Odds are, if you’ve attended a yoga class, group meditation, or indulged in an hourlong reiki session, your instructor or practitioner most likely spoke about your chakras. In my yoga class, my teacher often brings up the third-eye chakra, located between the brows, saying it’s responsible for human intuition and the inner light within us. But what are chakras, really?
Literally speaking, the word “chakra” from Sanskrit translates to “wheel” or “disk,” but references a spiritual energy center within the human body, of which there are seven along the spine,and through the neck and the crown of your head, according to the Chopra Center.
Literally speaking, the word “chakra” from Sanskrit translates to “wheel” or “disk,” but references a spiritual energy center within the human body.
And if you think that chakras are just a part of all things woo-woo today, think again: “The chakra system originated in India between 1500 and 500 BC in the oldest text called the Vedas,” says Fern Olivia, a reiki healer and yoga instructor, says. The Vedas are the earliest Sanskrit literary records and the most ancient scriptures of Hinduism. As for the purpose of the seven chakras? “They each correspond to specific organs as well as physical, emotional, psychological, emotional, and spiritual states of being and influence all areas of your life,” says Olivia. “Within these chakras is ‘prana,’ or the ultimate pure healing energy, that’s all around us and within us, to keep us healthy, happy and vibrant.”
While there isn’t much Western scientific evidence that translates spiritual energy into physical manifestations, the study of the seven chakras and chakra alignment—whether it be through meditation, reiki, or yoga—is rooted in the belief is that “when the chakras are open and aligned, our energy is constantly free-flowing, allowing prana to flow through them,” says Olivia. But before you can dive deep into each chakra, you need to know the basics first.
Here’s your top-line guide to the beliefs surrounding the 7 chakras—and the symptoms you may feel if they’re blocked.
The root chakra
What it is: Think about your root chakra (AKA first chakra) as the foundation of a house, except for your body—it’s sturdy, stabilizing, and supportive, keeping everything safely connected as long as it’s functioning properly. It’s associated with the base of the spine, the pelvic floor, and the first three vertebrae, and responsible for an individual’s sense of security and survival, says Olivia. Because of that, it’s also connected to whatever you use to ground yourself, including basic needs such as food, water, shelter, and safety, as well as your more emotional needs such as letting go of fear and feeling safe. As you well know, when these needs are met, you tend to worry less.
When it’s blocked: A variety of ailments can occur from blockages, including anxiety disorders, fears, or nightmares, adherents say. Physically, the first chakra is associated with problems in the colon, with the bladder, with elimination, or with lower back, leg, or feet issues.
The sacral chakra
What it is: Consider the second chakra the most fun out of the seven. Located above the pubic bone and below the navel, it’s responsible for our sexual and creative energies, says Olivia. Associated with the color orange and the element of water, when your sacral chakra is aligned, you will likely feel great: You’re friendly, passionate, and successfully fulfilled while also eliciting feelings of wellness, abundance, pleasure, and joy. (Nice!) By honoring your body and expressing yourself creatively, you’re keeping the energy wheels turning and fluid.
When it’s blocked: When you’re feeling uninspired creatively or have some emotional instability, your sacral chakra may be misaligned. Likewise, this can also be associated with physical sexual disfunction, while also potentially experiencing fear of change, depression, or addiction-like behaviors.
The solar plexus chakra
What it is: With its name meaning “lustrous gem” in Sanskrit, the third chakra (not to be confused with your “third eye,” which is the sixth chakra—more on that in a minute) is said to be your source of individual power, ruling over self-esteem. Or as Olivia says, it is the “action and balance chakra that focuses on individual willpower, personal power, and commitment.” Located from the navel to about the ribcage, it reportedly governs all things metabolic, digestive, and stomach-related.
