You’ve probably heard the term chakras before, but do you know what they are or how they work? Don’t stress if you don’t! I’m here to break everything down for you.
Chakras are the energy centers of the body. Each person has seven chakras and they correspond to bundles of nerves, major organs, and areas of our energetic body running from the base of the spine to the top of the head. In Sanskrit, chakra translates to “wheel” or “disk,” and you can think of them as energetic gatekeepers for their respective areas. When all of our chakras are open, energy can run through them freely, and harmony can exist between our body, mind, and spirit. When a chakra is blocked, on the other hand, energy can get stuck and presents itself as discomfort.
So, now let’s break down each chakra. We’re going to look at them through Anodea Judith’s approach to the chakra system.
Chakra One: The Root Chakra
The first chakra corresponds to the element earth, the foundation from which all life springs. Think of it as your own foundation—when in balance, it’s sturdy, stabilizing, and supportive. It’s also connected to whatever you use to ground yourself, including practical aspects of our lives (food, water, and shelter), and our instincts and emotional needs (like letting go of fear or feeling safe).
NAME: Muladhara, meaning “root support”
LOCATION: Base of spine, includes legs as roots
EXCESSIVE: Heavy body, slow, sluggish, attachment to security
DEFICIENT: Scattered, ungrounded, spacey, flighty
YOGA POSES TO ACTIVATE IT: Wide-legged forward fold, malasana squats, mountain pose
Chakra Two: The Sacral Chakra
The second chakra is your center for pleasure, fun, movement, and feeling. It is certainly the emotional center of the body, and It’s definitely the most fun out of the seven chakras. It’s responsible for getting things moving: your body moving in general, the energy inside of you, and your life forward. Pleasure invites us to expand, while pain makes us contract. Opening to pleasure and creative energies will not only make you feel happier and more fulfilled, but it will keep the energy moving through your body, soothing and releasing blockages.
NAME: Svadhisthana, meaning “one’s own place”
LOCATION: Sacral area, hips, low back, groins, sexual organs, womb
EXCESSIVE: Indulgent, over-emotional, sloppy, ill-intentioned promiscuity
DEFICIENT: Rigid, dry, numb, flat emotions
YOGA POSES TO ACTIVATE IT: Pigeon pose, goddess pose, warrior II
Chakra Three: The Solar Plexus Chakra
If the first chakra focuses on matter and the second chakra focuses on movement, in the third chakra we experience energy created by the combination of matter and movement. This energy is our fuel for our own creativity and willpower. The third chakra asks you to clarify your intentions and be confident and in control of your life.
NAME: Manipura, meaning “lustrous gem”
LOCATION: Solar plexus
EXCESSIVE: Controlling, dominating, bullying, constantly doing
DEFICIENT: Weak, passive, victimized
YOGA POSES TO ACTIVATE IT: Boat pose, twists, warrior III
Chakra Four: The Heart Chakra
As the central chakra, the fourth chakra represents where the physical and the spiritual meet. As the name suggests, this chakra can influence our ability to give and receive love—from others and ourselves. It’s believed that when your heart chakra is aligned and balanced, love and compassion are flowing freely, potentially opening us to an experience of unconditional love, or what Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist teacher, calls True Love. This Love includes deep compassion, empathy, and a strong wish for the welfare and happiness of others.
NAME: Anahata, meaning “unstruck chord”
LOCATION: Heart, chest, lungs
EXCESSIVE: Co-dependent, meddlesome, needing attention
DEFICIENT: Closed-hearted, judgmental, isolating
YOGA POSES TO ACTIVATE IT: Backbends, reverse plank, upward-facing dog
Chakra Five: The Throat Chakra
The fifth chakra is a very vulnerable place because it is where the inside comes out. It focuses on speaking your inner truth, or more specifically, that your inner truths are communicated properly. In real people terms, it allows us to express ourselves truly and clearly. Blocks in this chakra are pretty universal and often intensely charged. It means that they will feel like they have trouble finding the words to say how they really feel.
NAME: Visudha, meaning “purification”
LOCATION: Throat, mouth, ears, shoulders
EXCESSIVE: Loud, scattered, talks too much
DEFICIENT: Shy, difficulty speaking
YOGA POSES TO ACTIVATE IT: Fish pose, plow pose, shoulder stand
Chakra Six: The Third-Eye Chakra
While each of the chakras has an important spiritual aspect, we open even deeper into the spiritual realm when we reach the sixth chakra. It is the third eye center that controls our ability to see the big picture and connect to intuition. It takes us to a dimension of transcendence, illumination, and the light of wisdom. The third eye is said to be responsible for all things between you and the outside world, serving as a bridge between the two. The only limitation of this chakra is the limits of our imagination.
NAME: Ajna, meaning “command center”
LOCATION: Middle of the head at brow level
EXCESSIVE: Delusions, hallucinations
DEFICIENT: Cynical, close-mindedness, denial
YOGA POSES TO ACTIVATE IT: Child’s pose, dolphin pose, eagle pose
Chakra Seven: The Crown Chakra
The crown is the center of enlightenment and represents our ability to be fully connected to our higher selves, others, and ultimately, the divine. The psyche, the main focus of the seventh chakra, is an organization of consciousness that lives in our body. There is consciousness involved in every chakra, as consciousness operates the body, feels emotions, takes action, listens and speaks, perceives and remembers, and creates everything. If we enhance our consciousness, we enhance each of these levels.
NAME: Sahasrara, meaning “thousand-fold lotus”
LOCATION: Crown of head
ELEMENT: Consciousness, thought
EXCESSIVE: Disconnection from Earthly reality, spiritual addiction, overly intellectual
DEFICIENT: Disconnection from Spirit, cynical, close-minded
YOGA POSES TO ACTIVATE IT: Headstand, tree pose, savasana
While each chakra has its own distinct properties, they’re all thought to work as a system. That means if one’s out of balance, it affects all the rest.
Oftentimes our chakras can get out of balance if we have stagnant energy, and instead of dealing with that stagnant energy, or even our shadow selves, we hold onto these elements of the self or try to deny them. We don’t need to stop having negative feelings. It is our right as humans to have and express the range of feelings from joy and love to fear and anger. But we should look at what kind of situations and interactions trigger us, and then learn to manage our reactions, express our thoughts and feelings in a healthy way, and transform our stagnant energy to manifesting energy.
How do you do that? You can do it through breathwork, setting intentions, visualization, creating personal mantras, writing down what you are grateful for, using your strengths, and surrounding yourself with nature. One of the most important practices is setting boundaries. We can never really know where our boundaries lie, but by creating our own personal barriers and setting clear guidelines, we can protect ourselves, especially when there are no physical barriers. By hearing our emotions and recognizing the symptoms, we can deal with negative situations before they escalate.
Yoga is another practice that can help with chakra alignment. According to the yogic view, chakras are where our energy, thoughts/feelings, and physical body meet. Our consciousness gets projected through our chakras, and this largely determines how we experience reality from our emotional reactions, our desires or dislikes, our level of confidence or fear, even the manifestation of physical symptoms. By working with our chakras in yoga practice, we can begin to unravel any blocks that may be preventing us from reaching our highest potential.
So, there you have it. The chakra system is very complex, but when it is in balance our potential is limitless. And even if yours are not in balance now, just remember to breathe deeply and set your intentions; over time your blocks will come undone and you will be able to manifest new possibilities.