Amidst the Instagram world of picture perfect poses, it’s easy to lose sight of the underlying meaning of Yoga and the Chakras. Immersed in class or our own practice, we start and finish with various asanas (postures) and it can become consuming to go deeper into a pose, to reach that bit further or to hold it a bit longer. There’s no denying the satisfaction in attaining those goals, but the path of Yoga holds so much more for those that want to delve deeper into its spiritual origins, beyond the physical benefits Yoga brings.
“And now, Yoga” – the first line of Patanjali’s Sutras brings with it a spiritual meaning that encompasses the journey of Yoga. The phrase in Sansrkit is;
अथ योगानुशासनम् (Atha yoganushasanam)
There are a few ways to break the phrase down, bearing in mind that Sanskrit can be difficult to translate word for word because the Sanskrit words can take on different meanings depending on the context in which they are used. ‘Yog’ means Yoga or ‘Union’. ‘Atha’ means ‘now’ or ‘hence’. The word ‘Anushasanam’ means ‘self – discipline’ or ‘instruction’.
Therefore we have several possible meanings –
- And now, Yoga
- And now, Union
- And now, Yoga instruction
- And now, Yoga self discipline.
- Now, The teaching of Yoga
- Hence, self discipline – Union
The phrase is commonly taken to mean ‘And now, Yoga’. Understanding that Yoga is not just the physical path of the modern yoga studio but that the word encompasses union with the All brings us to an altogether new level and depth. It is here that we begin to learn of breath control, of the Yamas and Nayamas, of prana and energy flow. It is here that we begin to join the dots between Yoga and the chakras.
Which brings us neatly to how Yoga can affect the chakra system within us. Prana is the energy that flows within us and within the universe. It is ever moving and although there are many chakras in the body, the ones most familiar to people will be the seven main chakras;
- Muladhara (Root) Chakra
- Swadhisthana (Sacral) Chakra
- Manipura (Solar Plexus) Chakra
- Anahata (Heart) Chakra
- Vishuddha (Throat) Chakra
- Ajna (Forehead/Third Eye) Chakra
- Sahasrara (Crown) Chakra
It is said that there are 72,000 channels in the body moving prana to every part of us.
This energy within us is affected by everything we do. It is affected by our environment, where we live, the stress we take on, our diet and what we think. Mindfulness and the practise of living in the now, which has its roots in Yoga, is very much a way of controlling the affect of external influences on our own energy. It is an irony even to say ‘our energy’ because Yoga itself will show that ‘our’ energy and ‘every other energy’ is all one anyway, simply transforming itself from one type to another in a flow that never seems to end.
When we drink natural water or eat natural foods, we feel better – both physically, emotionally and mentally compared to when we slouch on the sofa overeating on junk food. This feeling of ‘being better’ is no accident – not only have we aided the physical body in aligning itself with its natural rhythm, we also affect our spiritual body by eating these foods. The same principle applies to our Yoga practise. When we put ourselves in various poses we begin to affect the energy flow in our chaka system, moving energy around us, releasing blocked or pent up energy and restoring balance to our system.
‘Chakra’ means ‘spinning wheel’ and can be thought of in terms of the meeting place of our spiritual, physical, emotional and mental energies. We take in energy from all around us and transform it into energy that we need This prana is then carried by ‘nadis’ (‘channels’) to minor and major chakras and to everywhere in the body. If our physical yoga practise is exercising a particular area of the body then it is possible that we can move energy in that area in such a way that dis-ease is released and hence illness cured. This is a very broad basis of many Eastern healing systems dealing with a concept of moving energy to heal the body, for example, acupuncture.
Over time, various asanas (poses) have become associated with different chakras. For example it is common to think of hip openers, lunges and deep squats as bringing our awareness to our Root Chakra and thus opening up the flow of Prana. But what if we were to comprehend Yoga in such a way that any asana, perfectly mastered, would be enough to open any or all of our chakras? It is this deeper level of awareness that Yoga seeks to awaken in us. Bringing our breathing, thoughts and physical posture into alignment can bring us to a state where the energy of our chakras also flow into alignment. And if we can align our chakra system, then it may be in alignment with the energy of the All – This is the ultimate Yoga or Union and in this state everything becomes clear – we experience enlightenment.
