The Indian Chakra system represents the map of our psycho-spiritual evolution – the gradual unfolding of our vital life energies through a series of stages, or chakras. Each chakra represents a stage in the process of that transformation.
The chakras are arranged in ascending order, from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. You have probably heard the phrase “opening chakras,” but it is perhaps better said as “awakening to the transformational energy of the chakras.” They are really not something one can open or turn on like a light. They are always functioning in some capacity. The chakras metaphorically open when we reach certain levels of psycho-spiritual awareness, levels of awareness which result in transforming the way we see ourselves and thus experience the world around us.
Root Chakra: Muladhara (root base)
Location: Between the anus and the genitals
Seed Sound: Lam
Associations: Earth, Roots, Body, Grounding, Survival, Food, Matter, Beginnings
Root Chakra Dysfunction:
Fearfulness, anxiety, groundlessness, addictions, body weight issues, money problems, restlessness, lack of body awareness, chronic pain, stress, boundlessness
Most of the problems with root chakra dysfunction revolve around groundlessness and lack of body awareness. We live in a world where people are completely disembodied, severely headstrong, and sadly disconnected from the Earth. The best way to get back to ourselves is to get back in touch with our bodies and back in touch with nature.
The psychological attitude of a functioning muladhara, is one that respects being alive. To open your awareness to this chakra, you just need to start taking care of your body. This means get yourself moving if you are lethargic or give yourself time to rest if you tend to do too much. In either case, learning to do some basic yoga will help you not only to get in touch with your body, but also to get a sense of groundedness.
Another way to activate your awareness of this chakra is to learn how to eat right. Most people’s problem with food is that they eat the wrong food. Once you learn how to cook and eat healthy, you will be amazed at the change of attitude you will experience.
Second Chakra: Svadhisthana (special standing place)
Location: Between the genitals and lower abdominals/naval
Seed Sound: Vam
Associations: Water, Change, Polarity, Movement, Emotions, Pleasure, Sexuality, Nurturance, Desire
Second Chakra Dysfunctions:
Sexual disorders, menstrual cramps, mood disorders, frigidity, eczema, lower back pain, hypersensitivity, fear, extreme introversion, urinary problems, pleasure addictions, pleasure aversions
Some of the issues associated with second chakra dysfunctions are related to the pleasure principle, meaning that it’s either over- or underactive. To awaken this center, you have to find a healthy way to experience real pleasure. The experience of pleasure helps to release tension. We have natural pleasure chemicals in our body: endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, to name only a few. Embracing pleasure and desire may sound counter to what many people think about Eastern traditions, but it is not desire and pleasure per se that these traditions tell us to avoid; rather, it is the attachment to pleasure that we should avoid. Believe it or not, one of the best things we can do to awaken our enlightened pleasure center is to develop a healthy attitude about sex.
Third Chakra: Manipura (city of the shining jewel)
Location: Solar Plexus
Seed Sound: Ram (pronounce the “a” as in father)
Associations: Fire, Power, Autonomy, Will, Self-Esteem, Assertiveness, Aggression, Ego
Third Chakra Dysfunction:
Self-centeredness, egotism, power complexes, inferiority complexes, hyper-aggression, self-pity, self-indulgence, self-loathing
A healthy third chakra is someone who has a strong ego – an unshakable center. It seems like everything we hear tells us that we need to dissolve or rid ourselves of our egos, but this is absolutely untrue. We couldn’t do that even if we tried. It is through the ego that all transformations take place, hence its relationship to the element of fire. Our egos are the bridge to our higher Selves. What we need to rid ourselves of is the limited ego. The limited ego is ego-centric. When our egos are unlimited we know that we are not the center. We know there is something beyond our own limited perspectives.
You can awaken to the energy of your third chakra by developing a healthy level of self-confidence. The best way to do this is find out your True Path in life.
The first three chakras are associated with a human being’s most basic states of awareness and the most rudimentary needs and drives: eat, generate, conquer and subdue. In general, as Joseph Campbell once said, “These, and these alone, have supplied the motivations of historical man, his effective moral systems, and his nightmare of world history.”
The next four centers are associated with higher levels of awareness and with the awakening of consciousness to higher aims than those of the lower centers. When these higher levels of awareness have been realized, the lower centers begin to function in terms of the higher ones, that is, they are no longer moved by only basic needs.
Fourth Chakra: Anahata (unstruck)
Location: Heart Center
Seed Sound: Lam
Associations: Air, Unconditional Love, Relationship, Compassion, Empathy, Balance, Non-Dual Awareness
Fourth Chakra Dysfunction:
Isolation, fear of commitment, lack of compassion, chronic heartburn, chest pain, hatred, bitterness, resentment
The energy of the fourth chakra is integration and balance of all aspects of our being. Awareness at this level functions beyond the compulsion of the instincts or coldness of pure reason and is more centered in compassion and love for self and others. It has been proven time and again that you can actually increase your capacity for compassion, self-reflection, and empathy through a daily meditation practice, all of which can attune your awareness to the energy of the heart chakra.
Fifth Chakra: Visuddha (cleansed, clarified, perfectly pure)
Seed Sound: Hum
Associations: Ether, Sound, Vibration, Mantra, Communication, Self-Expression, Creativity, Symbolic Awareness
Fifth Chakra Dysfunction:
Throat problems, stiff neck, hearing problems, communication problems
Many people mistake speaking their minds for self-expression, and therefore, speak out whenever they feel like it. In terms of the chakra system true self-expression comes through only when the other chakras are functioning properly. With true self-expression comes the ability to develop healthy relationships with others.
Sixth Chakra: Ajna (unlimited power)
Location: Above and between the eyes
Seed Sound: Om/Aum
Associations: Light, Insight, Intuition, Life Purpose, Imagination, Visualization, Vision
Sixth Chakra Dysfunction:
Eye problems, headaches, mistrust, self-doubt
Getting in touch with your inner wisdom and learning to trust it is the work of this chakra. With all of the voices going off in your head, how do you know which one to trust? You learn to trust your inner Voice of wisdom by not listening to it and then learning from that mistake. Eventually, you will get a feel for the sound of that voice and you will know when to follow it.
Seventh Chakra: Sahasrara (thousand petals)
Location: Crown of the Head
Seed Sound: None
Associations: Unified Consciousness, Pure Thought, Transcendence, Immanence, Understanding, Bliss
Seventh Chakra Dysfunction:
Depression, confusion, boredom, apathy
In yoga the realization of awareness at this chakra is enlightenment, or, the realization that you are the very thing for which you have long been searching. In meditation it is the experience of undifferentiated consciousness as the ground of all being. In daily life, it is the acceptance of all things exactly as they unfold. With this kind of acceptance, you can experience the fullness of being human, in joyful participation in all that life has to offer.