Chakras are energy centres in the body, each likened to a spinning wheel of light, which can become blocked due to trauma, or the chronic manifestation of unhelpful habits built up over the years. During midlife we must come to terms with changes in our body and mind if we are to enjoy a happy, healthy journey to old age. But we are not just our physical body…
According to the yogic scriptures the body has three parts:
- Physical body
- Subtle/astral body
- Causal/soul body
What is the subtle body?
The subtle body is the energetic body through which life force, known in the east as ‘prana’ or ‘chi,’ moves through the subtle body in energy channels called nadis. There are said to be 72,000 nadis running through the body, not unlike the nerve endings found in the nervous system of the physical body. The central channel, sushumna, is found in the spinal cord, with two secondary nadis either side called Ida & Pingala. Prana pulses through the sushumna canal, radiating out through the nadis in the subtle body.
“Not only is the Earth a great magnet, our whole living basis depends upon what we call Prana or Life Force, which includes, but is not limited to the electromagnetism within our own bodies.”Howard Kent, The Complete Illustrated Guide to Yoga
Energy is electric that produces currents that form around us as an electric field. This electric field affects us within as well as those around us. Yoga physiology recognises that we are also part of a biofield, which includes other energy such as etheric or cosmic energy. Prana is vital energy carried in the sun, air, and water, and according to yogic thought, is the motivating force of all living matter. It is understood that when prana enters the body we become bio-electrical beings, infused with light or cosmic energy which emits from our subtle body. We see it in people who seem to glow, emanating a positive energy, full of vitality.
Influence of the breath in the subtle body
The body is an electro-dynamic organism that is sensitive to environmental, emotional, and mental conditions. Remember that prana mainly enters a person through the air we breathe. The physiological breathing pattern can be transformed in the short term due to certain stresses. Which, if left overtime can create energetic blockages through the loss of ability to breathe naturally. Just as a rusty chain on a bicycle will impact its effectiveness, trapped energy impacts our overall wellbeing. Expenditure of the emotions, tension and stress all use up large amounts of Prana. The aging body is less able to shrug off the effects of blocked energy and mass expenditure of prana. In menopause the body is undergoing so much stress with changing hormone levels, so it is in our interest to find ways to ease stress.
In learning to temper the emotions and relax through pranayama (breathing practices), pranic (vital) energy can be used more constructively. Simple regulation of breath through the nostrils encourages awareness of the flow of prana. In learning to breathe correctly, Prana can be distributed evenly through the nadis around the subtle body, and the breath can directly affect the flow of life force in the body when consciously acknowledged.
What is the function of the Chakras?
The chakras are energy storehouses in the body. Translating from Sanskrit to mean wheel, they are likened to wheels of the mind responsible for establishing emotional, spiritual, and physical balance in the body. There are said to be 114 chakras around the subtle body with seven principal chakras that align with nerve plexuses in the spinal cord starting at the base of the spine and moving up to the top of the head. They are responsible for specific energetic qualities. Each chakra links to one of the gland organs in the endocrine system of the body, with the first five also connecting to the five senses and elements.
Prana is stored in the chakras, emanating light, and revolving in accordance with the laws of electromagnetism. Modern investigation has confirmed that the light coming off these chakras changes according to the health of a person. Chakras are integral to the free flow of energy, and in the subtle/astral body have their own pranic directional force of energy.
Like a house, strong foundations are as vital as the design and finer features. In the same way, each chakra is valid and relevant to the overall functioning of the body. The lower chakras affect our relation to the material world and our quest within in this world, whereas the upper chakras relate to our spiritual self. For a healthy body and mind, we need all chakras to be clear of any blockages.
Why chakras are important for overall health
“All are parts of the whole and the whole is embodied in all its parts”Lyall Watson, The Gift of Unknown Things
Each living thing is a world in microcosm, and each cell in a body is in a state of vibration, which can affect the space around it. This means that all biological systems are in constant communication through energy pulses and vibrations. So too, the three bodies discussed earlier are inter-linked.
