The chakras are usually described as wheels or vortices of energy, spinning with the flow of life energy (prana) through the human body. There are traditionally seven chakras which run from the base of the spine to the crown of the head.
During the early Western interest in yogic practices, scientists attempted to locate the chakras within the body, and many posited that the chakras directly correlated with the plexuses of the nervous system. Today, however, the chakras are generally considered to be without physical, tangible form. Although research is still being done to determine whether the chakras have any quantifiable effects on the body or response to external stimuli, most yogis agree that the chakras are primarily a tool for meditation and personal development.
The locations of the seven primary chakras are determined by the paths of the nadis, or energy currents. The nadis begin at the base of the spine and weave their way upward to meet at the crown of the head, and their points of intersection are the location of the chakras. Defined by colors, sounds, shapes and elements (among other symbols), the chakras represent the full spectrum of our experience of life, from our most basic human needs to the highest reaches of our consciousness.
The first chakra: Muladhara, the Root Chakra
The Muladhara chakra is located at the base of spine, and is connected to the feet, legs and pelvic floor. Its element is Earth, and it represents man’s relationship to the material world and his basic physical needs.
The second chakra: Svadhisthana, the Sacral Chakra
Located in the pelvic basin, svadhisthana is symbolized by the element of water. It relates to the sexual organs and represents man’s sexuality, creativity and joy.
The third chakra: Manipura, the Navel Chakra
Manipura is found around the navel or solar plexus region, and its location connects it to the digestive system and metabolism. Symbolized by fire, manipura represents willpower, confidence and energy.
The fourth chakra: Anahata, the Heart Chakra
Its location at the heart center connects anahata to the experience of complex emotions, including love and compassion. It is symbolized by the element air, and it is related to the function of the lungs and immune system.
The fifth chakra: Vishudda, the Throat Chakra
Vishudda is located in the throat area and represents the expression of self, honesty and learning. It is related to speech and its element is ether.
The sixth chakra: Ajna, the Third Eye
Located at the center of the brow, the ajna chakra is related to the brain and pituitary gland, the “master gland” which regulates endocrine function in the body. Ajna represents intuition, imagination and inner guidance.
The seventh chakra: Sahasrara, the Crown Chakra
Resting at the crown of the head, beyond all material elements, sahasrara represents man’s connection with the divine and his enlightenment.