The practice of opening the chakras is a great mystery to many people who are curious about yoga. Most people are told that the chakras are spiraling energies or bright lights that run up the spine or the shashuma. In western medicine, we do not think of the body as a series of energy passages or meridians. We see it as a biological machine that is run by protons, electrons and energy reactions. In this article, I will attempt to explain the biological, physical and emotional significance of the chakras. I hope this will help demystify their reputation. Learning about the chakras was very enlightening for me and it truly helped me understand many things about my own personal spiritual and emotional blockages.
The Endocrine System:
The chakras are directly linked to the endocrine system which is the system in the body that controls the hormones. This is very important to note when we meditate on our emotional and spiritual blocks. Our hormones are chemical messengers that travel through the body, regulating the reactions that can affect everything from growth, metabolism, and emotion. Our hormones are created by the glands of the endocrine system and each chakra is like bioenergy that interacts with these important glands. We’ve all heard the saying, “she’s hormonal,” meaning, she is uncontrollably emotional. Our hormones need to function properly in order for our emotions to function properly. This physical link is important in our spiritual growth. Our physical, mental and emotional states are all interrelated as our mind, body, and hormones work together to create a healthy bio machine. Many of us have heard of the famous “seven chakras”. Some of us are taught that opening these chakras will lead to enlightenment. In trying to keep this subject easy to grasp, I’ll just say that once you understand how the chakras relate to our personal cycles, habits and repressions, it is easy to see why unblocking them can lead to higher awareness and a greater control of our destinies.
Chakra 1 Basic earth chakra (adrenal glands)
This chakra is located at the base of the spine where the adrenal glands reside. The adrenal glands are responsible for our flight and fight responses. When we are faced with a scary situation, our adrenal glands secrete hormones that make us very agitated or energetic. The purpose is to fuel our system so we can fight or run when danger is near. This chakra is blocked by fear. People who are blocked in this chakra are in a constant state of fear that they will not survive. Stress is a form of constant fear. It happens when the adrenal glands release hormones due to fear but those hormones are never put to use. The person does not fight or fly. So the stress stays in the body. This hormonal imbalance can put stress on the body and lead to high blood pressure. The best physical remedy to unblock the first chakra is to run or fight. Running, jogging, or martial arts help release the stress that the adrenals produce by doing what the hormones intended your body to do. Also, doing difficult yoga poses such as warriors, or balancing postures help teach us to be calm during difficult situations. It is important to breathe deep and steadily during these poses so the body understands that there is nothing to fear. This way we teach ourselves to stay calm in life and to only activate the adrenals when it is a true emergency. Breathing erratically or through the mouth is an example of fear breathing, an indication that you are more stressed than you think. The simple act of shallow breathing can cause stress hormones to be released as a survival mechanism due to lack of oxygen.
Emotionally, we need to meditate on our fears and learn to face them. We need to ask ourselves if the things we worry over are really worth worrying over. We also need to look at the things that traumatized us in the past. When similar things happen again, the body automatically overreacts. For example, if you had an abusive parent, meeting someone who reminds you of that parent might activate the adrenal glands and you might subconsciously over react due to past conditioning. Hip openers help to release fear because when we are afraid, we put our tail between our legs and our hips tighten in preparation for fight and flight. We hold our memory for survival in our hips and opening them helps to release these subconscious fears. Meditating on the first chakra can be very scary but it is important. Constantly living in fear will never help us reach our full potential. After all, there is more to life than mere survival. Also understand that the emotion of anger is synonymous with fear. We either respond with fear or anger (fight or flight) to our stressors.
When our earth chakra and adrenal hormones are healthy, we are calm, secure and grounded.
Chakra 2 water and sex chakra (testicles and ovaries)
This chakra is located in the abdomen, lower back, and sexual organs. The hormones that are released from this gland are responsible for the creation of life and the propagation of our species. All biological organisms have the need to survive. Once we have found a way to survive, we must procreate. So the first two chakras are known as the lower or instinctive chakras. They represent our most animalistic reactions and desires. When we think of the second chakra, we also think of creation and creativity. When this chakra is blocked, we feel stagnant and inflexible. We are afraid of change. Often, we are blocked by shameful dogma about sex and propriety. This chakra can also be blocked by past sexual abuse.
A great physical exercise for unblocking this chakra is Latin dancing, belly dancing, hula dancing or any kind of exercise that moves the hips and lower abdominals. This helps release passion or creativity. This helps to spiral the energy of the second chakra. Hip openers and lower spinal twists are important in keeping this area from becoming stagnant. People with a healthy water chakra can achieve great sexual fulfillment in their intimate relationships and tap into their creative resources when times get tough.
