Author: Andrea Mondkind
Open up your heart chakra. Bring your attention to the third-eye chakra. Feel the connection through your root chakra… Does this sound familiar? If you have ever attended a yoga class, a meditation workshop, or enjoyed a reiki session, you might have heard of the chakras before.
I’m writing this article because I needed a little recap myself. This week I am teaching a bespoke Ibiza yoga retreat in collaboration with a wonderful life coach from Switzerland. One week of intense mental, physical, emotional and spiritual work. I cannot wait.
When I teach private yoga classes in Ibiza I’m aiming to bring harmony and balance into all the chakras. However, in a retreat setting we have the luxury to go deep and bring a little more focus into those parts of our being that feel blocked or unbalanced.
Literally speaking, the Sanskrit word CHAKRA means wheel or disk.
According to yoga tradition, the SUBTLE BODY is a part of you that cannot be seen (with the eyes) or touched, but that deserves just as much care and attention as your physical body. The chakras are the SPIRITUAL ENERGY CENTRES within that subtle body. They are located along the spine, starting at the base of the spine and running upwards to the crown of the head.
Each chakra correlates with a gland in the physical body, and each chakra radiates a specific color and energy. Within these chakras is PRANA or lifeforce, the ultimate pure healing energy.
When chakra energy becomes blocked, it triggers physical, mental or emotional imbalances that manifest in symptoms such as anxiety, lethargy or poor digestion. On the other hand, the conscious balancing of these energy centers through yoga is believed to lead to well-being and good health.
That is one of the reasons why getting on the yoga mat feels so damn good. We stimulate and balance the chakras in the body, paving the way for that wonderful internal shift which I call the yoga glow.
And if, like me, you’re a little cynical and think that the chakras are just new-age woo-woo, think again. The chakra system originated in India between 1500 and 500 BC in the oldest text called the Vedas. These are the earliest Sanskrit literary records and the most ancient scriptures of Hinduism.
While there isn’t much Western scientific evidence that translates spiritual energy into physical manifestations, the study of chakra balancing - whether it be through meditation, yoga or reiki - is rooted in the belief that when the chakras are open and aligned, our energy is constantly free-flowing, allowing prana to move through us.
The first five chakras are associated with the physical elements earth, water, fire, air and ether (or space). The last two chakras are thought to connect us beyond the earthy realm, so they are associated with the elements of light and universal energy.
In order to restore balance in your chakras, you first need to figure out what is going on inside of you, how you’re feeling, and where you are struggling. When you become aware of yourself you will soon realise which chakra to stimulate to counteract the imbalance.
For example, if you're feeling low in energy, you can do poses that target the navel chakra to rekindle your inner fire. If you're feeling anxious and long to feel more grounded, choose poses for the earthy root chakra. Or if you seek more courage to speak your truth, the right poses can open up and stimulate the throat chakra.
Muladhara Chakra is located between the base of the spine, the pelvic floor and the first three vertebrae. It radiates the colour RED and represents the element EARTH.
Think about the Root Chakra as your foundation: sturdy, stabilising and supportive, keeping you safely grounded. It is characterised by the emotions of survival, security, ambition and self-sufficiency.
Your earliest memories are stored here, including whether or not your basic needs were met. Because of that, the Root Chakra also connects to whatever you use to ground yourself: nourishing your body with nutrient-dense food, creating a cozy home for yourself, establishing a close network of supporting friends, or spending time with your family.
When Muladhara Chakra is balanced, you feel strong, confident, independent and balanced. You can stand up on your own feet and take care of yourself.
When out of balance, a variety of symptoms may occur from anxiety disorders to insomnia. You might feel unstable, insecure and fearful, accompanied by a lack of purpose.
Physically, an unbalanced Root Chakra is associated with problems in the colon, the bladder, or with lower back issues.
To balance Muladhara Chakra with yoga I like to choose postures that are creating a firm foundation, keeping me stable and grounded:
Tree Pose (Vrkshasana)
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Garland Pose (Malasana)
Head to Knee Forward Bend (Janu Sirsasana)
Easy Pose (Sukhasana)
The second chakra is located at the lower abdomen, above the pubic bone and about four fingers below the navel. It radiates the colour ORANGE and represents the element WATER.
