Yoga Teacher Training Understanding the Chakras

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Yoga Teacher Training Understanding the Chakras
Yoga Education Institute By Nancy Wile
© Yoga Education Institute, 2011 All rights reserved. Any unauthorized use, sharing, reproduction or distribution of these materials by any means is strictly prohibited.

Table of Contents



The Nadis………………………………………………………………….


Alternate Nostril Breathing…………………………………………….


Protective Knots………………………………………………………….


The Seven Major Chakras………………………………………………


Muladhara Chakra (Root Chakra)……………………………………..


Svadisthana Chakra (Sacral Chakra)…………………………………


Manipura Chakra (Solar Plexus Chakra)……………………………..


Anahata Chakra (Heart Chakra)……………………………………….


Vishuddha Chakra (Throat Chakra)……………………………………


Ajna Chakra (The Brow Chakra)……………………………………….. 17

Sahasrara Chakra (Crown Chakra)……………………………………. 19

Increasing Energy Flow Through the Chakras……………………… 20

Sample Yoga Practice for Balancing Each Chakra…………………



Introduction The word chakra is Sanskrit for wheel or disk and signifies one of seven basic energy centers in the body. The seven chakras are the energy centers that approximate the nerve plexuses in the physical body. These energy centers correspond to nerve ganglia branching out from the spinal column, as well as states of consciousness, developmental stages of life, archetypal elements, body functions, colors, and sounds. Together they form a formula for wholeness and a template for transformation A chakra is believed to be a center of activity that receives, assimilates, and expresses life force energy. Chakras are energy centers along the spine located at major branchings of the human nervous system, beginning at the base of the spinal column and moving upward to the top of the skull. Chakras are considered to be a point or nexus of biophysical energy or prana of the human body. The following seven primary chakras are commonly described:
1. Muladhara - Base or Root Chakra (last bone in spinal cord *coccyx* or tailbone) 2. Swadhisthana - Sacral Chakra (ovaries/prostate) 3. Manipura - Solar Plexus Chakra (navel area) 4. Anahata - Heart Chakra (heart/chest area) 5. Vishuddha - Throat Chakra (throat and neck area) 6. Ajna - Brow or Third Eye Chakra (pineal gland or third eye) 7. Sahasrara - Crown Chakra (Top of the head; 'Soft spot' of a newborn) The seven colors of the Chakra System represent the full spectrum of human possibility. Learning about the chakras gives you access to your programmed responses, so you can make the most of them. Because chakra meditation has been part of hatha yoga since ancient times, pranayama and yoga postures are particularly effective in rebalancing and stimulating chakras. Yoga practice benefits the chakras because the asanas help in freeing up prana.

The Nadis
Prana (life force) flows through the body in subtle energy channels or pathways known as nadis. Nadis are like roads within the body’s energy highway system. Where two or more roads cross, energy junctions (or chakras) form. The seven major crossing points are the seven major chakras, while less busy intersections form minor chakras. When your energy highway is free from traffic jams, prana can travel freely. Practicing certain meditations and yoga asanas is believed to help clear any blockages so that prana can flow freely. When we practice yoga, we are seeking to clear these pathways so our energy can flow more freely. Each pose is designed to help open the energy channels and pranayama helps us to direct and increase our prana (life energy).
Of the 72,000 nadis in your body, only three are of relevance in chakra mediation. These include: 1) the ida channel (which flows to the left of the spine); 2) the pingala channel (which flows to the right of the spine); and 3) the sushumna (which approximates the spine).
To experience the effect of the nadis on your physical body, try this exercise:  Place each thumb face up about a ½ inch under each nostril  Exhale a few times with a little more force than is natural  Notice how your breath feels a little stronger on one side  Repeat this process throughout the day – you will probably notice that your “stronger” side changes every couple of hours
The change in the “stronger” side reveals a normal change in the predominance of the left (ida) or right (pingala) nadi. It is thought that the only time the breath flows evenly through both nostrils is during meditation, when your breath comes into the central channel – the sushumna. At this time, both sides of the brain are said to be completely balanced, which may help restore balance in all spheres of life. Yoga breathing exercises (pranayama) are helpful in dissolving energy blockages in the nadis and bringing breath into the sushumna. One of the best breathing exercises for this is Alternate Nostril Breathing.
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)  Bring the right hand to your nose  Place the right thumb gently on the right nostril and the right pinky and ring finger on the left nostril. Place the index finger and middle finger just above the bridge of the nose  Exhale completely  Block the right nostril with the right thumb, inhale left (inhale slowly to count of four)  Switch, releasing the right nostril and blocking left nostril, exhale right (slow, full exhalation)  Inhale right (full inhale to slow count of four or five)

