Have you ever had inexplicable aches or lost your voice for no reason? When Western medicine can’t tell you what’s wrong, where can you turn?
Ayurvedic practitioners believe the key to healing may lie in your chakras. The word chakra, which means “wheel of light” per ancient Sanskrit writings, describes an energy center that operates within the human body and regulates wellness. According to Vedic medicine, taking care of our chakras is of utmost importance when it comes to preventing illness and achieving vitality.
What are chakras?
Think of chakras as tiny tornadoes spinning in place that suck in or spit out energy. There are seven main chakras that run up and down the body, from the top of the head to the bottom of the spine. “Chakras are not physical. There’s no way a doctor can find them. They do not exist on a physical level; they are part of your energy centers,” Yogarupa Rod Stryker, founder of ParaYoga and author of The Four Desires: Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom, tells LivingHealthy. “They are high concentrations of life force—the psycho-energetic points that affect emotions.”
According to Stryker, your seven chakras regulate the way you react to your environment physically and psychologically. The body actually has 114 chakras, but the seven main ones connect directly with the seven central glands and organs in the body. In the same way that each organ/gland represents a different physical need, so do their corresponding chakras. For example, your reproductive system exists for procreation, and your “root” chakra, which governs it, is associated with survival instincts or sexual energy. The lowest chakra is at the bottom of the spine and is more involved with basic instincts, and the highest is at the top of the head and relates more to the mind and spirit.
Here’s a breakdown of the seven chakras: and their assigned color (each chakra is represented by a color of the rainbow); the area of body in which they’re located; the glands/organs they interact with; and their functions.
1. Root Chakra
- Base of the spine/tailbone
- Reproductive glands (testes and ovaries)
- Survival instincts
2. Sacral Chakra
- Lower abdomen below the navel in the body’s center
- Adrenal glands (immune system and metabolism), bladder, prostate, ovaries, kidneys, gall bladder, bowel, spleen
- Connectivity and sexuality
3. Solar Plexus Chakra
- Upper abdomen around the stomach area
- Pancreas (metabolism), intestines, liver, bladder, stomach, upper spine
- Self-confidence and self-esteem
4. Heart Chakra
- Center of the chest just above the heart
- Thymus (immune system), heart, lungs
- Love, joy and inner peace
5. Throat Chakra
- Thyroid (body temperature/metabolism), bronchial tubes, vocal cords, respiratory system, all areas of the mouth (including tongue and esophagus)
- Self-expression, truth and communication
6. Third-Eye Chakra
- Forehead between the eyes (aka the Brow Chakra)
- Pituitary gland, eyes, brain
- Intuition, imagination, wisdom and the ability to think and make decisions
7. Crown Chakra
- Top of the head
- Pineal gland (biological cycles including sleep), spinal cord, brain stem
- Connection to spirituality and pure bliss
The key to health lies in balancing the physical and the spiritual as well as the lowest and highest chakras. There is a misconception that your lower chakras (in charge of your instincts and sex) are bad, while your higher chakras (which govern intuition and spirituality) are good. “This is not true,” Stryker clarifies. “The lower are for survival while the higher are metaphysical—but you need both in order to achieve balance."
How to balance your chakras
Have you ever felt like someone was staring at you, only to turn around and actually find eyes directed your way? LivingHealthy expert Siva Mohan, MD, MPH, an Ayurvedic practitioner, says this is an example of what Vedic practitioners call the “subtle body.” In Western terms, we might refer to it as instinct, intuition or, in more spiritual circles, your soul. Mohan says you need to have high awareness of your subtle body to prevent chakra blockage. An example: If you’re starting to feel like you’ve been stuffing your feelings too much, trust your instincts (or subtle body) and find ways to release your thoughts. If not, the throat chakra becomes blocked, which may then manifest in neck pain or throat aches.
By the time a physical problem arises, it usually means it’s long past the point in which the chakras have become blocked—so the Ayurvedic approach to better health is preventative. When your health, emotions and spiritual center are aligned, you should feel totally at ease with whatever is happening around you. This is called your baseline, the place where your chakras are in perfect working order. Once you know your baseline, be aware of when it’s out of alignment, like if you feel irritable, run-down or oddly out of step with the world. At times like these, you can take steps to help your body in directions where it’s lacking.
If you feel like your baseline is off, Mohan recommends the Ayurvedic tool of visualization to help gain awareness and clear pathways. To do this, take a moment and picture the color red at the base of your spine, for example. Why red? It’s the color associated with the root chakra that resides in the base of your spine. By doing this, you should be able to ground yourself and achieve a greater sense of calm, according to Ayurveda. Visualize a hue that directly matches the color of the chakra you are attending to (so if you’re experiencing a lot of heartache, try picturing green).
Stryker also recommends yoga and meditation to address unbalanced chakras. Yoga poses are designed to bring the chakras into equilibrium. The more time we take out of our busy schedules to tend to our bodies, the more we allow our chakras to create overall health.
It’s hard to commit to new behaviors—even ones that make us feel better. But they don’t have to cost money, and most don’t even require huge time commitments. A small daily investment of aligning yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually will come back to you in priceless amounts of good health.
- According to the National Institutes of Health, 60 to 90 percent of all doctor visits are related to stress. Start each day with a five-minute meditation (there are many guided ones available online). You are guaranteed to be more in touch with your subtle body and find more ease moving through your day.