Understanding Chakras for Beginners, by Aliyah Christi

Chakras are fundamental to yoga, and gaining an understanding of what they are can deepen one’s appreciation for the practice. The term yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuji, which literally means “to yoke” or union. The connection it’s referring to is that of the mind and body, or surrendering one’s physical self and the present environment. In line with this, chakra also comes from Sanskrit roots, literally translating to “wheel.” You can think of chakra as “wheels” of energy that run throughout your body.

There are seven main chakras that run in our bodies. They act as pathways that promote harmony between our body, mind, and spirit. This is why it’s important to understand what each one represents, and the asanas (yoga poses) we can do to keep them open.

Muladhara, the Root

The Root Chakra is located at the base of our spine, and it represents the “foundation” of our entire being – similar to knowing our true identities. Balancing poses, such the tree pose, helps us focus on all areas of your life, particularly the ones where we feel “off-balanced”. Balancing is a gentle reminder that we can bring calm focus and clarity to every situation.

Svadhisthana, the Sacral

The Sacral Chakra has great influence on our emotions, and is responsible for our ability to accept others and welcome new experiences. It’s located in our lower abdomen, about two inches below the navel. The best yoga poses to cultivate the Svadhisthana are ones that are more fluid, or “go with the flow”. Some examples include low lunges, the Warrior pose, Reverse Warrior, and many more. Freestyling can also help get us in touch with our emotions and desires – sifting through troubling feelings and understanding what they truly mean.

Manipura, the Pilot

Have you ever experienced your stomach “dropping” when you remember something unpleasant from the past? According to Chakra Lessons, that’s Manipura at work. This chakra, located in our upper abdomen, speaks about our ability to be in control of our life. Core work, such as the boat pose or anything that creates heat and fire in your abdomen, will boost our feelings of “power” – allowing us to feel more confident about our decisions.

Anahata, the Heart

Anahata is associated with love, compassion, and forgiveness on all levels. “Heart openers” such as the dancer’s pose and crescent lunge can influence our ability to give and receive love – both from others and ourselves. You can see it in the way it puts emphasis on open-facing poses, which may signify your openness to love.

Vishuddha, the Voice

This chakra is located at the center of the neck, and represents our ability to communicate and say what’s on our mind. Regular poses that open the throat, like upward-facing dog and neck circles, may help you express yourself more openly. You can also add chants to your routine to symbolize the release of feelings.

Ajna, the Third-Eye

The Third-Eye, located at the center of our forehead, speaks of our ability to see the big picture. It is often connected with things like intuition, conscience, and inner awareness. Using yoga as a time of reflection and mindful thinking helps cultivate the Ajna, so it has more to do with intention than it is with physical poses.

Sahasrara, the Crown

Sahasrara, the highest chakra, located at the crown of our head, is the source of enlightenment and connection to our higher selves. This stage is less physical and more spiritual. This is why meditation, rather than asana, is considered the best way to stimulate this chakra. Focus on breathing and how the body moves with each breath. According to a study conducted by the University of Waterloo, just 10 minutes of serious, mindful meditation a day can prevent our minds from wandering, which can help us reach a higher plane of consciousness.

Balancing and aligning your chakras may be what you need to overcome life’s struggles. Once you are able to determine which parts of yourself need balancing, you can use your chakra knowledge to do so, and bring some harmony back into your life.

Written by Aliyah Christi
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