 Switch, releasing the left nostril, block the right nostril, exhale left, inhale left  Switch, releasing the right nostril, block the left nostril, exhale right, inhale right  Continue this pattern of breathing, switching the side that is blocked after each
inhalation  Repeat for 8-10 breaths  Make sure you are inhaling and exhaling slowly and completely Protective Knots There are thought to be three protective “knots” that sit at three separate chakras to shield a person from a premature or excessive release of kundalini energy along the sushumna nadi. Each knot acts as a circuit breaker that only opens when the body is ready to handle the flood of energy. The following are the three knots:  Brahma Granthi: in the root chakra remains shut until you have overcome your
attachment to stability, inertia and identification with the physical body alone.  Vishnu Granthi: in the heart chakra remains shut until you have overcome your
attachment to action, ambition, and passion, and forgive everyone.  Rudra Granthi: in the brow chakra, remains shut until you have overcome your
attachment to your intellectual powers and your own self-image.

The Seven Major Chakras
Starting from the bottom, the first three major chakras deal with external reality: how secure and stable your life is, how you fit into your community, and how you express your individuality.
Root Chakra (Muladhara) This chakra is related to instinct, survival and security. It is located just below the bottom of the spine. The root chakra is symbolized by a red lotus with four petals and the color red. It governs stability and a sense of security.
Sacral Chakra (Svadhisthana) This chakra is located in the sacrum. It is located in the sacrum, and is symbolized by a lotus with six petals and corresponds to the color orange. The key issues of this chakra are relationships, as well as creativity and enthusiasm. Here we move beyond a focus on survival and begin to focus on our work.
Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura) This chakra is related to the digestive system. It’s located just above the navel in the solar plexus region. It empowers you with the energy you need to function efficiently, and governs personal power. When in balance, it gives you a solid sense of self.
The three middle chakras deal with internal reality. They determine your selfperception, and how you express yourself and relate to others.
Heart Chakra (Anahata) This chakra is located in the heart region. It governs the energy of unconditional love and compassion, enabling you to express love, or blocking its expression.
Throat Chakra (Vishuddha) This chakra deals with communication and allows you to take in information and express yourself with clarity and confidence. It is located in the throat.
Brow Chakra (Ajna) This chakra is related to your wisdom and intuition. Your mind’s eye sees your dreams and directs you to them. It is located between the eyebrows, at the third eye.
Highest Chakra
Crown Chakra (Sahasrara) This is your highest chakra and deals with ultimate reality and infinite potential. It is located at the crown of the head and is our connection to our spirituality.

In Indian tradition, each chakra is pictured as a lotus flower with a specific number of petals. Below is a chart that explains the number of petals and the element that represents each chakra.


Number of Petals



Muladhara (root)




Swadhisthana (sacral)




Manipura (solar plexus)




Anahata (heart)



Green or pink

Vishuddha (throat)


Ether (or space) Pale blue or turquoise

Ajna (brow)



Indigo or deep blue

Sahasrara (crown)

Infinite (or 1000)

Beyond the elements

Violet (sometimes white)


Muladhara Chakra (Root Chakra)
Muladhara, which means “root place,” is the first of the main seven chakras, and is represented by the color red. Muladhara (or root chakra) is related to instinct, security, survival and also to basic human potentiality. The root chakra is located around the base of the spine at the very bottom of the tailbone, and is your energy foundation. Although no endocrine organ is placed here, it is said to relate to the gonads and the adrenal medulla, responsible for the fight-or-flight response when survival is under threat.
The root chakra is associated with matter in its most dense form, and is a limitless storehouse of potential spiritual energy that lies dormant in this chakra. When the root chakra is in balance energy flows in two directions. The chakra releases energy downward, while at the same time drawing energy upward from the earth.
“Grounding” or “rooting” us is the main function of muladhara. It helps you find your path in life, to stand on your own two feet. At the root chakra, you connect with your physical body. By keeping in touch with your physical body, you equip yourself to function well on a day to day level as you develop your inner world.
If the energy flow of the root chakra is blocked, you may feel as if you don’t belong. You might feel disoriented and indecisive, not connected well with others and tired all the time.
Symbol for the Root Chakra
The symbol for the root chakra is a red lotus flower with four petals (usually surrounding a yellow square). The four petals represent the four directions or four qualities of bliss.
Meditations for the Root Chakra
Earth Meditation  Sit in your preferred meditation position  Place the backs of your hands on your knees and place your ring finger and thumb together  Close your eyes and become aware of the effects of gravity on your body. Begin to experience that heaviness as stability and security.  Feel as though you are rooting yourself firmly into the earth  Feel yourself drawing up stability and strength from the ground beneath you  Mentally repeat an affirmation such as:  My life is firm and grounded

