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What Does the Word Chakra Really Mean? Part 1

Introduction - A Little History

Complete Yoga Breath
with Sound!

Chakra Intro Pages

Click Chakra images below to learn about each one individually.

First, Root Chakra
1st Chakra

Second, Sacral Chakra
2nd Chakra

Third, Navel Chakra
3rd Chakra

Fourth, Heart Chakra
4th Chakra

Fifth, Throat Chakra
5th Chakra

Sixth, Third-Eye Chakra
6th Chakra

Seventh, Eye of God Crown Chakra.
7th Chakra
DNA The Double Helix and Chakras Left: Turned sideways, the Double Helix—DNA—looks exactly like the inner workings of the Chakra system. Seeing this image rotated might help you to visualize the sushumna together with the ida and pingala (details are given later on this page). This is the foundation of the Chakras. Just imagine a spine (a hollow tube) going straight through these spirals. And imagine that the horizontal lines are like musical notes to play upon. Yes, there is a rhythm to everything, and even Chakras have their own rhythm of energy waves. You will learn about this throughout this series. Each Chakra has its own color, vibration, rhythm, sound, and much more.

“Matter is the vehicle for the manifestation of the Soul.
The Soul is the vehicle for the manifestation of the Spirit.
And Life synthesizes and pervades the Trinity formed by the three.” —Yogi Ramsuratkumar by Truman Caylor Wadlington

When I began to study Yoga in 1970 in Sweden, I was lucky to connect with a spiritual teacher who had studied and could read the ancient books in their original language—Sanskrit. You can read about Eugenia throughout the pages of this site. All of these pages are dedicated to her. She left her body in February this year (2007).

Chakra Chart illustration by Eugenia Basilewsky She drew this Chakra chart (originally in Swedish), and told me to study this and learn about the Chakra Centers. She called the sounds Chakra Seeds. I have not seen that anywhere else in my studies. I have added the colors, too. Since the Crown Chakra is all colors and depicted by many as brilliant white, I have left it white.

She sent me home with a stack of books to read the first day we met. She had a library of thousands of books (literally) in 14 different languages—all on Yoga! I went home with books by Aurobindo, Yogananda, Yukteswar, Ramacharaka, Maharshi, Besant, and so many others. Even now, I continue to read these books for my research on Chakras. To get the details about how Yoga came into my life, read My Yoga Story after you've been through this Chakra Series. There is also a link to it in the navigation menu (above left).

According to an online Encyclopedia, “the earliest known mention of Chakras is found in the later Upanishads, including specifically the Brahma Upanishad and the Yogatattva Upanishad. These vedic models were adapted in Tibetan Buddhism as Vajrayana theory, and in the Tantric Shakta theory of Chakras.” In other words—it's ancient...

The word Chakra first became part of my vocabulary when Eugenia taught me the importance of learning how to breathe consciously and slowly in my first lesson. It is unfortunate that many Yoga teachers never teach the most important aspect of Yoga. You can learn The Complete Yoga Breath on this site for free. You can even listen to how it sounds, something you cannot learn in a book. Learn how to breathe by following along with me while you sit at your desk.

Comprehensive lessons are available on YOGANATA, my Yoga dance DVD, with breathing, complete relaxation, and a manual that details the entire course step-by-step with images.

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Chakras are included in the ancient texts in Sanskrit, because the point of practicing Yoga is to begin to move the Chakras up through the body in order to become whole—to experience the unity of the body, mind and soul. Nobody can really improve on what has already been written about Chakras, so I will borrow from those who taught us and add some of my own observations along the way. By the time you are finished reading this Chakra series, and trying out some of the how-to's, you will know what you are talking about when you tell someone else about Chakras. It can be fun to teach others what you have learned, especially if it is healing.

The Yogatattva Upanishad (sloka 83-101) lists five and describes these Chakras as being interrelated with the 5 elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space. There are hundreds of Chakras, of course, but we will focus on the main chakras aligned with the physical spinal column. The 7 chakras that are usually written about stand for the development of humankind. It is also important to understand that along the spine are 3 main channels called Nadi in Sanskrit. On the left side is the negative Ida-Nadi. On the right side, the positive Pingala-Nadi, and in the centre, in the marrow of the backbone, the Sushumna-Nadi.

