According to ancient Eastern wisdom, there are several layers of our being, sometimes known as Koshas. These different layers include the physical body, the energy body, the mental body, the intellectual body, the spiritual body, the emotional body and the subtle body.
Depending on which tradition of yoga you follow there can be 4, 5 or even 10 layers of the body. To keep it simple, in my teaching I like to use four: the physical body, the emotional body, the mental body and the energy body. If you have been practising yoga for some time you've probably heard the chakras mentioned. Chakras are part of our energy body and we'll talk about these here.
The energy body - pathways and roundabouts
All yoga traditions talk about energy pathways, some call them marma, others meridians, nadis or channels. These pathways are a complex system in the body where your energy, life force, prana or chi moves. It is said that we have 72,000 nadis (channels) moving energy through our system. Energy, like water, should be moving to keep it fresh, otherwise you’ll create a stagnant swamp. Which is not what we want, of course.
Energy, like water, should be moving to keep it fresh, otherwise you’ll create a stagnant swamp.
I often use the comparison to traffic when I talk about energy. All the energy pathways are streets and every so often, these pathways meet at a roundabout. Roundabouts have a circular movement with incoming and outgoing roads. It is the same with our energy system. In our body, we have about 122 small roundabouts or chakras and 7 big ones (or 8 in Kundalini yoga). Because of the circular movement, these roundabouts are called chakras, which means 'wheel' in Sanskrit.
Each chakra relates to a different set of physiological and psychological characteristics. When we learn about these chakras and their characteristics, we can begin to recognise any imbalances in the chakras and where our energy may be stagnant or perhaps too free-flowing. There are many simple practices we can do to bring our chakras, and our energy body as a whole, into balance including sets of yoga postures, meditations and pranayama. We can take steps to clear the traffic jams at the roundabouts, to carry on the analogy.
Listed below are the seven major chakras with their Sanskrit names and approximate locations in the body, along with some key characteristics associated with them. Click on each one to go to a specific class for each chakra where I talk in more depth and give specific practices to balance each one.
Practices to balance the 7 Chakras
- First or Root Chakra - Muladhara - the base of the spine - stability and safety
- Second or Sacral Chakra - Svadhisthana - lower abdomen - creativity and sensuality
- Third or Solar plexus Chakra - Manipura - upper abdomen - igniting your fire and power
- Fourth or Heart Chakra - Anahata - centre of the chest - connection and love
- Fifth or Throat Chakra - Vishuddha - throat area - expression and communication
- Sixth or Third eye Chakra - Ajna - forehead, between the eyebrows - intuition and clarity of mind
- Seventh or Crown Chakra - Sahasrara - the very top of the head - transcendence
Classes: Browse through more classes for the chakras - available for all EkhartYoga members
Programmes: Learn more about the layers of the body in James Reeves' series Koshas: Gateway to the Soul.