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by Michelle S. Fondin
Positioned along the spinal axis, from the tailbone to the crown of the head, the seven main energy centers of the body are called chakras. Author Michelle Fondin explores and explains each one in the seven chapters of her new book, Chakra Healing for Vibrant Energy, which demystifies the role of the chakras in facilitating healing, balance, personal power, and everyday well-being. She offers meditations and visualizations, yoga postures, breathing exercises, and Ayurvedic dietary practices to learn about and work with the chakras. We hope you enjoy this introduction to the book.
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What Is a Chakra?
Chakras are energy centers within the body. The word chakra means “wheel” or “disk.” Think of the chakras as spinning vortices of energy. Everything is composed of energy and information. Every object emanates from movement and vibration. The seven main chakras align along the spine, starting at the base of the spine and moving up to the crown of the head.
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In the ancient Indian texts called the Vedas, we learn that the physical body is made up of the five great elements called the mahabhutas. Those five elements are space (akasha), air (vayu), water (jala), fire (tejas), and earth (prithivi). The elements are the building blocks of nature and therefore build our bodies as well.
Ancient texts go on to explain that we also have a subtle body. This subtle body is nonphysical and energetic in nature. The subtle body is governed by prana, or vital life force. Prana circulates throughout the body and mind. It is responsible for the flow of energy and information. In the subtle body, prana travels through channels called nadis. Nadis are circulatory channels within the body such as veins, arteries, the respiratory system, the nervous system, the digestive system, the excretory system, and the reproductive system. Think of nadis as the information highway to your mind, body, soul, and spirit, just as the internet is the information highway that brings information to your browser.
If you have a difficult time grasping the concept of the subtle body, reflect on your mind and thoughts. Thoughts are nonphysical entities. Yet ask anyone who thinks (and that would include all of us), and they will tell you that thoughts are quite real. Scientists have been able to pinpoint areas in the brain where thoughts originate or take place, but slice open a human head and you won’t find one thought in there. According to Vedic texts, the mind, intellect, and ego also reside within the subtle body.
Now let’s go back to the example of the internet. When you want information, you want it fast, right? You’re doing research for a work project or a school report, or getting the scoop on a guy you want to date, and you don’t want to wait forever. In the infancy of the internet, with dial-up modems, you could log on, go get a cup of coffee, use the restroom, do your nails, and then the AOL voice of “You’ve got mail” would finally vibrate in your ever-so-waiting ears. But today, in the world of fiber-optic cables and Wi-Fi, information comes pretty much as quickly as you can type in your question. And when it doesn’t come that fast you get frustrated.
For your body to work at an optimal level, the channels through which information travels must be open for that information to get quickly to its destination. If they’re blocked, or if there is an abnormality where the information pools in a given area, you won’t receive the information you need when you need it. So the nadis are the highways or the fiber-optic cables, and prana is the package of information that needs to be carried.
In total, we have around 88,000 chakras in the body, and the seven main chakras are the information hubs. They gather information on certain aspects of your body, mind, spirit, health, and life. When adequate energy flows to these chakras, that energy fills the area with the information each chakra needs to perform its unique specialty.
Like a highway, your body is constantly moving, changing, growing, and being modified by outside influences. While you may intend to keep the energy and information flowing throughout your body at all times, your lifestyle choices, life experiences, and outside influences may hinder the flow. Fortunately, certain practices can help keep these channels open and information flowing freely, and in this book you will learn what you need to do to achieve this goal quickly and easily.
The Philosophy of the Chakras
The concept of the chakras comes from ancient Indian texts of the Tantric tradition. Tantra is a complicated and important nonreligious philosophy. The Tantric texts are separate from the famously known Indian texts, the Vedas, from whence Ayurveda came.
In the West we tend to associate the word Tantra with sex. While sex is mentioned in the Tantric texts, it’s meant to be reserved as a practice for only the most advanced yoga practitioners. The main goal of Tantra is to explore the deep mysteries of life and to become liberated within the confines of this world.
The word Tantra means “to weave.” Tantra is the process of weaving together the body, which has great wisdom, and the mind, which has immense power. By heeding the wisdom of the body and by harnessing the power of the mind you can find the enormous beauty in life on this planet and achieve self-mastery.
The symbolism and stories of the chakras, including their deities and mysticism, are beautiful, colorful, complex, and certainly worth exploring. For the sake of brevity, I will teach you the basics of the chakra system. The foreign words I present come from Sanskrit. For the most part, Sanskrit is no longer spoken but is rich in the roots of language, as many modern English words stem from Sanskrit root words.