Chakra 3 The solar plexus or fire chakra (The pancreas)
This chakra is located in the solar plexus. This chakra is known as the “seat of the soul” or the power chakra. It is connected to the pancreas which releases insulin and glucagon. When this chakra is blocked, it can lead to diseases such as diabetes and high cholesterol. Overindulgence in carbohydrates and the typical American diet has lead to a great rise in these diseases. Emotionally, this chakra represents ego, self confidence and power. When this chakra is balanced, we feel self confident and strong in our identities. It is no wonder that in a country full of people with pancreatic disorders that we also see a problem with insecurity and people not being sure of whom they are. This chakra is our fire, the light that keeps us going. When it is dim, we turn to other people to find this light. We might feed off of the energy of others and become very impressionable to their influence. We might act overly confident in order to compensate for an imbalance in our personal fire. When this chakra is clear, we feel worthy and true to ourselves. The power chakra is blocked by doubt.
We can physically strengthen this chakra by doing abdominal work and core strengthening exercises such as Pilates and power lifting. Also, exercises that increase our stamina such as long distance running, bicycling, aerobics or iron man training help to strengthen our inner spirit. Yoga postures such as boat pose help to strengthen our abdominals and help us find inner strength. Cutting out excess sugar and processed carbohydrates help us balance this chakra as this kind of eating is toxic to the pancreas.
Emotionally, we can strengthen this chakra by meditating on our inner light. bellows breath helps to heat up this area as does any kind of deep diaphragmatic breathing. Mentally, we need to ask ourselves who we are, what we want and what our purpose is.
This third chakra is the transition between our lower instincts and our higher states of awareness. Our lower chakras help us deal with survival but when we start to open up higher chakras, we begin to rise above our need to get by and start to live up to our greater purpose.
Chakra 4, the heart or air chakra (Thymus Gland)
This chakra is located in the sternum and is associated with the thymus gland. This chakra represents how we accept ourselves and others. The thymus gland is responsible for releasing t-cells. T-cells are responsible for regulating our immune system. When this chakra is blocked, it can lead to weakened immune system and poor circulation. Emotionally, this chakra is blocked by grief and disappointment. If you’ve ever been through grief or disappointment, you know how this can greatly impair our immune responses. Illness often follows. A person with a blocked fourth chakra is afraid of opening his heart to others. Often, a hunchback can develop due to a need to keep the heart chakra protected. A person with a weak fourth chakra can say cruel things just to keep others away and might make the mistake of assuming the worst of people and of themselves.
People with strong heart chakras tend to stand tall. They are accepting of people’s follies and are quick to forgive. Rather than judging others for being crabby etc., they are good at lifting other people’s spirits no matter who they are by flooding them with compassion. They love deeply and have a great sense of peace and serenity.
We can stimulate this chakra physically by strengthening our upper torso. Pull ups and rows are great at strengthening the back so we can stand tall and keep our heart chakra open. Stretches that open the heart such as cobra or upward facing dog help to keep the shoulders from deteriorating. It helps to breath into the ribs to help keep that part of our bodies soft and pliant.
Mentally we can open our hearts by meditating on our loved ones. We must learn to accept our grief and understand that the power of love is infinite and does not die when our loved ones are gone. Living a life without love due to fear of being hurt is no way to live. We all have a responsibility to others and to the universe. When dealing with disappointment, we must meditate on forgiveness. Meditate on using what you’ve learned from those you loved and accept them. Accept the fact that no one is perfect and that we can only do as much as we can with what we know at this time. This is a painful experience, but it is an important step in accepting ourselves and others.
Chakra 5, Throat and sound chakra (thyroid glands)
This chakra is located in the throat and is associated with communication, experiencing the world through vibrations and how we speak and listen. Although it is located in the throat, it is strongly associated with the ears. It is associated with the thyroid glands which releases hormones that regulate the metabolism, bone growth and body heat. People with a blocked throat chakra tend to feel “choked up”. They have a hard time expressing themselves and saying what they mean. They have issues with what they say and are afraid of being judged for being who they are. This can lead to jaw and neck tension. This tension can travel to the shoulders and produce shoulder pain. This chakra is blocked by lies. A person with a blocked sixth chakra might have a hard time being honest due to their fear of judgment.
People with a healthy throat chakra are very aware of the power of words. They speak eloquently and listen intently. They are in tune with subtle vibrations, so how a person speaks is just as important as what they say. They have a resonant quality about them. They are honest and trustworthy and upfront about their actions.
