What is a Chakra?

A chakra is a center of activity that receives, assimilates and expresses life force energy. The word chakra literally translates as wheel or disk and refers to a spinning sphere of activity emanating from the major nerve ganglia branching forward from the spinal column. The origin of yoga and earliest mention of chakras goes back four thousand years to the Vedas, meaning “knowledges” a series of hymns that are the oldest written tradition in India.  Chakras have come to the West through the tradition and practice of yoga.  Yoga (which means “yoke”) is a discipline designed to yoke together the individual with the divine, using mental and physical practices that join our mundane and spiritual lives.  This goal is achieved by passing through steps of ever-expanding states of consciousness.  The chakras represent these steps.

Chakras are not physical entities.  Like feelings or ideas, they cannot be held like a physical object, yet they have a strong effect upon the body as they express the embodiment of spiritual energy on the physical plane.  Chakra patterns are programmed deep in the core of the mind-body interface and have strong relationship with our physical functioning.  Just as the emotions can and do affect our breathing, heart rate, and metabolism, the activities in the various chakras influence our glandular processes, body shape, chronic physical ailments, thoughts and behavior.  By using techniques such as yoga, breathing, meditation and visualization, we can, in turn, influence our chakras, our health, and our lives.  This is one of the essential values of this system – which maps onto both the body and the mind and can be accessed through either.

The chakras are said to have a location, even though they do not exist in the physical sense.  These locations may vary slightly from person to person, but remain consistent in their overall relationship to one another.  And, while they cannot be seen or held as material entities, the chakras are evident in the shape of our physical bodies, the patterns manifested in our lives, and the way we think, feel and handle situations that life presents us.  Just as we see the wind through movement of the leaves and branches, the chakras can be seen by what we create around us.