The Chakras

Frequencies in the Ocean of Universal Energy

The Sanskrit word chakra means “plexus,” “wheel,” or “vortex.” It refers to a number of centers in the subtle anatomy of the human being, with each center corresponding to a different level of consciousness. Chakras are known by various names, including pranic centers, psychic centers, psycho-energetic centers, and cerebrospinal centers. The yogic tradition mentions different chakra systems, out of which the six-chakra system is the most popular.

The Six Chakras Are:

  1. Muladhara
  2. Svadhisthana
  3. Manipura
  4. Anahata
  5. Vishuddha
  6. Ajna

A seventh center, sahasrara, is described, but it is not considered a chakra. This is due not only to the wholeness of the energy that it represents, but also because it is considered to be “the seat of Shiva,” and “the abode of Supreme Consciousness”—it expresses not only immanent energy, but also transcendence.

The System of the Six Chakras Can Be Seen as Both:

  1. A tool for understanding the different levels of the human being, from gross to subtle, and
  2. A tool for developing awareness.

Every Chakra Represents a Level of Consciousness

The chakras are specific frequencies in the ocean of universal energy and are defined by specific energies, prana, and distinct psychological and mental activities. In other words, each chakra displays a certain power and a different level of individual consciousness. By using the system of the six chakras, we can discover through direct experience that the macrocosm (the Universe) exists within the microcosm of the human being. We can also see the chakras as “devices” that receive and emit energy and information on different frequencies.

The system of the six chakras can be seen as a symbolic representation of the spiritual progress of a human being, from the most instinctual level (associated with muladhara chakra) to the most elevated (associated with ajna chakra). Sahasrara is the expression of totality and of Supreme Consciousness.

From the Hridaya Yoga perspective, the chakras can be seen in correspondence to the different levels of identification of aham vritti (the “I”-feeling), from the subtlest (related to ajna chakra) to the most material (related to muladhara chakra). Thus, we can say that the ascension of kundalini (the potential of universal energy in our being) through the chakras is the gradual process of dis-identification of the “I”-feeling from different layers inherent to existence in human form.

Therefore, the awakening of a chakra brings a blossoming of the energies associated to that level and a gradual process of dis-identification from any of the relative aspects connected to the energies of one chakra or another.

Muladhara Chakra—The Root Chakra

In Sanskrit, mula means “root” or “base” and adhara means “substratum” or support.” Therefore, the word muladhara means “the basic substratum” or “the support center,” referring to its characteristic of being the foundation center of the human being. It is the first chakra, located in the area of the perineum. It is the seat of vitality (the “battery” of the being) and is attuned with Earth energies and mechanical forces such as gravity.

In the Hridaya Yoga understanding, this is the level at which the “I” identifies with the physical body and with individual existence in a physical form. This gross identification of the “I”-feeling is the root of all the attributes related to muladhara chakra, such as self-centeredness, the desire to have food and shelter, the accumulation of material goods, money, friends, etc.

Characteristics of Muladhara Chakra:

  • Location: The triggering point is the base of the spine. The reflection area is the region between the anus and genitals.
  • Tattva (Element): Earth
  • Color of Element: Yellow; clay-yellow
  • Sense: Smell
  • Sense Organ: Nose
  • Organ of Action: Anus
  • Aspects: Self-preservation (food and shelter), security, and physical awareness/focus; on the psychological level, it governs the will to survive, the inner state of safety, grounding, physical comfort, desire for material possessions, the feeling of material security, the feeling of belonging to a group, and group (family) identity
  • Keywords: Life, potential energy, and rigidity
  • Other Characteristics: Heaviness, inert force, patience, laziness, stability, and slowness

This chakra is very active in the first years of childhood, when we learn to regulate our patterns of eating, drinking, and sleeping in order to secure our physical condition. It governs the skeletal system and the lower digestive tract.

