The word chakra literally means ‘wheel’ or ‘circle’ but in the yogic context a better translation is ‘vortex’ or ‘whirlpool’. The chakras are vortices of pranic energy at specific areas in the body which control the circulation of prana (life force energy) permeating the entire human structure. Each chakra is a switch which turns on or opens up specific areas of the brain. In most people these psychic centers lie dormant and inactive. Concentration on the chakras while performing yogic practices stimulates the flow of energy through the chakras and helps to activate them.
Humans are made up of many chakras. We have seven major, twenty-one minor, forty-nine minute and numerous minuscule chakras. The seven major chakras radiate out from different points along the spine, forming a vertical axis, which runs from the base of the spine to the top of the head. A pathway is produced that can transport up from the individual and personal realms of consciousness, to the spiritual and universal realms.
The seven major chakras are located along the pathway of the sushumna nadi which flows through the center of the spinal cord. Chakras are locations in the subtle body where multiple energy pathways (nadis) intersect, which correspond to the nerves but are more subtle in nature. The chakras are depicted symbolically as lotus flowers, each having a particular number of petals and a characteristic color.
Chakras are responsible for creating and maintaining your very existence. They are energy centers: vibrating wheels of cosmic light that bring physical form into being. The chakras channel energy (prana: life force) into every part of your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual bodies. The energy that radiates from your chakras sets your thoughts and feelings into action. Your very desire for spiritual knowledge is a sign of the gentle opening of these divine energy centers.
Contemporary spiritual teachers often attribute psychological characteristics to the seven chakras, such as:
- Survival instinct and fear
- Pleasure and sexual desire
- Power and anger
- Love and empathy
- Knowledge and communication
- Wisdom and intuition
- Transpersonal awareness
Chakras are the central energetic core of our existence. It is this very core that links us to every living entity. The wisdom of the past, present, and future is revealed to us when we open the chakras more fully. Knowledge of the chakras can be used for personal development, healing, and transformation.