Meditation ChakrasAn ancient technique for focusing the mind and inquiring within involves the use of meditation chakras to tune into the inner state of the body and mind. Chakra means a focal point of energy in the body, and derives from the Sanskrit word cakra meaning “wheel”. In early Hindu texts such as the Vedas and Upanishads, chakras are described as spinning wheels of light located inside the body. These chakras, or points of power, run from the base of the spine to the top of the head and mark points where the energy meridians in the body coalesce. The organs surrounding each chakra embody a certain aspect of life experience— for instance, the heart chakra represents how we experience emotions of love, compassion and openness. Whether your chakra is underactive, fully open, or overactive will influence your experience in the area of life the chakra represents. Because chakras are an integrated system, when one chakra is out of balance, all are out of balance. If you feel off balance in your current life, it might be helpful to tune into your chakras, as misaligned chakras can be a sign of underlying health problems or mental and emotional imbalances. One effective way to tune into and activate your chakras is through chakra-focused meditation.

Hindu texts teach that the body contains seven chakras, each with its own associated functions. Each chakra is also associated with one of the seven colors of the rainbow. The energy embodied in chakras is roughly divided into instinctual, emotional or pragmatic, and spiritual types of power. The colors and associated functions of the seven chakras, and the helical diagram used to illustrate them, correspond to spiritual diagrams in cultures far removed from South Asia: Norse diagrams of the nine worlds contained in the branches of the World Tree look similar to chakra diagrams, and Norse mythology also speaks of a “rainbow bridge” that links the highest world, Asgard, to our own. The Jewish Kabbalah features illustrations of the Jewish tree of life superimposed over the human body. It is comprised of ten sefirots (focal points of power), each with their own function, which are linked by 22 energy meridians. These sefirots are also categorized according to whether they represent spiritual, emotional, or instinctual aspects of the human being. Finally, the Internal Alchemy School of Taoism teaches that there are Three Treasures, or types of energy, in the human body: generative (instinctual), vital (emotional) and spiritual. The goal of this branch of Taoism is to activate and tame each type of energy through meditation and tai chi exercises.

To give you a better idea of how chakras are organized, I’ve compiled a description of each chakra with its associated location, color and the area of experience it represents.

Root Chakra- Base of the spine. Red. As its name implies, the root chakra reflects how you relate to the material world and your sense of physical security. Your health and general constitution are also embodied in this chakra.

Navel Chakra- Lower abdomen. Orange. The navel chakra reflects your attitude toward sexuality, the giving and receiving of physical love, and emotional pleasure. Feelings of romantic love, selflessness, generosity or participation in an act of group creativity can all activate the navel chakra.

Solar Plexus Chakra- Middle abdomen below chest. Yellow. This chakra represents the seat of your will and sense of personal power and transformation. Your ability for self-control and discipline of the ego also lies in the solar plexus chakra.

Heart Chakra- Middle of Chest. Green. The heart chakra is the center of love and feelings that stem from love such as understanding, forgiveness, compassion, balance and harmony. This is a powerful chakra that can nurture divine, transpersonal love if you attend to it conscientiously.

Throat Chakra- Between top of sternum and beneath chin. Sky blue. The throat chakra represents your voice and powers of communication. When fully opened, you can realize wisdom, honesty, kindness and truthful insight through this chakra.

Brow Chakra- Forehead directly above the eyes. Indigo. This is the region of the Third Eye in Hindu, Buddhist and other belief systems and is related to perception beyond the physical. Your powers of imagination, clairvoyance, intuition and insight are centered in the Brow Chakra.

Crown Chakra- Very top (crown) of head. Violet. The Crown Chakra represents the most spiritual aspects of your being: your place in space and time, intellectual and spiritual endeavors, explorations of your consciousness and relationship to the divine. A sense of universal oneness, inspiration and connection to the higher Self will emanate from a fully opened Crown Chakra.

Eastern philosophies which ascribe to chakras state that a person becomes out of balance when one or more of their chakras are underactive, causing other chakras to overcompensate so that the body’s energy meridians become misaligned. Since all the chakras are rooted in the body, exercises that tune you into your body such as yoga or tai chi can help realign chakras that are out of sync. You can also practice a type of guided meditation that uses mudras to tune into and activate your chakras. Mudras are a combination of hand positions and chants (mantras) repeated during deep breathing to help you focus in on your chakras. Each of the seven mudras combines a hand sign with a single-syllable mantra derived from a letter in the Sanskrit alphabet. Mudras send power to each chakra: you might feel the energy of the chant as a vibration passing through the associated chakra. The most famous mudra is probably “Om”, which is meant to open the Brow Chakra. Practitioners recommend you practice mudras in order from Root to Crown, and don’t move on until you feel you’ve mastered each mudra. It’s especially important to have an activated Root Chakra before you tackle the Crown mudra, to ensure yourself a strong foundation. With practice, chakras provide an effective focus for meditation that will energize your body and help you develop a strong emotional and spiritual balance.