Saturday, March 6, 2010

Introduction to the Chakras

This is the first post in a planned series on the chakra system. If you read my last post you saw that I teach a class called Chakra Yoga. The chakra system is an integral part of yoga that is misunderstood by many. Consider this a brief primer on the chakra system, to be followed by a more in-depth look at each of the chakras.

In Eastern systems of thought, energy flows throughout the universe and through the human body, seen as a microcosm of the universe at large. Magnetic energy, electricity, and even consciousness are seen as forms of universal energy, known as prana in yoga and chi in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Yoga, like tai chi, acupuncture, and some martial arts and bodywork systems, aims to improve the flow of prana or chi and direct it in a way that is beneficial to the body. According to the ancient yogis, this energy flows along energy channels called nadis (or meridians in TCM) similar to the way that blood flows through veins and arteries. The main nadis are called Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna. As the heart pumps the blood that flows through the veins, the chakras are what pump prana through the nadis. This system is known as the subtle body. The subtle body is not the same as the soul and can be seen as a metaphor for the flow of energy.

In most systems, there are seven major chakras, arranged along the spine from the base of the tailbone to the top of the head. The first four correspond to the physical body and its needs, and the top three correspond to sound, vision, and consciousness. The word chakra means wheel in Sanskrit, and is visualized as a whirling vortex of energy that spins like a wheel.

Next time I will talk about the first chakra, the Muladhara Chakra.

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