The virtues of understanding and opening the chakras
In our body there are major and minor energy centers, what we call the chakras. But what is really behind this word that we hear so often used wrongly? I propose you through this article to discover the meaning and characteristics of the seven main chakras, but also to discover how to open them so as to let the vital energy that is in each of us circulate.
What are the chakras?
The word chakra comes from Sanskrit and means “wheel” or “disk”. If we can not see or touch them, we can visualize the chakras in the form of circles. According to Indian tradition, energy flows from one chakra to another through invisible channels. The vital breath whirls these wheels clockwise, from the perineum to the top of the head.
Each of the chakras is connected to particular physical and psychic functionalities. Each chakra has its own peculiarities. They are connected to unique aspects of our being. They are assimilated to the degree of consciousness, physical functions, colors, elements, sounds, mantras , and much more.
Thus, blockages or energetic dysfunctions of the chakras give rise to physiological, psychological and emotional problems. But many of us feel the effects of these dysfunctions without always knowing how to fix them.
The 7 main chakras
In order to see more clearly, here are the specificities of the seven main chakras:
The root chakra
The root chakra is the seat of physical identity, survival, stability, instinctive nature and ambition. Balanced, it provides a feeling of anchoring, commitment and independence, energy and vitality but also strength and calm. It promotes good digestion.
Identity card of the chakra:
- MULADHARA – Mula = root / Adhara = support
- Element: The Earth
- Red color
- Meaning: Smell
- Mantra: LAM
- Location: base of the spine, between the anus and the genitals
- Gemstones Related: Agate, Black Tourmaline, Hematite, Garnet, Ruby, Smoky Quartz
- Related essential oils: Cedar, Clove, Cypress, Marjoram, Myrrh
- Governs bones, teeth, nails, anus, prostate, kidneys, digestive functions, excretory functions and sexual activity
- Related physical dysfunctions: tiredness, poor sleep, low back pain, sciatica, poor digestion and elimination of impurities, constipation, depression, obesity.
- Related psychological and emotional dysfunction: lack of anchorage, fear, anger, egoism, need for security, obsession with comfort, possessiveness
The sacred chakra
The sacred chakra is the seat of emotional identity, creativity, desire, pleasure, procreation. When balanced, it is the source of compassion, intuition, friendly behavior, sense of satisfaction, prosperity and humor.
Identity card of the chakra:
- SVADHISHTHANA – Sva = vital / Adishthana = seat
- Element: Water
- Orange color
- Meaning: Taste
- Mantra: VAM
- Location: above the genitals
- Related Gemstones: Amber, coral, orange tourmaline
- Related essential oils: Ylang-Ylang, Sandalwood
- Governs the sexual organs, stomach, upper intestine, liver, gall bladder, pancreas, adrenal glands, spleen, immune system
- Related physical dysfunction: genital, renal and urinary disorders, decreased libido, digestive problems, hormonal imbalance, low resistance to viral infections
- Related psychic and emotional dysfunctions: irritability, shyness, guilt, obsession with power and money, lack of creativity
The solar plexus chakra
The solar plexus chakra is the seat of the mental understanding of emotions, self-esteem, sense of belonging, endurance, willpower, balance and spontaneity. When balanced, it is a source of energy and trust. It helps decision-making and productivity. It promotes good digestion and good concentration.
Identity card of the chakra:
- MANIPURA – Shining like a precious stone
- Element: Fire / Color: Yellow / Sense: The view
- Mantra: RAM
- Location: two fingers above the navel
- Related Gemstones: Amber, Citrine, Jasper
- Related essential oils: Bergamot, Chamomile, Lavender, Rosemary
- Govern the liver, kidneys, upper abdomen, gall bladder, small intestine
- Related physical dysfunctions: disorders of digestion, diabetes, obesity.
- Related psychic and emotional dysfunctions: irritability, nightmares, perfectionism, shyness, depression, anger
The heart chakra
Seat of social identity, trust in others, forgiveness and unconditional love, the heart chakra is also the foundation of wisdom, patience and compassion. It is the center of love and harmony. When it is balanced, it is the source of the feeling of completeness, empathy, friendliness, optimism, motivation and sociability.
