The Seven Chakras: The Colors of the Rainbow
Ok! So you keep hearing these yogis talk about getting their chakras aligned. What does that actually mean? What's a chakra? And what does it have to do with yoga?
The Colors of the Rainbow
You're familiar with the colors of the rainbow, right? Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Well, guess what? That's your first lesson to understanding a little bit about the chakras. There are seven chakras and the colors that represent them are the same as the ones in the rainbow.
But let's back up...what's a chakra? The literal translation of the word is "wheel," and refers to an Eastern spiritual tradition that focuses on human existence from many vantage points: physical, psychological, spiritual, and energetic. Commonly thought of as the energy centers in the body, these seven chakra points correspond with different parts of the body starting at the base of the spine and flows up to the top of the head. Of course, these energy centers are not seen with the naked eye, but they have been given many symbols, meanings, and colors to help understand each of them and how they can help you. Let's take a look at the seven chakras and see if we can awaken yours.
I Will Survive
The Root Chakra: We can think of this energy center as the foundation of life. It's location in the body would be around the base of the spine. It represents survival, security, safety, and your basic human needs like having a home, a place to sleep, and plenty of food. It is also associated with grounding or feeling rooted (like a tree.) When this particular chakra is aligned or awakened, you feel anchored and connected. Have you ever felt disjointed or unstable? Maybe you've been in situations in which you're bouncing from job to job or moving a lot? These may be signals that your root chakra needs a little tune up. You can do simple things to help open up a closed root chakra: take hikes in nature, do some gardening, have a healthy meal. These are grounding practices that will help you feel more balanced, rooted, and connected. All the chakras have a color attached to it. The root chakra is red and in yoga, postures that keep you close to the ground are simple ways to bring focus to this area.
Sanskrit, Yoga Poses, & Element for The Root Chakra:
Muladhara (“root support”)
- Sukhasana: Comfortably sit cross-legged on your yoga mat with your eyes closed. Rest your hands on your legs and take slow refreshing breaths in and out.
- Balasana (Child’s Pose): Kneel on your yoga mat and carefully sit your hips back onto your heels. Extend your arms forward onto your mat. Lower your body so that your forehead touches the mat.
- Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold): Stand firmly on two feet. Slowly fold forward until your hands (or fingertips) touch the floor. (If they do not touch the ground either bend your knees or simply rest your hands on your shins.)
- Element: Earth
I Get So Emotional, Baby
The Sacral Chakra: This energetic realm of the body is located just below the navel area and its color is orange. This part of the rainbow chain is associated with your emotions. But not only that....the second chakra is connected to your sensuality, sexuality, and the pleasures of life. (I think you're going to like this chakra!) When this energy center is active, your five senses are highly in tuned and things you taste, see, and feel bring a smile to your face.
It's an important chakra because it is also connected to our well-being; how we function and relate in the world. If we are caught up in the stressors and chaos of the world around us, our emotions can be effected: we experience dismay, confusion, anxiety, and more. Having an aligned second chakra helps us to be fluid (water is actually the element associated with this space) and we can flow with whatever is happening around us. In yoga, hip openers are wonderful ways to induce that fluidity.
If this space is feeling a little tired and sleepy, wake it up with a little spice in your life: enjoy that second piece of chocolate cake, take that bubble bath you've been promising yourself, make love to your partner! Find the good in the things that you do. You know that old adage: life is too short!
Sanskrit, Yoga Poses, & Element for The Sacral Chakra:
Svadhishtthana (“one’s own base”)
- Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2 Pose): In this standing lunge posture, start with your right foot forward and left foot back. The front leg is bent at 90 degrees while the back leg is straight. Both feet are flat on the yoga mat. While standing tall, extend your arms over your legs. Your arms will be parallel to the ground. Gaze over your right hand. Hold for 10-20 breaths and repeat on the other side.
- Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Legged Forward Fold): Standing with your feet very wide on your mat, carefully fold forward until your hands or fingers touch the ground.
- Mandukasana (Frog Pose); Come to your hands and knees to begging this posture. Slowly take the knees wide, stretching away from the hips. Forearms can rest on the floor. This will create a strength and lengthening in the inner thighs and hips.
- Element: Water
Here Comes The Sun
The Solar Plexus. Chakra: This part of the energy line is devoted to action, movement, power, and wisdom. Just as the name implies, you can take on the energy of the sun to give you the power to move forward with your personal goals. But be careful, these chakras, including this one, can get overactive, too. If the third chakra is running hot, you may be probed to anger, greediness, or feeling out of control. The idea is to balance our chakras. To tame this yellow-colored channel is to take inventory of your strengths and talents. Feel confident in your abilities that allow you to achieve your life goals. This chakra is not just about being motivated to do something, but actually stepping into action. A core strengthening yoga practice can assist in the sharpening of this chakra.
