When I had my perimenopause nightmare, I felt sleepless, achy, moody, anxious, overweight, and overcome with headaches and brain fog. At the height of my symptoms, I was lucky enough to find a doctor trained in both Eastern and Western practices who introduced me to ayurveda, the 3,000 year-old Indian medical system designed to bring the body into balance. It explains that total wellness requires us to address the mind and body to get to the root causes of illness.
I heard that very same message again later when I attended a lecture by Deepak Chopra. He added that there are, in fact, many types of wellness, including financial, spiritual, communal, and emotional.
Valencia Porter, M.D., MPH, FACN, director of integrative medicine at the Chopra Center, told me, "When standard treatments don’t work, it’s time to look deeper, for underlying problems, such as inflammation, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, toxicity—or emotional turmoil."
What do chakras have to do with it?
Chakra is a Sanskrit word literally translating to "wheel." In this case, an "energy wheel." There are seven of them from the base of the spine to the top of the head, each one associated with a hormone-producing organ.
Another ancient medical system, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), teaches that our emotions also directly relate to the body’s organs. "In Chinese medicine, we call the energy of the heart center 'shen' and that shen, also called mind, influences the entire body," Chinese medicine practitioner Charmaine Oakley explained to me. "The health of the person depends on clear and unobstructed communication between strong and stable lower centers (the first, second, and third chakras) and upper centers of shen."
Dr. Porter gave me a great example of how the chakras can govern the mind-body connection and serve as clues for diagnosis. A patient once came to her with chronic and debilitating neck and upper back pain that did not respond to conventional treatment. The neck is associated with the throat chakra, the center of communication, and Dr. Porter discovered that three years prior, around the time the neck pain started, the patient’s mother-in-law had moved in. Since then, she felt unheard and that her opinions were unimportant.
"As she told me the story, she looked at me, stating that the neck pain was suddenly gone. Discovering the root cause, which in this case was an emotional issue, helped to resolve the physical problem and deal with the real pain in her neck," she said.
How each chakra affects the body:
Take a look at the following primer on chakras and see if any of these blockages sound familiar.
1. Root (Muladhara).
What it governs: knees, ankles, feet, hips.
If it’s blocked: exhaustion, change in appetite, brain fog, financial stress, anxiousness, nervousness.
Hormone-producing organ: adrenal glands.
2. Sacral (Svadhistana).
What it governs: lower back, large intestine, sex organs, bladder.
If it’s blocked: constipation, lower back pain, urinary and kidney infections, cysts, infertility, abnormal menstruation, emotional challenges.
Hormone-producing organ: ovaries and testes.
3. Solar Plexus (Manipura).
What it governs: liver, gallbladder, spleen, kidneys, and small intestine.
If it’s blocked: diabetes, pancreatitis, reflux, weight issues, ulcers, anger.
Hormone-producing organ: pancreas.
4. Heart (Anihata).
What it governs: heart, lungs, arms, chest, breasts, upper back, shoulders, ribs.
If it’s blocked: lung problems, asthma, poor circulation, digestive problems, low energy, jealousy, inability to forgive.
Hormone-producing organ: thymus.
What it looks like in practice: When someone close to me died, deep grief came with physical symptoms such as sharp chest pains. Everything was clear medically, so I drew from my ayurvedic experience and worked on life balance. At another Deepak Chopra lecture, I listened as he ended the session with a guided meditation and asked, "When was the last time you felt joy and peace?" Visions appeared and I cried for hours. The pain was entirely gone the next morning.
5. Throat (Vishudha).
What it governs: throat, neck, jaws, teeth, shoulders, ears, mouth.
If it’s blocked: chronic sore throats, dental problems, neck pain.
Hormone-producing organ: thyroid.
6. Third Eye (Ajna).
What it governs: eyes, head, brain, nose, sinuses, brow, forehead.
If it’s blocked: headaches, poor memory, moodiness, fatigue, excessive talking.
Hormone-producing organ: pituitary gland.
7. Crown (Sahasrara).
What it governs: head.
If it’s blocked: migraines, mental problems, depression, anxiety.
Hormone-producing organ: pineal gland.
If physical ailments make you think that one of your chakras is blocked, the first thing you need to do is get a medical evaluation to rule out underlying problems. Then, begin to ask yourself questions that relate to that chakra. For example, if you’re addressing your root chakra, these would look like: "What was going on in my life when these symptoms started?" "Am I worried about finances?"
There are plenty of ways to begin healing chakra balances, but my favorites include meditation, affirmations, and self-care exercises like aromatherapy.
What are the subtle messages your body is telling you? Listen to them and you just might start enjoying complete wellness.