The word “chakra” is thrown around quite a bit and used to poke fun at people who are having a bad day or they’re in a perpetual state of grumpiness.
“You need to align your chakras!”, people will jest. Sounds easy, right? But who am I kidding? How many people actually know what a chakra is?
Why are they considered to be so important in the yogic world? Do they actually need to be aligned? Should you even care if you have chakras?
What is a Chakra?
According to Indian thought, the chakras are the energy centers of our body. If you really want to get into it, there are 114 chakras total, but there are seven chakras that are the ones that are mostly focused on. (1)
These seven align the spine, starting at the crown of the head and working their way down to the base of the spine.
To visualize a chakra, imagine a wheel of energy. These wheels are where matter and consciousness meet. This is called prana, or your vital life force, and it’s what keeps you healthy and alive.
Why are Chakras Important?
Chakras correspond to your body’s biggest nerve centers. The seven chakras don’t just contain your psychological, spiritual, and emotional being; they contain bundles of nerves and vital organs, too.
Indian thought says our bodies and the prana (energy) within the body is always moving, thus necessitating open chakras to keep energy flowing. (2) When the energy stops, we become depressed, anxious, angry, and/or physically sick.
So the million dollar question: what are these seven chakras? What energy do they hold? If they’re blocked, do they really have a negative impact on your wellbeing?
# The Root Chakra
Associated with the color red, the root chakra, or Muladhara, is responsible for stability, security, and survival, and it’s located at the base of the spine. This is where your fight or flight instinct is harbored. It’s made up of the first three lumbar vertebrae, the bladder, and the colon.
If it’s blocked or unbalanced, you’ll become cynical, insecure, anxious, or unsure of yourself. Physically, you might have digestive upset which is why nerves and anxiety are often accompanied by a stomachache or nausea.
If you aren’t sure whether it’s blocked or not, answer some of these questions:
- Do you want to stay home more than you usually do or does home not feel like home anymore?
- Are you questioning your career or life choices?
- Do you feel more insecure than usual?
- Are you more codependent in your relationships? (3)
To balance or open the Mulahadra, try some grounding or earth-related activities. The root chakra’s element is related to the earth, so hiking, gardening, or simply spending time outdoors are fantastic ways to open that chakra.
If you’re using yoga to open the chakra, stick with standing poses like tadasana (mountain pose), warrior poses, or half-moon.
# The Sacral Chakra
The Svadhisthana holds your creativity, intuition, and sexual centers. It’s located just above your pubic bone and below the navel. When this chakra is open, it allows you to live in the moment, express and embrace your creativity, and feel content.
It’s highly motivated by pleasure, and if it’s blocked, you feel codependent, overindulge in the things you like, or feel stuck in a particular emotion. (4)
If you answer yes to any of these questions, your sacral chakra could use some work:
- Do you feel unloved or unworthy or have difficulty maintaining intimate relationships?
- Do you have difficulty maintaining a sexual relationship?
- Are you prone to wanting to have revenge on people who have hurt you? (5)
This chakra is associated with the water element, so to open it, participate in activities that get you moving. Swimming is a great way to include the water element (fluidity/cohesiveness), but expressing your creativity through dance, music, or art are also excellent ways to open up the Svadhisthana.
Incorporating hip openers into your yoga practice is going to untie a lot of emotional baggage and help you let go of a lot of things. If you’ve held an intense hip opener during your yoga practice, you have surely felt the swell of emotions come up.
Whether it’s anger, sadness, or frustration, hip openers are a great way to clear all of that out.
# The Solar Plexus Chakra
This chakra is located in the solar plexus, or the area from your navel to the bottom of your chest bone. It’s associated with the fire element, and since fire is associated with power, it’s considered the source of your personal power, self-esteem, and motivation.
Is your Manipura chakra unbalanced?
- Do you want to be in control of every situation?
- Do you feel the need to control other people?
- If you’re already in power, do you find yourself abusing it?
- Is your self-esteem low? Do you feel angry all the time? (6)
Bringing heat to your Manipura chakra doesn’t just open it; it strengthens it, too. Drinking room temperature or lukewarm water opens the chakra, while cold drinks tend to block it. In your yoga practice, twists, warrior poses, and pranayama generate heat in the solar plexus region.
# The Heart Chakra
The heart chakra, also known as the Anahata chakra, is located in the center of your chest at heart level. This chakra is the origination of love, compassion, and joy. It’s also the center of your relationships, self-love, and kindness.
