Odds are, if you’ve attended a yoga class, group meditation, or indulged in an hourlong reiki session, your instructor or practitioner most likely spoke about your chakras. In my yoga class, my teacher often brings up the third-eye chakra, located between the brows, saying it’s responsible for human intuition and the inner light within us. But what are chakras, really?
Literally speaking, the word “chakra” from Sanskrit translates to “wheel” or “disk,” but references a spiritual energy center within the human body, of which there are seven along the spine,and through the neck and the crown of your head, according to the Chopra Center.
And if you think that chakras are just a part of all things woo-woo today, think again: “The chakra system originated in India between 1500 and 500 BC in the oldest text called the Vedas,” says Fern Olivia, a reiki healer and yoga instructor, says. The Vedas are the earliest Sanskrit literary records and the most ancient scriptures of Hinduism. As for the purpose of the seven chakras? “They each correspond to specific organs as well as physical, emotional, psychological, emotional, and spiritual states of being and influence all areas of your life,” says Olivia. “Within these chakras is ‘prana,’ or the ultimate pure healing energy, that’s all around us and within us, to keep us healthy, happy and vibrant.”
While there isn’t much Western scientific evidence that translates spiritual energy into physical manifestations, the study of the seven chakras and chakra alignment—whether it be through meditation, reiki, or yoga—is rooted in the belief is that “when the chakras are open and aligned, our energy is constantly free-flowing, allowing prana to flow through them,” says Olivia. But before you can dive deep into each chakra, you need to know the basics first.
Here’s your top-line guide to the beliefs surrounding the 7 chakras—and the symptoms you may feel if they’re blocked.
The root chakra
What it is: Think about your root chakra (AKA first chakra) as the foundation of a house, except for your body—it’s sturdy, stabilizing, and supportive, keeping everything safely connected as long as it’s functioning properly. It’s associated with the base of the spine, the pelvic floor, and the first three vertebrae, and responsible for an individual’s sense of security and survival, says Olivia. Because of that, it’s also connected to whatever you use to ground yourself, including basic needs such as food, water, shelter, and safety, as well as your more emotional needs such as letting go of fear and feeling safe. As you well know, when these needs are met, you tend to worry less.
When it’s blocked: A variety of ailments can occur from blockages, including anxiety disorders, fears, or nightmares, adherents say. Physically, the first chakra is associated with problems in the colon, with the bladder, with elimination, or with lower back, leg, or feet issues.