The ancient yogis, and many teachers today, claim that yoga poses [or asanas] and breath work move prana, energy or life force through the body. According to the yoga tradition, it is not just our physical body that energy moves through but also a subtle body which is a part of us that we can’t see or touch but we know exists as we are can feel it. We all know those times when we can say our energy level is low or, on the other hand, we can say we are feeling balanced and vital. This subtle body where our energy flows is also referred to as the energy body.
The non-physical energy channels that flow through us are called Nadis and the meeting points of these energy channels are the Chakras. Life force, prana or energy is said to flow along these energy channels.
Seven key chakras have been identified. Asanas, breath practices and meditation may be used to draw our awareness to our chakras to help us feel balanced, revitalised and in tune with all aspects of self if we feel unbalanced or low in energy.
The word chakra can be translated as “wheel” or “vortex’. They are visually represented by the ancient sages of India as spinning discs of energy. The seven main chakras align with the vertical axis of our spine but do not sit within or on the spine, but rather exist as vortices above the surface of the body. They are also said to coincide with major centres of the endocrine system of the body.
The first five chakras are associated with the physical elements earth, water, fire, air, and space [or ether]. The last two chakras are thought to connect us to our higher sense of self and spirit, so they are associated with the elements of light and cosmic energy.
Once you know the element that each chakra is associated with and where it resides, you can start to think about how that element feels in your body. And thinking about our body in this symbolic or physical manner can help us access new stores of energy with the practice of different yoga postures.
For example, the root chakra is associated with earth. Asanas associated with this chakra are said to ground us and make us feel strong when we are insecure or unconfident. Our navel centre, associated with the element of fire, is where our confidence resides and this may be a point of focus during practice to enhance our sense of will power. Taking our awareness to our throat chakra can strengthen our resolve and enable us to communicate more clearly and to “speak out”. Attention to our third eye chakra during meditation leads us into inner world.
By bringing our awareness to these points of the body as we practice we may embody and enhance the different positive qualities of each centre that have been identified by the wise ones of the yoga tradition. These practices give us physical and metaphorical tools to feel balanced and happy in our lives.