The Chakras Explained

I remember the first time I took a deep dive into the Chakras. It was during my YTT, and my yoga philosophy teacher pulled up a chart of all the chakra colors and meanings, the different symbols of the chakras, and even got out her collection of chakra crystals and stones… and I spent the next hour trying not to roll my eyes or guffaw out loud. The chakras explained all sounded like New Age hippie mumbo jumbo to me.

But, also, you know me — I kinda love this stuff, and I’m always curious as to whether it actually works! Along my spiritual journey, this intrepid spirit of mine showed me the (scientifically verified) power of self-love affirmations, got me into Shamanic plant medicines and Ayahuasca retreats and many yoga retreats, and even led me down the Shakti mat road.

chakras explained

Chakras are also a part of yoga and Angamardana — and I swear by daily yoga, asana practice, and meditation practice for keeping my physical body, nervous system, and mind in order — so perhaps not surprisingly, I have dabbled with some chakra stones and even worn items of clothing in different chakra colors in an effort to help my overall health and bring my own seven chakras into balance (spoiler, I loved the chakra crystals and having my energy centers into alignment, I’m not sure co-ordinating my underwear to a specific chakra or to the 7 chakra colors made much of a difference for me personally, haha).

So, is there really anything to the Chakras? What actually are the 7 chakra meanings, what physical ailments could arise from imbalanced chakras, and where do the chakra symbols come from? What is the relationship between chakras, the eight limbs of yoga, and a yoga class, and what are the best ways to perform chakra healing and realign your energy centres? Here is a good place to start.

The Chakras Explained

So are the 7 chakras actually some ancient anatomical concept that gives insight into the emotional complexity of our bodies, or are they just some recently made-up phenomenon touted by spiritual hacks and wellness gurus? Well, it’s sort of complicated, and it’s somewhere between the two.

Chakra (also spelled cakra, but pronounced cha-kruh) means wheel or disk in Sanskrit. They refer to energy centers in the human body, where the physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual connection converge. A chakra is an invisible, spinning flow of energy that can be either balanced and aligned, or overactive or underactive — and therefore out of alignment, which will manifest in different physical and psychological ways. Your mental health, your sense of security, your immune system, your circulatory system, as well your state of emotional health or pure consciousness — all could be influenced by blocked chakras.

Chakras are part of the energetic, AKA the yogic body, which also includes the Nadis and Kundalini energy flow. Some yoga studios and reiki practitioners offer sequences including yoga poses, breathing exercises, and chakra meditations specifically targeting the chakras to regain your optimal life energy and inner peace.

So, how many chakras are there? Depending on who you consult you will get a different answer. Some people say six, some people say 12, and others say 114! But, most often, you will hear seven, and this tradition is where we get the 7 chakra colors and specific symbols for the chakras.

chakra colors

History of the Chakras

Some people say that chakras are first mentioned in the Vedas, the foundational Hindu text to which some yogic practices and principles are traced to. However, although the word chakra does technically appear in the Vedas it means wheel, as opposed to the energetic center. The debate continues about when the word Chakras as energetic centers first originated in Yogic, Hindu, or Buddhist texts. However, energetic bodies, chakras, and nadis were definitely on the scene by around the first millennium.

Chakras and the energetic body were, and remain, a significant part of the Tantric yoga tradition. Tantra has many lineages relating to different deities and practices, and as chakras are associated with such a diverse tradition, this is why there are conflicting numbers of chakras and varying energetic systems depending on who you consult. According to James Mallinson and Mark Singleton in Roots of Yoga, (which is a good, if somewhat dry, academic source), the six chakra system, which directly leads to the seven chakra system, was popularized around the 12th century.

Another interesting element that Mallinson and Singleton stress is that chakras were likely never considered to have ‘existed’, at least not in a physical sense. Instead, they were used as ‘subtle focuses for meditation distributed along the central channel of the body that aligned with rituals and metaphysical beliefs of the specific doctrine of that Tantric tradition (Roots of Yoga, 175).

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when different yogic traditions began to make their way over to the West, the chakras came too! It’s likely that a mix of ancient texts, interpretations, and some general free-wheeling spiritual goons, led to the contemporary conception of the 7 chakras, the popularization of chakra symbols and colors, as well as chakra stones — all of which I will discuss below!

Chakras and Modern Yoga

So when we hear about chakras today, it is most often in association with the seven chakra systems… and how much you buy into them, well, that’s up to you. They are definitely part of the most esoteric side of yoga, but that doesn’t make them ‘bullshit’. They have been used historically as meditation aids and a helpful way to connect the physical and emotional body for hundreds of years. However, I have also heard of people having ‘chakra surgery’ and having their chakras removed… and, well, I’m happy to be proven wrong, but that’s not a thing so please don’t go down that road.

Chakras have always been and remain a part of the more esoteric side of yoga. Depending on which style of yoga you practice and which yoga tradition you connect to alters the significance of the role of the chakras. For example, Ashtanga yoga leans heavily on Patanjali’s yoga sutras, and there is no mention of the chakras. However, in Tantric yoga traditions, chakras are key, especially in healthy relationships to the movement of Kundalini energy through the seven chakras.

In contemporary yoga, the seven chakra system is most common. Like their traditional representation, they are wheels of energy located along the central energetic channel of the body, which runs from the base of the spine to the crown of the head.

7 Chakras and Their Meanings

Not only does each individual chakra have a different location, meaning, and imbalances that I cover below, but the major chakras also have a distinct visual representation that includes different colors and unique chakra symbols. The symbols for chakras are different lotus flowers.

