“Chakra” is the Sanskrit word for wheel. This term represents the ever shifting awareness and flow of all our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual processes and development. There are seven major chakras or energy centers in our bodies thought to be located along the center axis of the spine (shusumna nadi). Each chakra has a certain state of consciousness ascribed to it and forms our nonphysical or "subtle body”. From these centers various levels of thought, emotion and feelings arise. These energies are expressed distinctly within each of us and may shift as we develop spiritually. As described above in the section on Kundalini, these centers are either more or less active in each of us. The various practices of yoga are designed the clear this energy system of any blocks or faulty perceptions. The practitioner may then realize his or her fullest potential and connection to the greater life force in all things.
The Chakras are full of symbolic meaning. A specific natural element is associated with each chakra and is perceived to have its own color and vibratory frequency.Below is a brief description of each chakra in the system.
1). Muladhara Chakra – The lowest center of energy in the body, Muladhara relates to the solid, grounding element of Earth. Located at the base of the pelvis, this “Root Chakra” is primarily concerned with survival and material support of the body.
2). Svadhistana Chakra – This second energy center in the chakra system is located in the lower abdominal region. Water is the element of this chakra and it relates to emotions, sensations, pleasure, sexuality and nurturance.
3). Manipura Chakra – The Solar Plexus is the center of this fiery third chakra. It represents our action, will, passions and power. Manipura energy is the energy of self-transformation. The digestive system and metabolism are closely associated with this chakra.
4). Anahata Chakra – This fourth chakra is seated in the heart and is the center axis point of the chakra system. Anahata chakra is where the realms of the mind and the body are balanced. The element of air associated with this center suggests the open, expansive nature of love.
5).Vissuddha Chakra – The fifth chakra is located in the neck and shoulders and is sometimes called the “Throat Chakra”. This is the chakra of communication and self-expression, and is associated with purification. Sound is the element of this energy center.
6).Ajna Chakra – The sixth chaka is associated with the element of light. This chakra is the phychic center of the “Third Eye”. Sight and intuition, along with mental energy are it’s essence.
7). Sahasrara Chakra – Known also as the “Crown Chakra”. It represents spontaneous meditation and expanded consciousness. Also called the ”Thousand Petaled Lotus”, it is the seat of enlightenment and is beyond the material, physical realm.
(see chakra system map in "chakras" photo album - Artwork by Bruce Bowditch)