Chakra 101

[This article written by David Malin, was first published in the leading British magazine of Integrative & Complementary Medicine, Positive Health about 15 years ago.] Five to ten years ago, the word, chakra, was not at all well known outside of the circle of alternative and complimentary healing. This is no longer the case, for a greater number of people in the mainstream have at least heard the word, chakra, even if not knowing its meaning. The increasing popularity of Yoga may well account for such. And now with more and more people seeking alternative and natural options for their health and healing, many may know the word, that it has to do with energy, or is a type of healing, but that is all. So after 8 years of writing articles on chakras in Positive Health, including this regular column “Chakra Perspective”, I would like to draw from my 31 years experience of working with the chakras and offer here some basics.

 Chakras Defined  The word chakra comes from the Sanskrit word for circle or wheel, as it was the ancient Hindus that first codified information about these whirling wheels of spinning energy that relate to certain regions and functions of the body. I stress the word functions as my own working definition is: Chakras are centres of energy where one’s individual life-force, coming from one’s spirit or soul, expresses itself; having specific regions of functional domain via the endocrine glands, organs, and nervous system. To round out this more succinct definition I would add that chakras are present in each of the many bodies of the aura. The physical, emotional, mental and spiritual are the main bodies with which I work, however there are many more layers of the aura beyond these first four. 

How many Chakras are there? There are quite a few systems that discuss varying numbers of chakras present in the body, with some being considered “major” chakras, while others are “minor”. Perhaps the most common system speaks of seven major chakras with many more minor ones, starting at the base of the spine and going vertically to the top of the head. There is good agreement that they each have a specific colour to them. This likely comes from the fact that some people with the gift of clairvoyance can see chakras and thus have described their different colours. I work with a system of twelve major chakras, which interestingly was confirmed for me while doing research at various Incan sites in Peru and Bolivia. This includes the more commonly described seven, as well as five more, which are Earth-based in their basic nature and functionThese “additional” chakras tend to be re-appearing in the past 20 years or so (or coming back “on-line”), as we collectively as a race are starting to come back into greater alignment with the energy of our planet Earth.   

Relationship to other Systems of Energy There are clearly many systems of energy healing that have surfaced in the recent past, with Reiki and Therapeutic Touch being two popular examples. There are also many other systems that have been around since recorded history or longer, coming from various ancient cultures around the world. So whereas the chakras appear to have their beginning in ancient India, China has its ancient system that describes the flow of qui (or chi) through twelve regular channels or meridians (plus eight extraordinary channels or meridians). The Hindu system of Nadis, that includes over 72,000 channels of subtle energy (relating loosely to the nerves and blood vessels), are much more detailed channels of energy flow than the Chinese meridian system; with the chakras being considered concentrated intersections of many Nadis. Some of the hieroglyphs from ancient Egypt depict the transfer of energy or life-force coming in and out of people during certain rituals, including during the birth and death process. The Mayans and Incans have similar descriptions. Such depictions of energy flow may actually be closer related to the chakra energy as it describes the more major flow of soul or spirit energy into/out of the body; which then relates to specific regions, glands, nerve plexi and organs. While the Chinese meridians then describe the flow of qui from the organs out to the rest of the body; the Hindu Nadis provide even further detail of such energy flow from nerves and vessels and beyond. Being no expert in these other systems of energy, I am simply offering some “big picture” observations as to their possible relationship to the chakra system.

 A Brief Look at Chakra Functions The various functions of the chakras span from the very basic survival and reproductive functions of the Red, or Root Chakra at the base of the spine, to more esoteric spiritual functions of the Violet, or Crown Chakra at the top of the head. In the twelve chakra system, with which I work, there are actually three that relate to the heart, which is the meeting point of the more yang chakras from above and the more yin chakras from below. The energies that meet at the heart are the same as those that fall within the circle of the Celtic cross, and within the Bagua symbol of Yin and Yang from Ancient ChinaThe heart actually has three major chakras to represent the different aspects of this region’s function, versus simply one chakra (as depicted in the seven chakra system). This makes much sense since all healing must come from the heart, and the heart is where we find balance between the yin and yang forces within us. In fact, the seven chakra system often is portrayed as a hierarchy with Violet and “the upper chakras” holding greater importance than the Red or other “lower chakras”. This I believe is an outdated perspective, since for us to heal as a race, we need to acknowledge the wholeness of our being, with the functions of yang above no longer dominating those of yin below. And it is within these lower chakras, which have been the dumping ground for our “emotional baggage”, where we will find and heal our own “buried treasure”.