I have a joke for you. What is colorless, shapeless, and a significant part of you that you cannot see? Go ahead and guess. I’ll wait. Waiting….
Okay, give up? Here goes.
Funny, right? No? Darn.
What are the chakras?
Actually, many of you may find my joke quite confusing. After all, the word chakra means “disk” or “wheel” because of its shape, correct? And each of the seven major chakras are associated with a color, aren’t they?
Well, yes and no. The chakras cannot be seen. We actually do not know what they look like. We don’t know if they have shapes and colors. More than likely, yogis of old named the chakras as such not because of they way they looked but because of the way they moved. We may not be able to see chakras, but their movement can be detected. Tools such as a pendulum were used then, and are still used today, to detect the disk-like spinning of the chakras.
The chakra’s function is similar to old floppy disks or CD-ROMs. They record and contain information about our minds, bodies, and spirits based on input received through our karma and current life experiences.
The color of a chakra.
Colors are also associated with the chakras. The colors we associate with the chakras are called correspondences. The word correspondences in this context means something that is similar or connected to something else. Correspondences are often used in spiritual practices. They are physical manifestations of metaphysical ideas, concepts, and realities.
Here is an example. Muladhara is the name of the first, or root, chakra. Its color correspondence is red. It may (or may not!) actually be the color red, but it has qualities associated with the color red. Information about our tribe, birth family, and survival needs is stored in this chakra. Of all the colors on the traditional scale (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and purple), red has the lowest frequency. It is the most basic. It is also the color of blood, which connects us to family, tribe, and life itself. It is no wonder that red is the color we associate with Muladhara!
Correspondences are often used as ways to balance the chakras. While this may be a helpful practice, it is important for us to keep in mind that our chakra’s correspondences are physical remedies for psycho-spiritual maladies. Like a band-aid placed over a wound, they may be helpful addressing symptoms, but their function is not to heal. Truly healing our chakra system requires spiritual solutions, such as yoga, prayer, meditation, and devotion to something greater than ourselves.
Minding our own chakras.
When all seven of the chakras open at once, the person is said to be having a Kundalini awakening. While this is not the goal of yoga, nor of spiritual practice in general, it may be a result. However, when someone tells us that one of our chakras is weak, closed, deficient, or out of balance, we would do well to take what they have to say with a very large grain of salt. I don’t know many people who have mastered living their lives with all seven of their major chakras open (as in, none). I imagine there are fewer still who are also equipped to diagnose other people’s chakras. You are the authority of your own chakra system.
As a yoga teacher and as a teacher working with new yoga teachers, I have noticed that the chakra system is one of the aspects of yoga people most love to study! Whether we are familiar with the chakra system or whether it is completely new to us, studying the chakras is a lot of fun and incredibly relevant. By studying the chakra system, we learn more about ourselves.
Here are some common chakra correspondences, as well as some that are lesser known.
In order, these are the names of the chakras, its bija mantra, element, planet, gemstone, type of music, musical note, type of food, essential oil, yoga pose, and a mantra. Enjoy!
First Chakra: Muladhara, Lam, earth, Saturn, red jasper, drums, C, protein, patchouli if excessive, nutmeg if deficient, mountain pose, I have a right to be here.
Second Chakra: Svadhisthana, Vam, water, Jupiter, carnelian, brass, D, liquids, cardamom if deficient, ylang ylang if excessive, hip openers, I trust my feelings.
Third Chakra: Manipura, Ram, fire, Mars, citrine, saxophone, E, complex carbohydrates, deficiency eucalyptus, excess vetiver, plank, I am strong and confident.
Fourth Chakra: Anahata, Yam, air, emerald, Venus, strings, F, vegetables, deficiency rose, excess lavender, heart openers, I love myself unconditionally.
Fifth Chakra: Vishuddha, Ham, sound, sapphire, Mercury, wind, G, fruit, deficiency lemon, excess chamomile, shoulder stand, I communicate clearly and effectively.
Sixth Chakra: Ajna, Om, light, amethyst, Sun and Moon, crystal bowls, A, deficiency rosemary, excess German chamomile, twists, I tap into my inner wisdom.
Seventh Chakra: Sahasrara, Om, thought, quartz, no planets, voice, B, deficiency and excess frankincense, savasana, I am consciously living my divine purpose.
Frawley, David. Ayurvedic Astrology. Twin Lakes, Lotus Press, 2005.
Judith, Anodea. Eastern Body, Western Mind. New York, Celestial Arts, 2004.