Chakras Primer: Make Your Energy Centers Sing
As Westerners, it's important to apply a healthy degree of skepticism when considering Eastern practices, making sure we filter ideas from cultures other than our own through our own filters, rather than whole-heartedly accepting something without proper vetting.
So when one of my teachers, the lovely r.r. Shakti, asked that I take each chakra center and select a song, a chakra playlist of sorts, I hit one of these West meets East moments.
Chakra sounds kind of ooey-gooey new-agey for many Westerners. Not so much for me, as a long-time yoga and Ayurveda teacher, but as I began the process, and learned more about these mysterious energetic centers, I found that chakras, and the developmental questions they raise, share a lot of philosophy with the West. The thing is, chakras also look at spiritual development, whereas in the West, we sometimes set this aside in favor of more quantifiable variables.
To the uninitiated, talk of the chakras slaps of a kind of new-agey-ness that was better off left in the 60s with hippies seeking enlightenment via LSD. But you don’t have to imbibe mood-altering drugs to hook into the chakras.
Understanding what each of the seven chakras represent, as well as how we can assess where our strengths are, and where we need to grow can be truly empowering. So while Abraham Maslow had his five levels of development, the hierarchy of needs, Erik Erikson had his eight stages of psycho-social development and Jean Piaget had his four stages in cognitive development, Tantra works through psycho-spiritual development by way of the chakras. The concepts inherent in the chakra system are remarkably similar to Western theories, but allow for a spiritual component as well; the perspective views spiritual development as a requisite part of maturation and moving toward wholeness. So, in reality, it’s not new-agey at all. In fact, it’s a practical way of connecting with what is blocking you and keeping you from wholeness.
Here’s a brief synopsis of the chakras, followed by the music I chose to bring them to life. In the weeks to come, I’ll go into each center in more depth here on MindBodyGreen, perhaps giving you some insight as to your own development and places you may need a bit of growth.
Muladhara (Root) Chakra: Here in Muladhara, we wrestle with questions of basic survival. As a child, our parents are largely to thank for this (that is, if everything goes as it should). We’re talking food, shelter, love, development of trust–the building blocks we need to ascend to other stages of development.
Svadhisthana (Sacral) Chakra: In our second chakra, which governs the reproductive organs and is mediated by the water element, we learn creativity, fluidity and how to accept and dwell in pleasure. Sexual pleasure, yes, but also more broadly thinking, pleasure related to anything in our lives that gives us juiciness, ojas (“life sap.”)
Manipura (Solar Plexus) Chakra: Manipura, associated with the fire element, is responsible for burning up what we don’t need anymore, and creating transformation. This is also where we learn to establish boundaries, and to determine how to exert our will into the world. In Manipura, we break free of inertia and move into our most powerful selves.
Anahata (Heart) Chakra: The heart chakra is located at the space between the breasts, on the front body, and between the shoulder blades on the back body. As you might expect, here we learn to give and receive love, but a clear, non-grasping love that says to others, “I want you to be fully you.” We also find compassion at this center and the ability to empathize.
Vishuddha (Throat) Chakra: Here, we take the will acquired in Manipura and communicate it to the world, through the voice, but also through our actions. Similarly, in Visuddha, we hone the raw creativity of Svadhisthana and send it into the external, via the voice or other forms of expression. Even for people who don’t consider themselves “creative types,” harnessing the power of speech, both as a force to manifest our creative and willful desires, but also to restrict low-level conversation (think: gossip), which creates negative energetic vibrations.
Ajna (Third Eye) Chakra: Ajna is the seat of intuition. Here we learn to listen to our inner guru, the voice which, while always present, is often drowned out by the ceaseless running of the mind. As we come into presence, we can not only hone in our innate wisdom, but also see our lives and the people and events in them more clearly. As this process matures, we begin to see not all of the machinations of the mind are equally “real,” and that our version of what is real may be quite different from others’ realities. In Ajna, our imaginations are open, even while dreaming in sleep.
Sahasrara (Crown) Chakra: Finally, in Sahasrara, we reach a place of connection to the Divine. Not to say we do not experience this while dwelling in the lower chakras, but in the crown, we can access transcendent understanding. This is the place of higher understanding, meditation and true wisdom.
Thinking through each of these energetic centers, and discerning what remains unresolved in each, helps us move toward fullness. The above is a very brief primer of the chakras. Exploring one’s development via the chakra system, by yourself, or with your partner (my husband and I went through this exercise together–very powerful), can lend tremendous insight and help to unearth our assumptions, patterns of behavior and shadow-side projections. Bringing these things to awareness, we may begin to work with what needs to be healed and then let go.
Here is the playlist I developed to coincide with the chakra centers.
What is your playlist?
1–Muladhara, Rain Of Blessings, Lama Gyurme
2–Muladhara, The Long Way Around, Dixie Chicks
3–Svadhisthana, Steady Pull, Jonatha Brooke
4–Svadhisthana, Everybody Got Their Something, Nikka Costa
5–Manipura, Walk Tall, John Mellencamp
6–Manipura, Ring of Fire, Social Distortion
7–Anahata, An Draighneán Donn, Lasairfhíona
8–Anahata, Falling Slowly, Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova
9–Anahata, I’ll Cover You, Rent–Broadway Cast
10–Visuddha, 32 Flavors, Ani DiFranco
11–Visuddha, Durga Pahimam, Jai Uttal
12–Visuddha, If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out, Cat Stevens
13–Ajna, Blackbird, The Beatles
14–Ajna, Galileo, Indigo Girls
15–Ajna, Shed A Little Light, James Taylor
16–Ajna, Save Some Time to Dream, John Mellencamp
17–Sahasrara, We Are One, Angélique Kidjo
18–Sahasrara, Samhradh, Samhradh, The Chieftains
19–Sahasrara, Enter the Sacred, David & Steve Gordon