By Brigid Brennan, yoga teacher
If you have ba een to handful of yoga classes, chances are you have heard of the chakra system. According to Indian philosophy, there are seven centers of energy within the body following the spine from the base to the crown. Each of these energy centers- or chakras- is associated with a different function, region of the body, color, sound, and a myriad of other aspects from essential oils to mudras and yoga poses. It is a worldview which seams together all aspects of our being from the physical to the metaphysical.
Beginning at the base of the spine is the Muladhara Chakra, which literally translates from sanskrit to mean root, base, or foundation. It is associated with the color red and the grounding element of earth. Vetiver essential oil is a very earthy and calming essential oil to use for balancing this chakra. The root chakra represents the structure upon which we are based: our physical structure of skeleton, spine, bones, teeth and blood; our most basic needs such as food, water, shelter; and our emotional foundation of family values and beliefs. This ground level of our being can be compared to the foundation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Once all our basic needs are met, we are then able to advance to higher realms of living and being through the other chakras.
The second or sacral chakra is also called the Svadhisthana Chakra, situated near the lower abdomen below the navel in the pelvic area. It translates into abode or seat, and is viewed as the dwelling place of the self. Associated with the color orange and the element of water, this chakra symbolizes creativity, passion and pleasure. It represents sensuality and sexuality, governing over the corresponding areas of the body such as the reproductive system, kidney, bladder and genitals. When this chakra is balanced and flowing freely, we experience healthy relationships, confidence in creativity and sexuality, and a release of stored emotions within the body. Orange, ginger and cinnamon essential oils especially activate this chakra.
Moving up the spine to the solar plexus, the Manipura Chakra is the third chakra, the yellow “fire in the belly”. This is our source of personal power and self-worth, self-confidence, and self-esteem. An essential oil which fuels this personal power is bergamot, the oil of self-worth. Because this chakra governs over the stomach, liver, pancreas, and digestive system, it is literally the fire of transformation, converting material into energy. In this way, the manipura chakra actually helps us digest not only food, but also our life experiences. It is important to stay in the flow of life and realize we are in control of our own life experiences.
Meaning “unhurt, unstruck, and unbeaten”, Anahata Chakra refers to the pure quality and vibration of this energy. The fourth chakra is the center of the heart, which allows for the flow of love in giving and receiving. A balanced anahata chakra shows up as generosity, compassion, forgiveness, and trust. The author Kahlil Gibran said that “If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.” While all the chakras deal with letting go of the ego, the heart chakra is especially powerful for releasing personal identity and realizing oneness with all things. It is also the appreciation of beauty in all things. Green is the color of anahata chakra, and air is the element. The best essential oils for this chakra relate to opening the airways, so using eucalyptus and cardamom are beneficial, as are tea tree and helichrysum which is excellent for healing past wounds, both physical and emotional.
Located in the center of the throat, Vishuddha Chakra is the fifth chakra. The area governed includes the neck, shoulders, mouth, jaw, tongue and even ears. This is the chakra of crystal clear communication, which is not only speaking true intentions, but also listening deeply to both yourself and to others. Feeling heard is one of the most basic human functions, and allows for transmitting truth and connecting on a deep, personal level. Blue is the color, and the element is obviously sound. Lavender, which is one of the most widely used essential oils, is also the oil of communication, and can be used to facilitate an opening of the throat chakra for clearer speech and understanding.
One of the most well-known chakras is the Ajna Chakra, commonly referred to as the “third-eye”. Physically it is situated in the center of the forehead and is correlated with the pineal gland. This is our source of intuition, insight and imagination, as well as our sense of discernment, ability to make decisions, and our wisdom of past and future. Indigo is the shade between blue and purple, perfectly placed between the throat and crown chakras associated with these colors. Known for its clairvoyant properties, clary sage is an excellent choice of essential oil to tap into the energy of the third eye chakra; especially as the word “sage” also refers to someone with profound wisdom. Because the ajna chakra deals with vision, its element is light.
Arriving at the very top of the head we find the crown or Sahasrara Chakra. Here is the “thousand-petaled lotus” which is our connection to our higher self and our life’s purpose. Sometimes associated with the color purple, the crown chakra can also be seen as the color white which radiates out from the top of head, connecting our personal selves to the universal source of energy. White is a combination of all the colors of the chakras, so to experience a balanced crown chakra, all other energy centers must be balanced. Frankincense is an excellent essential oil to be used to commune with the divine, as are myrrh and sandalwood. Space is the element of this chakra, uniting the space within and between us all.