When it’s blocked: You can suffer from low self-esteem, have difficulty making decisions, and may have anger or control issues. Olivia notes that it’s not just feeling badly about yourself, but also may lead you to outwardly express apathy, procrastination, or that you’re able to be taken advantage of easily. Likewise, you’ll also possibly have a tummy ache of some kind such as digestive issues or gas. (Ugh.)
The heart chakra
What it is: As the central chakra, the fourth chakra, found at the center of your chest, represents where the physical and the spiritual meet, according to the Chopra Center. Physically, it’s said to encapsulate the heart, the thymus gland (which plays a vital role in your endocrine and lymphatic system), the lungs, and the breasts. And as its name implies, is all about the love. “It’s the awakening to spiritual awareness, forgiveness, and service,” says Olivia. Associated with the color green and pink (yes, the millennial, rose quartz kind), it’s believed that when your heart chakra is aligned and balanced, love and compassion are flowing freely—both in terms of giving it out and getting it back. “Your good vibes are practically contagious,” says Olivia.
When it’s blocked: A closed heart chakra can give way to grief, anger, jealousy, fear of betrayal, and hatred toward yourself and others—especially in the form of holding a grudge against something or someone. Holding onto hurt harbors negative feelings and cuts you off from opportunities to love, and that’s just bad juju, TBH.
The throat chakra
What it is: Have zero problem saying how you feel? Your fifth chakra, which is all about speaking your inner truth—or specifically, ensuring that your inner truths are properly communicated—is likely well-balanced. The throat chakra rules all communication, and is the first of the three solely spiritual chakras (as opposed to the lower ones, which manifest themselves in a more physical way), according to Olivia. Anatomically, the throat chakra is associated with the thyroid, parathyroid, jaw, neck, mouth, tongue, and larynx. When this chakra is in check, you’re able to fully listen as well as speak and express yourself clearly.
When it’s blocked: In addition to having trouble speaking your truth, you find it hard to pay attention and stay focused, or fear judgment from others—which can further hinder your ability to keep it real. Physically, this blockage can manifest itself as a sore throat, thyroid issues, neck and shoulder stiffness, or tension headaches.
The third-eye chakra
What it is: Don’t let its name confuse you. The third-eye chakra is actually your sixth chakra, and is physically located between your eyebrows. Organs including the pituitary gland, eyes, head, and lower part of the brain are said to be ruled by the third eye. And it reportedly governs your intuition—plus the ability to recognize and tap into it. What’s more, the third eye 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.
When it’s blocked: You may have trouble accessing your intuition, trusting your inner voice, recalling important facts, or learning new skills. And if your lower chakras—AKA the root, sacral, solar plexus, and heart chakras—and are unbalanced, your third eye will likely be as well, which may cause you to act more judgmental, dismissive, and introverted. A third-eye blockage is associated with a broad range of issues, including depression, anxiety, and a more judgmental attitude—while physically, it’s said to cause headaches, dizziness, and a slew of other brain-health issues.
The crown chakra
What it is: Known in Sanskrit as the Sahaswara chakra or the “thousand petal lotus” chakra, it is the center of enlightenment and our spiritual connection to our higher selves, others, and ultimately, the divine, according to the Chopra Center. As the name suggests, the seventh chakra located at the crown of your head. When aligned, the realizations that occur within you are said to be along the lines of pure awareness, consciousness, undivided, and all expansive. Basically, bigger than yourself and yet part of one giant universe.
When it’s blocked: A crown-chakra blockage may create feelings of isolation or emotional distress—basically feeling disconnected from everyone and everything. Or, you might feel like your normal self—just not in an exalted state of spiritual connection and enlightenment, which is totally okay and seriously normal. Unlike the other chakras, the crown chakra is often only opened up fully through specific yogic or meditative exercises, or at certain times—which is not a skill set you can call upon at any given moment. You may be able to get a taste of it, though, through daily practices—anything from meditation, prayer, to moments of silence and gratitude—to have those moments of spiritual connection.
Originally published on December 25, 2017; updated on August 2, 2018.
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