The Marriage of Tantra, Ayurveda, and the Yoga Sutras
In order to cognitively grasp the journey into the chakras, it’s important to understand a little about the story behind them. According to the Upanishads, a collection of ancient Hindu texts, purusha (spirit) is pure universal consciousness. Purusha is formless and unchanging. Out of purusha, prakruti, or physical matter, is formed. Prakruti is subject to change and influenced by cause and effect. Everything is a creation of purusha: sun, moon, stars, planets, trees, animals, and humans. Therefore every living thing contains the very essence of the Creator. In a sense, this philosophy isn’t much different from the Judeo-Christian view of God expressed in Genesis 2:7: “and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”
According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the foundational text of yoga philosophy, the main goal in our lifetime is to find our way back to self-realization. The word self in the act of self-realization does not refer to our individual selves with our unique personalities and individual bodies but rather the awakening to the Self with a capital S, the one from which we originate.
We’re born into this world with these bodies, seemingly disconnected from our Creator, so how do we manage?
The second-century sage Patanjali explains in the Yoga Sutras that we have to deal with the three psychic forces of the mind called the gunas, which govern the subconscious of all prakruti. The three gunas are sattva, rajas, and tamas.
Sattva is balanced, pure, peaceful, alert, clear-minded, and filled with light.
Rajas is the moving, active energy that is ever-changing.
Tamas is inertia, decay, heaviness, dullness, darkness, and obstruction.
These three qualities of prakruti are necessary in our lives at different times. For example, your spiritual practice is satt-vic, and there is a time and place for it in your day. When you need to work and accomplish your goals, you need rajasic energy. When you need to sleep at night, you need tamas so you can get your rest.
In addition to the three gunas, Ayurveda teaches that we have three mind-body types, or doshas, which manifest out of the five great elements. The three doshas are Vata (space and air), Pitta (fire and water), and Kapha (water and earth). Each of us has our own unique makeup of the three doshas, which creates our strengths and challenges.
Through the knowledge of the three gunas and the three doshas, we can begin to navigate our body, mind, and life here on earth and start to move toward self-realization.
Since the chakras are part of our physical and subtle bodies, they’re also influenced by the gunas and the doshas. The first end goal in the pursuit of self-realization is to live a balanced life. As Tantra teaches, our goal is not to deny the body and the physical realm but to embrace it fully and draw everything good out of it that we possibly can while working our way toward an enlightened state of being, which yoga philosophy refers to as moksha, or liberation.
When you’re no longer bound by the confines of the gunas and the vacillating and changing nature of the doshas, and you can move through the chakras openly and seamlessly, you have reached enlightenment.
Imagine what it would be like to be in love with every aspect of what it means to be human. True liberation is when love emanates from your being at all times. You’re awakened to the gift of each moment and in love with every one. Nothing is a burden, for everything is light, love, and infinite being. You don’t need to be anywhere or do anything; this awareness is always with you. For you are it and it is you. That is what we’re all here to achieve.
Awakening Kundalini Energy
According to Tantric texts, we have around 72,000 nadis, or circulatory channels, in the body, which transport prana. In our study of the chakras, we will focus only on the Shushumna nadi, the Ida nadi, and the Pingala nadi. The Shushumna nadi is the energy channel that starts at the base of the spine in the area of the first chakra. It’s where the Kundalini Shakti (creative energy) sits like a serpent, coiled up in three rings, waiting to spring forth into action and wake up the chakras. The Shushumna nadi travels up the length of the spine in a channel behind the spinal cord to the crown of the head at the seventh chakra. From the base of the Shushumna nadi arise two other nadis, the Ida nadi and the Pingala nadi. The Ida nadi is lunar in nature: passive, gentle, and feminine. The Pingala nadi is solar: warm, stimulating, and masculine. The Ida nadi starts and ends on the left side of the Shushumna nadi, and the Pingala nadi starts and ends on the right side. The Ida and Pingala nadis cross at every chakra, and all three of these nadis meet at the sixth, or third-eye, chakra. In our bodies the Ida and Pingala nadis alternate in dominance. Generally the Ida nadi dominates the right side of the brain, and the Pingala dominates the left side.
Kundalini energy is awakened through purification of the body and mind. There are many practices to cleanse the physical body, including eating a clean diet; abstaining from impure substances; detoxifying through Ayurvedic daily practices such as tongue scraping and nasal washing with a neti pot and nasya (infused oil); and the Ayurvedic seasonal cleansing practices of panchakarma, or five actions. In addition, one must practice yoga asanas (physical postures, what we in the West generally think of as “yoga”) and pranayama (breathing techniques). Purifying the mind comes with the practice of the eight limbs of yoga: the yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, darana, dhyana, and samadhi.
About the author:
Michelle S. Fondin, author of Chakra Healing for Vibrant Energy and The Wheel of Healing with Ayurveda is an Ayurvedic lifestyle counselor and as a yoga and meditation teacher. She holds a Vedic Master certificate from the Chopra Center and has worked with Dr. Deepak Chopra teaching yoga and meditation. Find out more about her work at www.michellefondinauthor.com.
Excerpted from the book Chakra Healing for Vibrant Energy: Exploring Your 7 Energy Centers with Mindfulness, Yoga, and Ayurveda. Copyright © 2018 by Michelle S. Fondin. Printed with permission from New World Library. www.newworldlibrary.com