: any of several points of physical or spiritual energy in the human body according to yoga philosophy
Like many people, I came to Yoga for its physical benefits, attracted by the promise of greater strength, balance and flexibility. In those early classes, the mention of chakras, koshas or vayus would leave me feeling confused, uncomfortable or downright sceptical. Gradually though, it became hard to ignore the sense that my asana practice was more than just a chance to sweat and was having effects on a profound, energetic level.
The chakras were the first element of the subtle energy body to resonate with my physical experience of Yoga. As I began to feel how aspects of my consciousness could manifest in my body, I delved more into Indian yogic philosophy. Ancient sanskrit texts such as the Upanishads, refer to seven major chakras. Each one is described as a spinning wheel of energy located along the length of the spine and directly linked to physical, emotional and mental health.
While modern science hasn’t yet been able to record their presence, the location of the chakras in the Indian yogic tradition corresponds to the glands of our endocrine system which functions to maintain homeostasis (balance and optimum functioning) in the body. Long before there was an understanding of human biology, yogic philosophy advocated practices such as asana, pranayama and meditation to regulate the flow of energy in and between the chakras and so create an holistic sense of equilibrium. After a Yoga class you’ll probably be in no doubt about the work your quad muscles have done but that extra je ne sais quoi? That could just be the result of a full chakra workout!
While your Yoga teacher might not talk overtly about your Sacral or Heart Chakras, sequences at YogaVenue are designed with the subtle energy body in mind. Vinyasa flows work sequentially from Root to Crown through each of the seven, major energy centres. Depending on what’s being explored that day, week or month there might also be a particular focus on one or more chakras. During times of transition such as seasonal shifts we’ll often move with an emphasis on Muladhara (Root) Chakra to promote steadiness and equanimity in the face of change: expect postures that stimulate the base of the spine and an invitation to explore your connection to the earth, the element associated with the Root Chakra.
As Mijael Brandwajn says, chakras are “a great way to describe our different needs as human beings and to tie them to a physical sensation”. Maybe the existence of chakras will never be proven by science; maybe you’ll never be able to put your finger on that extra ‘something’ you get from your Yoga practice but the concept of chakras and what they represent can still play an important role in our practice and the way we understand our minds and bodies.
By Katie Phelps