Chakra 101: A Beginner’s Guide
Ballerinas do it, tightrope walkers do it, gymnasts and jugglers and ice skaters do it, but for the rest of us mortals, it’s hard to maintain balance. Global unrest, war, floods, famine, and political and economic uncertainty are staples of the media, and even if we turn off our televisions, they enter our consciousness through our phones, emails, and radios. In our daily lives, there are financial, relationship, and physical stressors, and it’s easy to feel stuck, sick, or simply out of sorts. Your friends can offer sympathy and support, but therapists and healers are increasingly looking at the ancient chakra system to bring much-needed balance into our minds, bodies, and souls.
Chakra is a Sanskrit word that means “wheel” or “disk.” Although the exact origins of the term are debatable, most experts agree that the chakra system is rooted in ancient Indian tradition and was mentioned in the Hindu wisdom texts. Chakras are energy centers where the life force-called by various names such as chi (or qi) and prana-is channeled, absorbed, transformed, and expressed as it flows through the body.
There are many variants of the system, but the most common involves seven spinning energy wheels that begin at the base of the spine and go up to the top of the head. Each sphere is associated with physical and emotional properties and, especially among New Age practitioners, there is an emphasis on corresponding colors.
The first is the base or root chakra. Its color is red and it’s involved in instinct, survival, flight-or-fight reactions. Disturbances can result in lower back pain, rectal difficulties, and feelings of insecurity and lack of safety. The second is the sacral chakra, located about two inches under the belly button. The color is orange and imbalances may result in hormonal, sex organ, and reproductive problems. Number three is the yellow-colored solar plexus, and dysfunctions can manifest as ulcers, stomach problems, and eating disorders.
When number four, the green heart chakra, isn’t spinning properly, the result may be asthma, heart problems, a weakened immune system, or an inability to fight off stress. If there is distress in the fifth blue throat chakra, thyroid, neck, and throat problems may ensue. Number six is known as the brow or third eye chakra. Its color is indigo and when it’s out of synch there can be brain tumors, blindness, or emotional instability. The seventh sphere, known as the crown chakra, is located on top of the head. Its color is violet, and there are no physical illnesses associated with it because it is the spiritual domain, where one connects to the Divine.
Generally, you know when you are out of balance because there are emotional, physical, or spiritual symptoms. There may even be all three. Perhaps you have a lingering illness or persistent pain, are depressed or anxious and feel disconnected from others and yourself. Maybe you can’t sleep soundly or get into arguments with co-workers and family members. Money isn’t flowing and you worry that you’ll end up on the street, pushing a cart and mumbling to yourself. If the chakras aren’t aligned and energies are blocked, your life force is slowed down and the flow is obstructed. Negativity, fear, disturbed thought processes, and diseases can take hold.
This is where chakra therapy comes in. There has been such an explosion of interest in the ancient balancing system that you can now find books, audio tapes, DVDs, and courses on the subject. They range from informational to self-help, and you may find relief in a daily or weekly practice that suits your needs and lifestyles. Perhaps you will do meditations based on colored spheres or lotus flowers, or you may chant, dance, or visualize your spinning chakras. If you consult with a clairvoyant or mystic, she may be able to see your chakras and where there are disturbances. Perhaps she can intervene to get them spinning properly again.
About a decade ago, I enrolled in a kundalini yoga course, and it was a life-changing event. Kundalini energy was first released at the time of creation and, in a human being, it lies coiled at the base of the spine. Through specific postures, movements, and breathing, it is released; it rises up through the spine, bathing, nourishing, and activating the energy centers, and it leads to spiritual connection at the crown chakra. Every week, I waited eagerly for my class, and floated home after it.
Eight years ago, I had another “a-ha!” experience when I studied ophanim, an ancient Kabbalistic yoga practice, which is based on the ten sephirot, or spheres, and roughly corresponds to the chakras. And, over the years, I have had numerous Chinese acupuncture and acupressure treatments; the points that are stimulated correspond to chakra locations. Often, these therapies, in conjunction with Chinese herbs (which target deficiencies or excesses in the energy centers) worked for me where conventional medicine failed. A few of my friends have even had chakra treatments administered to their ailing pets, and they report increased balance and well-being in the barking and meowing set. One woman I know had a chakra-savvy vet treat her horse, and the duo is now happily trotting together.
A few months ago, I was in Konya, Turkey, at a performance of the mevlevi, or whirling dervishes. Afterwards, one of them explained that everything in nature turns-the planets, the earth, chakras. And that is why they spin, too. “All the universe turns with love of God,” he said.
If you live close to or are traveling to a spa that offers holistic treatments, ask if they do any chakra balancing work. Nationally, Creative Chakra Spa, in Marina del Rey, California, specializes in chakra alignment, chakra stone massage, and even chakra elixirs. In Indianapolis, the Spa Chakra at the Conrad Hotel does a Chakra health assessment and a chakra balancing treatment. The Chakras Spa in Greensboro, North Carolina specializes in a chakra massage and a Third Eye treatment for the brow chakra.
In my city, Santa Fe, there are three chakra treatments I indulge in when I feel off-kilter. At ShaNah spa (in The Bishop’s Lodge Resort), the Rainbow Body treatment combines scent, sound, and touch. As I lie on a heated massage table, the therapist invites me to inhale seven different blends of essential oils and intones a short sentence that corresponds to the colors and properties of each chakra. Her words invite me to open to communication, welcome clarity and joy into my life, experience deep relaxation, enhanced intuition, vitality, and grounding. The quiet and gentle treatment encourages me to focus on each chakra and see where I am in or out of balance. Then the practitioner massages each chakra region, bringing energy to my forehead, solar plexus, stomach. At the end of the treatment, I can actually feel the seven colored wheels of my chakras turning.
At Sunrise Springs Inn and Retreat, the two-hour Holographic massage begins when I am handed a lilac-colored card, and asked to write my intention. “Biochemical and neurochemical balance,” I scrawl. The therapist beckons me to ascend to the massage table where she uses tuning forks (they play different frequencies of the “om” sound), a bell, a pendulum (to get a reading on the state of my chakras), oils, and her own breath to soothe me into a state that is halfway between dreamtime and wakefulness. She evaluates my chakras on the front and back of my body (there are differences) and then devotes herself to making sure that the energy centers are spinning well by massaging me from my soles to, well, my soul. The treatment is gentle, soothing, and penetrating. At some point, I fall asleep, and when I wake up I feel as though the world and I are in harmony and my chakras are perfectly aligned.
The last treatment, also at Sunrise Springs, is the 50-minute Etheric Cleansing Ceremony. According to the therapist, it was practiced in Pharonic Egypt and is designed to bridge the physical and the spiritual. This very subtle and profound experience involves no massage at all. I lie on my back, fully clothed, and the therapist holds her hands on my feet to begin the session and then, moving up my body, places one hand on each of my seven chakras, while touching allied points with her other hand. She remains at each chakra until it is balanced, and then moves to the next. I have no idea how such a seemingly simple ceremony can plunge me almost instantly into a deep state of relaxation where I feel more than a dozen mini-releases as my nervous system is nourished, fortified, and soothed. “I work with the patterns around which your body was created,” the therapist tells me, and she hints at sacred geometry and allowing my body to “resource itself to get the healing it needs.” All I know is that it really works.
So the next time you feel stuck or are ready to scream, think of your chakras and choose a treatment that will give them balance and set them happily spinning again.
Judith Fein is an award-winning travel journalist, speaker, and filmmaker, as well as a columnist for Spirituality & Health magazine and www.trustedadventures.com. Her work has appeared in numerous national and international publications.
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By Judith Fein, Organic Spa magazine