I will also discuss the 7 main chakras stones and crystals as this is something that I connect with, and whether there is any truth in it or not, I find the stones beautiful and a helpful, tangible object to carry with me on the days I feel a little out of whack and experiencing negative emotions.

Root Chakra

Sanskrit name: muladhara chakra
Color: red
Location: base of the spine/tailbone
Meaning: Groundedness, basic needs
Symbol: four-petal lotus flower

When aligned and balanced, the 1st chakra, base chakra, or root chakra represents feeling grounded and having a strong foundation, particularly when it comes to material needs such as need. When imbalanced or blocked, first chakra misalignment manifests as feeling ungrounded, anxiety and insecurity about our deepest sense of self, and often anxiety around money. Standing in mountain pose is a great way to stimulate your root chakra.

Root Chakra stones: red crystals such as garnet, red jasper, or rubies.

Sacral Chakra

Sanskrit word: swadisthana chakra
Color: orange
Location: an inch below the belly button, in the lower abdomen, adrenal glands
Meaning: Sexuality and Creativity
Symbol: six petal lotus

When aligned and balanced, the second chakra, which is also associated with the water element, represents feeling sexually and creatively fulfilled, passionate, motivated, and recognizing our own self-worth. When imbalanced or blocked, it manifests as sexual and/or creative blocks, lethargy, lower back pain, and a lack of confidence in our passions. Both the root and sacral chakras have to do with the reproductive organs, large intestine, and spinal column and are your energy center or your life force.

Sacral chakra stones: orange-colored stones, such as carnelian and tiger’s eye.

Solar Plexus Chakra

Sanskrit name: manipura chakra
Color: yellow
Location: upper abdomen
Meaning: Personal Power
Symbol: 10 petal lotus

When aligned and balanced, the third chakra, or navel chakra represents having a strong sense of self, good self-esteem, and confidence in our abilities. When imbalanced or blocked, it manifests as either low self-esteem and no personal power, in the subtle body, or arrogance and inflated sense of self. In yoga, boat pose activates this chakra.

Solar plexus chakra stones: yellow gems, such as citrine and yellow jasper

Heart Chakra

Sanskrit term: anahata chakra
Color: green
Location: heart center, thymus gland
Meaning: Unconditional love
Symbol: 12 petal lotus

When aligned and balanced, the green chakra represents being open to giving and receiving love in a healthy way, as well as self-love and compassion. When imbalanced or blocked, it manifests as either wearing your heart on your sleeve and being excessively open to love leaving scope for heartbreak, having high blood pressure, or having a guarded heart and not being open to love at all.

Heart chakra stones: green stones such as aventurine and pink stones such as rose quartz

Throat Chakra

Sanskrit name: vishuddhi chakra
Color: blue
Location: the throat center
Meaning: Communication and truth
Symbol: 16 petal lotus

When aligned and balanced, this chakra means we are able to communicate clearly and confidently, are connected to our voices, and feel empowered to speak our truth. When imbalanced or blocked, it manifests as either not feeling able to speak up and having no confidence in your voice and expressing your opinions, having a sore throat, or talking excessively, such as loudly over other people and gossiping.

Throat chakra stones: precious gems such as sapphire, Angelite crystal, and aquamarine

Third-Eye Chakra

Sanskrit name: ajna chakra
Color: Indigo
Location: third eye center, between the brows (pineal gland)
Meaning: Intuition
Symbol: two petal lotus, crescent moon

When aligned and balanced, this chakra means we have strong intuition and are able to see the big picture (sixth sense), with an insightful understanding of ourselves and others. When imbalanced or blocked, it manifests as either not being able to connect to our intuition or being completely divorced from reality.

Third eye chakra stones: Lapis lazuli and sodalite

Crown Chakra

Sanskrit name: Sahasrara chakra
Color: Violet or pure white
Location: The crown of your head, pituitary gland
Meaning: Spiritual enlightenment
Symbol: A thousand petal lotus

When opened, the 7th chakra represents complete spiritual enlightenment and bliss. Once this chakra is open, it helps keep all the other ones aligned and balanced. The top of the head chakra is perceived in different ways by some and could be the gateway to an eight chakra, where vortexes of energy converse into your external energy body.

Crown chakra stones: White and clear stones such as selenite and moonstone, and amethyst

Working with symbols of the Chakras, Colors, Crystals, and meanings

If you resonated with any of the descriptions of the 7 chakras meaning and qualities, particularly if you felt like you could do with a little more of one quality or another — for example, feeling more grounded by connected to the root chakra, or more empowered in your voice by connecting to the throat chakra — you might like to work with some of the chakra images and objects and add them to the bigger picture of improving your higher self.

Hanging a chakra color chart or the different lotus symbols of chakras in your home or yoga practice is a useful way to get a quick reminder of the various chakras (and it’s actually pretty easy to remember the chakra colors in order as they are the same as the rainbow). Don’t worry about remembering all the symbols and chakra colors meaning in one go — pick one that you particularly connect to and focus on it in your meditation using mantras or visualizing the chakra symbol. Chakra stones and crystals placed around your home or even in your pocket can also feel super empowering when you need to feel more confident or grounded.

Most importantly, find the way that works best for you, whether connecting with the chakras and colors, symbols, or qualities. Or, if chakras aren’t your thing, then just give them a miss! There are so many other ways you can connect to different aspects of yoga, whether that’s practicing with friends or on retreat, reading yoga books, or even watching movies about yoga.