Chakra means ‘wheel’. Chakras are energy vortices, or intersections where two or more nadis meet.
Nadis are located in the astral body and carry the prana. Sometimes they are referred to as astral tubes. Generally they correspond with the nerves of the physical body.
There are three main nadis that correspond with the spine and which concern us in the practices of kundalini and hatha yoga. These are the:
Everyplace the 72,000 nadis of the astral body intersect, there is a chakra. There are an uncounted number of chakras in the body.
The chakras are the mechanisms by which the prana is able to permeate the physical body from the astral body, and basically then, it is the prana that keeps the physical body alive.
Purification of nadis is critical to good health so that a balanced level of prana can flow throughout the nadis and chakra systems. Impure nadis cause blockages of the prana and this is what leads to disease in the physical body.
Within the astral body are 7 main chakras associated with kundalini awakening. They are located within the astral body in locations that correspond with the spine in the physical body, and at the junctions where the ida and pingala, and various other nadis, meet.
These main chakras are called:
1. Muladhara – located near the base of the spine in the perineal space for men, at the back and top of the cervix for women; sacral plexus
2. Swadishthana – located at the level of the uro-genital systems; prostatic plexus
3. Manipura – located at the area of the navel; solar plexus
4. Anahata – located at the level of the heart; cardiac plexus
5. Vishuddha – located in the throat region near the thyroid and adam’s apple; laryngeal plexus
6. Ajna – located in the space between the eyebrows; cavernous plexus
7. Sahasrara – located at the top of the head; pineal gland
While these main chakras actually exist in the astral body corresponding to locations within the spine, it is hard to visualize and work with them in these locations.
Therefore, we usually reference locations in the front of the body at the levels described above, and these locations have a direct effect on the actual chakra location within the spine.
Each chakra also has associated with it a corresponding number of nadis, a color, a presiding deity and goddess, Sanskrit letters, a bija or seed mantra, and a presiding element or tanmatra.
Pictured at left from the bottom are the muladhara, swadhishthana, manipura, anahata, vishuddha, ajna, and the sahasrara chakras.
“The six chakras are way-stations along the sushumna, to the final destination, the sahasrara chakra. They are of consciousness, with specific tones of awareness and bliss, as well as storage places for the subtle, vital energy. They have corresponding centers in the spinal cord and nerve plexuses of the gross physical body, with which they are closely related.” ~ Swami Vishnu-devananda, Meditation and Mantras