by Cathy Douglas
Imagine a source of universal energy shining like a great sun above your head. Standing beneath this energy source, you feel empowered by its life-giving warmth. But the energy is unfocused.
Now imagine there’s a prism between you and this sun, angled a little off to the side. This prism focuses a manageable amount of that energy back toward your body, separating its rays into higher and lower frequencies that your senses interpret as color. The prism focuses this universal energy along the length of your body, so you’re able to experience and use your spectrum of energy naturally. You don’t even need to understand why or how it happens.
This is how chakras work when everything lines up perfectly, though real life is naturally a little messier. In my illustration (I drew it myself — can you tell?), the universe’s undifferentiated energy (the sun) focuses on individual beings (that funky-looking stick figure) through the lens of a logical pattern (the prism, which contains the pattern known as the flower of life). The prism separates the energy into frequencies we can use, and which we experience as color. These chakras affect our physical selves, and also our subtle body — that is, the shadow self composed of intangible things like “mind” and “ego.”
Nowadays, many people are familiar with the seven major chakras and their associated colors. But in reality those colors combine and blend, as colors do in a rainbow. If the seven major chakras are like the basic colors you’d find in a preschooler’s box of crayons, the chakra system as a whole is more like the big 96-color box you pestered your mom into buying you for sixth grade.
To be more exact, 72 chakras have been identified. Of those, many energy workers choose to work with various 21-chakra systems for healing, balance, and improved function of the human energy field. The one I’m most familiar with follows the spinal line as it runs through both the front and the back of the body. It’s based on Chinese traditional medicine, adapted to modern needs by experts from both east and west, such as Barbara Brennan and Mantak Chia.
The primary chakras are often described as wheels of energy. They’re listed below in italics, and you can read more about them in Kelly’s article above. The chakras described below are called the secondary or rear chakras. These have more of a shadow function, linked to the subtle energy body.
– First / Root / Base / Perineal Chakra (red)
– Pubic/Genital Chakra (earthy red): Locus of the genitals, whether male or female. The function of this one should be pretty obvious, but don’t assume it’s purely physical. Action attracts emotion like a magnet. For some, drawing down higher energies can easily overstimulate the energy of this chakra. (This may be why some traditional religions have such strict rules about sexuality.) For whatever reason, this chakra is catnip for many spiritual seekers, and must be confronted sooner or later. Like any other chakra, this one may be overactive, underactive, or well-balanced, with predictable results.
– Coccygeal Chakra (dark, rusty red): This earth-centered chakra is located at the end of the tailbone. It acts like a faucet, controlling the amount of physical energy expended. It’s closely related to the perineal (root) chakra, but focused less on the physical plane and more on other aspects of the subtle body and personality. An extrovert will tend to have this chakra strongly developed, whereas an introvert not so much. If the coccygeal chakra is overactive, one may come across as mentally blunt, unable to grasp subtle ideas and distinctions. If the chakra is underactive, the person may be weak and get sick a lot. When it is open and balanced, you feel strong, able to live in the present moment.
– Second / Sacral Chakra (Orange)
– Navel / Spleen Chakra / Shen Ch’ue (Orange): An emotional center and reservoir of energy. This alchemical center can refract universal energy into the body or send human energy out into the cosmos. We’re talking about inspiration and creativity at their most basic level, and “As above, so below” is the governing law. People with an overactive navel chakra may be overemotional and have difficulty thinking rationally, whereas people with a poor expression of this chakra may be sullen, picky, and prone to emotional outbursts. But if this chakra is open and balanced, you’ll feel emotionally balanced and well “put together.”
– Sea of Chi (Golden yellow) chakra is three finger widths below the navel, acting as a mixing place and reservoir of white light. It supports the intestines and urinary tract, and brings vitality and supporting growth of the higher functions. When this chakra is overactive, life may consist of little more than pleasure seeking and self-gratification; if it’s underactive, an outwardly productive life may feel drab and joyless. When this chakra functions well, you have a strong will to live, and you’re able to focus on the present moment.
– Door of Life Chakra (yellow to orange): Located near the kidneys, behind the navel. A circuit of energy runs between this chakra and the heart chakra, regulating the flow of prenatal energy through the body. (Yes, that’s energy you inherited from your loving ancestors at the time you were born.) Someone with an overactive door of life chakra may be pushy, always needing to get their way, while someone with a weakness in this chakra may be insecure and even suffer panic attacks. When it is functioning well, you feel gentle but decisive, with a clear sense of purpose.
– Third / Solar Plexus / Power / Manipura Chakra (Yellow)
– Adrenal/diaphragm chakra: Located opposite the solar plexus, this chakra helps regulate the blood and the body’s use of minerals, as well as the instincts that help us react quickly in emergencies. It helps us manifest our intentions in areas of health. Someone with this chakra overactive may constantly feel threatened, whereas if the chakra is underactive the person may be apathetic. When this chakra works well, you feel accepting of your place in the universe.
