According to Hindu, Buddhist and many other spiritual traditions, the human body consists not only of the physical self, but also of a network of subtle energies centered in various regions such as the heart, head and stomach. Although known by many names, these energy centers are most commonly called chakras, from the Hindu tradition. Alternative medicine practitioners claim that illness and emotional problems stem from blockages, or imbalances in the chakras, and that healing these blockages can improve the health of the body, mind and spirit.
Chakras are believed to be focal points for the living energy of the body, and also contact points to receive energy from the world around us. The Western model of chakras, adapted from the Hindu, includes seven of these energy centers, following the path of the human spine. Their function is to keep the body in balance, allowing energies to flow freely and maintain a healthful balance among body, mind and spirit as well as a connection to the divine force in the universe.
The chakras can become blocked, keeping energy from flowing easily. These blocks arise from experiences such as illness, trauma, and difficult life events, and can lead to diseases and emotional problems. Each chakra is associated with a particular energy system, and also has correspondences with colors, symbols and mantras. Although several models for mapping the body’s energy centers exist, the most common model familiar to Western alternative medicine include:
The Root Chakra, located at the base of the spine. Associated with the color red, this chakra relates to the gonads and adrenal system and is related to “primitive” energies such as sexuality, survival, security and instinct. In most people, kundalini energy, a powerful, instinctual energy of desire and power, lies dormant in this chakra, ready to be awakened by a number of spiritual practices. Imbalance in the root chakra leads to fatigue, lower back pain, depression and cold hands and feet.
The Sacral Chakra rests just below the navel. Also called the spleen chakra, this energy center is associated with the adrenals and genitals, and connects to feelings, emotions and intimacy. Its color is orange, and blockage in this chakra lead to physical problems such as asthma, allergies, and urinary and sexual difficulties.
In the middle of the stomach, the Solar Plexus Chakra is linked to personal power and self-control. Associated with the color yellow, this chakra relates to the ego and identity. Blockages here can cause digestive problems, constipation and metabolic imbalances, as well as nervousness and memory problems.
The best known of the chakras, the Heart Chakra rests in the center of the chest. Related to relationships, love and compassion, this chakra’s color is green. Health problems stemming from imbalances in this chakra include heart and breathing problems, high blood pressure, immune system diseases and breast cancer.
At the base of the throat, the Throat Chakra is associated with the color blue. This chakra represents expression and speech, and the ability to trust and be open. Blockages in the throat chakra can lead to health issues such as thyroid problems, mouth, jaw and neck disorders and swollen glands.
In the center of the forehead, the Brow or Third Eye Chakra represents intuition and the ability to see, both physically and metaphorically. Linked to the color indigo, the third eye chakra’s imbalances are reflected in problems with coordination, sleep disorders, learning disabilities and difficulty concentrating.
Finally, the Crown Chakra at the top of the head is represented by violet or white. This chakra is associated with knowing, spirituality, divine consciousness and connectedness to the universe. Blockages in the crown chakra manifest in health problems such as headaches, right/left brain disorders and blood vessel problems.
The goal of chakra healing is to remove the causes of the blockage and restore the healthy flow of energy to the body and spirit. A number of alternative healing practices such as meditation, visualization, energy healing, aromatherapy and chromotherapy (color therapy) are believed to help balance the chakras and improve physical and emotional health.
Meditating on the chakras and visualizing them in a healthy state can restore chakras to balance. Alternative practitioners point out that meditation and visualization work with the energies of the body and the chakras themselves to clear blockages. These practices can be accompanied by mantras or affirmations directed toward health.
Energy healing modalities such as Reiki and even massage techniques can directly address the energy flowing through the chakras. Reiki healing uses energy to identify which chakras are blocked and direct healing to those areas, while massage focuses both touch and energy on the chakra’s physical location in the body,
Because each chakra is associated with a color, aromatherapy and chromotherapy can also be used to heal imbalances. Wearing the color associated with a chakra can heal it, as can a gemstone in that color. For example, to heal the crown chakra, a person might wear violet clothing or an amethyst ring. Likewise, aromatherapy oils associated with chakra colors can speed healing. Alternative healers point out that even foods with a particular chakra’s color can have a healing effect, such as red foods to heal the root chakra.
Although the notion of chakra healing has been largely dismissed by mainstream Western medicine, the concept of a life energy that connects the individual to a universal energy has been a part of human spiritual thought for centuries. Chakra healing draws on these traditions to restore balance to body, mind and spirit.