Some people say that Anahata is the most important chakra because love is the world’s greatest unifier.
When the heart chakra is blocked, you’ll notice increased feelings of defensiveness, jealousy, and a fear of intimacy. If you’re unsure whether your heart chakra is blocked, ask yourself some of these questions:
- Does rejection cause you a lot of pain, and if you experience it, do you feel like closing yourself off?
- Are you paranoid, indecisive, impatient, or self-pitying?
- Are you possessive and untrusting in your relationships?
- Does being tender or emotionally vulnerable make you feel weak or needy?
- Are you constantly feeling negative, listless, or depressed? (7)
Enter your text here...If any of these things sound familiar to you, then your heart chakra needs some unblocking. In terms of your yoga practice, heart openers are incredibly beneficial. Camel, wheel, wild thing, and even supported bridge are great ways to get this prana moving again.
Mantras are helpful, too. Things like “I am worthy of love”, “I allow myself to give and receive love”, and “I forgive those who have hurt me” may be enough to get things unstuck.
# The Throat Chakra
Your throat chakra allows you to express everything about you: love, compassion, and truth. Indian thought believes that the throat chakra is what allows you to accept your uniqueness and express your individuality.
Since it’s located in your throat, a blockage here results in dishonesty, insecurity, timidness, and being introverted. How do you know your throat chakra needs some help?
- Is it difficult for you to speak up for yourself or others?
- Is there a lot of arguing in your personal relationships because of simple miscommunication?
- Do you feel like your voice/opinion is never heard but you can’t bring yourself to speak up? (8)
Does any of this sound right? If it does, you can do a few things to get this type of prana moving freely again. Hydration is key. Drinking enough water or eating fruit high in water content often balances out the throat chakra.
If this is an ongoing blockage, though, you probably need to do a few more things.
Nature naturally heals the throat chakra, and since blue is its color element, you get a ton of exposure to this color when you’re out under the sky. The natural element of the throat chakra is ether, and again, there’s no better way to experience ether than out in nature.
This doesn’t mean you need to escape to the mountains; simply sitting out in your backyard is more than enough.
# The Third Eye Chakra
Located between your eyebrows, the third eye chakra is perhaps the most well-known one, especially if you practice yoga. It’s responsible for your intuition, creativity, and insight. It’s also where your ethics/morals and sense of justice start.
If your third eye is blocked, it’s possible to see some physical symptoms manifest. These include migraines, sinusitis, and insomnia.
What are the emotional signs of a blockage?
- Are you feeling particularly closed-minded when you never used to be?
- Are you feeling like you can’t trust your own intuition?
- Do you make a lot of plans but never follow through on them?
- Do you feel like you’re always worrying or expecting the worst outcome?
- Does this make you put up barriers in certain situations or with certain people? (9)
How can you balance or unblock your third eye chakra?
- Trust your intuition. Whether you have a vision or a solid goal, embrace it and go with it. Your intuition is never wrong.
- Poses that prep you for inversions are helpful because inversions stimulate the crown chakra which is closely related to the third eye. Downward facing dog, dolphin, and the sun salutations are great places to start.
# The Crown Chakra
Enter your textcrown chakra is located at the top of the head, and it allows you to experience unity with other people and the things/places surrounding you. It provides you with wisdom, peace, and joy.
When your crown chakra is open, you’re able to connect to your truest self, forgetting the story everyone else has placed on you and allowing you to realize your own truth.
Do you think your crown chakra might be blocked? Ask yourself some of these questions to find out.
- Do you feel hopeless about the present or future?
- Do you try to escape reality?
- Do you have a hard time accepting things as they are, living in a constant state of denial?
- Are you normally a spiritual person but you’ve given up on a higher power?
- Do you question who you are or why you’re here? (10)
How do you unblock your crown chakra?
- Meditate. This practice allows your mind to flow, opening up the connection to your crown chakra. Meditation is truly the best way to open a blocked crown chakra and keep it balanced.
- Ground your energies. Gardening connects you to the earth, as does spending more time outside. In your yoga practice, a series of standing poses reconnects you to the earth.
You don’t have to be a chakral expert to unblock your chakras. If you’re in tune with your body’s energy and you realize where you need work emotionally or physically, you can pinpoint what chakra needs work.
Consider your yoga practice a daily vitamin for your chakras. Yoga doesn’t just make you fit physically; it can totally change you from the inside out.