Identity card of the chakra:
- ANAHATA – Undefeated
- Element: Air
- Color: Green or pink
- Sense: Touch
- Mantra: YAM
- Location: In the center of the chest
- Related Gemstones: Emerald, Green Jade, Green Tourmaline, Malachite, Rose Quartz
- Related essential oils: Lavender, Jasmine, Marjoram
- Governs the heart, ribcage, blood circulation, lungs, diaphragm, breasts, esophagus, shoulders, arms and hands
- Related physical dysfunctions: tension, heart problems, back pain, shoulder pain, asthma
- Related psychological and emotional dysfunction: loss of hope, trust and compassion, hopelessness, coldness, jealousy, anxiety
The throat chakra
Seat of communication, creativity, self-knowledge, intuition and expressiveness. The throat chakra when balanced promotes creativity and expressiveness, provides communication fluency and listening skills.
Identity card of the chakra:
- VISHUDDHA – Purification
- Element: Ether
- Blue color
- Sense: Hearing
- Mantra: HAM
- Location: in the larynx region
- Related Gemstones: Aquamarine, Azurite, Blue Opal, Blue Quartz, Lapis-Lazuli, Turquoise
- Related essential oils: Eucalyptus, Incense, Sage
- Governs throat, large thyroid and parathyroid, trachea, cervical, vocal cords, neck, shoulders, mouth, teeth, gums.
- Related Physical Dysfunctions: Throat, teeth, hearing, grinding of teeth, scoliosis, frequent laryngitis, neck tightness.
- Related psychological and emotional dysfunctions: blockages, shyness, fear of expressing opinions, speech disorders, addiction
The third eye chakra
The third eye chakra is the seat of intellect, clairvoyance, wisdom, detachment, understanding, rationality, visualization and insight. Balanced, it promotes imagination, intuition and concentration.
Identity card of the chakra:
- AJNA – command center
- Element: The light
- Color: Indigo
- Meaning: Extra-sensory perception
- Mantra: AUM or OM
- Location: Between the eyebrows
- Related Gemstones: Amethyst, Lapis Lazulis, Violet Fluorite, Sugilite
- Related essential oils: Mint and Jasmine
- Steering: eyes, ears, nose, neurological system, pituitary gland
- Related physical dysfunction: headaches, eye diseases, nervous system diseases, nightmares
- Related psychological and emotional dysfunctions: lack of memory and concentration.
Seat of intuitive knowledge, connection to spirituality, emotional sensations, wholeness and full consciousness, the chakra of the crown when balanced, brings a sense of oneness with the world, harmony, openness mind, intelligence, ability to understand and learn more easily
Identity card of the chakra:
- SAHASRARA – Lotus with a thousand petals
- Element: Thought or cosmic energy
- Color: Purple, white
- Meaning: Empathy, unity
- Mantra: Silence
- Location: At the top of the head
- Related Gemstones: Amber, Diamond, Moldavite
- Related essential oils: Lotus
- Steering: the center of the skull and the midline above the ear, the pineal gland, the brain, the neurological system
- Related physical dysfunctions: chronic fatigue, sensitivity to light and noise
- Related psychological and emotional dysfunctions: lack of goals, loss of identity, skepticism about spirituality, lack of altruism and trust, feeling of fear, materialism
How to open your chakras?
When they are “open”, we consider that the chakras function in a normal way.
It is generally considered that it is better to open the chakras from the bottom up.
So you will have to work on the opening of the root chakra at first, the sacred chakra in a second time, and so on.
Open the root chakra:
We open the root chakra by becoming aware of our body. Any activity that makes you aware of your body strengthens this chakra. You can do sports, dance, martial arts, walking, yoga, tai chi, etc. Enjoying a massage is also a way to become aware of your body in the here and now, just like Zen meditation.
Open the sacred chakra:
To harmonize the sacred chakra, we can listen to music that evokes pleasure, sensuality, softness, femininity, moonlight. Listening to serious sounds such as piano, organ, baritone sax, water sounds … is very beneficial.
