The Chakra System

For the most part, modern western Yoga understands very little about the ancient concept of the Chakra System.

As with many of the ancient traditions passed down through the practice of Yoga, the concept of the chakra system is one that has both intrigued and perplexed the western mind – perhaps more than any other. And a simple Google search of the term may only serve to confuse matters more, making any fixed definition a tricky proposition at best.

So what is a chakra? What is the Chakra System? And how does it relate to our yoga practice?

At the risk of jumping straight into the abstract and the esoteric, the concept of the subtle body refers to a field of energy which overlays our physical body. Put simply, the chakra system is one theory of many to understanding our subtle body and its energy centers.

The word chakra comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “spinning wheel” or “vortex”. According to ancient tradition, energy or prana (also known as Chi (or Qi) in ancient Chinese Medicine and Ki in Japanese tradition) flows through our subtle body via channels known as nadis. These nadis can be thought of as the central nervous system of the subtle body – a “roadmap” to our energetic body, if you will. The chakras are the energetic centres, or junction points, where these nadis converge, traditionally visualised as spinning wheels of energy.

Typically there are seven prominent chakras or energy centres within the subtle body. But unlike the organs and glands in our physical body, chakras are not fixed and tangible entities. They cannot be specifically “located” in the physical body, and nor can they be studied by doctors and physicians. And as if to confuse matters more, while the chakras may not be physical elements themselves, they are often associated with various organs and systems within the physical body.

Ideally, energy should flow freely up and down the subtle body via the main nadi known as the shushumna, connecting our subtle body with the energy of the earth and the divine energy source. Any blockages occurring at the chakras, or junction points, can manifest as very tangible physical, mental and emotional deficiencies. The focus of any work relating to the chakra system is to activate the energetic body and ensure that each chakra is unblocked, balanced and aligned, allowing a healthy flow of energy and prana.

Perplexed? Or perhaps intrigued? There’s more to the human body than can be imagined in our rational brains, and the energetic or subtle body is an extraordinarily fluid concept that is both non-physical and abstract. We’ve only just started down this rabbit hole, Alice.

To learn more about the Chakra System, register for the workshop “Connect the Dots: Demystifying the Chakra System”.