What Chakras Are and How Yoga Can Help Balance Them
Chakras are our energy centres, and making sure they are working well is one way to improve our health and happiness
‘Everything is made up of energy. The human body, the earth, the atmosphere – it’s all just energy flowing, and we are all made up of energy’. Master energy healer, teacher and speaker, Sushma Sagar’s introduction to this energy began after a chance meeting with a Mexican shaman, and Sushma went on to learn how to heal with energy medicine all while continuing in her high-powered career in the fashion industry, working with global brands, directing their marketing and travelling the world. After a decade and a half, a series of serendipitous events led her to leave the fashion industry to create The Calmery, a healing brand. It quickly took off attracting a wide range of clients from around the world. She now runs her healing clinic in Harley Street, London and teaches Reiki and healing workshops online.
Sushma believes healing should be a part of everyday wellness, and her mission is to make energy medicine credible and accessible for everyone. Her new book Find Your Flow: Essential Chakras is essential reading for everyone who is looking for better health, happiness and fulfilment.
Most of us will have heard mention of our chakras, but how many are aware there are seven chakras in total? Each one corresponds to a different energy centre within our body, and all are part of a structure that allows energy to flow around our bodies. A complex and ancient energy system that originated in India, chakra comes from the word cakra in Sanskrit (the ancient Indian language) which means ‘wheel’ and refers to energy points in your body.
So what should you know about the chakras?
Here is your crash course.
Chakras are referred to as spinning discs (wheels) of energy that should stay ‘open’ and aligned, allowing energy to flow ‘cleanly’ between them. Some say there are 114 different chakras, but there are seven main chakras that run along your spine. Each of these has a corresponding number, name and colour, and corresponds to a specific area of the spine from the sacrum (base) to the crown of the head, and each one corresponds to bundles of nerves, major organs, and areas of our energetic body that affect our emotional and physical wellbeing.
Different moods and mindsets originate from different chakras. But how do they become blocked and what can we do to unblock them? A blockage in the first chakra, the root chakra at the base of your spine, can manifest as physical issues including arthritis, constipation, and bladder or colon problems, or may cause emotional upset and anxiety through feeling insecure about our basic needs and wellbeing. ‘It’s all about survival,’ explains Sushma.
‘So if we read too much about the pandemic for example, or we worry about having enough food, money or a warm shelter, this root chakra may become blocked by fear. To unblock it you need to find something positive which makes you feel good about the world.’
Working your way up the body, issues with the second, or sacral, chakra can be seen in problems with the associated organs, like urinary tract infections, lower back pain, and impotency. Emotionally, this chakra is connected to our feelings of self-worth, and even more specifically, our self-worth around pleasure, sexuality, and creativity. It’s where our emotions gather and the ability to develop ideas begins. If it’s not working properly you are likely to suffer from a lack of self respect and will be over amenable, you may be fearful of change, whereas if it is overactive you can experience emotional fluctuations and display addiction-like behaviour.
Blockages in the third (solar plexus) chakra are often experienced through digestive issues like ulcers, heartburn, eating disorders, and indigestion. It’s the chakra of our personal power. This means it’s related to our confidence and self-esteem and knowing what you want from life. When it is working you’ll feel strong and able to make decisions, when it’s not, you will feel powerless and unsure.
Blocks in our heart chakra can manifest in our physical health through heart problems, asthma, and sometimes in weight issues. But blockages here are often seen even more clearly through people’s actions. ‘People with heart chakra blocks often put others first, to their own detriment,’ says Sushma. ‘It’s the middle of the seven chakras, so it bridges the gap between our upper three chakra, linked with spirituality and the lower three, linked to personality, and it also represents our ability to love and connect to others’. If it’s not working properly we can end up feeling lonely, insecure, and isolated. On the flip side, an overworking heart chakra can result in an individual becoming overly dependent, needy and jealous.