In addition, the practice of ventral breathing has the effect of supplying external energy to this chakra and is therefore strongly recommended to open this chakra.
Open the solar plexus chakra:
To rebalance this chakra, you can use a method based on the use of citrine. Transform with candles and incense the room you have chosen in a sacred space in which you feel good. Lay a blanket on the floor and place citrines all around (6 at least). Lie in the center of this circle and affirm your desire to open your navel chakra. Ask, loudly or silently, that the benefits of citrine work on you. You can stay in this position about 30 minutes before returning to the world.
Breathing deeply in the sun also helps to harmonize this chakra.
Open the heart chakra:
In order to open the heart chakra, it is important to reconnect with Love in the universal sense of the word. To this end, do not be afraid to give your love to others and to yourself.
You can pat the sternum a number of times each day and drink thyme tea once a day. Visualize your breathing in a blue-violet color.
Finally, if you like to practice yoga, the position of the cobra helps you to open this chakra.
Open the throat chakra
The chakra of the throat is connected to the progress of our faculties of communication throughout our life. In order to be open and healthy, do not hesitate to say what you need to express. To open this chakra, the most valuable advice is to speak, whether to a friend, a therapist, a counselor.
Listening is also an important virtue to develop in order to improve your communication with others and with yourself.
Through this chakra we exteriorise our inner universe. The practice of singing or theater helps to activate this chakra.
Open the third eye chakra
In order to activate the forehead chakra, it is important to believe in your intuition and let your imagination speak.
A yogic technique of meditation is used to radiate the light that is at the level of your third eye.
Place a lighted candle in front of you while sitting comfortably with your back straight. To enter into a meditative state, begin by becoming aware of what is around you and going on within yourself. Pay attention to the center of your head, that is, the region where the pineal gland is located. Open your eyes slowly and focus on the candle flame.
When you have to close your eyes, turn them towards your third eye: you will see the image of the flame and probably many colors. Visualize the flame very carefully and, as the image disappears, try to hold it as much as possible by breathing deeply. Finally, slowly return to the reality of everyday life.
Open the crown chakra:
This energy center brings together and merges the energy of all other chakras. Meeting point of heavenly forces and your own strength, it supports your accomplishment.
It is essential, to preserve your psychic balance, to open this chakra by leaning on your root chakra. Any philosophical or spiritual research requires a solid anchoring beforehand and to connect you to the concrete aspect of life.
To connect with the Earth and the universal network of Light and Life, you can try this standing meditation:
Take a seat in a quiet place, the back straight, barefoot. With your eyes closed, visualize that you activate all your chakras and take root to the center of the Earth. Breathe deeply by raising your arms and asking to receive the divine light of Creation. As you exhale and replace your arms along your body, imagine the light filling your spine with energy, from the root chakra to the crown chakra. Then imagine that this ray of light is transformed into thousands of filaments of light moving around you, entering and exiting through all the pores of your skin.
Understand that these filaments are part of the universal network of Light and Life. From your heart chakra, visualize that you are diffusing the Divine Light through the golden filaments. Watch them go to all the places around you that need to be cleansed of their negative energies. Wherever the divine light passes, negativity is transformed into positivity. Finally, visualize the shining planet of light: it is in its place in the cosmos as glittering blue-green jewelery, everything is in its place. Feel the joy of having illuminated your being and the world, gradually let the filaments of light disappear and return to reality slowly.
Are The Chakras Real? 6 Things You Need To Know
Over the past hundred years, the idea of the chakras, or subtle energy centers within the body, has seized the Western imagination more than essentially any other teaching from the Yoga tradition. Yet, similar to the majority of other ideas originating from Sanskrit sources, the West (barring a handful of scholars) has nearly completely stopped working to come to grips with what the chakra-concept suggested in its original context and how one is supposed to practice with them. This post looks for to correct that scenario to some extent. If you’re brief on time, you can avoid the contextual remarks I’m about to make and go straight to the list of the 6 basic realities about the chakras that modern yogis don’t understand.
