The chakra system described in the ancient philosophy of yoga correlates—to a point—with the nervous system described in modern medicine. Here’s how it relates to a yoga practice.

The word chakra refers to a spinning wheel or disk. In yoga philosophy, it
is an energetic system based in tantric yoga that is thousands of years old. The chakra system has long been used by yogis, Reiki masters and in Thai yoga massage for energy healing and to help create a sense of balance.

In this system, there are seven chakras that travel the length of our spine. The chakras are connected to “nadis” or energy currents that move throughout the entire body, running in similar patterns to our nervous system. The sushumna nadi, the central nadi, runs along the spine, similar to our brain and spinal column and connecting each chakra.

The two other main nadis, the ida and pingala, reflect both Yin (ida) and Yang (pingala) tendencies of feminine-masculine, cold-heat and calming-energetic. These two nadis start in the base of the spine or Root Chakra and interweave through each chakra.

From a western perspective, the chakras line up with our peripheral nervous system where our nerves bunch together or where we have the most sensation in our body: sexual organs, stomach, heart and lungs and throat and head. This ties in to the physical sensations we experience through emotionally charged events, such as first love and heartbreak, butterflies in our tummy and lumps in our throat.

Chakras come in and out of balance continuously. Certain events can mis-align the energy of specific chakras for a few days or create blockages that last months or years. Movement in general is important for the balance of the chakras—yoga in particular because we use all planes of our spine in every practice.

If we have a generally good disposition and strong vitality, then most likely we are also aligned in what yoga calls our “subtle body.” When we are feeling stuck, drained or suffering from chronic conditions, by focusing on the chakra affiliated with this area we can begin to heal holistically.

Quick guide to the severn chakras

Root chakra: survival

Located at the base of the spine and connected to the earth element.
Practice: establishing a sense of routine, making our homes comfortable and taking time in nature.

Sacral chakra:
emotions and creativity Located in the lower belly and sexual organs, connected to the element of water. Practice: listening to music or dancing and spending time in or near water.

Solar plexus chakra: personal power

Located in the upper belly, involving organs of digestion and the fire element. Practice: stimulating the core muscles with a strong workout.

Heart chakra: love

Located in the centre of the chest, involving the lungs and the element of air. Practice: deep breathing such as yoga’s three-part breath, breathing fully into the belly, rib cage then top of the chest.

Throat chakra: communication
Located in the throat and focused on the element of sound, this chakra is about speaking our truth. Practice: singing or chanting in yoga class.

Third eye chakra: intuition

Located between the eyes, the third eye looks within and is our ability to see truth. Practice: writing in a journal can be a powerful way to process thoughts and emotions.

Crown chakra:
spiritual connection: Located at the top of the head—the soft spot on a newborn. Practice: meditation. Time to focus on stillness and breath, to truly be in the present mo- ment.

NOTE: SEE THE GUIDANCE OF A HEALTH CARE PRACTITIONER FOR PHYSICAL ISSUES THAT ARISE BEFORE, DURING OR AFTER YOGA PRACTICE.

More Insight: Here’s a great article on how yoga can help with chronic pain!

Author: Lisa Greenbaum, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500, YACEP is a YogaFit senior master trainer, international presenter and avid writer. She is the director of YogaFit Canada, the leader in mind-body education and she currently teaches yoga in Toronto, specializing in trauma-informed yoga practices. www.yogafitcanada.com

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