An introduction to the chakra system

An introduction to the
chakra system


Welcome!

So, you’ve discovered the chakra system and you’re curious to learn more? It’s exciting that you’re here and I hope you find this to be a helpful introduction.

I could talk about the chakras for hours. There’s a reason people write entire books on this incredible system at work within us. But I’ve tried to keep this concise for the purposes of an introduction to the chakra system, to give you a flavour of what it’s all about and to hopefully tease your curiosity.

Going on a journey of self-discovery with the chakra system as my guide has been, and continues to be, an incredibly insightful and empowering experience. Most significantly, it is helping me to strengthen the connection between my mind, body, and soul. Where there was once huge separation – where I was continuously caught up in my thoughts, not listening to the messages from my physical body, not understanding when my intuition was speaking to me – there is now more connection and collaboration. I am now living a more wholehearted life, bringing together all aspects of myself into being as one.

Of course, as with everything, exploring the chakra system, and myself via this system, is a journey and so I do my best to welcome all the twists, turns, and surprises that come my way along the way.

I wish your journey through the chakra system, wherever it may take you, to bring you new levels of healing, growth, comfort, clarity, and ease – from a place of deep knowing and trust that you will inevitably nurture along the way, with the chakras as your guide.

With love,
Katie

p.s. There is a multitude of information about the chakra system out there but I’ve worked from one particular source that I’ve found most compelling to give an introduction to the chakra system: “Eastern Body, Western Mind. Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self”, by Anodea Judith. It’s absolute gold and is a book I continuously come back to again and again and again. I strongly recommend it if you’re keen to gain a deeper, more thorough understanding of the workings of the chakra system and each individual chakra.

Any quotes that follow are from Anodea.

What is the chakra system?

We wouldn’t have the chakra system without energy, so let’s start there.

One way of looking at things is that at the quantum level – which is between 10,000 and 100,000 times smaller than an atom – everything that exists in the universe is energy, which is vibrating and oscillating at different rates. Quantum physics also states that mass and energy are interchangeable i.e., they are different forms of the same thing – mass is a manifestation of energy. So, us humans are essentially energy stored in mass particle form.

It is also said that psychological processes such as thought, emotion, belief, and attitudes are too formed of energy, so emotions we repress mean we’re also repressing their energy, although this is another blog entirely!

Another way of looking at energy, with a more spiritual twist, is that there is “life force” energy emanating through us, which you may have heard referred to as chi, ki, or prana; vibrational energy that is the very essence of our being. One view is that this energy originates from outside of us – cosmic energy, as it were, another is that it comes from within, from our essence and truest self.

The chakra system is a system through which this energy, whichever way you may look at it, is processed. The author, therapist and public speaker, Anodea Judith, whose work focuses on uniting the chakra system of the east with psychology of the west, explains each individual chakra forming the wider system to be: “a center of organization that receives, assimilates, and expresses life force energy.”

The word “chakra” itself translates to “wheel” or “disk” and refers to a spinning sphere. There are 7 main chakras, which while not of physical form in themselves, do still have fairly specific locations within the body – from the base of the spine (root chakra) up to the top of the head (crown chakra). We also have many other smaller chakras in our hands, fingertips, feet and shoulders.

Each of these 7 central chakras has come to represent a major area of human psychological health, also correlating to our physical health. Each chakra, beginning with the root, came into being in line with our development – right from the root chakra (womb to 6 months) through to the crown (adulthood). If you go onto read about each individual chakra below, I’ve outlined when they’re said to have developed and what each is associated with – where everything will begin to make more sense.