Sanskrit, Yoga Poses, & Element for the Solar Plexus Chakra:
Manipura (“jewel city”)
- Navasana (Boat Pose): While seated, lean back slightly so you can lift your feet off the floor. As you’re able, extend your legs and arms into the air; your body will take the shape of the letter “V.” To modify this pose, bend the knees and hold onto your bent knees with with your hands. Take a full breath in to keep a good length in your spine. As you exhale, engage your abdominal muscles.
- Parivtrtta Utkatasana (Revolving Chair Pose): Start in a standing position. While bending your knees, sit your hips back like you’re about to sit into a chair. Extend your arms overhead (or out front) for balance. Bring your hands to a prayer position at your heart. Breathe in to lengthen through your spine. Exhale and rotate the upper body to the left. Hold for 5-10 breaths then repeat on the other side.
- Element: Fire (Heat/Flame)
Turn On Your Heart Light
The Heart Chakra: You'd assume that the fourth chakra would be red in color, but if we are still following the colors of the rainbow, this energy line is green. It is about unconditional love. This is love that we direct toward others, but more importantly toward ourselves. To be in balance, it is essential to have self love before love can be authentically directed outward.
When this middle-chakra is out of alignment, you may make unhealthy choices for yourself. It is important to treat yourself with love and kindness. See the good in yourself and that will be expressed as compassion toward others around you.
To take care of this chakra means to take of yourself: treat yourself to a massage, take a long nap, eat your favorite meal. It's all about giving yourself the love that you want others to give to you. When you show appreciation for yourself, your tendency, then, is to spread that appreciation and gratitude around you.
In yoga, backbends are considered “heart-opening” postures. Practice these to poses to energize your center chakra.
Sanskrit, Yoga Poses, & Element for the Heart Chakra:
- Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose): Start this pose lying on your back. Bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor, arms can rest down by your side. Take a full breath in to prepare your body to move. Exhale and press the feet directly down in order to lift your hips into the air. You can support your lifted hips in your hands if you need added support. Hold for 10-20 breaths.
- Ustrasana (Camel Pose): Begin by sitting up tall on your knees. Carefully lean back until you’re able to reach your feet or ankles behind you. This is a very deep backbend. To modify it, simply place your hands on your low back. (This will support your back as you move into the posture.) Take a full breath in to feel a full length in your spine. As you exhale, push your hips forward (this will keep your hips aligned over your knees) and gently lean back. You can hold here in this variation for 5-10 breaths.
- Element: Air (Wind)
Can You Hear Me Now?
The Throat Chakra: The fifth chakra (which is blue) is located just a the throat area directly between the collar bone. It's main focus is about speaking your truth. It's related to your Heart Chakra because speaking your truth means speaking from the heart. When these chakras are aligned, your opinions and knowledge can be spoken without question or confusion; you have a sense of clarity that is easily delivered through your words.
When your Throat Chakra is out of balance, you may experience physical problems like sore throats, infections or even cavities. An overactive chakra may also be displayed as feeling insecure or unheard. To compensate, you may speak louder in situations or interrupt others when they are speaking so that you are heard. The opposite can happen when this energetic center is under active: you're more quiet and struggle with words. To achieve balance and alignment, take time to think before you speak. Be sure that the words that stream from your mouth are kind and honest. In yoga, you’ll position your body in a way where you can open and stretch your neck. Also, there are some poses that encourage the production of sound through your mouth.
Sanskrit, Yoga Poses, & Element for the Throat Chakra:
Vishuddha (“especially pure”)
- Matsyasana (Fish Pose): To get into the posture, lie flat on your back with your legs straight out in front of you, and your arms by your side. Lift your hips a bit so you can sit directly on your hands (palms down). By pressing your forearms into the yoga mat, you'll lift your upper back and head off the floor. While arching up through your chest, gently tip your head back and rest the top of your head lightly on the yoga mat. This will expose the throat. Hold here and breathe for 5-10 breaths.
- Simhasana (Lion Pose): This pose is done on your hands and knees. You’ll be poised to “growl” like a lion to open your throat. Take a full breath in to fill up your lungs. When you exhale, you’ll thrust your head forward, open your mouth very wide, stick out your tongue, and let out a loud “roar-like” sound. This is a great way to cleanse this energetic space.
