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What are the Chakras?

diagram of the seven chakras around a human form

Chakras 7 Energy Centres of the Body

Chakras are looked upon by many as spinning wheels or energy centres that are always in motion.

The word "chakra" which comes from the Sanskrit word for "wheel" or "turning" is a concept that refers to wheel-like vortices (singular-vortex).

Aligning the 7 chakras is a spiritual practice that involves balancing and bringing these energy centres back into alignment.  Popular techniques to achieve this include meditation, yoga and more recently with the use of crystals.

In the Hindu religion chakras are described as spinning wheels of energy located along the spine. Each of the 7 main chakras are associated with a different aspect of human experience such as survival, power and love.

The chakras are believed to have a role in physical, emotional and spiritual health.

In Buddhism the concept of chakras is not as central as it is in Hinduism. They're still acknowledged and understood as being energy centres but are not seen as separate entities.

The chakras are instead part of a holistic system of energy flow through the body.

The crown, throat, heart and base chakra are the four chakras described in Buddhism.  Each one is associated with different aspects of the path towards enlightenment. These energy centres are looked upon as an obstacle that must be cleared in order to proceed.

In both Hinduism and Buddhism the ultimate goal is to achieve balance and harmony within the energy centres of the body.  This is believed to lead to physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. diagram showing the chakrasThe speed at which each chakra rotates is believed to affect equilibrium (a state of physical balance) and mental and physical health. 

The aim of unblocking and aligning the chakras is to improve general well-being and to cultivate a sense of inner peace and harmony.

The earliest reference to chakras is believed to be in the Vedas.  These are a collection of ancient Indian texts considered to be some of the oldest sacred texts in Hinduism.  The word "Veda" comes from the Sanskrit word "vid" meaning "to know".

The Vedas which are said to be of divine origin contain spiritual knowledge, hymns, mantras and rituals that form the foundation of the Hindu religion.  They're believed to have been orally transmitted for many centuries before finally being written down around the 2nd millennium BCE.

It's generally believed the oldest of the four Vedas was composed around 1500 BC to 1000 BC. The other three texts are believed to have been composed slightly later.diagram of a person cross legged showing chakras in alignment and then out of alignmentMany factors cause chakras to fall out of alignment.  Examples include mental or physical stress, anxiety, depression, poor posture, lack of sleep or exercise, unhealthy diet and self-destructive behaviour.

According to traditional Indian medicine, chakras are believed to exist in the surface of the etheric double of every human being.

They're considered to be "force centres" made up of rotating vortices of subtle matter.  They're believed to be the focal points for the reception and transmission of energies.

Seven major chakras are believed to exist.  Each one is associated with one of the seven colours of the rainbow and a different physical and emotional aspect of a person's well-being.

The seven chakras are;

Root Chakra (Muladhara) is at the base of the spine.  It's associated with the colour red and is said to be related to grounding, stability and a sense of safety and security.

Sacral Chakra (Svadhisthana) is just below the belly button.  It's associated with the colour orange and is related to emotions, creativity and sexuality.

Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura) is positioned in the upper abdomen.  It's associated with the colour yellow and is said to be related to self-esteem, willpower and mental clarity. The Heart Chakra (Anahata) sits in the centre of the chest.  It's associated with the colour green and said to be related to love, compassion, forgiveness and self-acceptance.

Throat Chakra (Vishuddha) which is in the throat is associated with the colour blue.  It's related to communication, self-expression and truth.

Third Eye Chakra (Ajna) is in the centre of the forehead just above the point where the eyebrows meet.  It's associated with the colour indigo and is associated with intuition, wisdom and spiritual insight.

Crown Chakra (Sahasrara) sits just above the top of the head.  Associated with either violet or white it radiates upwards and outwards connecting you to your soul and higher self.  It's works to achieve a spiritual connection and enlightenment.

The concept of crystal healing and the chakras is rooted in traditional and alternative medicine practices.  There is no scientific evidence that proves its effectiveness.

Crystal Healing Chakras Western Interpretations

The concept of chakras became more widely known with the rise of crystal healing in the 1970's and 80's.

During this time the New Age movement emerged as a spiritual and cultural phenomenon bringing together various esoteric and alternative belief systems.

Within the movement practitioners and enthusiasts sought to create a holistic and inclusive approach to spirituality.  To achieve this they drew inspiration from diverse religious and spiritual traditions worldwide.

Esoteric describes something particularly unusual that’s likely to be understood by just a small number of people or those with specific knowledge of the subject matter.

The concept of chakras caught the attention of New Age practitioners who had started using crystals for mental and emotional healing.

Rather than adhering to the traditional understanding of chakras as followed in Buddhism, Hinduism and Indian spirituality, they incorporated elements of it and created their own version.

The appeal of this modified chakra system was its flexibility and adaptability.  New Age practitioners found the concept of chakras could be used as a framework to explore and understand how the mind, body and spirit were connected.

It resonated with their desire for personal growth, healing and spiritual development.

With the passage of time chakras became associated with certain colours, frequencies, aspects of consciousness and crystals. 

In the last few years there has been a huge rise in the popularity of using crystals for healing. An integral part of this practice involves placing crystals on different chakras in order to align and balance the flow energy.

If you’re interested to learn the real story of the chakras away from Western interpretations, you may find this article interesting.

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