Life force energy flows through us predominantly in two directions – horizontal currents of energy channelled through the chakras. One current flows downwards, from the upper to lower chakras and into the earth. This is known to be the current of manifestation, associated with the tangible and physical, form and body/mass, the more practical matters of our lives such as survival, movement and action. Whereas the upwards flow of energy is said to be the current of liberation, associated with freedom, expansion from the physical into the mental realm, a more symbolic level of words, images, and concepts. Earth versus universe connection. See image (p. 13, Eastern Body, Western Mind)

What’s key is that there is a healthy balance, where both currents flow as freely as possible in each direction, because the chakras are working as they should to process that energy. It’s no coincidence that the heart chakra – at the very centre of the chakra system (chakra 4 of 7, from the root) is associated with balance. If our energies our balanced, we’re more likely to feel safe in and experience the world through our bodies, we are grounded and have a sense of personal will – while also experiencing the world through our minds. We are visionary, expressive, connect to something bigger than us, and are are in touch with our intuition – our inner guidance system.

After all, the chakra system, which originated in India over 4,000 years ago, came to the west with the practice of yoga – which is said to mean “yoke”, melding mind with spirit through various physical and mental disciplines. It all comes back to balance.

But let’s be real, balance is no mean feat! The human experience is, after all, not easy. And so it’s undeniable that the natural flow of energy will be interfered with along the way, by negative experiences such as illness, trauma, social conditioning and programming, and oppressive environments, to name but a few.

What’s important is that we learn to pay attention and tune into our energetic body and the messages we receive via our physical, emotional and mental bodies, to see where we need nurturing, care, and healing, and that we get support when we need it. While exploring the ways we can unite the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual parts of ourselves so we can relish in and rest in our beautiful wholeness – for it is the integration of mind, body, and energy that makes healing possible.

Unblocking the chakras and supporting the healthy flow of energy within most likely requires a multi-level approach, so that the natural flow of energy within is supported and even restored, and thus our balance, as much as possible anyway. If we can do this – if we can find more balance by getting to know ourselves deeply – we are more likely to flow with the flow of the universe, and be at ease with the ebb and flow of life, rather than fighting against it.

Getting to know ourselves includes examining the flow of energy through this powerful system.

Below is a high-level overview of what each chakra relates to. Please note that this is a very top-level summary, including potential healing practices for chakras where energy is blocked or excessive, which are both possible outcomes following challenging circumstances in our lives. Each chakra can be explored in-depth via further reading and research.

If you’re curious to learn more about Reiki as a way to support the chakra system, click here.

You can also check out my guided chakra balancing meditation here.

The 7 main chakras

Root (Muladhara)

“Reclaiming the sacred temple of our bodies, our right to be here, and our right to have what we need in order to survive can be a joyous reunion with the very ground of our own being and a solid beginning to the exciting journey of discovery through the chakras.”

Location: base of the spine
Element: earth
Colour: red
Rights: the right to be here, to have
Developmental stage: Womb to 12 months (physical growth, motor skills, bonding)
Central issue: survival
Issues: trust, nourishment, safety, right to be here, the body, foundation, survival, roots, grounding, nourishment, health, home, family, prosperity
Identity: physical identity

Balanced characteristics: well-grounded, comfortable in body, good health, sense of trust in the world, feeling of safety and security, ability to relax and be still, stability, prosperity
Imbalanced characteristics: disconnection from body, fearful, anxious, restless, poor focus and discipline, financial difficulty, poor boundaries, sluggish, lazy, fear or change/addiction to security, rigid boundaries
Physical issues: disorders of the bowel, disorders of solid parts of the body (teeth, bones), issues with legs, feet, knees, base of spine, buttocks, eating disorders, frequent illness
Healing practices: reconnect with body, physical activity (aerobics, weights, running, dance), lots of touch – massage, bioenergetic grounding, Hatha yoga, explore earliest childhood relationship to mother
Affirmations: It is safe for me to be here, the earth supports me and meets my needs, I love my body and trust its wisdom, I am immersed in abundance, I’m here and I’m real.

Sacral (Svadhisthana)

“Healing our wounds in this chakra creates the necessary emotional depth for developing true power, compassion, creativity, insight and awareness – all aspects that are ahead of us on the chakra journey.”

