This an overview of the human bioenergy field. Understanding and working with these energy systems is important to your spiritual development and healing. Like our physical body, our energy body is real, and vital for our well being. Take some time to understand your body’s energy, and incorporate awareness into your daily life, as a key practice of personal development.
There are seven main chakras running along the spine, along a channel called the sushumna nadi. In Sanskrit, chakra means “spinning wheel”, and the chakras are spinning wheels of our body’s energy, that connect to our physical, mental and emotional well being. Starting at the base of the spine, and run-up to the crown of the head, the Chakras are a key part of our subtle bioenergy system.
The Seven Main Chakras
The root chakra is located at the base of the spine, and it relates to the feet, legs, and pelvis, and is connected to the element of earth. The Muladhara is concerned with how we relate to the physical world. Its color is red, and its mantra is “Lam.” When our energy is balanced in this chakra, we feel grounded and safe.
The sacral chakra is located within the pelvis, and is related to the reproductive organs and sexuality. The sacral chakra is connected to the water element. Its color is orange, and its mantra is “Vam.” When our body’s bioenergy is balanced in the Swadhistana, we have a healthy relationship with intimacy and sexuality.
The solar plexus chakra is located under the solar plexus, and relates to our digestive system. It is connected to the element of fire. The Manipura is connected to our “gut feelings”, our confidence, and self-esteem. Its color is yellow, and its mantra is “Ram.” When our bioenergy is balanced in the solar plexus, we experience a positive role in society.
The heart chakra is located in the area of the heart, and it relates to our emotions. It is connected with the element of air, and its color is green. Its mantra is “Yam.” When our energy is balanced in the heart chakra, we have a greater capacity for love and compassion.
The throat chakra is located in the throat, is our center of communication. The Vishuddha is connected to the element of ether, and its color is light blue. Its mantra is “Ham.” When our bioenergy is balanced around the throat chakra, we freely express our feelings, and speak our truth.
The Third Eye chakra is located at the “Third Eye” at the center of the brain. Its element is ether. It is the seat of our dreams, intuition, creative visualization, and imagination. Its color is deep blue or purple, its mantra is “Om.” When our energy is balanced in the Third Eye, we feel calm and centered, and connected to our higher self.
The crown chakra transcends all elements, colors and mantras. It is located at the crown of the head. When in balanced, we are connected to the source of all living things.
The bandhas are often used in pranayama and yoga practice. Bandha means “to bind,” “to contract” or “to hold captive”. The bandhas lock or seals in the body’s energy, and help to contain and control the body’s energy systems. This “prana”, increases the potency of yoga and pranayama practice.
Root Lock – Mula: The Mula bandha is activated by contracting the perineum, lifting the pelvic floor upward. Downward energy (Apana vayu) is then pushed up toward the higher chakras.
Abdominal Lock – Uddiyana: Uddiyana means “to fly up”, and this bandha pulls the abdominal organs up and in, creating a natural flow of upward energy. This bandha strengthens the respiratory muscles and diaphragm, and aids the process of digestion and elimination.
Throat Lock – Jalandhara: The Jalandhara bandha is performed by bringing the chin to the chest, and contracting the throat. Its believed to ease throat problems, such as inflammation, and improves the quality of the voice.
When all three Bandhas are performed simultaneously, it is called the Maha Bandhas, or the Great Seal.
There are five separate koshas, or energy layers, to our spiritual being. Health and well being involves not just the physical body, but also the subtle bodies as well. If the koshas are not aligned, spiritual disharmony and fragmentation will be experienced. Ultimately, all five koshas must be united and blended, to achieve illumination and complete wholeness. Please note, the koshas are not separate, they merge like the colors of a rainbow, and act alongside our body’s energy systems.
Annamayakosha – The Sheath of Food:
This layer consists of our physical body, our skin, bones, muscles, and internal organs.
Pranamayakosha – The Sheath of Vital Air:
This layer consists of our breath, our body’s energy, and our chakras.
Manomayakosha – The Sheath of The Mind:
This layer consists of our thoughts, emotions, and our preoccupations and obsessions.
Vijnanamayakosha – The Sheath of Causal Intellect:
This layer consists of our intelligence and our intellectual wisdom.
Anandamayakosha – The Sheath of Pure Bliss:
This layer consists of the Universal Soul, and our Higher Self.
All of nature exists of three primal forces, which are the manifestations of Universal Intelligence. These are called the “gunas,” or “subtle qualities,” and these underlie all of Creation. Just as the doshas represent archetypes within the physical body, the gunas represent archetypes within the mind, both on the consciousness and unconscious level.
This guna is characterized by stagnation, inertia, darkness, and heaviness. It is the energy that contributes to ignorance, and an inability to change and transform.
This guna is the energy of motion, change, activity, growth, and evolution. In the mind, it is manifested as the energy of desire, of the need to be successful, and of wanting the best in life. When out of balance, Rajaistic people are overly competitive, inclined to give up their integrity to be on top, even if it causes pain and suffering.
This guna is characterized by harmony, balance, clarity, stability, and lightness. A sattvic mind is happy, content, and awakened, with great bodily energy.
Overall health is maintained by a sattvic lifestyle, and is usually impaired by the raja and tama. For example, overeating, alcohol, smoking and staying up late are rajasic, and can lead to a collapse in bodily energy, resulting in fatigue, or tamas.
The life force, or vital energy, is known as Prana. Prana fuels life, from the body’s energy, to the energy that fuels the sun. It is the aim of yoga increase prana, so that we have more energy.
Vayu means “wind” or “direction of energy.” So the prana vayus are the directions of life force.
Bodily energy that moves upward, centering in the diaphragm. Udana vayu moves through the lungs, trachea, and throat, governing exhalation. Our verbal expression is connected to udana vayu. If this is healthy, we experience joy, but if it is suppressed, we feel sadness. The Cobra and Cow yoga postures are good poses to stimulate udana, as the chest and heart are drawn upward.
The circulation of body energy is Prana is connected to the breath, the lungs and diaphragm. Prana vayu is responsible for inhalation, and an imbalance of prana vayu can contribute to dyspnea and breathlessness. Other symptoms of an imbalance of prana vayu are fearfulness and nervousness.
The inward flow of the body’s energy, Samana Vayu governs the digestion and assimilation of food and air as it enters our bodies. Imbalanced samana may be experienced as a loss of appetite, indigestion or bloating. Boat Pose is a good example of a yoga posture to stimulate samana vayu.
The outward flow of bodily energy, moves the life’s force from the core of the body, into the extremities. It’s associated with the circulation of blood and lymph, and with the peripheral nervous system. When the Vyana is blocked, there could be circulation issues, such as cold feet and hands. Yoga postures like Triangle or Half Moon Pose, which radiate the limbs outward from the torso, assist in circulating the Vyana Vayu.
The downward flow of the body’s energy, Apana vayu is found in the lower abdominal and pelvic cavities. Apana energy is involved in the process of elimination, sex, and giving birth. Garland Pose is a yoga posture that stimulates apana.
Ayurveda, the 5 Elements and 3 Doshas
Ayurveda translates from Sanscrit as “the science of life.” It is a healing modality said to be more than 5,000 years old. It is the traditional healing system of India, and it views the whole human being as an interplay of mind, body, and spirit. The purpose of Ayurveda is to heal and maintain a high quality of life, and longevity.