Chi is for Chakra
“Aang, tell me everything you know about Chakras.”
“What are Chakras?” ~ Avatar: The Last Airbender
I don’t have very much faith in the human race as a whole, but every once in a while, someone comes along that really proves they know something about what’s truly going on in this world. I would have to say that the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender are one such group of people.
For instance, I learned more about chakras from watching the episode The Guru than I had from any other source. I think a lot of it had to do with the way in which it was presented, between use of simpler language, visual examples, and their ties with the four elements.
After watching that episode, I became more acutely aware of my chakras and figured out how to sense when there was a problem with one of them.
Chakras are large collections of energy within the body. They are a part of the energy layer. Where chi is like blood and meridians like blood vessels, chakras would be like the various organs. Indeed, the various chakras have a direct effect on the organs of the body. Clarity of the chakras means health of the body, while blockage of the chakras leads to disease, be it mental, emotional, or physical. So understanding how your chakras work is vitally important for anyone wishing to be healthy.
Most aficionados will tell you that you have seven chakras. In actual fact, you have a lot more than that; possibly well over a hundred, depending on how loosely you define the word chakra. But most people agree on at least the main seven, so we’ll start there.
“In order to enter the avatar state, you must open all the chakras.” ~ Guru Pathik
The seven main chakras follow along the spine from the coccyx at the base, all the way up to the skull. Their actual positions correspond roughly to the organs of the endocrine system, called glands. The endocrine system is an information system, much like the nervous system. The glands release chemicals through the bloodstream that then attach to our cells and cause the cells to execute all the various functions of the body, such as growth, sleep, emotion, metabolism, etc.
In TCM, doctors are often able to diagnose energetic symptoms before physical symptoms become apparent. The soul will use the chakras as a medium to communicate its desires to the endocrine system, which in turn communicate that desire to the rest of the body.
Energy flows through the chakras like electricity through a circuit board or water through a river. If there is a blockage or resistance at any point along the way, it will disrupt the flow of energy, which will impede upon the desires of the soul being carried out. These blockages are created and removed by various emotions held in our mind.
“Each pool of energy has a purpose and can be blocked by a specific kind of emotional muck.” ~ Guru Pathik
The chakras go by various names and have different properties, but the basic understanding is as follows:
- Muladhara – The Base Chakra, also called the Root Chakra or the Earth Chakra. It’s located at the base of the spine, at the tip of the coccyx (tailbone) near the perinium. It is responsible for survival and blocked by fear. Its element is earth and its color is red.
- Svadhisthana – The Sacral Chakra, also called the Sexual Chakra or the Water Chakra. It’s located between the sacrum and the L5 vertebrae (lower back). It is responsible for pleasure and is blocked by guilt. Its element is water and its color is orange. Its corresponding endocrine gland is the sex organs (naturally).
- Manipura – The Solar Plexus Chakra, also called the Stomach Chakra or the Fire Chakra. It’s located between the L1 and T12 vertebra. It is responsible for willpower and is blocked by shame. Its element is fire and its color is yellow. Its corresponding endocrine gland is the adrenal gland (as in adrenaline). Interestingly, it is also referred to as the Sea of Chi, presumably because it is a very large pool of energy. The use of the word “solar” in solar plexus is not accidental, since the sun is the largest source of firey energy in the solar system.
- Anahata – The Heart Chakra, also called the Air Chakra. It’s located between the T6 and T7 vertebra, about where the heart is. It is responsible for love and is blocked by grief. Its element is air and its color is green. Its corresponding endocrine gland is the thymus gland. Interestingly, the ancient Egyptians believed the heart is where the soul of the body was housed, not unlike the spark in Transformers.
- Visshuda – The Throat Chakra, also called the Sound Chakra. It’s located between the T1 and V7 vertebra. It is responsible for truth and is blocked by lies that we tell others and ourselves. Its element is earth and its color is blue. Its corresponding endocrine gland is the thyroid gland.
- Ajna – The Brow Chakra, also called the Third-Eye Chakra or the Light Chakra. It’s located in the middle of the forehead, between the eyes. It’s responsible for intuition and oneness and is blocked by the illusion of separation. Its element is water and its color is indigo. Its corresponding endocrine gland is the pineal gland. The Ajna is perhaps the most well-known chakra. The Hindu bindi is a symbol of it and many pop culture references depict a literal eye there. The Ajna is your own person all-seeing eye that gives you the power of second sight and inner knowledge. It also relates to dreams and mystical experiences. An open Ajna is the defining characteristic of all Indigo Children.
