By Emma Stessman
Chances are you’ve heard the term “chakras” thrown around in a yoga class.
In Sanskrit, the word translates literally to “wheel,” and each chakra is thought of as a wheel of energy within a different part of the body. Master yoga teacher Sarah Platt-Finger, the co-founder of New York’s ISHTA Yoga, likes to think of each one as the “‘headquarters” of a different element in the body. “The elements all exist within us,” she says, “and they also have different qualities that are reflected through our emotions and our personality.”
There are seven chakras that span from the base of the tailbone to the crown of the head, and each one is associated with a different element (i.e. earth, air, fire, etc.) as well as physical and psychological characteristics. Yogic philosophy dictates that you can be excessive or deficient in each one, and imbalances manifest themselves in different ways.
When yours are all balanced, you’ll live happier and healthier, the ancient wisdom says. Of course, this is all philosophy, not to be confused with any sort of modern, scientific understanding of what’s going on in your body. But if it’s a philosophy that works for you, Platt-Finger explains, here, how to apply it to your own body and life.
The 7 Chakras and How to Balance Them
1. The Root Chakra (Muladhara)
The first chakra is all about physical and emotional survival needs and our sense of stability and groundedness, Platt-Finger says. It exists at the base of the spine (hence the name) and is connected to the earth element.
Excessive: feelings of greed, stubbornness, and heaviness (both physical and emotional)
Deficient: flighty and disconnected from your physical needs
How to balance: Meditation can be used to establish a sense of groundedness.
2. The Sacral Chakra (Svadishthana)
The sacral chakra is associated with the element of water, and it’s all about the flow of creativity and passion. “This chakra deals with our attachments and our aversions, and our likes and dislikes,” Finger says. As you can probably guess from its location in the pelvic region, it’s also linked to sensuality and sexuality.
Excessive: hyper-sexual, easily giving into temptation
Deficient: an inability to experience pleasure
How to balance: Maintain a healthy sex life and show your body respect.
3. The Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura)
“The third chakra is a lot about transformation,” explains Finger. “It’s how we’re not only able to metabolize our food, but metabolize our thoughts and our emotions so that we have this sense of individuality and independence in the world.” Located just above the navel and represented by the element of fire, when the third chakra is in balance, you’ll have a strong sense of autonomy, self-esteem, and the ability to persevere.
Excessive: feelings of hot-headedness and arrogance
Deficient: timidity and shyness
How to balance: Try yoga asanas like boat pose and warrior poses, and focus on healthy digestion.
4. The Heart Chakra (Anahata)
Associated with the element of air, the heart chakra serves as a sort of bridge between the lower and upper chakras. It’s all about creating harmony and balance, and as its location (in the chest) and name would suggest, it deals with many emotions—including love for both ourselves and others, says Finger.
Excessive: overly concerned about others (and not in a good way)
Deficient: lack of emotion or compassion
How to balance: Try heart-opening yoga poses and adding a mantra into your meditation, with the sound “yum” which correlates with the fourth chakra.
5. The Throat Chakra (Vishuddha)
The fifth chakra is all about how we communicate with those around us. When it’s in balance, we’re able to speak our own truths as well as effectively listen to those of others, says Finger. In the body, this chakra is associated with the cervical spine, neck, and throat regions.
Excessive: overly talkative and unable to be in silence
Deficient: unable to effectively communicate or express yourself
How to balance: Practice active listening strategies. Use affirmations to establish what you want to say before you communicate.
6. The Third Eye Chakra (Ajna)
In Sanskrit, the sixth chakra’s name translates to “command,” so it’s no wonder that it’s associated with the pituitary gland, AKA your body’s “master gland.” Your intuition (and ability to connect with it), your imagination, and your personal perceptions of the outside world are all governed by the third eye chakra, Finger explains.
Excessive: distorted perceptions
Deficient: unable to see things in a new way
How to balance: This chakra is best balanced by meditation and breathing techniques.
7. The Crown Chakra (Sahasrara)
The seventh and final chakra is located at the top of the head. Finger describes this chakra as, “what enables us to connect to all things, in particular, to a realm of this nameless, shapeless, borderless shape of being that’s not really in the physical world but in this more cosmic realm.” (Woah, heady!) Essentially, the crown chakra is what allows you to connect to your spirituality and something deeper than just yourself.
Excessive: a feeling of disconnect from the material world
Deficient: lacking in faith or spirituality
How to balance: Learn to embrace silence and practice meditative breathing techniques and inversions.
(Featured Photo: Edit Sztazics via Unsplash)