– Fourth Heart / Anahata Chakra (Green or Pink)
– Shoulder blades Chakra (Green, pink, white). This chakra sits opposite the heart chakra, between the shoulder blades. It governs the will, and works closely with the heart chakra to promote satisfaction. When this chakra is overactive, the person is prone to acting without forethought. If it’s underacting, the person may constantly second-guess their instincts, viewing everyone and everything as a potential enemy. When the chakra works in a balanced way, you have a strong feeling of freedom and purpose, an instinct to align your purpose with the highest good, and a sense of unity with mankind and the universe.
– Higher Heart / Ascending Heart / Thymus Chakra (Teal or white light). Mystics across a spectrum of spiritual traditions have identified this chakra, which sits midway between the heart and throat chakras, as the source of spiritual longing. Another name for it is the “soul seat.” Intention starts here, opening the door to higher consciousness. Life is full of purpose and spiritual meaning. A person who puts too much emphasis on this chakra may have their head in the clouds and not function well in the mundane world. Someone who is weak in this area may reject anything intuitive, spiritual, or even emotional, insisting on “just the facts.” When the higher heart is strong and balanced, you feel a loving urge to connect with the divine and with other people.
– Base of Throat / Base of Neck Chakra (Turquoise) is a little like a highway interchange, connecting energies of the hands, arms, and legs with the center of the body, as well as lower with upper chakras. A weakness here may show up as a blockage, perhaps stemming from poor self-esteem. When this chakra is working right, a strong sense of self-worth helps you relate well to others.
– Back of Neck Chakra (Silvery blue) is very similar to the one above, except for the location, which is at the center of the back of the neck. Its association is therefore somewhat more in line with the subtle body than with the physical. Both have strong associations with the throat chakra as well, and imbalances will be similar.
– Fifth / Throat chakra (light blue)
– Talu / Lalana / Heavenly Pool Chakra is located on the roof of the mouth, about as far back as you’re able to touch with the tip of your tongue. Some devotees experience this chakra in a mystically sensual way, perhaps as cascading moonlight that leaves a taste of nectar in the mouth. It’s considered a very feminine and mysterious chakra, a center for feminine magic, and a doorway between rising chi energy to the higher chakras. If overdeveloped, one may have trouble tearing oneself away from this chakra and its delights. If underdeveloped, life may be devoid of sensuality and happiness. Correctly developed, this chakra helps you stand at the gateway to the universe, ready for further evolution.
– Zeal Point / Mouth of God / Jade Pillow (Jade green or medium blue) is where the back of the neck meets the skull. If you touch this area, you’ll feel a little indentation. Here is where the individual connects with the cosmic “Om,” or as some say “Logos” (the word of God). This chakra also opens a path for spiritual awakening through control of the breath. Some also recommend using a double-terminated quartz point to invigorate this chakra. However it’s done, activating this chakra aids in the development of psychic skills. When overdeveloped, a person may overfocus on their spiritual side, and even seem a little bit crazy. (We’ve all known a religious nut job or two, right?) Drug use can lead to serious damage in this area. On the other hand, lack of development at this chakra leads to the spirit facing limits on all sides — sort of like a claustrophobic person stuck in a small, windowless room, unable to move or grow. When the zeal point works correctly, you will feel inspired and connected with the universe, ready to develop and use your natural intuitive skills.
– Sixth / Third Eye / Brow / Ajna Chakra (Indigo or Violet)
– Upper Forehead Chakra (Indigo or Violet) is connected with the third eye chakra, and here things get a little confusing; some consider the energy in this area to be part of the brow chakra, while others see a small system of chakras on the forehead in the shape of a sideways eye (Eye of Shiva). As the highest point in this shape, the upper forehead chakra connects the third eye with the crown chakra. As with the other higher chakras, overactivity can show up as an excessive focus on otherworldly things, while low activity may block spiritual insight and development. When this chakra functions well, you have an awareness of your place in the universe, and have the ability to see auras, experience astral travel, and make use of the assistance of angels and spirit guides.
– Back of Head Chakra (Indigo or Violet) sits directly behind the third eye, associated with the higher functions as they interact with the physical world. It’s the seat of the highest functions of the human brain — the power to decide and create, and to make plans that manifest the will. Its power helps of function in the daily world, at the same time that the other higher chakras expand our awareness of other planes. So even though this is a very high chakra, it is, in its own way, grounding. Overdevelopment of this chakra may emphasize a “monkey mind” that’s full of work and projects, at the expense of contemplation and spiritual growth. If underdeveloped, the person will either have trouble getting anything done. They may plan obsessively, but these plans either never get carried out or result in unexpected and unwanted outcomes. When the back of head chakra operates well, you are able to manifest your intentions for the higher good of all.
– Seventh / Crown / Sahasrara Chakra (Violet, Golden, or Clear White)
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