The Sacral Chakra is responsible for your sexual and creative energies as it corresponds with your reproductive and sexual organs. It represents fluidity, creativity and fertility.
You can take a literal interpretation of this, or associate this chakra with whether or not you feel deserving of a pleasurable, abundant and creative life.
When your Sacral Chakra is aligned, you’re in the flow of life - positive, intuitive, and receptive to change. You’re friendly, passionate and successfully fulfilled, while also eliciting feelings of wellness, abundance, pleasure and joy. By honoring your body and expressing yourself creatively, you’re keeping the sacral energy turning and fluid.
When out of balance, you may feel emotionally unstable, manipulative and uninspired. There’s a lack of energy and creativity in your life, while also potentially experiencing fear of change, depression or addiction-like behaviours.
My favourite yoga pose to harmonise Swadhishthana Chakra is Goddess Pose (Utkata Konasana), it just feels strong, feminine and sexy to me. And here are a few more suggestions:
Hero Pose (Virasana)
Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana)
Wide-legged Standing Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)
Frog Pose (Mandukasana)
Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Manipura is located above the navel at the solar plexus, between the navel and the bottom of the rib cage. It represents the element FIRE and radiates the colour YELLOW.
With its name meaning “lustrous gem” in Sanskrit, it is said to be your source of individual power, ruling over self-esteem and focusing on individual strength and commitment (you can see how this can easily get out of whack).
With a balanced Manipura you feel alive, productive and focused. You have the confidence to awaken your true personal power and work through your fears.
When out of balance, there’s low self-esteem, indecisiveness, procrastination, perfectionism, and lack of courage. On a physical level, Manipura Chakra governs all things metabolic, digestive and stomach-related.
Choose a yoga practice that ignites your core muscles and creates power for transformation. Moving through a strong vinyasa flow with plenty of Chaturanga and the following postures will certainly keep Manipura happy and aligned:
Boat Pose (Navasana)
Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana 3)
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
Revolved Triangle Pose (Parvritta Trikonasana)
Child’s Pose (Balasana) to soothe and balance
Awaken to the power of unconditional love through compassion, forgiveness, and acceptance.
The Heart Chakra lies, surprise surprise, around the heart region. This is where the physical and the spiritual meet. Its colour is GREEN and the element is AIR.
As the name implies, it’s all about the love. Anahata Chakra is the seat of balance within the body, characterised by emotions of compassion, trust and passion. It’s the awakening to spiritual awareness, forgiveness and service.
When your Heart Chakra is aligned, love and compassion are flowing freely, both in terms of giving it out and getting it back. Your good vibes are practically contagious. You feel optimistic, motivated, understanding and caring.
If Anahata is out of balance, you might deal with emotional issues like lack of trust, jealousy, fear or anger. You can become possessive and codependent, resulting in dysfunctional relationships. You may also stay isolated for fear of rejection, cutting you off from opportunities to love.
Physically, Anahata Chakra encapsulates the heart, the thymus gland (which plays a vital role in your endocrine and lymphatic system), the lungs and the breasts.
Yoga definitely helps me to heal past wounds and open my heart again to form healthy relationships, but it is a process. There are no quick fixes.
Stimulate Anahata Chakra with back-bending postures that free up the heart area. There must be a reason why I love these so much 😉
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Reverse Plank Pose (Purvottanasana)
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
The fifth Chakra is the first of the three solely spiritual chakras. It is located at the base of the throat, coinciding with the thyroid gland. Its colour is BRIGHT BLUE and the element is SPACE.
Vishuddha represents inspiration, expression, faith, and the ability of communication. It’s is all about speaking your inner truth, but also the fine art of true listening.
Anatomically, the throat chakra is associated with the thyroid, parathyroid, jaw, neck, mouth and tongue.