Our Chakras are part of a bio-energy channel system that is composed of a vertical energy axis that follows the spinal cord from the perineum (area between the genitals and rectum), up to the top and above the head. This is our central bio-energy system, very similar to our central nervous system. Again, it is called the Sushumna Nadi in Sanskrit, and it is here where the 7 energy centers, the Chakras, exist. Our Chakras represent our connection to reality and to the universe. When the Kundalini (the Root Chakra) opens and rises through this central bio-energy system, it is quite similar to a powerful physical orgasm, except that it is not only physical—it is spiritual. Because of this, it is much more powerful.

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One of the best books I have read about Chakras is The Crown of Life by Kirpal Singh. The entire book is available here online. Thank You to the person who did that (and thank you Ginger)! (Remember to bookmark this page. This site takes you off here.) He writes, “...there are in the human system as many as 350,000 nadis, and out of these, the following play an important part (not knowing where the Chakras are connected is the same as not knowing where the spinal cord is in relation to the rest of the body! Italics are mine.):

  • Susumna Nadi : This is the central nadi in between the ida and pingala nadis and it runs through the spinal column from the Root Chakra to behind and between the eyebrows. (Visualize the DNA image above, and you will begin to understand this better within you as they swirl from one side to the other.)
  • Ida Nadi: Starting from the lowest plexus (Root Chakra), on the right side of the spinal column, the Ida extends spirally around the Susumna and goes as far as the left nostril.
  • Pingala Nadi: Starting from the same chakra on the left side of the spinal column, the Pingala extends spirally as far as the right nostril. (From here they meet and spiral up in between the eyebrows (aka in Yoga as The Third Eye - the 6th Chakra.)

These three: ida, pingala and susumna nadis, are the most important. The ida and pingala nadis, before entering into the base of the nostrils, cross each other and are known as gangliated cords.

“The susumna passes through the spinal column and runs through 6 plexuses or centers.” (Known in this series as Chakras. See above right images to link to each Chakra separately.

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It is very important to understand about the Susumna first. Here is another description from Swami Sivananda to help you understand this. If we learn how to get these flowing, it will be much easier to unblock the Chakras.

“One should practice Pranayama (special breathing techniques) for the purification of Nadis. Ida flows through the left nostril and Pingala through the right nostril. Ida is also called Chandra Nadi (Moon) and Pingala as Surya Nadi (Sun). Ida is cooling and Pingala is heating. Pingala digests the food. Ida is the great nourisher of the world. Pingala is fiery red. Ida and Pingala indicate Kala (time), and Sushumna swallows time.” —Swami Sivananda

“Chakras are connected to the spinal column, and the susumna nadi passes through the hollow cylindrical cavity of the vertebral column. It is here where the Ida is on the left side and the Pingala is on the right side of the spine. The 5 areas of the spine correspond with the 5 areas of the Chakras between the neck and the tailbone, as per Sivananda (see Web site link below):

  • Cervical region (neck) 7 vertebrae = Visuddha
  • Dorsal region (back) 12 vertebrae = Anahata
  • Lumbar region (waist or loins) 5 vertebrae = Manipura
  • Sacral region (buttocks, sacrum) 5 vertebrae = Svadhisthana
  • Coccygeal region (Coccyx) 4 vertebrae = Muladhara”

If you want to read more, Swami Sivananda provides this book online for free. It's quite incredible, and I thank the Divine Life Society for this wonderful addition to the Web: Kundalini Yoga. (Again, this site takes you off of this page, so bookmark!) One of my favorite analogies of the Chakra system is from Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi's Cinema:


Lamp inside apparatus   Self
Lens in front of lamp   Pure mind close to Self
Film (a long series of separate photos)   Stream of latent tendencies consisting of subtle thoughts
Lens, light passing through
it and lamp, which together form focused light
  The Mind, illumination of it and the Self, which together form seer or the Jiva
The light passing through the lens and falling on the screen   Light of Self emerging from mind through senses, and falling on the world
Various kinds of pictures appearing in the light of the screen   Various forms and names appearing as objects perceived in the light of the world
Mechanism which sets film in motion   Divine law manifesting latent tendencies of mind

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