Svadhisthana ChakraThe Sacral Chakra

In Sanskrit, sva means “one’s own” or “self,” and adhisthana means “dwelling,” “residence,” or “seat.” Therefore, the literal translation of svadhisthana is “one’s own dwelling,” referring to the fact that, according to the yogic tradition, this chakra is the storehouse of the unconscious mind. The second chakra, it represents the place where the feeling of a human being as an individual entity solidifies. Svadhisthana grants attunement with water energy and magnetic forces, oversees our instincts (including hunger and sex), and confers sensitivity and social conformism.

This chakra is associated with the predominant drive of seeking the personal pleasures offered by the senses—food, drink, lovemaking, etc. From the Hridaya Yoga perspective, this is the level where the “I”-feeling identifies with the pleasure of sensations.

Characteristics of Svadhisthana Chakra:

  • Location: The triggering point is the third vertebra of the sacrum. The reflection point is on the pubic bone, two fingerbreadths above the sexual organs.
  • Tattva (Element): Apas tattva (Water)
  • Color of Element: Silver-white
  • Sense: Taste
  • Sense Organ: Tongue
  • Organ of Action: Genitals
  • Aspects: Self-gratification, enjoyment of the senses, sensuality, and interconnectedness with the environment
  • It is the seat of creativity, imagination, emotions, and fantasy.
  • At the physical level, it governs the reproductive system, the kidneys, the urinary system, and the Water element in the body.
  • Function in the Body: Coordinates the instincts (hunger, thirst, sex, sleep, etc.) and gives sensitivity, imagination, fantasy, and creativity.
  • Special Function: Vitality, energy, sexuality, and social conformism
  • Other Characteristics: Seduction, passion, jealousy, desire, and possession

Manipura ChakraThe Navel Chakra

In Sanskrit, mani means “gem” or “jewel,” and pur means “city.” Therefore, the word manipura can be translated as “the city of jewels,” referring to the intensity of prana (energy) at this level. It is the third energy center in the human body, and attunes with agni (the subtle energy of fire). Manipura chakra is the center of dynamism and energy.

This chakra is also called nabhi chakra or the navel center. It is known as “hara” in Zen. It helps sublimate sexual energy into a more subtle form of energy called ojas.

Manipura chakra is associated with the predominant drive of seeking power, attention, social position, and fame. At this level, the sense of the ego crystallizes. Therefore, the primordial concern of the human being at the level of consciousness of manipura chakra is acquiring identity in the world, personal power, recognition, and fame.

In Hridaya Yoga terminology, this is the level where the “I”-feeling identifies with power, social status, position, fame, worldly ambitions, and respect (self-respect and also the pursuit of earning).

Characteristics of Manipura Chakra:

  • Location: The triggering point is on the spine, at the point opposite the navel (near the fourth lumbar vertebra). The reflection points are the solar plexus, the area two finger-widths beneath the navel, and the navel.
  • Tattva (Element): Fire
  • Color of Element: Bright red
  • Sense: Sight
  • Sense Organ: Eyes
  • Organ of Action: Feet and legs
  • Aspects: Power, self-centeredness, self-respect, self-control, self-confidence, dynamism, activity, passion, strong personal will, reward, recognition, extroversion, and competitive drive. People in whom this chakra is predominant have a strong feeling of being powerful. They are prone to activity, having a strong sense of doer-ship. They try to impose their will on other people and the world around them. Others may be seen as a means to satisfy their ambitions and to get personal power.
  • On the physical level, manipura chakra governs the digestive system and all the related organs, such as the liver, gallbladder, spleen, and stomach.
  • Key processes corresponding to manipura chakra are detoxification, digestion, and metabolism.
  • Keywords: Control, passion, and expansion
  • Other Characteristics: Inner fire, the energy of the Sun, leadership, hypnotic influence, vanity, pride, and violence

Anahata Chakra—The Heart Chakra

Anahata literally means the “un-struck” center. This name refers to the fact that shabda Brahman (the cosmic sound) is heard mostly at this level. This sound begins in the Heart as OM, the seed of all sounds. Anahata is the fourth energy center in the human body, located in the middle of the chest. It is related to the Air element and the Heart, bestowing unconditional love, selflessness, humility, affection, and transpersonal emotions.