Physically, we can strengthen this chakra with neck stretches. It helps to loosen the jaw, face and neck with massage. Tongue stretches such as lion’s breath help to stimulate our articulation. Shoulder stand and fish pose help stimulate the thymus gland. Chanting ohm or any mantra and focusing on their vibrations help to stimulate this chakra. Ouijai or throat breathing wakes up this chakra
Mentally, we need to listen to how we express ourselves. We must ask ourselves if how we speak is working. If it isn’t, are we approaching what we say properly? Are we listening carefully to others? It helps to listen and think before we speak and ask what this person is really trying to say. Face your fear of being ridiculed and understand that being afraid of expressing ourselves is no way to live. Being understood and having the power to influence others with what you have to say is a great and powerful gift.
Chakra 6, the third eye or light chakra (Pituitary gland)
This chakra is also known as the famous third eye. It is responsible for sight. Its main gland is the pituitary gland which is located at the base of the brain and is also known as the “master gland” as it helps regulate the entire endocrine system. It is responsible for many functions such as growth, blood pressure, breast milk production, water regulation and metabolism. Also, the sixth chakra regulates all of the other chakras. Being aware of our other chakras helps us see the big picture. People with a strong third eye are intuitive and have great foresight. They also have the ability to see the big picture and are not blocked by their own ego or the obstruction of other blocked chakras. This chakra is blocked by illusion. One illusion is that everything is separate and this illusion can block our ability to connect with the universe and with nature. People become deluded when they judge people and concepts by race, creed, color or culture. We must learn to use our sight by looking deeper and seeing people for who they are. By understanding human nature and nature in general, we are more aware of the true workings of the universe. This can give us the appearance of being psychic.
You can stimulate this chakra physically by doing child’s pose. If your forehead doesn’t touch the floor, you can put a pillow or block under it so it may feel stimulated. Any kind of inversion that brings the blood to the brain helps to stimulate this chakra. Symbolically, inversions turn us upside down and help us see the world through a different perspective, thereby increasing our sight.
Mentally, we can open this chakra by closing our eyes and meditating on a light on our brow. Clearing our minds help to unblock our perspective. Reading is a great mental exercise as are games such as chess that help us to think out of the box. Any kind of philosophy or contemplation helps us to see the big picture and it is always good to ask many questions.
Chakra 7, the crown or thought chakra (The Pineal Gland)
I’ve heard people say that the aura of the seventh chakra looks like a halo. In paintings, we see great saints depicted with a halo over their head showing us that their seventh chakra has been activated. The saints of the past all did something of great significance. Keep in mind that opening the seventh chakra does not mean that you will have so much understanding of the universe that you will no longer care about anything. In contrast, you will understand your place in the cosmos and will fulfill your destiny happily and conflict free. This chakra connects us with the cosmos in its entirety. When strong, it brings us spiritual understanding, wisdom, purpose and bliss. It is related to the pineal gland which is responsible for our sleep wake patterns. It regulates our biological cycles and how they relate to the seasons. When this chakra or gland is weak, we feel out of sync, have problems sleeping and have a weakened immune system. We might have problems with our brain and suffer from hallucinations. This chakra is blocked by our attachments. When we attach ourselves to people, things, places, memories etc. we find it hard to flow with our cycles and do what it is we were put in this earth to do. We might attach our self to an addiction for fear of seeing things as they are. Once we let go of these attachments, our blindfold is taken away and we see the universe for what it is. This is a beautiful sight to behold. We must not be afraid of it.
Physically we can strengthen this chakra by doing inversions. Head stand or forward bend with crown of the head on the floor stimulates this chakra.
Mentally we can stimulate the seventh chakra by asking ourselves big questions about our place in the cosmos. Studying time and quantum physics and finding ways to compare them to mundane aspects of life such as family, health and governing helps us to understand the oneness of everything. Meditating on our attachments and asking ourselves why we think we need the things we do help us to see the difference between addiction and true love. Let go of the need to find an end to your journey by entertaining ideas such as enlightenment as a final goal. Understand that the cycle of life and the energy that makes us what we are is infinite and eternal. This chakra is associated with “Samandhi” The state of pure bliss, a step above deep mediation. In this state, we are one with the universe. We let down the boundaries of the ego. We do not just see or understand. We know.
When meditating on the chakras, start from the bottom up, making sure that our survival and biological needs are met and moving on to our higher purposes from there. I hope that this information helps you to understand others and why they may not be as enlightened as you. Sometimes we are born with a perfectly functional system but it is disrupted by illness, injuries, abuse or other kinds of trauma. You might have had an open heart chakra at one time but it became damaged due to the betrayal or loss of a loved one. So opening the chakras can often be an ongoing practice. I’m hoping this information can be something people can keep for reference in times of change. I find that when we are lost, meditation can bring us back to a place of stillness and I like to give people the kind of knowledge that can help them help themselves.
By Rhea Morales
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