- Element: Lightning (Electricity)
I Can See Clearly Now
The Third Eye Chakra: This mystical sixth chakra pertains to the notion that you have an inner knowledge that is inherent in your being. It is thought that when you were born, you already had all of the answers to the universe. Part of this human experience is being able to access that knowledge to speak it, to share it, to live it. (Pretty far out, right?)
On a more practical level, the sixth chakra, which carries an indigo color, refers to your intuition. Have you ever had that little voice in your head telling you to turn left instead of right when you're at an intersection? But when you turn right you find yourself stuck in a traffic jam? That's your intuition, your inner knowledge telling you the correct answer.
A balanced Third Eye Chakra signifies the connection between the physical world and the more psychic world. (As you may have noticed, as you travel up the chakra energy line, things move from a more earth-bound understanding to a more ethereal realm.) Not everyone believes in this sort of thing, but it is good to have some understanding about it.
When someone's sixth chakra is out of alignment, they may seek all their worldly answers from a cosmic place. For example, they may resort to tarot cards, psychic readings and astrology for answers. An under active chakra may result in not being in tuned with your own intuition. A good way to find a balance, even if you don't fully believe in this type of energy, is to remind yourself of your connection with the earth. Take a walk outside, experience the wind in your hair, pull weeds from the garden, take a walk along the beach. In addition to this, devote some time to be quiet; maybe even meditate. This will allow you to connect more deeply with your inner feelings, thoughts, and intuitive nature.
Sanskrit, Yoga Poses, & Element for the Third Eye Chakra:
- Balasana (Child’s Pose): As described above. This posture is also related to the Third Eye because you are bringing your forehead down to the earth to experience the charge and energy from Mother Earth.
- Janusirsasana (Head To Knee Pose): Sit up tall on your yoga mat with your legs extended out in front of you. Bring your left foot up and place the sole of the foot on the inner right thigh. Your left knee will drop to the side. Inhale to extend your arms over head. Exhale to hinge forward over your extended right leg. Hold for 10 breaths before rising to repeat on the other side.
- Element: Etheric (Light & Dark)
The Dawning of the Age
The Crown Chakra: The final chakra at the end of the rainbow spectrum (the color is violet or sometimes white) refers to a very out-of-this-world comprehension of our existence. It is the cosmic notion that our consciousness connects us to everything in the universe. Now, before you think you've just stepped into the Twilight Zone, let's take a closer look at this chakra that is located at the top of your head.
To put it into more plain terms, the Crown Chakra is related to those feelings of bliss or nirvana that you may have experienced in your life. These are times when you feel the most happy, the most joyful; you have no cares in the world and everything seems to be alright. Have you had moments like this? Sometimes they are brief, but they are true experiences that can be directly related to your seventh chakra. Often, though, these are experience that we cannot create on our own; they just happen out of the blue.
So, in order to have a balanced Crown Chakra, it would make more sense to pay attention to the other six chakras. When they are aligned, so is the last chakra. It is when you feel rooted and grounded (first chakra), aware of your emotional being (second chakra), motivate your ideas into action (third chakra), love yourself and others unconditionally (fourth chakra), speak the truth from your loving heart and honest actions (fifth chakra), and know that you are listening and acting from your intuitive self (sixth chakra), that you are living fully aligned with the seventh chakra: enlightenment. To enhance the potential for blissful moments, you can take very calming and relaxing yoga postures, or other positions that stimulate the top of the head.
Sanskrit, Yoga Poses, & Element for the Crown Chakra:
Sahasrara (“thousand petals”)
- Padmasana (Lotus Pose): This is a seated posture which requires some flexibility in our hips, knees, and ankles. Start in crossed legged posture. Lift the left foot and place it on your right thigh. Likewise, pick up your right foot and place it on your left thigh. This is a classic yoga posture for meditation, but if it is too difficult, sit more relaxed in Sukhasana or sit in Half Lotus where only one foot is place on the thigh while the other stays on the floor.
- Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand): This is a dynamic yoga posture and requires a lot of practice. If you’re able, perform this pose freely on your yoga mat, or for added support, practice this pose against a wall. You can start this posture on your hands and knees. Place the very top of your head on the floor between your hands. Lift your knees off the floor. (You’ll be on the tips of your toes.) Extend one leg into the air. With a good exhale and a push from the foot that is still grounded, extend the other leg into the air until your legs are along side each other and your toes point toward the ceiling. Hold for 10-15 breaths.
- Element: High Consciousness