As you can probably guess, number five, the throat chakra, is associated with our ability to communicate verbally. It’s why you sometimes find you can’t speak when you you are trying to say something important. Voice and throat problems, as well as any associated problems with teeth, gums or the mouth, and tension headaches, can also indicate a blockage here. Signs of an overactive throat chakra include someone dominating conversations and speaking without thinking, and being overly critical and judgemental of others.
If you are overthinking it means your third-eye chakra, which controls your thoughts and intuition, isn’t working properly. In the middle of your forehead, and right between the eyes, it represents your intuition, instinct and innate sense of wisdom. People who have trouble listening to reality may well have a problem with energy here. A blockage can also manifest itself in more obvious physical symptoms such as headaches, but it often manifests itself in sleeplessness thanks to swirling thoughts, or a foggy brain.
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The crown chakra is linked to every other chakra and so it affects not just all our organs, but also our brain and nervous system. It is considered the chakra of enlightenment, inspiration and represents our connection to life’s purpose and our spirituality. Those with a blocked crown chakra may seem narrow-minded, skeptical, or stubborn. When this chakra is open, it is thought to help keep all the other chakras open and help reach a state of happiness and enlightenment.
So do you treat each chakra separately? ‘No,’ says Sushma. ‘It is better to treat them as a whole, in a more holistic sense.’ She explains that we should see ourselves and our energy as a home, with each chakra representing a different room in the house. ‘It’s much easier to keep your whole house clean as you go along than neglecting certain rooms, allowing them to get messy and clogged up with “stuff’”.’ In her book she refers to the rooms each chakra might represent such as the heart chakra as the sitting room where we engage and connect with others, the third-eye chakra as a room upstairs with lots of windows so you can see clearly for miles, whilst the sacral chakra, when working, would be a blossoming front garden with a water feature and fence around it. She also insists that energy attracts energy. ‘Our chakras not only move energy around in our body, but they send it out into our surroundings and receive it back too. If you have good energy flowing around you, then you’ll attract good energy to you.’
All these energetic centres of the body correspond to feelings, and each one may resonate differently, at different times. The most important thing is to be aware. ‘It’s about looking at yourself with a new perspective, and understanding the power of the chakras to affect your mindset,’ says Sushma. ‘Your mindset affects your thoughts, and they impact on what we do, and what we do influences our experiences in life.’ It goes round and round – just like a wheel.
Find Your Flow
Sushma also gives some practical advice on how to get your energy flowing again. This visualisation exercise world on the entire system, focusing on each chakra in turn. However, if you have identified a particular blockage then you can focus on that particular one. It’s also a good thing to try when you can’t sleep.
Sit on a chair or on the floor and start by breathing in through your nose slowly, and out through pursed lips. Repeat at least ten times until you can feel yourself start to relax, keep focusing on your breathing and don’t let your mind wander (often far easier said than done).
Imagine a rainbow of light entering the top of your head, through your crown, pushing away any negativity and travelling down through your body until you can see yourself glowing inside. Now focus on the base of your spine and imagine the red from the rainbow hitting that spot, warming it, then moving down your legs into the ground beneath you. Keep focusing on the red, allowing it to recharge and anchor you, making you feel safe. Breathing deeply, now focus on the sacral chakra (just above your navel) and imagine the colour orange settling into that area, stimulating it. You’re working up your body, always breathing slowly and deeply. Pull the colour yellow into your solar plexus area, and feel it firing you up and then pull the colour green into your heart area. Concentrate on breathing deeply, allowing the colour to permeate your heart, healing and boosting you. Now focus on your throat and the blue from the rainbow opening up your throat area, pushing away negativity and freeing up your communication channel. Imagine the indigo from the rainbow hitting you between the eyes, clearing your mind and retuning your thoughts, dispelling the fog that surrounds your brain, before moving to the very top of your head and pulling in the violet and letting it shine through you before shooting upwards, reconnecting you with the sky.
Stay breathing with all the colours glowing and warming you, and only when you feel ready, place each hand on the opposite shoulder and smooth them down your body before gently opening your eyes.