Anahata chakra is the seat of harmony, good tendencies, tolerance, sanctity, balance, and compassion. At this level, there is no longer any attachment to security, worldly pleas­ures, honors, or social status, as the motivating force is love. Unconditional love dawns in anahata chakra.

Anahata chakra expresses a midpoint, a unifying position between the mundane domains of existence represented by the first three chakras and the higher levels represented by the chakras above anahata. It inspires noble ideals, virtuous deeds, and elevated art.

Characteristics of Anahata Chakra:

  • Location: The triggering point is on the spine, at the mid-chest level. The reflection area is the cardiac plexus.
  • Tattva (Element): Air, swift and in continuous movement, is the element that activates the vrittis (fluctuations of the mind). According to the yogic tradition, there are twelve mental modifications: hope, anxiety, longing, impartiality, arrogance, incompetence, discrimination, defiance, lustfulness, fraudulence, indecision, and repentance. Some authors consider anahata chakra the seat of these emotions but the Air element is, in fact, the activating agent of these mental tendencies.
  • Color of Element: Blue (sometimes depicted as the color of smoke)
  • Sense: Touch
  • Sense Organ: Skin
  • Organs of Action: Arms and hands
  • Aspects: Love, kindness, softness, empathy, selflessness, tolerance, abnegation, self-sacrifice, devotion, faith, and compassion. It is a center of superior creativity—refined art, music, and poetry that guide us towards Universal Truth have their source of inspiration in the fourth chakra.
  • On a physical level, it governs the circulatory, respiratory, and immune systems.
  • Special Function: Empathy, understanding subtle vibrations, and awareness of others’ feelings
  • Keywords: Sympathy, harmony, devotion, and surrender
  • Other Characteristics: Emotional warmth, self-control, enthusiasm, sincerity, and generosity

Vishuddha Chakra—The Throat Chakra

Vishuddha, the “purification center,” is the fifth energy center, located above the hollow of the neck. Its name refers to its quality of purifying and harmonizing polar energies. It attunes with the Ether element and the energies of space and time. It bestows quick and deep intelligence, the highest aesthetic and symbolic vision, and spiritual intuition. It is the center of purity, harmony, peace, superior ideals, refinement, and elevation.

Vishuddha chakra is sometimes called bharati sthana (the “center of speech”) because of its location in the throat region and its function related to communication.

Vishuddha chakra is also widely called “the center of nectar” because “poisons” (i.e., physical and psychological impurities) are alchemized into nectar at this level. It is the furnace in which all good and bad experiences are transformed into purity and bliss. Everything becomes nectar, blissful. As Paramahamsa Yogananda said, “It doesn’t matter what happens to you but what you do with what happens to you.”

Characteristics of Vishuddha Chakra:

  • Location: The triggering point is in the cervical area of the spine (near the fourth cervical vertebra). The reflection area is the carotid plexus (in the region of the Adam’s apple and thyroid gland).
  • Tattva (Element): Akasha (the subtle energies of Ether)
  • Color of Element: Smoky purple
  • Sense: Hearing
  • Sense Organ: Ears
  • Organ of Action: Vocal cords
  • Aspects: Purity, intuition, harmony, superior receptivity, archetypal creativity, serenity, desire for spiritual knowledge, calmness, noble ideals, and universality
  • It is the seat of speech, governing creative expression and communication, giving voice to the emotions within the Heart.
  • Keywords: Elevation, sublime experiences, inspiration, aesthetic revelations, space, and time
  • Other Characteristics: Delicacy, relish, divine charm, kindness, and purity

Ajna Chakra—The Third Eye

Ajna chakra is the (mental) “command center.” It is the sixth energy center in the human being, located in the middle of the forehead. Ajna represents intelligence, deep insight, and connection with the cosmic mind. It also coordinates all the chakras below it. This chakra is so named because it represents the level of awareness and harmony where it is possible for direct mind-to-mind communication between two people.

