Chakras and Koshas
What are Chakras?
Traditional descriptions of the Chakra system came from Tantric yoga, but the Chakras are now taught as part of most forms of yoga and used in energy healing systems such as Reiki and Pellowah. There are hundreds of chakras listed in Tantric yoga, but most systems use between 5 and 10 major chakras.
The word Chakra is Sanskrit (ancient Indian language) for wheel or vortex. Chakras are described as energy or psychic centres that exist on many planes of consciousness. In the physical body, the key chakras are linked to points along the spinal column. Although we use anatomical descriptions to locate the chakras, they are not part of the physical body, but are in the subtle or energy body.
Chakras and Koshas (sheaths of the soul)
In Tantric yoga, the physical body is the most dense form that we occupy. We also have subtle energy and astral bodies that are activated by electrical currents and emotions, a ‘mind’ body that consciously governs the physical and energy bodies, a sub-conscious level of being and a ‘bliss’ body that is connected to a universal consciousness or world soul.
These 5 bodies are known as the Koshas. We are generally aware of these as body, mind and spirit. We operate in the physical world with awareness to some extent of the first three (physical, energetic and mind/mental activity) . Yoga opens the path to awareness of the last two (sub-conscious mind, universal soul).
1.Annamaya kosha. The body sheath made and maintained by food. This is the physical body, and corresponds to the body treated by Western medicine.Chakras have an effect here and are activated via the physical body, but are not physical stuctures.
2.Pranamaya kosha is the subtle body made of energy chanels, the nadis, that originate from spinning energy centres, the chakras. This is similar to the nervous system in Western medicine, but more subtle and inclusive. It governs our senses and emotions.
3.Manomaya kosha is the body made of thought, the mind-body. It gains information from the first two bodies and feeds back into them to change both the physical and energetic responses.
4.Vijananmaya kosha is the sub-conscious wisdom body, the true Self that lives within the physical, emotional and thought bodies and extends beyond them into the aura. It is accessed in meditation and dreams and is the astral body that knows that it can leave the physical body and does so in sleep and in death.
5.Anandamaya kosha is the body sheath of bliss and is the natural state of happiness . It is experienced in samadhi (enlightenment ) and is a realization of the super-concoiusness Self, awareness that all is one, knowledge of the universal Soul. We come from this Soul and reunite with it in death.
The Chakras and light and sound
In describing chakras we link them to vibrations, seen as colours and heard as sounds. Our physical senses pick up a very limited range of sound and light through ears and eyes, but our subtle bodies have a wider range. This is the source of such skills as clairvoyance, clairaudience and telepathy.
In exercises (known as kriyas in yoga) that make us more aware of the chakras, we use sound (mantras) and light (colours). In learning the sounds and colours of the chakras we are operating with many of the koshas. For example, we learn a mantra by chanting out loud and hearing the sound (physical) then chanting silently in our head (energetic/mind body) and then we just know it and carry the knowledge as neural networks that we can recall at will (mind/subconscious awareness). Similarly we learn to see a colour, we remember it and then can imagine it at will. Thus we have at least 3 levels of knowing.
The physical nature of light and sound
(Science alert! Skip this bit if not into physics). Go to the next section: Why Learn About Chakras
Light, radio waves and other vibrations travel through space as electromagnetic waves. They don’t need physical particles of a gas or liquid to carry their energy.
Colour is detected by special receptors in the human eye. These receptors respond to a limited range of electromagnetic wavelengths. We see the waves that bounce off objects, so red objects absorb all light except the red frequency. We see the visible spectrum of light, ranging from just above ultraviolet wavelength (short wavelength) to just below infra-red light (longer wavelength). We can see in space.
The color seen depends on the eye of the observer and the way the eye communicates with the brain. Although most people see the same colours, there is variation in perception, for example some people are red/green or blue /yellow colour blind.
Sound in the physical world is not an electromagnetic vibration. It is transmitted by the movement of physical substances (speaker cones, gas, water), works with much longer wavelengths and can only be picked up by vibrating a physical surface (air to ear drum). Unlike light, it doesn’t travel though empty space, where there is not enough matter to transmit the vibration. Radio waves are electromagnetic, so can transmit signals through space, but receivers and amplifiers are needed to translate the light signal into a physical sound.
So mantras chanted are sounds heard in the ears and colours are seen with the eyes in the physical body. Mantras heard in the mind and colours and symbols imagined are perceived with the more subtle bodies and this is where the chakras operate.
Why learn about chakras?
The chakras give us access to the non-physical koshas and in turn help to maintain functions at the physical level. The physical location is listed here, but remember that the charas are actually in the energy body, not the physical body. Each chakra has an important role in our lives.
1.Mooladhara the base or root chakra, is in the perineum in men and cervix in women, the colour is red. It is influences instinct, security and survival. Mentally it governs stability, emotionally it is concerned with family and tribe and spiritually it governs a sense of security
2. Swadisthana the sacral chakra, at the base of the spinal column in the pelvic region. The colour is orange. Physically, Swadisthana governs reproduction, mentally it governs creativity, emotionally it governs joy and spiritually.
3. Manipura is at the solar plexus behind and above the navel in the spinal column. The colour is yellow. Physically, Manipura governs digestion, mentally it governs personal power, emotionally it governs expansiveness, and spiritually, all matters of growth.
4. Anahata the heart chakra; is at the spine, level with the heart. The colour is green. Anahata governs circulation, emotionally it governs unconditional love for the self and others, mentally it governs passion, and spiritually it governs devotion.
5. Vishuddhi, the throat chakra, in the spine, level with the base of the throat. The colour is blue. Physically, Vishuddhi governs communication, emotionally it governs independence, mentally it governs fluent thought, and spiritually, it governs a sense of self.
6. Ajna; third eye chakra, located at the top of the spinal column, colour is indigo. Mentally, Ajna deals with visual consciousness. Emotionally, Ajna deals with clarity on an intuitive level.
7. Bindu Visarga: a psychic centre of the brain, located at the back of the head. The colour is black and silver. This mystical point is also associated with Ajna and the third eye, as a source of inspiration and creativity.
8. Sahasrara: above the crown of head. It is “the crown of expanded awareness” It is the culmination of spinal energy flow and is represented by a lotus of a thousand petals, but it is of unlimited magnitude. The colour is white, made up of all the colours of the rainbow.