Location: lower abdomen
Element: water
Colour: orange
Rights: to feel and have pleasure
Developmental stage: 6 months to 2 years (sensate experience of the world, locomotion)
Central issue: sexuality, emotions
Issues: movement, sensation, emotions, sexuality, desire, need, pleasure, change, flow, desire, the shadow, guilt, duality, sexuality
Identity: emotional

Balanced characteristics: graceful movement, emotional intelligence, ability to experience pleasure, nurturance of self and others, ability to change, healthy boundaries
Imbalanced characteristics: rigidity in body and attitudes, fear of sexual intimacy, poor social skills, denial of pleasure, excessive boundaries, fear of change, lack of desire, passion, excitement, pleasure addiction, excessively strong emotions/ruled by emotions, oversensitive, poor boundaries, emotional dependency, compulsive attachment
Physical issues: disorders of reproductive organs, spleen, urinary system, menstrual difficulties, sexual dysfunction, low back pain, knee trouble, loss of appetite for food, intimacy, life
Healing practices: movement therapy, emotional release or containment as appropriate, inner child work, boundary work, 12-step programmes for addictions, assign healthy pleasures, develop sensate intelligence
Affirmations: I deserve pleasure in my life, I absorb information from my feelings, I embrace and celebrate my sexuality, my sexuality is sacred, I move easily and effortlessly, life is pleasurable.

Solar plexus (Manipura)

“The person with a healthy third chakra is a person with good vitality and a playful ability to laugh at themselves.”

Location: solar plexus
Element: fire
Colour: yellow
Rights: To act and be an individual
Developmental stage: 18 months to 4 years (realisation of separateness, establishment of autonomy)
Central issue: power, will
Issues: energy, activity, autonomy, individuation, will, self-esteem, proactivity, power, authority, shame
Identity: ego identity

Balanced characteristics: responsible, reliable, balanced and effective will, good self-esteem, balanced ego-strength, warmth in personality, confidence, spontaneity, playfulness, sense of humour, appropriate self-discipline, sense of one’s personal power, able to meet challenges
Imbalanced characteristics: low energy, weak will – easily manipulated, poor self-discipline and follow-through, low sel-esteem, cold emotionally and/or physically, poor digestion, passive, unreliable, need to be right/have the last word, stubbornness, temper, competitive, hyperactive
Physical issues: eating disorders, digestive disorders, ulcers, hypoglycaemia, diabetes, muscle spasms, muscular disorders, chronic fatigue, hypertension, disorders of the stomach, pancreas, gall bladder, liver
Healing practices: risk taking, grounding and emotional contact, deep relaxation and stress control, vigorous exercise, martial arts, sit-ups, psychotherapy to build ego strength, release or contain anger, work on shame issues, strengthen personal will and encourage autonomy
Affirmations: I honour the power within me, I accomplish tasks easily and effortlessly, the fire within me burns through all blocks and fears, I can do whatever I will to do

Heart (Anahata)

Healing the heart involves tending to the most vulnerable and sacred aspects within ourselves. Only through attending to their truth can we drop the protective armor that keeps us bound to the ego, bound to the smaller parts of ourselves. Manipulation, derision, criticisms, or command will not work. We can only melt the armor with the combination of feeling and understanding that is love.”

Location: chest, heart
Element: air
Colour: green
Rights: to love and be loved
Developmental stage: 4 to 7 years (forming peer and family relationships, developing persona)
Central issue: love, relationships
Issues: love, balance, self-love, relationship, intimacy, devotion, reaching out and taking in, self-reflection, grief, compassion
Identity: social

Balanced characteristics: compassionate, loving, empathetic, self-loving, altruistic, peaceful, balanced, good immune system
Imbalanced characteristics: antisocial, withdrawn, cold, critical, judgmental, intolerant of self or others, loneliness, isolation, depression, fear of intimacy, fear of relationships, lack of empathy, narcissism, codependency, poor boundaries, demanding, clinging, jealousy, overly sacrificing
Physical issues: disorders of the heart, lungs, thymus, breasts, arms, shortness of breath, sunken chest, circulation problems, asthma, immune system deficiency, tension between shoulder, blades, pain in chest
Healing practices: breathing exercises, pranayama, work with arms, reaching out, taking in, journaling and self discovery, psychotherapy to examine assumptions about relationships, emotional release of grief, forgiveness when appropriate, inner child work, codependency work, self-acceptance
Affirmations: I am worthy of love, I am loving to myself and others, there is an infinite supply of love, I live in balance with others.

