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Demystifying Yoga - Understanding the Chakras in Yoga Practice

a yoga class, everyone sitting on the floor with arms reaching upwards

Yoga is a wonderful thing, with so much to offer pretty much everyone. There’s so much more to yoga than the stretching and poses you might see in an average class. But sometimes I think that a lot of it can feel quite inaccessible to most people because of the language that’s used or because of concepts and ideas that aren’t familiar. Anyone that has spent time in a yoga class or around people who are into yoga has probably had the experience of not really knowing what the teacher or those other people are talking about. You might even go as far to to think that it’s all too far out and woo and maybe those people just seem a bit nuts for being into it.

I get it, I have been there too. But over time the more I learnt about yoga and the more I understood the language and concepts the more it all made sense to me and the more I realised it’s just different words for ideas that a lot of us can quite easily connect to.

So I have decided to write a series of posts ‘demystifying yoga.’ If you’ve been here a while you have probably noticed I am not the most prolific content creator so it might take some time but this is my goal. I would love to hear from you with any requests of topics you would like me to cover but for now I am starting with the chakras.

an illustration of someone sitting cross legged with the chakras marked as circles

So what are the chakras? Literally translated chakra means wheel. Within the yoga traditions it is believed that there are thousands of streams of energy running throughout our body and the chakras are the points where a number of these streams meet creating an energy centre. Think of it like a major intersection or roundabout where lots of busy roads meet. There are actually loads of these energy centres within the body but most of the time when people talk about them they are referring to the main 7. These are like the intersections of motorways rather than the roundabouts in a small town.

The 7 main chakras sit in a line in your body that pretty much runs in alignment with your spine. The first is Muladhara or the root chakra and is around the point where your body meets the floor or chair when you’re sitting down. They then move up from there with Svadistana in the pelvis or sacrum area, Manipura at the navel, Anahata in the centre of your chest, Vishuddi in the throat, Ajna around your forehead or ‘third eye’ and then Sahasrara at the top of your head.

Each chakra has different symbols and qualities that it relates to and it is said that each one relates to different aspects of our characters or personalities. There are images, colours and phrases that relate to each different chakra.

I am aware that that might sound pretty far out and I hope I haven’t lost you yet! The thing that I have realised over time is that it doesn’t really matter whether you believe that these energy centres really exist. It can still be really useful to take time to connect to each chakra and the qualities that they represent. For instance, the root chakra is all about the earth element and the qualities of stability, groundedness, safety and strength. To me it makes sense that that would be the lowest chakra physically, when I want to feel more grounded or secure I find it useful to become aware of the earth beneath me and feel my feet on the ground. Or take Manipura, the solar plexus chakra. This is connected to the element of fire and the qualities of drive, ambition, self confidence and strength. Think of a time you’ve felt inspired and driven, you might have described it as having a fire in your belly. Another is Anahata, this relates to love and compassion both for ourselves and others and sits in our chest near our hearts. I think most of us can relate to the experience of feeling love or heartbreak in that part of our body.

yoga therapist and her client talking

With in yoga therapy the chakra system can be a useful tool for assessing and treating people. We can look at the way you are feeling within yourself and your life and where issues might sit in relation to the chakras and then do different yoga practices that help to balance that area. As I mentioned a moment ago, if someone is feeling anxious or unstable then practices that help them to feel grounded and connected to the earth can help to balance those feelings. Another expample is when someone feels emotionally hurt they maybe quite closed and guarded around their chest and heart. Gently moving and stretching this area can helps us to start feeling more ‘open hearted’ and this can lead to us being able to work through that emotional hurt.

There’s a lot to say about each individual chakra so I will write a separate post for each one but hopefully that has been useful in giving you a better idea of what the chakras are. I would love to hear from you whether you found this useful and of course if you have any suggestions or requests of parts of yoga you would like me to demystify.

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