The endocrine system mediates between the physical body and the subtle body and is controlled by the nervous system. It receives information from the sympathetic and vagus nerves which secrete hormones directly into the blood from the glands according to emotional impulses from the brain. Together the endocrine and nervous systems help the body maintain homeostasis and influence metabolism, growth, and the reproductive cycle.
When either one or the other is disturbed, there will be a reactional response in the corresponding body. If you experience a severe shock or tragedy in life the hormonal activity is increased to help the mind recover from the shock. The secretions will be in excess, and if left unattended, can lead to pathological conditions in the body.
Yoga aims to restore or maintain correct levels of internal secretions and strengthen the various glands in the endocrine system. Yoga also helps to bring the emotions under control through concentration and relaxation, so that physical conditions created by extreme emotional reactions can be minimised. e.g., high blood pressure can be a result of excess secretions of adrenalin from the adrenal gland. This hormone connects to the root chakra, muladhara, which responds to fear, anger or passion resulting directly in a faster heartbeat. Through pranayama a yogi will activate the parasympathetic nervous system and relaxation response to calm the body responses.
“One can think of the chakras and glands as electrical transformers which will deliver maximum power if they are balanced with respect to each other”Jeffery Mishlove, The Roots of Consciousness
Since the physical and subtle bodies are so intricately linked, the vibrations created through asana (posture), combined with the directed control of prana in the breath will have a beneficial effect on the body in its entirety. Balancing the chakras benefits the central nervous and endocrine systems. Thus, yoga brings truth to the maxim; a healthy mind equals a healthy body.
How do you balance your chakras?
Yoga is the path of balance, a way of establishing mental and physical balance within the body. Chakra balancing can restore equilibrium in the subtle body, which positively impacts the physical body.
“Disease occurs when one’s balance is upset. Even hour by hour mood is affected by small fluctuations in the equilibrium.”Sherwin B. Nuland, The Mysteries Within
A variety of factors can upset our balance including climate, genetic inheritance, diet and more increasingly stress. This suggests that much ill health arises from a cause/effect relationship and that the body’s equilibrium is not just affected by the physicality of the body. Blocked movement of energy can affect the state of equilibrium within the body. The ancient yoga practices are designed to rectify blockages that can occur in the body to enable a free flow of energy.
Traditional schools of yoga such as Sivananda Yoga have organised a system of practice that connects with the chakras within the subtle body through postures and breathwork to stimulate energy and clear any blockages within the body. Reiki is another way of clearing and balancing the energy in the chakras that does not require the recipient to have knowledge or heightened level of conscious awareness about the chakras. The Reiki Practitioner connects with each chakra to release negative mental imprints so that energy can flow more easily, whilst channeling prana to the chakras to restore life force and equilibrium. This work can be profoundly liberating. However, a negative imprint may have been stored for years, and in releasing may be hard to contain. Therefore, it is advised to proceed with caution and only with a teacher in whom you trust and have confidence.
Why midlife is a crucial time to clear and rebalance your chakras
By age fifty the seven principal chakras have been fully activated, which means there is potential to self-actualise. To realise your higher purpose in life and manifest this in the material world. When most of our basic needs are met, midlife can be a time of profound transformational growth given the right guidance and support.
In midlife we reach a crossroads.
To pursue a life of convenience and pleasure will only bring suffering as it is no longer possible to hold such levels of mental and physical levels of toxicity in our bodies. Adapting to the changes in our physical body by leading a healthier lifestyle, devoting time to self-care, and healing past traumas, develops a strong and resistant mind body. Clearing the energetic body of blockages restores the physical body with vitality. And feeling renewed, can lead us into an empowered future full of opportunity and possibility.
Ceri Lee is a Yoga Elder with over 18,000 hours yoga teaching experience. She is adept in working with both the physical and energetic body, and offers Reiki, teaches studio workshops in Menopause Yoga, classes in Sivananda Yoga, along with online classes and collections including Harnessing the Breath & Seven Phases to Clear the Chakras.