In Hinduism and its spiritual systems of yoga and in some related eastern cultures, as well as in some segments of the New Age movement -- and to some degree the distinctly different New Thought movement - a chakra is thought to be an energy node in the human body.
The word comes from the Sanskrit "cakra" meaning "wheel, circle", and sometimes also referring to the "wheel of life". The pronunciation of this word can be approximated in English by 'chuhkruh', with ch as in chart and both instances - the commonly found pronunciation 'shockrah' is incorrect.
The seven main chakras are described as being aligned in an ascending column from the base of the spine to the top of the head. Each chakra is associated with a certain color, multiple specific functions, an aspect of consciousness, a classical element, and other distinguishing characteristics. The chakras are thought to vitalise the physical body and to be associated with interactions of both a physical and mental nature. They are considered loci of life energy, or prana, which is thought to flow among them along pathways called nadis.
In Mysticism, a Nadi (plural: Nadis) is an energy channel in which prana energy flows and may connect chakras. It is not accepted by mainstream science. The main nadis include Shushumna, Ida and Pingala.
Nadis are thought to carry a life force energy known as prana in Sanskrit, or qi in Chinese-based systems. They are also said to have an extrasensory function, playing a part in empathic and instinctive responses.Nadis are sometimes viewed as extending only to the skin of the body, but are often thought to extend to the boundary of the aura.
The Ida and Pingala nadis are often seen as referring to the two hemispheres of the brain. Pingala is the extroverted, solar nadi, and corresponds to the left hand side of the brain. Ida is the introverted, lunar nadi, and refers to the right hand side of the brain.
The two nadis are stimulated through the practice of pranayama, which involves alternate breathing through left and right nostrils, which would alternately stimulate the left and right sides of the brain.The word nadi comes from the Sanskrit root nad meaning "channel", "stream", or "flow".
Traditional Chinese medicine also relies on a similar model of the human body as an energy system.
The New Age movement has led to an increased interest in the West regarding chakras. Many in this movement point to a correspondence between the position and role of the Chakras, and those of the glands in the endocrine system. Some people in New Age also claim that other chakras, besides the above, exist - for instance, ear chakras.
The chakras are described in the tantric texts the Sat-Cakra-Nirupana, and the Padaka-Pancaka, in which they are described as emanations of consciousness from Brahman, an energy which comes down from the spiritual and gradually crudifies, creating these distinct levels of chakras, and which eventually finds its rest in the Muladhara chakra.
Muladhara is positioned close to anus, at the perineum, and it has four petals which match the vrittis of greatest joy, natural pleasure, delight in controlling passion, and blissfulness in concentration.
In Samkhya philosophy, the concept of Muladhara is that of moola prakriti, the metaphysical basis of material existence. Muladhara is the chakra that draws down spritual energy and causes it to assume a physical existence. It is like the negative pole in an electrical circuit, which provides the potential for the evolution of form.
Within this chakra resides sleeps the kundalini shakti, the great spiritual potential, waiting to be aroused and brought back up to the source from which it originated, Brahman.
Muladhara is the base from which the 3 main psychic channels, nadis, ida, pingala and sushumna, emerge.It is related to the physical processes of reproduction and excretion, and also to the various fear and guilt complexes associated with them. All a person's Samskaras ( potential karma ), are expressed here, in a physical form.
This chakra is associated with the deities Indra, Brahma and Dakini, the element Earth and the color red.
They are therefore part of an emanationist theory, like that of the kabbalah in the west, or neo-platonism. The energy that was unleashed in creation, called the Kundalini, lies coiled and sleeping, and it is the purpose of a tantric yogi to arouse this energy, and cause it to rise back up through the increasingly subtler chakras, until union with god is achieved in the Sahasrara chakra at the crown of the head.
Sahasrara is positioned above the head or at the top of it and it has 1000 petals which are arranged in 20 layers each of them with 50 petals. For a discussion about the petal count see also petal (chakra)Often referred as thousand-petaled lotus, it is said to be the most subtle chakra in the system, relating to pure consciousness, and it is from this chakra that all the other chakras emanate. When a yogi is able to raise his or her kundalini, energy of consciousness, up to this point, the state of samadhi, or union with god, is experienced.
Apart from this primary text from India, different western authors have tried to describe the chakras, most notably the Theosophists. Many new age writers, such as the Danish author and musician Peter Kjaerulff in his book, The Ringbearers Diary, or Anodea Judith in her book Wheels of Life, have written their opinions about the chakras in great detail, including the reasons for their appearance and their functions.
The seven chakras are said by some to reflect how the unified consciousness of man (the immortal human being or the soul), is divided to manage different aspects of earthly life (body/instinct/vital energy/deeper emotions/communication/having an overview of life/contact to God). The chakras are placed at differing levels of spiritual subtletly, with Sahasrara at the top being concerned with pure consciousness, and Muladhara at the bottom being concerned with matter, which is seen simply as crudified consciousness.