Chakra means ‘wheel’. It is said that at the chakras, the prana or energy, that flows through form a bright, spinning wheels of lights. In a yogi, the chakras exist as vibrant shining circles, as yoga allows the practitioner to experience them more fully through the awakening and encouraging of prana flow.
Each chakra has a distinct set of characteristics and is associated with a specific part of the body. There are 7 chakras in our body.
Sahasrara, also referred to by Buddhists as the nirvana chakra, is the ‘thousand-petaled lotus’ situated at the crown of the head. The thousand petals are associated with the seed mantra OM. Sahasrara is associated with the higher mind and union with the Absolute. This crown chakra is ruled by Siva, whose symbol is placed in the middle of the lotus.
Ajna, also known as the ‘third eye’. This chakra is located in the brain and externally depicted on the forehead, midway between the eyes. It is called ‘guru chakra’. It is associated with the sense of individuality and intuition.
Vishudda, ‘pure’. Located at the throat. Visshudda chakra is associated with the element ether, the sense of hearing, the mouth, lungs, and skin. It is here at this centre that the nectar of immortality is produced.
Anahata translates to ‘unstruck’. The anahata chakra is located at the heart and is therefore called the ‘heart lotus’. It is at the heart that the transcendental sound, the vibration of the universe, is heard. This chakra is associated with the element air, the sense of touch, the heart, the lungs and the mantra yam.
Manipura means ‘jewel city’. The manipura chakra is situated at the navel and is therefore related to the abdomen, back, spleen, stomach, and digestive system. It is associated with the sense of sight, the element of fire, and the feet.
Swadhisthana translates into ‘own base’ and is located at the genitals. This chakra is associated with the hands, reproductive organs, the sense of taste and the element water. The swadhisthana chakra holds the center for creativity and sexual energy.
Muladhara means ‘root support’. This chakra is located at the perineum (between the anus and the genitals), which is also called adhara. This center is associated with the element of earth, the sense of smell, and the legs. It is here that the kundalini is coiled, which also associated with the symbol of elephant (strength).
Excerpted from Living Yoga by Christy Turlington (2002)