A balanced Throat Chakra can manifest itself by creativity, self-expression, constructive communication, and satisfaction.
Imbalance may lead to timidity, quietness, a feeling of weakness, or the inability to express your thoughts. In addition to having trouble speaking your truth, you could find it hard to listen deeply, pay attention, and stay focused. You might actually talk too much (note to self).
Physically, this blockage can manifest itself as a sore throat, thyroid issues, neck and shoulder stiffness, or tension headaches.
As for yoga, you can balance Vishuddha Chakra in poses that stretch and compress the throat area. Cat-Cow with Lion’s Breath is a great one to include into your asana practice. As well as:
Plow Pose (Halasana)
Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
The sixth chakra is located in between the eyebrows. LIGHT is the element that most attach to the Anja chakra, as light is the combination of all elements together - water, earth, fire and air. But other resources say that it doesn’t have a specific element. However, it does have a colour: INDIGO BLUE PURPLE.
Anja Chakra is associated with your intuition, and the ability to recognise and tap into your innate wisdom. It is also said to be responsible for all things between you and the outside world, serving as a bridge between the two, allowing you to cut through any illusions and drama to see the clear picture.
The Third Eye Chakra is often used as a focus point to bring more concentration and awareness into your asana practice. It opens up your mind to see different perspectives, and it helps you to receive the wisdom that cannot be seen or heard by ordinary senses.
The attributes of a balanced Anja Chakra are intelligence, intuition, understanding, insight and self-knowledge. You are your own master without the need for outside approval.
When out of balance, you may have trouble accessing your intuition and trusting your inner voice. You may feel close-minded, too attached to logic, and cynical.
On a physical level, the Third Eye Chakra is associated with the pituitary gland, the eyes, head and the lower part of the brain. An imbalance can manifest itself by headaches, dizziness, blurry vision and eye strain.
In order to quiet my mind and tap into my intuition I love nothing more than doing sun salutations with my eyes closed, breathing super deeply. In fact, when I yoga alone my eyes remain closed almost throughout my entire asana practice.
And I always include the following postures:
Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Head-to-Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana)
Dolphin pose (Makarasana)
Child’s pose (Balasana)
And finally, our last chakra is located at the crown of the head, or rather above the crown of the head.
Again there is no specific element. Sahastrara Chakra is an element of oneness founded by a pure sense of transcendence. It is deep VIOLET and/or WHITE in colour.
As your center of spirituality, the Crown Chakra allows for the flow of wisdom and brings the gift of pure consciousness. It is the center of enlightenment and your spiritual connection to your higher self, to others and ultimately, the divine.
When aligned, the realisations that occur within you are of pure awareness, undivided and all expansive. It helps you to understand who you are beyond your physical self, and that you are a spiritual being having a human experience.
An unbalanced Crown Chakra may create feelings of isolation or emotional distress, disconnected from everyone and everything.
You might still feel like your normal self, just not in an exalted state of spiritual connection and enlightenment. But let’s be honest, this is our daily state of being, we rarely find time (or make time) to sit underneath the Bodhi Tree, so to speak. But you know the difference, those rare moments when you are so connected that you feel nothing but pure love and bliss.
Unlike the other chakras, the Crown Chakra is often only opened up fully through deep yogic or meditative exercises, which is not a skill set you can call upon at any given moment. But you may still be able to get a taste of it through daily practices. Anything from meditation and prayer, to moments of silence and gratitude, will help you to connect and have those deep moments of spiritual insight. I can highly recommend doing a Vipassana meditation retreat, it will blow your mind…
Although meditation is widely considered the best yoga practice for opening and balancing the Crown Chakra, there are several asanas that help to activate the seventh chakra:
Warrior 1 with Eagle Arms (Virabhadrasana with Garudasana)
Revolved Bound Half Moon Pose (Parivrtta Baddha Ardha Chandrasana)
Supported Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana)
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
Reclining Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasana)
And don’t forget Savasana (Corpse Pose) at the end of a yoga class, super important. Resist the temptation to run out of the class and straight back into your life. Really indulge that moment of stillness.
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