Ever been to a yoga class and been told to “breathe into your heart center” or ‘focus on your third eye point”? Ever thought about visiting a Reiki master or had a Shiatsu massage? All of these modalities originate from the idea that there is an energetic system of the body. The one most commonly known in the west is the chakra system. Nowadays most people have heard of chakras and what can happen if they are imbalanced or out of alignment. In anticipation of our series of soaps based on the Chakras, let's take a minute to look at what the chakra system is and where it came from.
What is it- An Oversimplified Overview
The chakra system is thought to be an electromagnetic system of the body. The word chakra means wheel in Sanskrit. Chakras are seen as spinning vortexes in the body connected by energy channels called nadi. The version we see the most in the West has seven chakras. They begin at the bottom of your spine and continue to the crown of your head. If a chakra is overactive, underactive, or blocked disease and dysfunction occur in the mind and the body. Together the chakras act like a sort of powerhouse for your aura. The idea of the body having an energetic body hails to us from the East and has gone through quite the evolution since its ancient inception.
Chakras, Where did they come from?
Chakras predate our new age yoga classes and belief systems by a lot. The first idea of chakras came out of the Hindu Upanishads as the word Chakravarti around 700 to 500 BC. Roughly translated, the Sanskrit word Chakravarti means “The king who turns the wheel of an empire”. This is like a divine ruler. Now, it is important to note that Hinduism acknowledges the dual nature of us all. We all inhabit a physical body that moves us around the world, and has blood and guts and stuff. We also have a subtle, or energetic body that governs our mental and emotional state. These two are fundamentally entwined within each other. To truly master oneself, and be the king who turns the wheel of your empire, you must master both the physical and the subtle body. This energetic, or chakra system was a way to break up and envision the subtle body so that it could be trained and ultimately mastered.
The idea of chakras being electromagnetic vortices that moves energy up and down the spine doesn’t appear till the Middle Ages in the Tantric Budhist texts. The Tantric texts also introduce the idea of Kundalini energy. The goal of Kundalini yoga is to move a snake-like energy from the base of your spine to the crown of your head. Specific movements, yoga poses, mudras, and mantras are the tools used to raise that energy. This helps you reach enlightenment. Kundalini yoga is a pretty magical practice and is something you should look into if you haven’t explored it yet.
Most Buddhist texts denote five chakras. Most Hindu texts list six to twelve chakras. If you get into all of the subtle bodies some texts list as many as 144.
The first time we really see the seven chakra system most of us today are familiar with today is in Sir John George Woodroffe’s 1919 book, The Serpent Power. Sir John George Woodroffe was a British Orientalist. The Serpent Power is his philosophical commentary and translation of Hindu texts. This book was really the first taste the Western world received of Kundalini yoga. Yogi Bhajan didn’t officially bring it to the west until fifty years later in 1969. Remember, during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s when this book was written, all things Eastern were very fashionable. This was also around the time people in the west became obsessed with Egyptology. All of this philosophy, language, and religion was new to the west.
Not only has the idea of an energetic system to the body been around for a very long time, many different cultures recognize similar systems in the body. Many of these systems evolved independently of each other. Qigong is a practice from China that utilizes meditation, movement, and breath work to move Chi throughout the body. Shiatsu, a massage modality that aims to move energy along channels called meridians, comes to us from Japan. Egypt, India, Native America and China all have different modalities of reflexology, which is another technique that focuses on moving energy throughout the body.
What are the Seven Chakras
While we will not be delving into each chakra in depth quite yet here is a brief overview of the seven chakras. Keep an eye out for future articles highlighting each one. The goal is one new chakra each month. November will launch everything officially with the root chakra.
Root Chakra- Muladhara
Location- Base of the Spine
Function- Sense of security and safety, grounding, connection to our ancestors, physical safety
Imbalance- Feelings of anxiety, anger, fear, financial insecurity, lack of energy, experiencing narrow, or negative thinking.
Sacral Chakra- Svadhisthana
Location- Below the belly button
Function- This houses our sexual and creative energy, enjoyment of life
Imbalance- Loss of creativity, sexual frigidity, difficulty expressing emotions
Solar Plexus Chakra- Manipura
Function- Sense of self, will, self esteem, purpose, identity, personal will
Imbalance- Controlling or aggressive behavior, stagnation, lack of direction, neediness
Heart Chakra- Anahata
Function- Self love and love for others, peace, joy, compassion. This is the halfway point, and connects our more physical chakras with our more ethereal chakras.
Imbalance- Loneliness, isolation, distrust in others and self, jealousy, antisocial behavior, codependency
Throat Chakra- Vishuddha
Location- Base of the throat
Function- Communication, self expression, inspiration
Imbalance- Difficulty with verbal self expression, prolific use of negative words and actions, fear of public speaking, or rambling, and needing the last word.
Third Eye Chakra- Ajna
Location- Forehead, in between your eyebrows
Function- Intuition, higher knowledge
Imbalance- Closed mindedness, feeling lost, mental fogginess, over fantasizing
Crown Chakra- Sahasrara
Location- Crown of the head, and some believe just above the head
Function- Lack of ego, presence, Bliss,
Imbalance- Lack of focus, over spiritualization, confusion, lack of worldly connection, spiritual cynicism
Causes of Imbalance
What causes chakras to become imbalanced? Basically life can mess up the chakras,specifically unhealed life. Trauma, either physical or emotional, can cause a chakra to be out of balance. Sickness in the mind or body can be another blocker of free flowing energy in the body. Cultural conditioning is another reason chakras can be imbalanced. Why focus on keeping something healthy if your culture doesn’t think it exists? So now that we know anything and everything can cause imbalance or blockage in a chakra what do we do about it?
What to do if a Chakra is Imbalanced
There are many ways to get energy moving through the chakras. Movement is one of the big ways to get things flowing. Move the part of the body that chakra is located in. Tai Chi, yoga, or even dance therapy can be very effective at unblocking chakras. Meditation, along with mudras( hand positions,) and pranayama (breath work) are a powerful combination for balancing the system. Color therapy is one of the most popular ways to get into balance again. You can wear clothes or surround yourself with the color associated with a chakra, eat foods. There are also certain herbs that vibe with the frequency of each chakra. Each plant has its own frequency of energy. The right plants can bring chakras into balance and harmony again. This is a very simplified overview on things we can do to bring us back into balance. In the articles that will highlight each chakra on their own I will give specific advice on how to help that specific chakra.
There have been no conclusive scientific studies that validate any subtle body system. The fact that they have endured the test of time says a lot. Whether you believe that this is a map to help us master our mental, emotional, and spiritual state, or that there are electromagnetic powerhouses in your body, the result is pretty much the same. Any tool that can lead us to be more fulfilled, compassionate, intuitive, secure and happy people is a worthwhile tool to have. The trend I have noticed with things of this nature is that our technology just hasn’t gotten there yet. My best guess is that, just like anything considered woo-woo or supernatural, science will discover something that proves its legitimacy. The idea of an energetic system of the body is just too prevalent across cultures and time to be nonsense.
I’m so excited to come out with new soaps. Each one will be designed to bring the energy embodied by each chakra into balance. I still uphold the promise to never use anything synthetic or harmful, so none of these will be candy colored bars of soap.
I cannot wait to see how they all come out. Launching seven new soaps is a rather . . . large undertaking. There will be one new chakra coming out each month beginning in November 2021. Get ready to get grounded next month with the first soap to come out in the series, Muladhara, the root chakra. Just so you know, the root chakra soap is done, and it is a divine earthy, grounding bar of deliciousness. If the rest come out half as good as this one I will be ecstatic