To begin with, how do we specify ‘chakra’? In the Tantrik customs, from which the concept obtains, chakras (Skt. cakra) are centerpieces for meditation within the human body, imagined as structures of energy resembling discs or flowers at those points where a variety of nāḍīs (channels or meridians) converge. They are conceptual structures yet are phenomenologically based, since they tend to be located where human beings experience emotional and/or spiritual energy, and since the form in which they are envisioned reflects visionary experiences had by meditators.
Okay, I’ll give it to you directly: for the most part, Western yoga comprehends almost absolutely nothing about the chakras that the initial custom idea was essential about them. You see, if you read a book like Anodea Judith’s famous Wheels of Life or suchlike, it’s essential to realize that you are not checking out a work of yoga philosophy however of Western occultism, based on 3 primary sources: 1) earlier works of Western occultism that obtain and adapt Sanskrit terms without actually comprehending them (like Theosophist C.W. Leadbeater’s The Chakras, 1927); 2) John Woodroffe’s problematic 1918 translation of a text on the chakras written in Sanskrit in 1577 (see below for more on this); and 3) 20th-century books by Indian yoga gurus which are themselves primarily based on sources 1) and 2). Books on the chakras based upon sound understanding of the original Sanskrit sources so far exist only in the scholastic world.
‘ But does that matter?’ yogis ask me. ‘I’ve benefited a lot from Anodea Judith’s book and others like it, don’t take that far from me!’ I won’t and I can’t. Whatever benefit you’ve received, from whatever source, is genuine if you say it is. I’m simply here to tell you two things: first, that when modern Western authors on the chakras suggest they are presenting ancient teachings, they’re deceiving you– but they do not understand that they are, since they can’t assess the validity of their own source materials (considering that they do not read Sanskrit).
Second, for those who are interested, I’m here to let you know a little bit about what yogic concepts mean in their original context (due to the fact that I’m a Sanskrit scholar, and a practitioner who takes place to prefer the traditional types). Just you can assess whether that is of any advantage to you. I’m not claiming that older is intrinsically much better. I’m not attempting to imply there’s no spiritual value to Western occultism. I’m just estimating the historic reality in easy English words as finest I can. So I’ll get on with it now: the 6 essential realities about the chakras that modern yogis don’t know.
There are many Chakra System in the Original Tradition
A lot of! The theory of the subtle body and its energy centers called cakras (or padmas (lotuses), ādhāras, lakṣyas (focal points), etc.) comes from the tradition of Tantrik Yoga, which grew from 600-1300 CE, and is still alive today. In fully grown Tantrik Yoga (after the year 900 or so), every one of the many branches of the tradition articulated a different chakra system, and some branches articulated more than one. Five-chakra systems, six-chakra systems, 7, nine, ten, twelve, twenty-one and more chakras are taught, depending on what text and what lineage you’re taking a look at. The seven- (or, technically, 6 + 1) chakra system that Western yogis know about is simply among numerous, and it became dominant around the 15th century (see point # 4 below).
Now, I know what you’re believing–‘But which system is right? How many chakras are there truly?’ Which brings us to our first significant misunderstanding. The chakras aren’t like organs in the physical body; they aren’t repaired truths that we can study like doctors research study neural ganglia (with which the chakras were puzzled in the 19th century). The energy body (sūkshma-sharīra) is an extremely fluid reality, as we must anticipate of anything nonphysical and supersensuous. The astral body can provide, experientially speaking, with any number of energy centers, depending upon the person and the yogic practice they’re performing.
Having stated that, there are a couple of centers which are found in all systems: particularly, in the lower stomach or sexual center, in the heart, and in or near the crown of the head, since these are 3 places in the body where humans all over the world experience both psychological and spiritual phenomena. But apart from those three, there’s a substantial range in the chakra systems we discover in the original literature. One is not more ‘best’ than another, other than relative to a specific practice. For instance, if you’re doing a five-element practice, you use a five-chakra system (see point # 6 listed below). If you’re internalizing the energy of 6 various deities, you utilize a six-chakra system. Duh, right? But this important bit of info has actually not yet reached Western yoga.
