Chakras & Prana
Chakras are usually thought of in their energy form, as whirl-pools of energy which reside in an energy-body known as pranamaya kosha, which is approximately the same size as the physical body, but larger and freer. The six main chakras are energy junctures inside the spine, within the energy-body. They play a huge role in feeding and balancing our nervous and endocrine systems as they either fuel, or block, the energy which flows along the spine, fuelling & blocking the nervous system and endocrine system, thereby fuelling and blocking our behaviour. But the whole process is interactive because behaviour also causes the energy to flow, or to be blocked. Shock, hunger, tiredness, joyousness, etc, etc, all affect the flow of energy. In yoga, the word for this cosmic energy is prana and from here on will be referred to as prana.
Prana is cosmic energy which contains cosmic intelligence and this intelligence is what flows through the mind and all of the cells of the body creating the human being. And every other living organism, also. Not only is it intelligence, but it is intelligence in the form of pure love. The sooner we can unblock it and allow it to flow, the sooner we experience the True Self, which is nothing but Pure Intelligence and Pure Love.
Prana, flows through long fine channels known as nadis, (meridians in Chinese medicine), which criss-cross at points along the spine, forming whirling vortexes in the energy-body. There is no part of the body or mind which is not fuelled by prana. The whole bodymind complex is prana, blocked or flowing. Mostly blocked. It is the unblocking of prana which yoga is concerned with as this increases spiritual life. Inherent in that is increased physical, mental and emotional health.
Each chakra has been assigned a vibrational name by the ancient seers and you will find that your chakras respond to these names, just as you or I respond to ours. The chakra name is in the Sanskrit language. The base chakra at the perineum - at the base of the spine - is called mooladhara pronounced moola-dhar. At the tail-bone, swadhistana pronounced swod-his-tana. Level with the navel, manipura pronounced ma-nee-por. Level with the sternum, anahata pronounced un-a-haat. At the base of the neck, vishuddhi pronounced vish-should-hee. In the very centre of the head at the top of the spine, ajna pronounced ug-nee-a. At the crown/fontanelle area of the head, sahasrara pronounced suh-has-rar.
The chakras exist whether we are aware of them or not. They are active, or dormant, in degrees which are in accordance with one’s level of evolution. This is true for everyone.
They emit densities and frequencies which we experience as behaviour. Higher and lower behaviour. Each density radiates a colour, through the bodymind and beyond it. The frequency of light at mooladhara chakra radiates as red; at swadhistana chakra as orange; at manipura chakra as yellow; at anahata chakra as green; at vishuddhi chakra as blue, at agna chakra as indigo and at sahasrara, as violet, or golden light.
Generally it is taught that there are only six important chakras within the human frame-work – this is because these six govern the realm of human behaviour and experience - from the lowest behaviour to the highest.
The seventh chakra belongs to the transcendental human, and is the combination of the other six chakras highest behaviours. Someone who has reached the Divine, exhibits and experiencs behaviour which lies outside the realm of normal - it is described as transcendental. This only occurs when all the chakras have been awakened to their fullest potential, awakening sahasrara fully. Apparently, this takes thousands of lifetimes. One cannot simply ‘open’ sahasrara because they feel to.
Sahasrara awakens with the evolution of each of the chakras below it. The lesser chakras number in the hundreds and their function is to ‘connect’ the network of 72,000 nadis and emit intelligence relevant to their position in the bodymind, to ensure the best functioning of the body and mind.
Distortions of prana cause mental and physical illness and are caused through distortions in the mind.
The Chakra - Kosha link
A kosha is a density of prana which is often thought of as a body.
The lower mind [manomaya kosha] is a body of thought, whereas the higher mind [vigyanamaya kosha] is a body of qualities and awareness. Anandamaya kosha is a body of bliss. Annamaya kosha is the food body because it is maintained by food.
Then there is pranamaya kosha, the body of bio-energy, bio-luminescence, a body of prana containing different densities/fields of prana within itself. Each of these fields governs both an area of thought and specific bodily functions e.g. samana prana is related to the digestive system and the ability to digest physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. Pranamaya kosha is the interface, the connector between the body and the mind - the intelligence agent.
The order in which these koshas connect together, beginning from the densest to the finest, is: annamaya kosha, pranamaya kosha, manomaya kosha, vigyanamaya kosha and anandamaya kosha.
Chakras are located in the pranamaya kosha as wheels, or vortexes of energy and are influenced energetically by every body and mind experience we have - and by Witnessing with the Divine Self. Each interaction or encounter with the internal world or the external world, influences the chakras to open/expand a little more, or contract/close, a little more.
The actual behaviours and qualities vibrating within each chakra, originate in vigyananmaya kosha and are of course expressed from there. Behaviours and qualities include security/fear, detachment/gratification, willpower/victim, etc, etc, and vigyanamaya contains both the highest and the lowest behavioural characteristics - both the angels and the demons - within us. Manomaya kosha is the agent which filters the behavioural characteristics from vigyanamaya into thought.
Influencing the types of behaviours being expressed at each chakra are the tattvas, the 'elements' of nature [earth, water, fire, air and ether] which cause the density or texture of prana at each chakra and therefore, the types of behaviour in each chakra.
The base chakra's element is earth and as such engenders stability, security, trust - any kind of steadiness in the behaviour - and its exact opposite.
Swadhistana chakra is water-related and as such engenders physical, mental and emotional fluidity and flexibility - and, also, the exact opposite.
Manipura chakra is fire-related and as such engenders power and nobility - and the exactly opposite behaviours.
Anahata chakra is air-related and as such engenders softness, connection and love - and the exact opposites.
Vishuddhi chakra is ether-related, and as such engenders spaciousness, inspiration and purity - and the exact opposites.
Ajna chakra is wisdom related, intuitive wisdom and god-referenced wisdom - and the complete lack of it at the opposite end of the scale.
By becoming aware of a chakra after completing an asana (aware of any chakra, after any asana) that wheel of prana being focused on will be stimulated and activated facilitating a degree more awareness of that chakra and eventually, its capacities. For example, regular experience of swadhistana chakra will increase joyfulness and detachment will be cultivated and, as that happens, selfish gratification is dropped.
Chakra awareness actually helps to develop all experiences at the level of the koshas - which amounts to personal growth. Also known as spiritual growth.