Understanding Chakras

Taken from Spiritual Nutrition by Rabbi Gabriel Cousens, MD

fotolia_77049403To more fully understand the process of Kundalini awakening and to understand the process of energy assimilation so we can create a diet that supports the Kundalini unfoldment, we must explore
the chakra system as one of three main subtle energy systems of the human organism.. This lays the foundation for understanding the awakening of consciousness and relationship of nutrition to spiritual development.
The chakra system is a subtle energy system that has been described for thousands of years in spiritual traditions. In Sanskrit, the word chakra means wheel. It has come into common usage in the West through Yoga teachings that have diffused into our culture. The Tibetans refer to these energy centers as khor-Io, which also means wheel. In the Sufi tradition, some call them latifas, or subtle ones. In the Bible, John refers to these centers as the “seven seals on the back of the Book of Life.” In early Christianity, they were often referred to as the “seven churches.” The Kabbalists refer to these centers as “the seven centers in the soul of man.” There is obviously a historical, cross-cultural tradition among many of the major religions that validates the existence of these subtle energy centers. For our purposes, the author chooses to use the commonly accepted term chakra for this system of subtle energy centers.

The chakras are subtle energy centers formed by the confluence of the nadis (72,000 hollow channels in the subtle body through which Kundalini flows). On the physical plane, the chakras are connected to the endocrine system and nervous system plexuses. At the confluences of the nadis, vortexes are created that pull the cosmic energy into the chakras and then into and energizing the endocrine and nervous system plexuses. When the chakras are balanced as a total system, the total cosmic energetic flow into the human system is maximized. The chakra system has been described by Western clairvoyants and Eastern Yogis over the centuries. More recently, medical doctors and other researchers have begun to explore its existence and function. In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama, director of the Institute for Religion and Psychology, a Yoga expert and scientist who is considered by many to be one of the leading researchers in the area of chakras, did some important work documenting the physical reality of chakras. He constructed a light-proof room that was shielded from outside electrical emissions. In this room he placed what he called his Chakra Instrument, designed to detect minute emissions of physical energy from the human body in the form of light, electrical, or electromagnetic energy. In his experiments, he placed the detectors 12 to 20 centimeters in front of the particular chakra area that the subject was trying to activate. The Chakra Instrument was able to detect a quantifiable difference when subjects concentrated directly on a particular chakra, but only when a chakra was chosen on which the subject had previously practiced mental activation. When a chakra was tested on which the subject had not previously practiced, no change was noted before or during the test. These results suggest the existence of a scientifically measurable chakra location.

In 1973 the physician W. Brugh Joy, M.D., discovered these energy centers spontaneously. He found that when he held his hands over certain areas of a patient’s body, there were areas of increased heat energy. Mapping these areas, he realized that they were approximately the same as the Yoga descriptions of the chakra locations. Another physician, Lawrence Bagley, M.D., in the 1984 issue of the American Journal of Acupuncture, describes how by using the Nogier pulse, an auricular acupuncture pulse system developed by Paul Nogier, M.D., he was able to determine the location, size, shape, and rotational direction of the chakras. The author’s own experience with being able to detect the physical existence of the chakra system began in 1976, while exploring the possible relationship between a person’s mental state and the chakra system. The author discovered that when he let a crystal pendulum rotate over the chakra areas, it circled either clockwise or counterclockwise. One day when it rotated counterclockwise over a patient’s head, his headache got worse and he felt energy-depleted. When the author purposefully rotated the crystal in a clockwise direction over the person’s head, the headache disappeared and he felt more energized. It became clear in further experiments that subtle energies, such as those generated by a crystal, could be used in a way that would be healing and energizing to people.

Chakra Location

There is no absolute agreement on the number of major chakras, their location, and function. There does seem to be a general consensus, however, that there are seven main body chakras and an eighth transpersonal chakra above the head. Most agree that these chakras start at the base of the spine and ascend to the top of the head in a line approximately midway through the body. The first chakra is at the base of the spine in the perineal area. The second chakra is located between the pubic bone and the umbilicus. The third is located between the umbilicus and the solar plexus region. The fourth is in the midline at the heart level. The fifth is at the thyroid (throat) level. The sixth is between the eyes at the brow. The seventh is like a skullcap on the vertex of the skull. Some Western groups locate the second chakra over the spleen rather than in the midline area. It is the author’s feeling that some of the variances in locations are due to cultural differences in where the spiritual traditions focus their energy. For example, the Chinese and Japanese tend to focus on the hara, located at the umbilicus or slightly below between the second and third chakra locations. Theosophists tend to de-emphasize the second, or sexual, chakra and focus on the spleen region for the location of the second chakra. This differs from the Yogic tradition. Besides the cultural differences, the location and size of the different chakras may also vary with an individual’s spiritual evolution. Motoyama, for example, found that the measurable chakra and associated meridian energies vary depending on which chakra a person tends to use the most. It may be that the Yogic traditions describe the chakra system of more evolved spiritual aspirants, for whom the spleen center is less important than it is for Westerners. In the author’s work with Western spiritual aspirants, he finds a more predominant midline second chakra; the spleen chakra seems to be a secondary center. What matters, beyond these details, is that from many perspectives, researchers and spiritual practitioners agree that chakras exist as an important system of subtle energy in the body.
It also seems to be generally agreed that each chakra has a specific energetic nature that relates to color, sound, and geometric shape. Each chakra is associated with certain mental states and with a specific spiritual awareness.

Each chakra also seems to be associated with the physiology of a specific glandular system, organ system, and nerve plexus.