Chakras Demystified – A Hatha Yoga view

This is the way Kundalini rises and our perception of our self and the world becomes broader, broader to such an extent that everything and everyone is experienced not as separation but consolidation.

Our inherent infinite potential (Kundalini) takes the opportunity to manifest its completeness through the body-mind complex by evolving over life times. In fact, this is the very reason why we have a body and a life. In this context, every material body is a vehicle of pure potential and every life is an opportunity to manifest its fullness. The evolution of this potential happens over stages. The stages through which the Being evolves to its full potential are called Chakras.

The chakras are zones of psycho-spiritual energy which our Being is made up of. The word Chakra is translated as “wheel”, but such a translation misleads us into thinking of chakras as “wheel like structures”. Chakras are not wheel like structures rather the word chakra in Sanskrit literally means “something that whirls” and everything that whirls is not a wheel. It is so named because it is supposed to convey a whirling movement of the psycho-spiritual energy. It also conveys a radiating force field, a region (kshetra) and not just a point in our subtle body.

Hatha Yoga says that the stability and/or instability of the energetic field in our subtle body along the chakras consequently manifests in the gross body. The chakras have an influence on energetic as well as physical body because the chakras are essential subtle structures functioning to collect, use, transform and pass on Prana energy. Our material bodies could not exist without them for they serve as gateways for the flow of energy and life into our physical bodies. This is how the subtle energies of our chakras in the subtle body influence the physiology in our material body. In fact, the physical body can be called as manifestation of the psycho-vital body which includes prana flow and chakras. Every chakra corresponds to a specific aspect of human nature, behavior and development. The chakras vibrate at different levels relative to the awareness (consciousness) of the individual and their ability to integrate with life and this is why the “spin” of chakras differ from person to person. In simple terms the chakras can be defined as “the stages through which perception and experience of one’s own self and others evolve”.

Let’s understand the concept of chakras with one simple analogy. Imagine a couple have a baby boy. Just like all parents, the parents of our little boy too want him to grow up and be a healthy and happy adult who can create a life full of possibilities by harnessing his potential. For this purpose the parents facilitate proper education, diverse experiences, safe upbringing and stable support with love and care in the life of the child. This example, which perhaps exists in every household, is a microscopic representation of how Shiva and Shakti as our parents facilitate our growth and evolution towards our full potential. To evolve towards our True Potential is our swadharma, one’s own duty towards oneself in this life.

The little boy starts his journey through life. Schooling and education form an integral part of his life as he grows up. The little child goes to a kindergarten, primary school, high school, college, university and so on to gain the required knowledge and experience to become what he wants (or his parents want!?!). The boy’s growth over many years through his educational life could be likened to our growth as spiritual beings (jivatma) moving through chakra stages. In every stage of the boy’s education he goes through innumerable experiences and experiments with life to gain happiness. In the same way, we as spiritually beings (jivatma) evolve over life time to experience and manifest the full extent of our potential. Some experiences are bitter, some are sweet, but experiences come and they shape our life and existence. There is no doubt that consciously or unconsciously transformation does happen. Just like the boy, we, as spiritual students are admitted to the school of life the moment we are born because our potential (Kundalini) as spiritual beings is limited and not yet fully harnessed. The education of our boy through the six stages of schooling namely, early, primary, secondary, higher, master’s level and doctorate studies could be likened to the evolution of human beings through six stages of chakras in the school of life.

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We go through life weaving the warp and weft of mistakes and success to shape our life into a fabric of pure love, permanent freedom and unending bliss. This love, freedom and bliss is the full expanse of our True Potential (Param Shiva). This experience is not a step but the stage from where the Being radiates without the hindrance of any limitation. It is here when the Hatha Yogis say the “Kundalini has united with her Shiva”, meaning, the spiritual being has reached its ultimate pure, true potential. When one starts exploring the bigger dimension of their being by starting to explore the inherent potential (Kundalini), the Kundalini awakens and starts moving through the various levels (chakra). This is called evolution of the Kundalini along the chakras. This is the way Kundalini rises and our perception of our self and the world becomes broader, broader to such an extent that everything and everyone is experienced not as separation but consolidation.

Yoga Myths

When most people think of yoga, they get images of the Himalayas, incense, chanting and mystical gurus from India sitting in their caves or on the floor, cross legged and chanting OM in a deep ecstatic state of relaxation. Though Yoga has become a widespread practice during the last 30 years, misconceptions about this ancient method have kept people away from trying yoga or have created more and more confusion.

Here are some of the common Myths that I have heard of from across the world:

1. Yoga is a form of Physical Exercise:
This is perhaps the most common view of yoga, that it is a form of physical exercise. Yoga has classically been a spiritual practice, but nowadays yoga is better known as a sport or physical exercise because of its evident physical benefits and appeal.

2. You have to be initiated by a Guru:
In the initial stages, any teacher who can take you through yoga practice sincerely and safely is your Guru. For a keen spiritual seeker, anything and everything can become a Guru till the Master comes and then everything is dropped.

3. You have to be flexible to do Yoga:
Yoga improves your flexibility, along with your strength, balance and all aspects of your health. Any one can practice yoga to gain these. It will improve your flexibility from the point from where you begin. Yoga is designed to be practiced by all.

4. You must be vegetarian to practice Yoga:
This is not true. There are tremendous benefits of being vegetarian on our psyche and physical body but it is not a requirement in order to practice yoga.

5. Yoga is mainly for wimps or women:
Yoga is for those who are conscious and are making efforts towards self-evolution through working on their body and mind. In that sense its for everyone, men and women alike.

6. My style of Yoga is the only authentic style:
The needs of individuals vary according to their physical structures and capabilities, therefore it is best to start with a yoga practice that is suited to your own individual needs. It is best to find a teacher who is able to prescribe the postures that are best suited to your particular needs. Yoga is fluid, don’t let yoga fanaticism limit your explorations. If you practice yoga diligently and with a proper understanding of its holistic nature, you will surely realize great benefits in all spheres of life including physical and spiritual.

7. Yoga is boring:
It is interesting and beautiful to watch the workings of your own mind, breath and body. Taking the awareness deeper into the body and mind through the practice of yoga and meditation is very interesting especially when you start making more discoveries about yourself and then use this wisdom to generate peace in your life. Thus, yoga is a way of life, and Life is interesting.

8. Yoga is just a passing fad:
The first evidence of yogic texts goes back 5000 years, though physical asanas and other new disciplines have sprung up within the last fifty years. Yoga, in its spiritual aims and techniques, has always been a part of Indian culture and lifestyle.