Characteristics of Ajna Chakra:

  • Location: The triggering point is in the center of the brain at the top of the spine (in the region of the medulla oblongata and the pineal gland). The associated reflection areas are in the middle of the forehead and between the eyebrows.
  • Tattvas (Elements): Mahat (the cosmic mind) and buddhi (the intellect)
  • Aspects: The control and command center, the seat of the intellect, one-pointedness, the center of the “light of the Self” (consciousness expressed as pure light), and the center of wisdom, discrimination, direct knowledge, extrasensory perception, precognition, clairvoyance, out-of-body experiences, and mystical visions. When this chakra is awakened, the fickleness of the individual mind is dispersed and the meaning and significance of symbols flashes into perception.

At the physical level, ajna chakra governs the functioning of the pineal and pituitary glands.

Ajna chakra is known as the center of siddhis (paranormal psychic powers), which include clairvoyance and telepathy. Through yoga practice, various siddhis can arise (according to the inclinations of the individual), but we should not become attached to them. Attachment to siddhis is the great hindrance related to ajna chakra, and it creates the third knot (Rudra Granthi, the knot of Rudra). This knot can be pierced by the power of vairagya (detachment).

Ajna chakra is the command center, which means that those who awaken it have control over thoughts, emotions, and prana. Their intentions are almost automatically translated into fruition and they are able to freely send prana to specific areas of the body via the power of the mind.

Ajna chakra represents an elevated level of awareness (known in Sanskrit as tapah loka), the level where the vestiges of imperfection are burned away. Here lies the “sword of discrimination” with which we can tear away all the veils of illusion and false identification. That is why it is also known as the “burning of karma center.” At this level, the mind becomes a perfect instrument for Self-revelation. It represents the level of awareness where we begin to realize the essence behind all visible things. When the mind becomes as clear as a diamond it reflects its own Source, the Self, as the Witness Consciousness. We become the unmoving witness of all events, including those of our own mind and body. Though involved, passively or intensely in lila (the play of life), we merely observe.

Ajna Chakra Is Known by Many Names:

  • It is called the “Eye of Intuition” because of the sharpness and clarity of perception that we get once this chakra is awakened.
  • It is called Guru Chakra because gurus bring insights and inspiration to their disciples through this center, uniting their minds with those of their disciples.
  • In the Hindu tradition, ajna chakra is called Divya Chakshu (the “Divine Eye”) or Jnana Chakshu (the “Eye of Knowledge”), as it is the gate through which spiritual aspirants receive revelations and insights into the nature of Reality.
  • It is also called the “Eye of Shiva” or in other words, the eye of consciousness.
  • Its most common name is the “Third Eye”—the psychic eye that is located in the middle of the forehead. It is the eye that looks inwards.

Sahasrara—The Crown

Sahasrara means “the [lotus] of a thousand petals.” Although some texts assert that sahasrara is a chakra, it is not a chakra but a portal towards Oneness, the Supreme Reality of Shiva. It represents the “summum bonum” of all the energies of the human being. It has been translated as the “1,000-petaled lotus,” which signifies its holistic integration, magnitude, and importance in the yogic tradition. Sahasrara is also commonly known as shunya (the void), referring to Shiva as emptiness or transcendence.

According to the yogic tradition, sahasrara is located at the top of the head, in the anterior fontanel. It represents the culmination of yogic sadhana (spiritual practice). For this reason, it is also known as the “crown center,” which refers not only to the fact that it is “located” on the top of the head, but also because it is the coronation of Hatha Yoga practice. The yogi uses all possible means to raise kundalini shakti to sahasrara and thus, samadhi (Divine Consciousness) ensues.

This yogic path is very eloquently summarized in the words of Ramakrishna:

“Awake, Mother! Awake! How long Thou hast been asleep

In the lotus of muladhara!

Fulfill Thy secret function, Mother:

Rise to the thousand-petalled lotus within the head,

Where mighty Shiva has His dwelling;

Swiftly pierce the six lotuses

And take away my grief, O Essence of Consciousness!”