2. Chakra Systems are Prescriptive, Not Descriptive
This might be the most essential point. English sources tend to provide the chakra system as an existential reality, using detailed language (like “the mūlādhāra chakra is at the base of the spine and it is red” and so on). However in most of the initial Sanskrit sources, we are not being taught about the method things are, we are being given a particular yogic practice: we are to visualize a subtle things made from colored light, shaped like a lotus or a spinning wheel, at a specific point in the body, and after that trigger mantric syllables in it, for a particular function. When you understand this, point # 1 above makes more sense. The texts are authoritative– they inform what you should do to attain a specific goal by magical means. When the literal Sanskrit checks out, in its elliptical fashion, ‘four-petaled red lotus at the base of the body’ we are supposed to comprehend ‘The yogī should envision a four-petaled lotus …’ See point # 5 listed below for more on this.
3. CHAKRAS ARE COMPLETELY MODERN AND WESTERN
On numerous sites and in numerous books, we read that the mūlādhāra chakra is associated with survival & safety, that maṇipūra chakra is associated with willpower & self-confidence, and so on. The informed yogi should know that all associations of the chakras with psychological states is a modern Western development that started with Carl Jung. Possibly such associations represent experiential truths for some people (though usually not without priming), but we definitely don’t find them in the Sanskrit sources. There’s only one exception I’m mindful of, and that is the 10-chakra system for yogi-musicians that I’ve done a post on. But because thirteenth-century system, we do not find each chakra associated with a specific emotion or mental state; rather, each petal of each lotus-chakra is associated with a distinct emotion or mental state, and there seems to be no pattern by which we might produce a label for the chakra as a whole.
But that’s not all. Nearly all the many associations discovered in Anodea Judith’s Wheels of Life have no basis in the Indian sources. Each chakra, Judith tells us, is associated with a certain bodily gland, certain physical breakdowns, certain foods, a particular metal, a mineral, an herb, a world, a path of yoga, a match of the tarot, a sephira of Jewish mysticism, and an archangel of Christianity! None of these associations are found in the original sources. Judith or her teachers developed them based upon viewed resemblances. That goes likewise for the essential oils and crystals that other books and sites claim represent each chakra. (I ought to keep in mind that Judith does include some info from an original Sanskrit source [that is, the Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpaṇa, for which see below] under the label ‘Lotus Symbols’ for each chakra.).
This is not to say that putting a certain type of crystal on your tummy when you’re having self-esteem concerns and imagining it purifying your maṇipūra chakra might not assist you feel much better. Perhaps it will, depending upon the person. While this practice is certainly not standard, and has not been evaluated over generations (which is the entire point of tradition, truly), god understands there’s more on heaven and earth than is imagined in my rationalist brain.
However, in my view, individuals should know when the pedigree of a practice is a couple of years, not centuries. If a practice has value, then you don’t require to falsify its provenance, right?
4. THE SEVEN-CHAKRA SYSTEM POPULAR TODAY DERIVES NOT FROM AN ANCIENT SCRIPTURE, BUT FROM A TREATISE WRITTEN IN 1577
The chakra system Western yogis follow is that discovered in a Sanskrit text composed by a guy called Pūrṇānanda Yati. He finished his text (the Ṣaṭ-chakra-nirūpaṇa or ‘Explanation of the Six Chakras’, which is really chapter six of a larger work) in the year 1577, and it was equated into English exactly 100 years back, in 1918.
In an earlier version of this post, I called this seven-chakra system ‘late and rather irregular’. But after a couple of days, I understood that I was mistaken– an easier variation of the exact same seven-chakra system is found in a thirteenth-century postscriptural text called the Śāradā-tilaka, though that text does plainly acknowledge that there are multiple chakra systems (such as systems of 12 or 16 chakras). We also find a more intricate version of the same system in the fourteenth- or fifteenth-century Śiva-samhitā. Nevertheless, the majority of yogis (both Indian and Western) know the seven-chakra system through Pūrṇānanda’s sixteenth-century work, or rather, through the rather incoherent and complicated translation of it, done by John Woodroffe in 1918. Still, it’s true enough to state that this seven-chakra system has actually been dominant for the last 4 or five centuries. But it’s also true that the Westernized seven-chakra system you know is based upon early-twentieth-century occultists’ analysis of a problematic translation of a nonscriptural source. This by no means invalidates it, however rather serves to problematize its hegemony.
