Once the preserve of publications related to Eastern mystical philosophy it is difficult today to open any book on spiritual practice without finding somewhere within its pages references to the word ‘chakra’.
In fact nearly every modern derivation of occult practice – be it magick, psycho-spiritual development, healthy eating or simple meditation practice, tends to include references to some aspect of chakra therapy – or at the very least, some sort of recognition of the importance that chakras play in the development of health and spiritual consciousness.
The worldwide awareness that has developed regarding chakras is, in the main, due to Anodea Judith’s seminal 1987 work on chakras titled ‘Wheels if Life’. Up until that point very few people in the spiritual movement had even heard of chakras never-mind understood what they were or how they worked.
‘Wheels of Life’ was at the time, and still is, a seminal work; so for many enthusiastic students of Anodea’s work the release of another major publication about chakras by her is reason enough to expect further significant revelations and insights into the subject.
However, we are getting a little ahead of ourselves.
For those who are new to the subject it is worth pausing a while and explaining what exactly chakras are.
Wheels of Energetic Resonance
The term chakra is derived from the Sanskrit word for ‘wheel’ and is used to describe the spinning vortices of energy that are said to reside, unseen, within the subtle layers of our physical body.
Although chakras are not ordinarily observable they can be intuitively felt by sensitive psychics and, with a little practice, by non-trained observers.
The exact number of chakras that reside within our bodies varies according to different teachers – all of whom use different teaching methods and traditions. As a bare minimum it is said that there as few as seven and sometimes as many as twenty-four different separate and distinct wheels of spinning energy within ourselves.
In her book, ‘Chakra Yoga’, Anodea Judith offers an interesting appraisal of what a chakra actually is.
She defines them as being,
…a chamber in the temple of the body that receives, assimilates, and transmits life force energy.
The energy that she refers to is, of course, prana – that universal power that mystics throughout the ages have recognized as a substance that permeates all matter.
In Chakra Yoga, the author utilizes the more common seven chakra system with their centers fixed at points along an imaginary line that sits roughly along our backbones.
Each chakra on this vertical line is said to fulfills an important bodily function; from the highest center located at the top of the head down to the lowest which is said to be positioned at the base of the spine.
Each one has its own function in governing a set of physical, emotional and spiritual influences as they play through our subtle bodies and into physical life expression.
Prana and Kundalini
In her book, Anodea presents her own understanding of chakras – one that is borne from her many years teaching of their existence and importance in relationship to living a healthy and balanced lifestyle. She also includes a number of connected ideas that are related to chakra therapy or development.
These include an explanation of the twin currents of energy that travel up our spines, and which are known as ida and pingala, the channels that carry prana energy called the nadis and the latent energy that resides within us all and which is commonly known as kundalini.
Your Body as a Temple
The terminology that Anodea employs in her works aids in understanding the nature of the process that she promotes.
Firstly, she describes the body as a temple – a sort of sacred place where spiritual work takes place within strict operational conditions.
She also refers to chakras as chambers and in doing so reflects upon their operation as holders and containers of energy and personal power.
There are several ways in which the chakras can be balanced, energized, manipulated and controlled. Some students advocate the use of sound such as through chanting, others suggest an approached based upon the employment of visualization techniques as well as the use of color.
However, in ‘Chakra Yoga’ Anodea focuses specifically upon the stimulation of the chakras through physical motion, body movement, breathing and meditation. Together these techniques are designed to help the student to improve the core functioning of their energy centers in such a way as to help the flow of natural pranic energy through the internal system or temple.
In chakra practice it is common to begin the work at the lowest center, the Muladhara and to progress upwards, one center at a time, until you have reached the highest chakra, the sahasrara or thousand petalled lotus.
Anodea dedicates a whole chapter of her book to each chakra and progressively follows this journey from the denser up through to the finer energy centers using yoga practice to open, energize and balance each chakra in turn.
As the process takes place she explains to her readership what each center is called, what its function is and the way that energy specifically flows through them in direct relationship to the posture and movement of the physical body.
Her book presents in some detail a number of different yoga poses to accompany the work – each of which are geared towards helping unlock the power in each chakra, encourage more prana energy to flow through and within them.
In each case she offers strict guidelines for using these postures and breathing techniques along with clear and specific advice on when and when not to employ the techniques that she advocates.
In rounding off her book the author also includes additional technical information about the root meanings to some of the Eastern terms that she employs; as well as a full index to help the reader cross reference the vast amount of information presented throughout the book.
Given that I was one of those who was deeply impressed by Anodea’s original book ‘Wheels if Life’ when it came out back in the late 1980s I can only say that in this title I was expecting nothing less than an insightful manual of instruction equal to it.
I have say that in ‘Chakra Yoga’ I am not in the least disappointed and for me, my initial excitement that I experienced all those years back at discovering chakras for the first time through her work has been reignited with this book.
As a publication this is a beautifully produced, large-format, glossy book. It is heavily illustrated with color photos and images that have been vibrantly reproduced – albeit that some are a little small.
The layout of the information and the clarity of instruction is both encouraging to any beginner and sympathetic to those of us advancing in our years and for whom stiff joints creates problems for the practice of yoga.
So, if you are looking for a great book about chakras and are keen to devote a little time to developing them – or even if you practice yoga and are looking for a clearer understanding on how specific practices impact upon the energy systems in your body, then you will undoubtedly find this to be every bit the book that it had the potential of being.
Indeed, it is difficult to see how one might find a better form of instruction even with the employment of ones own personal trainer.
Chakra Yoga is a superb and authoritative account of not one but two universally popular forms of spiritual practice. The author has done a great job in weaving them together. Our bodies are our temples and with Anodea Judith at the helm we have no excuse now not to make major changes to our quality of health.