In the west, the consideration that chakras impact mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health is relatively new and lacks familiarity and research. However, a few studies show a significant connection between one’s spiritual connection, as reflected in chakra theory, and the expression of physiological and psychological pathologies (Curtis, Zeh, Miller, & Sequoyah, & Rich, 2004; Drapkin, McClintock, Lau, & Miller, 2016). In the many areas of the east, chakras are a significant contributor to spiritual, emotional, and physical wellbeing. In Sanskrit, the term chakra means wheel, representing the symbiotic and holistic nature of the energy centers in our bodies.
While there are many Chakra models, a commonly adopted model in the west describes seven core energy centers, each of which has its own vibrational frequency and function that contributes to wellness. Much like a river that becomes stagnant when unable to flow, when energy blockages occur, diseases can fester. Even if you don’t resonate with Chakras, guided meditations are a great way to develop concentration, enabling you to sustain mindfulness. Furthermore, the loving-kindness component in many of these practices are an excellent way to cultivate self-compassion.
Relating Chakras to Maslow’s theory of unmet needs (1943), each of the Chakra centres represents a basic human need. When we avoid or ignore our inner signals, often drowned out by the noise of thoughts and external stimuli, energy gets trapped in the body, and much like the river analogy above, causes blockages that impact our ability to maintain emotional, physical, and spiritual homeostasis. When these blockages occur, held up by an unmet need, we experience a sense of threat, which triggers the nervous system to mount a stress response. Depending on the intensity of the sense of threat, those struggling with PTSD (many of us in various forms and frequencies!) are then at risk of emotional transference, whereby the event is fused with an unresolved past threatening event or belief system.
We, whether in the east or the west, whatever our income, social status, theoretical and political beliefs, all long to feel secure in our ability to have our physical needs met (Root Chakra), to feel safe (Sacral Chakra), to be loved and to belong (Solar Plexus Chakra), to have unconditional positive regard/Esteem for self and others (Heart Chakra), to express our ‘real’ selves in the world (Throat Chakra), to self-actualize into our most connected, meaning filled, and empowered self (Third eye Chakra), and to feel held by benevolent forces greater than ourselves (Crown Chakra).
When a need goes unmet that feels primary compared to what may feel less pressing, we will often fixate on the most primary need, neglecting the others until we resolve it. These primary needs are not always linear, depending on cultural conditioning, core wounds that need tending to, and a variety of other seen and unseen complexities. For instance, we quite likely will prioritize needs such as food, shelter, warmth, and safety, paying less attention to a esteem and connection. Or perhaps we have a long held belief system that we are somehow not good enough, causing us to prioritize the approval of others, ensuring we attain an ideal image to do so at the cost of our ability to self-actualize into our most authentic and empowered self.
I’ve been working on getting self-compassionately curious. Recognizing, allowing and then letting go of judgmental thoughts so I can look deeper (with an open heart) into what lies beneath my sticky points. Doing this can be immensely empowering as we peel pack the layers and really get to the source of the needs that drive our desires and impulses.
Can you recall an area in your life that that brings you frustration, where you feel and see an obvious area that needs tending to (could use some serious self-care), but you have little to no desire to develop the necessary habits required to resolve it? Consider what other primary unmet need or haunting belief system may be crying out for tending, subconsciously trumping/blocking desires to tend to other needs.
As a westerner, I touch on the concept of Chakras and recognize the risk of cultural appropriation in doing so. To mitigate any distortions that can occur as a result of plucking practices from one context and dropping them into another, I encourage you to research the principles and history from which the practices emerge.