The chakra system is a useful tool which one can build upon with several other methodologies; this is a basic introduction that I’ll elaborate upon in future posts.
The system of chakras that I’ve studied is what I would describe as Pagan/New Age standard. It is loosely based on the Hindu understanding as taught in basic (Westernized) yoga classes. Basically, the chakras are metaphysical locations that are where certain types of “energy” or “power” are centered in the body.
They are usually described from bottom to top:
- The root or base chakra is located near the perineum or at the base of the spine. Its color is red, and it symbolizes connection to the earth, the fundamental and physical nature, our most basic needs like security and stability, and also the ability to eliminate (return to earth) that which is no longer helpful.
- The second chakra is located in the low belly, within the bowl of the pelvis, near the reproductive organs. Its color is orange, and it symbolizes creativity and fertility, and is involved in sexual matters.
- The third or solar plexus chakra is located at the solar plexus. Its color is yellow, and it is associated with the sun and with personal power, will, drive, and effort.
- The fourth or heart chakra is located at the heart or behind the breastbone at the level of the heart. Its color is green, and it represents emotions, relationships, generosity, and love.
- The fifth or throat chakra is located in the throat at the Adam’s apple or voicebox. Its color is blue, and it symbolizes thought, speech, and communication, especially speaking or writing.
- The sixth or third eye chakra is located in the center of the forehead or between the eyebrows. Here the color schemes can vary; some people say this one is indigo and the next one violet, while some say this one is purple and the next one is white or clear. Either way, this chakra represents inner vision and connection to things metaphysical, especially one’s intuition and wisdom.
- The crown chakra is located at the top of the head. (Remember how a baby has a “soft spot” called a fontanelle at the top of the head? That’s where the crown chakra is.) Its color is violet or clear, and it symbolizes connection to the divine and transcendence.
In general, a “healthy” chakra is translucent, round, and has a vibrant, pure color. Chakras are places where the relevant energy is centered, but they are not just a static well of energy; chakras are interconnected, especially with each other, but also with the body and spirit as a whole. At their best, chakras are able to absorb and send out energy as part of a complex interplay in the metaphysical body.
Nearly all of us have some difficulties in our chakras which reflect or represent other concerns we are dealing with. A chakra with difficulties can appear as a muddy color, mixed with brown or some other inappropriate hue; it can be an unusual size or shape, or simply not be able to let energy flow clearly.
The chakras are such a useful basis for work because they cover a wide range of mind and body issues. Concentrating on each one in turn gives me automatic cues to address different areas of my life:
- Am I grounded?
- Am I creative?
- Am I empowered?
- Am I loving?
- Am I speaking my truth?
- Am I honoring my insight?
- Am I connecting to the divine?
We can build on these to develop meditations, healing techniques, and to engage our mind and body fully with magic.
Deep down, the chakras are really another system of classifications and correspondences, where each chakra represents a whole category of symbolically interrelated things. We’ll see how this has applications for working with stones, minerals, and crystals in a future entry.
A note about the origins of the chakra system:
There are Sanskrit names and a whole host of Hindu associations for each chakra, including descriptions of each one as a lotus flower with a specific number of petals and so forth. I don’t typically work with those as part of my healing practice. Part of the compromise I have with myself about not veering into cultural appropriation is that I don’t pretend to know about the specifically culturally rooted parts of systems like this without much more significant study.
I see the Westernized chakra system as something that might have originally been cultural appropriation, but in its stripped-down form I think it is now a primarily Western approach which is somewhat separate from its Hindu roots.
Being honest about the difference between those is part of not veering over the line into cultural appropriation for me. It’s a lot like knowing the difference between Westernized yoga-as-primarily-exercise and yoga-as-complete-spiritual-system. Some people who are interested in the offshoot go and study the roots more, and they recontextualize the modern development within the deep philosophical understandings of the past. That’s respectful; so is working with the modern offshoot on its own merits, in most ways; what’s not respectful is claiming that because I do downward-facing dog pose on weekends, I have a deep understanding of Vedic philosophy. The origins and the modern offshoot interact, but being honest about what I don’t know is part of being respectful of the difference.
I also think that when we try to borrow the Hindu roots too much, there’s a certain sense that our work today will gain authenticity or validity or dignity by being associated with the antiquity or the foreignness or whatever of the Hindu usage of chakras. That is appropriation and it also implicitly devalues the work that we are doing today to develop and extend our own practices. My work stands on its own.