Bringing an awareness then to our Yoga postures and how they can affect the physical body is where our Yoga practise can help us in healing our chakras. Understanding that physical symptoms showing up in our lives are pointing to a deeper imbalance within us can help shape our choice of asanas. It is important too to understand that we all face imbalances – even yoga instructors must walk their own path and will face their own battles to balance their energy flow.
At the end of this article is a list of poses associated with each Chakra but bear in mind that any asana, practised with perfect awareness and focus, can help rebalance energy anywhere in the body. It is not like one asana is disconnected from any part of our body – or anything else – so by bringing perfect focus to any asana, it is possible that we can direct energy through the nadis and chakras to where it is needed. But we are only human so for most of us, it is easier for the brain to concentrate on an area if it is in a pose that relates to that area – for example, lunges are very much associated with the legs and our human brain finds it easier to concentrate on our legs when we do a lunge then say our heart!
So far, we have been looking at the physical practise of Yoga as a means of directing energy through the chakras. Yoga itself is divided into many different branches, each with its own theory on how to attain this illusive ‘union’ with the All. The Yoga we are familiar with in the west is grounded in the belief that practising the physical side of Yoga can lead us to Union. There are also branches that apply this philosophy in reverse – focusing on the spiritual, mental or emotional side will bring the physical benefits we desire – enter from stage right the non physical teachings of Yoga!
By self-disciplining our mental state or our emotional state and by extension the way we approach life, we bring about a spiritual connection with the All. And guess what – this affects the physical body so that energy flows freely within the chakras, healing us from within. This is why letting go of, or finding peace with, all our feelings of anger, grief, resentment or any negative feeling, can have such powerful physical healing effects on the body. We tend to accumulate blocked energy in the chakra most related to that particular emotion. So isolation or bitterness can often be felt in the Heart Chakra and these emotions can cause physical problems in this area.
Another branch of Yoga uses logic or the rational mind as a means of understanding our connection to the All. Meditation and chanting can bring our awareness to different chakras. And yet another branch of Yoga uses worship or placing oneself in a state of gratitude so that by assuming the Union one eventually arrives in a place where the self understands it. The common thing about all these different paths of Yoga is that the end goal is the same – the awareness or Union of the self with the All. It matters not whether one arrives there by physical practise, mental computation, spiritual devotion or emotional intuition – enlightenment is the end result.
In terms of Yoga and the chankras, keeping ourselves in a certain emotional state helps to free up our chakras of any blockages and allow energy to flow. Similarly, rational Yoga, which can be practised by understanding, knowing and realising the ethos behind Yoga, can help us attain a state where it is impossible for events to pull us into an imbalanced state – because rationally we understand that these events are for us to learn from or experience.
No matter what type of Yoga you engage in, there is always a deeper level one can go to. Traveling this path and embracing Yoga not just in its physical form, but on an intellectual, emotional and spiritual embrace, is what fully allows us to become at one with the All. It is this understanding, this enlightenment that allows us to be at peace, precisely because to be at peace, the energy within our chakras must be in alignment with the energy of the All.
Yoga poses for Chakras
Yoga poses for Root Chakra
- Standing Forward Bend
- Mountain Pose
- Head to Knee
- Crow Pose
- Chair Pose
- Warrior Poses
Yoga poses for Sacral Chakra
- Bound Ankle Pose
- Revolved Triangle Pose
- Pidgeon Pose
- Goddess Pose
Yoga poses for Solar Plexus Chakra
- Boat Pose
- Bow Pose
- Reclined Twist Pose
Yoga poses for Heart Chakra
- Eagle Pose
- Sphinx Pose
- Low lunge
- Cobra Pose
Yoga poses for Throat Chakra
- Shoulder Pose
- Fish Pose
- Bridge Pose
- Camel Pose
Yoga poses for Third Eye Chakra
- Downward Facing Dog
- Dolphin Pose
- Nostril Breathing
Yoga poses for Crown Chakra
- Balancing Butterfly
- Lotus pose