I first discovered yoga in my late 20’s after finding a flyer hung on a local bulletin board with a stick figure person in triangle pose. Yoga $6 and a phone number was all it said, nothing fancy or Photoshopped. The low-fi approach appealed to me, and I called the number.
Flash-forward several years, and I had moved to another state, completed a teacher training program, and started teaching a few weekly classes at two different yoga studios. I loved the practice and felt like it was a guiding force for me. What I didn’t know was that my practice, and my entire life, was about to become energized in a way I had never imagined.
One of the studios where I taught was having an event with free classes and workshops. I decided to go to a class with “chakra” in the title, not knowing what to expect. In my training so far, I had touched lightly on the chakra system, so I felt I had a basic understanding of what we would cover. Little did I know. The instructor sat quietly up front, waiting for everyone to become seated. She was smiling and she had that yoga glow, you know the one I mean, like she knew a secret that she was excited to share with us all. Once she began talking, I realized that what had seemed like a simple system was actually a doorway to a completely unique way of observing and being in the world.
She guided us through a practice where we imagined colors and energy and suddenly, the system came alive in all the layers of myself: body, mind, and spirit. In a synesthetic moment, I could feel, hear, and even smell the rainbow colors of all the chakras in my body. Up until that moment, I didn’t realize that my practice had been, in a sense, shades of gray. Who knew?
After that day, my yoga study and practice transformed into a multi-layered exploration as I learned that the chakra system can be a full-spectrum model of learning about oneself on all levels: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. These days, chakras seem to be everywhere. You can buy colorful chakra decorations for your house, essential oils, and crystals for the chakras, and even t-shirts with specific chakra symbols (I may or may not own any or all of these things).
There are seven main chakras and each has a color, image, sound, element, and other attributes. While the chakras are part of our energetic bodies, they affect all the layers of ourselves. The Sanskrit word chakra means wheel, which denotes movement. Simply put, the chakras draw in prana or life force energy, move it around the various layers and parts of the body, and send it outward.
This may seem overwhelming, and this is only the beginning. There is a lot of information out there and it’s easy to get bogged down (I’ve been there). I’ve found the best way to explore the chakras is through an embodied experience. This easy chakra balancing exercise takes about 5 minutes and you can do it anywhere and anytime. You don’t need a yoga class, teacher, or even a mat.
Alignment and breath
Begin where you are: at your desk sitting (or standing), in line at the coffee shop, at home in your pajamas.
- Find the easiest natural alignment of your spine, and imagine the top of your head floating over the tip of your tailbone.
- Bring awareness to your breath. If you like, close the eyes, or simply soften your outward gaze (we don’t want the boss thinking you’re asleep on the job!).
- Imagine as you inhale, energy flows from the tailbone upward along the spine to the top of the head.
- As you exhale, the energy flows back downward towards the tailbone.
- Take at least 3 slow breaths this way. Then we will begin to harmonize each chakra from root to crown.
Root Chakra – Muladhara:
- Connect deeply to the earth with the feet.
- Allow the hands to rest on the thighs with palms down.
- Visualize red energy emanating outward and downward from the tip of the tailbone.
- Take 3 slow breaths as you silently repeat this affirmation: I am grounded.
Sacral Chakra – Svadhistana:
- Rock the low back and belly forward and backward a few times gently.
- Bring the hands to the low belly between the navel and the pubic bone.
- Visualize orange energy emanating from the sacrum, hips, low belly.
- Take 3 slow breaths as you silently repeat this affirmation: I am present.
Solar Plexus Chakra – Manipura:
- Gently twist the spine each direction a few times.
- Bring the hands to rest at the waist.
- Visualize yellow energy emanating from the upper belly to the navel, around to the side body and mid-back.
- Take 3 slow breaths as you silently repeat this affirmation: I am centered.
Heart Chakra – Anahata:
- Roll shoulders up towards ears, back and down, in one or both directions.
- Bring the palms together at the center of the chest with the thumbs resting on the body.
- Visualize green energy at the front, sides, and back of the heart, chest and upper back.
- Take 3 slow breaths as you silently repeat this affirmation: I am balanced.
Purification Chakra – Visshudha:
- Roll the head slowly and gently in either half or full circles.
- Touch middle finger to thumb and allow hands to rest anywhere on the body.
- Visualize pale blue energy emanating from the tops of the shoulders to the ears.
- Take 3 slow breaths as you silently repeat this affirmation: I am peaceful.
Inner Eye – Ajna:
- Close your eyes (if you can) and focus at the space between the brows.
- With the palms together, bring the thumbs to inner brow where the eye meets the bridge of the nose. Let the headrest lightly on the thumbs to create gentle pressure.
- Visualize deep blue energy emanating from the forehead and around the base of the skull.
- Take 3 slow breaths as you silently repeat this affirmation: I am clear.
Crown Chakra – Sahasrara:
- Bring awareness to the top of the head and the space just above it.
- Join the tip of index finger to the thumb and rest the hands with palms up anywhere on the body.
- Visualize violet energy emanating upward from the crown of the head.
- Take 3 slow breaths as you silently repeat this affirmation: I am connected.
When you are finished, repeat the original breathing exercise again: take 3 breaths up and down the spine. Notice how you feel in the body, mind, and spirit, and go about the rest of your day (and maybe even change out of your pajamas. Or not).