 I am exactly where I need to be  I am safe and protected  I have my feet planted firmly on the ground
If your root chakra is not firmly balanced, thoughts of loss may disturb your inner peace and drain your energy. Fear is the key negative emotion associated with an imbalance in the root chakra. Fear can be a phobia, anxiety, shyness, or just the absence of security or as persistent restlessness or worry. The image of a sturdy tree, such as an oak offers an ideal focus to help you get in touch with your inner strength and conquer fear.
Oak Tree Visualization  Sit in your preferred meditation position  Visualize an oak tree and think about its strength, endurance and stability, as well as its ability to draw up nourishment from the earth  Mentally repeat affirmations such as:  I am grounded and secure  I embody courage  I draw nourishment from the world around me  I am at peace at all times
Yoga Asanas and Practices for the Root Chakra In kundalini yoga, there are various yogic practices held to incite the energy in Muladhara including: asanas (such as Eagle and Warrior 1), pranayama, and the practice of mula bandha. The following yoga postures help your to draw up energy from the earth, and may help balance your root chakra.
Mula Bandha Mula bandha concentrates on the first two chakras. By contracting the anal sphincter, the apana (downward moving energy) is reversed and forced to flow up. This prevents prana from escaping and creates the force needed to activate kundalini energy.
Mountain Pose In this posture, feet are firmly planted to the floor and the body is straight, which helps draw energy up from the earth.
Warrior 1 This strong standing asana makes a firm connection with the prana coming into the root chakra. Planting your feet firmly on the floor helps draw energy from the earth, while reaching your arms overhead helps to lift that energy higher.
Eagle This posture is thought to be helpful in locking in the lower energies.

Svadisthana Chakra (Sacral Chakra)
Swadhisthana is located in the sacrum just above Muladhara, and is considered to correspond to the testes or the ovaries that produce the various sex hormones involved in the reproductive cycle. Svadisthana is also considered to be related to the adrenals. Its corresponding point in the front of the body (i.e. its kshetram) is at the pubic bone. It is closely related to Muladhara in that Swadhisthana is where the different samskaras (potential karmas), lie dormant, and Muladhara is where these samskaras find expression. Physically, when this chakra is blocked, it is thought to be associated with bladder and urinary problems, and sexual dysfunction.
This chakra is related to our romantic relationships, as well as to our creative powers. The qualities of water epitomize this chakra’s nature: flowing, fluid, flexible and adaptive, which is what is needed to have relationships that work well, along with creative abilities. Water also has a purifying quality, which is appropriate, since when this chakra is blocked there may be a feeling of having done something wrong or of shame. A block in this chakra can have someone feeling repressed in both their romantic life and their creative life. When the sacral chakra is open and balanced, a person is sensitive, intuitive and full of ideas and dreams. You are adaptable and accept change and can go with the flow. When this chakra is off balance, and too far open, a person tends to be over emotional and spend too much time daydreaming. When the sacral chakra is blocked, it becomes difficult to have fun in life; nothing seems good enough and depression can ensue. When this chakra is blocked, a person may feel as though they have no choice, no ability to change. Opening this chakra is about letting go of guilt and frustration, and enjoying the flow of life.
Symbol of the Sacral Chakra
The Sacral Chakra is symbolized by an orange lotus with six petals, and corresponds to the color orange. Pleasure is the motivating principle of this chakra. The six petals symbolize its connection with the high sixth state of consciousness into which people are evolving. The pull of this chakra represents the universal urge to connect with others.
Meditations for the Sacral Chakra Water Meditation
 Sit in your preferred meditation position  Resting the backs of your hands on your knees or thighs, join the tips of your
pinky fingers with your thumbs  Close your eyes and think of the qualities of water – feel as though you are fluid
like liquid  Mentally repeat an affirmation such as: I trust myself to follow my dreams, I
adapt with grace to any situation, or I release ideas that no longer serve me

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Yoga Teacher Training Understanding the Chakras