Keep In Mind that Tantric Buddhism (e.g., of Tibet) often protects older forms, and certainly the five-chakra system is dominant in that tradition (in addition to the more fundamental three-bindu system). For a normal five-chakra system as discovered in classical Tantra, see page 387 of my book, Tantra Illuminated.
5. THE MAIN PURPOSE OF A CHAKRA SYSTEM IS TO FUNCTION AS A TEMPLATE FOR NYĀSA — INSTALLATION OF MANTRAS AND DEITIES
As far as the initial authors were concerned, the main function of any chakra system was to work as a design template for nyāsa, which indicates the installation of mantras and deity-energies at particular points of the subtle body. So, though millions of individuals are fascinated with the chakras today, nearly none of those people are utilizing them for their intended purpose. That’s okay. Once again, I’m not here to make anyone wrong, just to inform the folks who are interested.
The most exceptional functions of the chakra systems in the initial sources are these three: 1) that the magical noises of the Sanskrit alphabet are distributed throughout the ‘petals’ of all the chakras in the system, 2) that each chakra is related to a particular Great Element (Earth, Water, FIre, Wind, and Space) and 3) that each chakra is connected with a specific Hindu divine being or deities. This is due to the fact that the chakra system is, as I stated, primarily a template for nyāsa. In nyāsa (lit., ‘positioning’), you imagine a particular mantric syllable in a particular location in a specific chakra in your astral body while calmly intoning its sound.
Plainly, this practice is embedded in a culturally-specific context in which the sounds of the Sanskrit language are viewed as distinctively powerful vibrations that can form an effective part of a mystical practice that brings about spiritual liberation or worldly benefits through magical methods. Invoking the image and energy of a specific divine being into a particular chakra is likewise culturally-specific, though if Western yogis come to comprehend what those divine beings mean, the practice might potentially be meaningful for them too, though probably never as meaningful as for somebody who matured with those deities as paradigmatic icons emblazoned on their subconscious minds.
The so-called Cause-deities (karana-devatās) figure mainly in every chakra system. These divine beings form a set series: from the lowest chakra to the greatest, they are Ganesh, Brahmā, Vishnu, Rudra, Īśvara, Sadāśiva, and Bhairava, with the first and last of these frequently not appearing, depending on the variety of chakras. The last deity in the list of Cause-deities is never the supreme divine being of the offered system, for that divine being (whoever it is) is enthroned in the sahasrāra or thousand-petalled lotus on the crown of the head (which technically is not a chakra, considering that chakras by definition are pierced by Kuṇḍalinī in her climb or descent, whereas the sahasrāra is her last destination and home). Therefore, Bhairava (the most mystical type of Shiva) is just included in the list of Cause-deities when he is transcended by the Goddess, the latter being the ultimate divine being in much of these systems.
6. THE SEED-MANTRAS THAT YOU THINK GO WITH THE CHAKRAS ACTUALLY GO WITH THE ELEMENTS THAT HAPPEN TO BE INSTALLED IN THOSE CHAKRAS
This is simpler than it sounds. You’ve been informed that the seed-mantra (bīja) of the mūlādhāra chakra is LAM. Well, it’s not. Not in any Sanskrit source, not even in Pūrṇānanda’s rather garbled syncretic account. And the mantra of svādhiṣṭhāna chakra is not VAM. Wait, what?
It’s simple: LAM (rhymes with ‘thumb’) is the seed-mantra of the Earth element, which in most chakra visualization practices is set up in the mūlādhāra. VAM is the seed-mantra of the Water aspect, which is set up in svādhiṣṭhāna (at least, in the seven-chakra system you know about). And so on: RAM is the syllable for Fire, YAM for Wind, and HAM for Space. (All these bījas rhyme with ‘thumb’; though I need to keep in mind that in mystical Tantrik Yoga, the elemental bījas in fact have various vowel noises which are believed to be far more powerful.).
