The CHAKRA SYSTEM is a model we can use to understand the experience of being human. It is located in the subtle body with corresponding physical locations, and links together areas of the body and psyche. To fully understand this system it is necessary first to understand it’s constituent parts.
The CHAKRAS are wheels or discs of bio-energetic activity. There are many of them in the subtle body but in yoga we focus on the main seven located in the region of the spine (sushumna nadi). The lowest chakras are more gross in nature, concerning themselves with the practical matters of our lives and survival, while the upper chakras are more subtle and represent our higher self. You cannot find them in the physical body (Chakra Kshetrams are “reflections” on the surface of the front body that can help access the chakras – except for mooladhara and Sahasrara that don’t have one). However just like the wind, the affects of the chakras can be felt and viewed by what we create around us.
The NADIS are energy channels that transfer our pranic energy through the body. There is said to be 72,000 nadis in the body however we are mostly concerned with the main 3 of IDA, PINGALA and SUSHUMNA, which control the flow of energy and prana through the body and is regulated via the chakras. Ida is thought of as female and is represented by the energy of the moon. It terminates at the left nostril and is associated with the right brain hemisphere. Pingala is described as male and is represented by the energy of the sun. It terminates at the right nostril and is associated with the left brain hemisphere. Sushumna is the central Nadi (of the spine). The practices of yoga can lead to self-realistion by opening the chakras and allow the awakened energy of Kundalini Shakti to ascend through sushumna.
The GRANTHIS (Psychic Knots) are obstacles or blockages that can restrict the flow of Kundalini through sushumna. They represent ignorance and attachment to the physical world and are an important limiting factor that must be overcome on our spiritual path. The 1st granthi is Brahma and it is located in the region of the pelvis, It represents an attachment to the physical world and is ruled by the guna tamas. The 2nd granthi is Vishnu and is found in the region of Anahata chakra, it is the emotional bond and attachment we feel to other people, reflected in feelings of needing another person to complete us and is ruled by rajas. The 3rd granthi is Rudra and is associated with ego, creating a strong sense of individuality or Ahamkara.
The practices of HATHA YOGA are designed to cleanse and purify both the physical and subtle body. Pranayama in particular can help to bring balance to the opposing forces of ida and pigala. When the chakras are open, and sushumna is clear, the energy of Kundalini can awaken and ascend to bring us to the state known as Samadhi.