In yogic thought, the body contains seven energy centers, called chakras (literally “wheels”), that store energy, or the life force, prana. Westerners would interpret the chakras as nerve centers, but they are much more than this. They are centers of psychospiritual energy that don’t precisely correspond to any tangible physical structure. While the body contains many energy centers and subenergy centers, there are seven primary chakras along the midline of the body. Different people have different names for these chakras and place them in slightly different locations, but in essence, IYO agree that these seven chakras begin at the base of the spine and continue along the spinal cord, ending in the seventh chakra at the crown of the head. Different traditions associate different things with each chakra: which body parts, emotions, and thoughts each chakra governs; which colors each chakra radiates; which areas of our personality each chakra represents. IYO like to refer to the chakras according to their associated planets, excepting the top two chakras, whose names are descriptive. Just about everybody who talks about chakras calls them something different. There are no pervasive Western names for the chakras; people name them after colors, mantra syllables, the elements, and so on. None of these naming systems are arbitrary; the chakras do indeed correspond to many different energies. We find the planet-name system to be evocative but nonesoteric—and fun!
Here are the seven chakras:
➤ Saturn chakra. Located just above the anus at the base of the spine, this involves elimination and the sense of smell. This is where the kundalini lies. When awakened through yoga, this energy travels up the spine through all the chakras.
➤ Jupiter chakra. Located on the spine near the genitals, this involves water, sexuality, passion, the creation of life, and taste.
➤ Mars chakra. Located on the spine behind the navel, this is associated with digestion or “gastric fire,” your sense of self, and your actions.
➤ Venus chakra. Located behind the heart, this is the center of your compassion and emotions.
➤ Mercury chakra. Located in the throat, this is the center for communication.
➤ Sun chakra. Located in the middle of the brow, this is also known as the third eye, or center of unclouded perception.
➤ Thousand Petaled Lotus chakra. Located at the crown of the skull, this is the center of self-realization, perspective, unity, and enlightenment. All chakras must be activated or awakened for true enlightenment, which is not an easy process. Awakening your chakras—releasing the energy that flows through your spine—can take years, perhaps lifetimes! It’s hard work to lighten up (or to achieve enlightenment).