So the bottom line is that the essential mantras related to the very first five chakras on every website you can Google actually do not come from those chakras per se, however rather to the 5 Elements installed in them. This is important to understand if you ever want to install one of those components in a different location. “Gasp! I can do that?” Totally. In fact, in various Tantrik lineages, we discover the Elements set up in very different places. For instance, the Saiddhāntika family tree set up Earth in the heart chakra.
What do you think might be the impact on your relationships of constantly setting up the Wind component in the heart center? (Remember, YAM is the mantra of Air/Wind, not of the anāhata chakra, whose intrinsic mantra is actually OM.) D’you ever observe that modern-day American yogis have truly unstable relationships? Could that possibly be connected to consistently invoking Wind on the level of the heart? Nahhh … (I can be funny now since only a small percentage of my readers have actually made it down this far.) So maybe you wish to install some Earth in the heart at some point, cuz grounding is good for your heart. Because case, it’s kinda helpful to know that LAM is the Earth component mantra, not the mūlādhāra-chakra mantra.
Moreover, most of the geometric figures associated with the chakras today also effectively belong to the Elements. Earth is generally represented by a (yellow) square, Water by a (silvery) crescent moon, Fire by a downward-pointing (red) triangle, Wind by a hexagram or six-pointed star, and Space by a circle. So when you see those figures engraved in illustrations of the chakras, you now understand that they actually are representations of those particular Elements, not of a geometry inherent in the chakra itself.
This brings me to my last point: even a Sanskrit source can be confused. For example, in Pūrṇānanda’s 16th-century text that is the basis of the popular contemporary chakra system, the 5 Elements are installed in the first 5 chakras of a seven-chakra system. But this doesn’t actually work, because in all the classical systems, Space component is set up at the crown of the head, since that is where the yogī experiences an expansive opening into infinite spaciousness. Space is the component that merges into the boundless, so it has to be at or near the crown.
I would hypothesize that Pūrṇānanda placed Space at the throat chakra because he lived at a time of increasing dogmatic adherence to the received custom without critical reflection (a trend which regretfully has actually continued), and the tradition he got was a Kaula one in which the classical Cause-deities got shoved down to include later, greater divine beings (particularly Bhairava and the Goddess), and the aspects were uncritically kept fused to the divine beings and chakras with which they were formerly associated. (Having stated that, the truth that Pūrṇānanda was drawing on Kaula sources is not apparent, due to the fact that instead of enthroning the Goddess at the sahasrāra as we would anticipate in a Kaula seven-chakra system, we discover there Paramaśiva, perhaps due to the impact of Vedānta. See the concerns and answers in the comments section for more on this.).
We’ve barely scratched the surface of this topic. No, I’m not kidding. It’s truly complex, as you can gather by having a look at the scholarly literature, like Dory Heilijgers-Seelen’s work, or Gudrun Bühnemann’s. It takes unusual patience and focus to even read such work, let alone produce it. So here’s what I hope will be the outcome of this post: some humbleness. A few less claims to authority when it comes to truly esoteric topics. Maybe a couple of less yoga instructors trying to inform their students what the chakras are everything about. Heck, I’m humbled by the complexity of the initial sources, which’s with fourteen years of Sanskrit under my belt.
This is still mainly uncharted territory. So when it pertains to the chakras, do not declare you understand. Tell your yoga trainees that every book on the chakras provides only one possible design. Practically nothing written in English is actually authoritative for professionals of yoga. So why not hold more gently the beliefs you’ve obtained about yoga, even while you keep discovering? Let’s admit we don’t totally comprehend these ancient yoga practices yet; and instead of seeking to be an authority on some oversimplified variation of them, you can welcome yourself and your trainees to look more plainly, more honestly, more thoroughly, and more non-judgmentally at their own inner experience.
After all, everything that every yoga master ever experienced remains in you, too.