Yoga A Skeptic’s Guide to Exploring Your Chakras: A Pathway to Healing the Self from Within In a world filled with spirituality and the expectation of faith, it is difficult to understand why many… By Nicole McLaughlin In a world filled with spirituality and the expectation of faith, it is difficult to understand why many teachers are reluctant to acknowledge the existence of chakras. Within the yoga community, chakras are understood to be the internal energy centers that guide our feelings, hold our desires and shape our perceptions of the world. In a broad sense, they are our internal compasses, the speedometer on which we gauge our spiritual health. Although they may be viewed as something tied tightly to the practice of yoga, the use and healing potential of chakras can be made accessible to believers and skeptics alike. Before taking Seane Corn’s class on chakras and the mind body connection, I was unsure of how deeply I wanted to integrate these ideals into my life. Was it worth it? Could this help? And is it even real? Let’s dive in. Chakras dwell within us. Seven in total, they are found rising up from the seat of the spine and out to the crown of the head. Energy accumulates in these centers. As we move up the body starting at the tailbone we find our basic primal needs — food, water, shelter, up through the sacrum and solar plexus dwell our well-being and pleasure centers, drawing up through the heart and throat, we find our ability to love and speak, and finally at the very top of the body, is the third eye and crown chakra, where we find our intuition, imagination and connection to the Source. While western medicine has done little to support these beliefs, that blocked chakras cause illness and open ones bring love and positivity, they are the cornerstones of eastern health. Where we have turned to medication and symptomatic treatment, chakra balancing focuses on the origin of the problem. By developing methodology to categorize the needs of these seven centers, we are able locate the root of the issue, diagnose the problem and treat the spiritual deficiency as needed. When negative energy accumulates and slows down normal function, a chakra is considered blocked. This can raise feelings of negativity, emotional weakness, anxiety or loneliness; while an open chakra, filled with positivity and light will attract love, warmth, happiness, joy and contentment. A note to skeptics: before jumping to conclusions, consider this — when was the last time you were afraid or nervous? What kind of feelings came up? Was there a sharp drop in the pit of your stomach or perhaps a lump in your throat? These physical manifestations are the results of your emotional health being influenced by the energy within your body; it’s not strange, spiritual mumbo-jumbo, where you’re expected to drink the Kool-Aid without thinking, it really is common sense. Although trying to convince a skeptic of these simple beliefs is like insisting we cross a canyon where no one can see the bridge — why else would deep breathing be recommended to combat nerves, or hugs be given when tragedy arises? Nature in itself is a balanced machine. From winter to spring, summer and fall, natural circadian rhythms dictate the order of life. Your body is no different. In this plane of existence, there is always a yin to each yang and an inherent tendency for resolution. When energy becomes trapped within a chakra, emotions build and something has to give. A dam cannot hold forever, and somewhere, sometime this energy must be released to restore balance. It’s an interesting point to consider and one worth exploring more deeply when we realize what a difficult world we live in. Dependent on technology and outside validation, we base our self worth on the perceptions of others. As a member of the yoga community, understanding how energy flows within and outside of the body can only bring good things. We are part of a universal world consciousness, what happens to one of us, happens to us all. Once we understand our connection to ourselves, we can begin to heal our relationships with each other. Balancing our spiritual, emotional and physical health from within could be the solution, and chakras may be the pathway to spark the change. — Nicole Gurney is a freelance writer living and working in San Diego. She focuses on healthy living, recipe development and exploring the role mindfulness plays in leading a balanced life. Sea salt and chocolate are her weaknesses, as is the promise of a good time. Eclectic and creative, she seeks new opportunities to grow her talents as a young professional, while remaining calm and level in an ever more demanding world.