- Sahasrara – The Crown Chakra, also called the Cosmic Chakra or the Thought Chakra. It’s located at the top of the skull. It’s responsible for being in the present and is blocked by attachment to the past or the future. Its element is aether and its color is violet. Its corresponding endocrine glands are the pituitary and hypothalamus glands. The crown chakra is the point of connection with the divine Allness.
These are the basic seven chakra. The lower chakras are yang chakras (male, day, sun, positive, extroverted), while the upper chakras are yin chakras (female, night, moon, negative, introverted). The heart, being in the middle, is both and neither. It is in perfect balance. Each chakra, except for the heart, is paired with its correlated chakra of equal distance from the heart. If the heart is zero, the lower chakras would be 1, 2, 3, … while the upper chakras would be -1, -2, -3, … and their properties relate accordingly.
“Born in you along with all this strife is the power to restore balance to the world.” ~ Uncle Iroh
Recall that the chakras are the mediums that your mind uses to direct the actions of your body. Depending on what physical and emotional sensations you are feeling, you can diagnose which chakra is blocked and correct it.
Case in point, if you have stomach pains, it’s a problem with your stomach chakra. If you know it’s not caused by something you ate, or getting punched there, you can ask yourself, “What am I ashamed of?” “What am I too proud to let go of?” “In what way can I be more humble?” and when you find it and correct it, you will feel a lot better.
I used to have obstructive sleep apnea until I started being more honest with myself about who I was, what my situation was, and what I wanted or needed. Soon, my throat chakra started to heal itself and I could literally feel the difference. When I entered a mindset of “I want to figure out what’s wrong here,” my thyroid would swell up as though I was choking until I finally found the problem. Once I corrected it, I would belch and the feeling in my throat would go away. Similarly, after I’d broken up with my girlfriend of four years, I felt like there was a great weight on my chest. But as I started to get through the grieving stage and move on with my life, I could literally feel that weight sink down from my chest into my stomach. Then I knew it was time to move onto shame.
Because each of the chakras is paired (except for the heart) and grouped according to yin and yang, it is possible to experience disease in multiple chakras at the same time. For instance, guilt and shame are related to one another, so you might feel lower back pain and stomach pain at the same time. Or maybe neck and stomach pain since solar plexus and throat are paired.
As I said before, you have the main seven chakras, but there are other ones besides these. Usually, these other chakras have auxiliary effects and appear at the halfway points between the main chakras, or in pairs running up and down either side. For instance, there is a pair at the knees, hips, kidneys, shoulders, ears, and temples of the head. These provide extra energy for the base, sacral, stomach, heart, throat, and brow chakras respectively.
All in all, it should be fairly straight-forward as to what these other chakras do. For instance, the ear chakras are responsible for hearing. If you have problems with your ears, it could mean that you aren’t listening to someone, and so your body is just obeying the orders of the mind and producing chemicals that induce a physical change. If your hips are sore, it’s a problem guilt. And so forth.
There is also a large chakra at the base of your feet called the Ground Chakra, which receives energy from earth. There is also one several feet above your head that discharges energy out of your body.
A river naturally flows from a source atop a mountain, moving on downhill towards some larger body of water, such as the ocean. When we look at a map, our natural inclination is to think that a river is always flowing south, because south on a map is down. However, some rivers, such as the Nile actually flow north. The energy of the body is a lot like that. It flows contrary to our expectation.
The top of the mountain is actually the bottoms of your feet where we gather energy from the earth (the phrase “being well-grounded” relates to electromagnetism). Earth is female (mother earth) and negative, while yang is male and positive. Opposites attract, so the energy flows up from the earth to the body through the yang chakras, passing into the heart. The heart, being neutral, converts the negative energy into positive energy (fear into love), which is then attracted to the negative, female yin chakras. The energy then flows through the upper chakras out the crown of the head and into the cosmos or Allness, which is a great ocean of energy.
In this way, we draw essential life force that allows us to run out bodies and interact with our world and be a source of energy for future creation.