use something with a lot of colors and pick what each of your chakras looks like, drawing them in sequential order from the bottom/root chakra up. Choosing your favorite colors for each chakra is an easy and enjoyable intuitive way of accessing the colors that your chakras actually radiate. If you're struggling to find a color, place your hand over the location of the chakra and breathe for a second, telling yourself that you know your energy and will be able to know which color is best, and that there is no pressure or permanence to choosing this color right now. Then open your eyes again and you may have a clearer understanding of the color you wish to place on the paper for that chakra. After all are complete, look at how beautiful your energy system is! Also, feel free to leave an image of your chakra system in the comments of this post, so we can all bask in how beautiful all of our energy is.
When doing chakra work, the practice tends to work best when cleared/healed sequentially. They provide a stable base for your energy to rise through and around your spine, so if you open only your crown (if all other chakras are in a closed state), it might make you energetically "top heavy." Working from the first (root) to the seventh (crown) allows you to work from the most physical planes of expression to the most divine, naturally raising your entire energetic system.
A way of beginning to connect with each chakra is to place a hand over its location and taking an in-breath and imagining white light coming through your nose or mouth, holding the breath for a moment and watching the white light swirl and mix with the colored chakra, then exhaling and imagining any negative energy from the chakra being released. You can repeat this as much as you like, though I usually suggest between 1-5 minutes for each chakra. This meditation goes more in-depth into this type of breathing practice! If possible, do this every day or night, it can really do wonders for your energy system. Naturally, if breathing meditation could be a health concern for you, adapt this to any needs you have. There are a ton more mindfulness exercises here!
You can also do healing or chakra guided meditations. I'm a huge fan of "The Honest Guys" on Youtube. Also, I recommend the books "A Handbook of Chakra Healing," by Kalashatra Govinda, "Chakra Foods for Optimum Health," by Deanna M. Minich, and "The Chakra Bible," by Patricia Mercier.
For other pieces of information and practices of energy work, be sure to check out the rest of the blog!