Throat (Vissudha)

“The health of the throat chakra rests… in its ability to accurately communicate the truth of one’s experience, witness and meet another’s truth, and approach life creatively and effectively.

Location: throat
Element: sound
Colour: blue
Rights: To speak and be heard
Developmental stage: 7 to 12 years (creative expression, communication skills, symbolic thinking)
Central issue: communication
Issues: communication, creativity, listening, resonance, finding one’s own voice, symbolic thinking, truth and lies
Identity: creative

Balanced characteristics: resonant voice, good listener, clear communication, good sense of timing and rhythm, lives creatively
Imbalanced characteristics: fear of speaking, small, weak voice, difficulty putting feelings into words, introversion, shyness, poor rhythm, too much talking/talking as a defense, inability to listen, poor auditory comprehension, gossiping, dominating voice, interruptions
Physical issues: disorders of the throat, ears, voice and neck, tightness of the jaw
Healing practices: loosen neck and shoulders, release voice, singing, changing, storytelling, journal writing, automatic silence, non-goal orientated creativity, psychotherapy to learn communication skills, inner child communication
Affirmations: I hear and speak the truth, I express myself with clear intent, creativity flows in and through me, my voice is necessary

Third eye (Ajna)

“With the healing of the sixth chakra, we are able to create vision. We are able to form, consciously, the path to the future and liberate ourselves from the grips of the past. Our vision makes the difference.”

Location: forehead, brow
Element: light
Colour: indigo
Rights: to see
Developmental stage: adolescence (establishment of personal identity, ability to perceive patterns)
Central issue: intuition, imagination
Issues: image, intuition, imagination, visualisation, insight, dreams, vision, symbols, pattern recognition, transcendence, illusion
Identity: archetypal

Balanced characteristics: intuitive, perceptive, imaginative, good memory, good dream recall, able to think symbolically, able to visualise
Imbalanced characteristics: insensitivity, poor vision, poor memory, difficulty seeing future, lack of imagination, difficulty visualising, denial (can’t see what’s going on), monopolarised (one true right and only way)
Physical issues: headaches, vision problems
Healing practices: create visual art, visual stimulation, meditation, psychotherapy to work with memory, connect image with feeling, dreamwork, hypnosis, guided visualisations, past life regression therapy
Affirmations: I see all things in clarity, I am open to the wisdom within, I can manifest my vision

Crown (Sahasrana)

“Restoration of the seventh chakra is about awakening to the reality of our spiritual nature. As we eliminate the demons of fear, guilt, shame, grief, lies, illusions and attachments, we are liberated from the habitual patterns of our thoughts and are free to experience consciousness as infinite source.”

Location: crown, top of the head
Element: thought
Colour: violet
Rights: to know and to learn
Developmental stage: early adulthood and after (assimilation of knowledge, development of wisdom)
Central issue: awareness
Issues: consciousness, awareness, the witness, belief systems, operating systems, universal identity, attachment, higher power, transcendence, immanence, divinity, information, intelligence, meaning, unity
Identity: universal

Balanced characteristics: ability to perceive, analyze and assimilate information, intelligent, thoughtful, aware, open-minded, able to question, spiritually connected, wisdom and mastery, broad understanding
Imbalanced characteristics: spiritual cynicism, learning difficulties, rigid belief system, apathy, excess in lower chakras such as materialism, greed, over intellectualisation, spiritual addiction, confusion, dissociation from the body, migraines, amnesia, cognitive delusions
Physical issues: migraines, amnesia, cognitive issues
Healing practices: Re-establish physical, emotional connection, re-establish spirit connection, learning and study, spiritual discipline, meditation, psychotherapy to examine belief systems, develop inner witness, work with higher power
Affirmations: divinity resides within me, I am open to new ideas, information I need comes to me, the world is my teacher, I am guided by higher power, I am guided by inner wisdom.