Many yoga poses are named after animals and other things in the natural world that they…
You may have heard about the chakras, but did you know that the rainbow colors that are associated with the chakras nowadays are a new age invention? The chakras are part of the subtle anatomy of the body that yoga taps into with specific chakra yoga poses. While most modern yoga styles are based on Hatha Yoga, a Vedantic approach to yoga, Chakra Yoga is more aligned with Tantra Yoga.
The Difference Between Vedantic and Tantra Yoga
Neo-Tantra, or the new age interpretation of Tantra which overemphasizes the importance of sex and sexual energy, is a misinterpretation of Tantric tradition and should not to be mistaken with traditional Tantra.
The literal translation of the word “tantra” is to “loom” or “weave.” In Indian tradition, Tantra is a system, method, or instrument that brings liberation.
In contrast to the Vedas, the practice that most modern Hatha Yoga practices are based on, Tantra is not the practice of quieting the mind, as is suggested by Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Rather, it’s about embracing everything about the mind and body and experiencing everything to its fullest without judgment or taboos.
Traditional Left Hand Tantra is mostly a non-dualistic philosophy. Because they consider all things to be inherently complete, they don’t distinguish between wrong and right or feel as though there is something that needs to be balanced out, activated or harmonized.
In Tantra Yoga philosophy, chakras are tools that remind us of our natural state rather than being indicators of our own enlightenment or awakening.
Subtle Anatomy and the Seven Chakras
To learn about the chakras and Chakra Yoga poses, we first need to take a look at the subtle anatomy of the body.
The body that we can all see, touch, and interact with is called the gross / physical body. The subtle body exists on an energetic level and parallel to the gross body.
The anatomy of this subtle body contains, among other things, 72‘000 nadis, or energy channels, and 114 chakras, which are energy centers where nadis intersect.
The Sanskrit word “chakra” translates as “wheel.” Most people are familiar with the seven higher human chakras located along the body’s middle channel or nadi.
This middle nadi carries the name Susumna and is where an energy called Kundalini ascends. On either side of the Susumna nadi there are two more nadis called Ida and Pingala. The seven main higher human chakras are located where these two nadis intersect.
These chakras resonate all the time and can be focused on when you fully direct your attention and consciousness to any one of these energy points.
It’s important to know that there’s no hierarchy when it comes to the importance of the individual chakras. A person who strongly resonates with their root chakra is not more or less “awake” than someone who strongly resonates with their crown chakra. In Tantra Yoga, all chakras are of equal importance.
The Chakras and Their Connected Elements
Each chakra is associated with an element and each element is represented by a color. Unlike modern Tantra Yoga, which uses the widely known colors of the rainbow, traditional Tantra Yoga associates different colors with each chakra.
Although they’re located along Susumna, which, as previously mentioned, ascends the spine, remember that the chakras are energy points in the subtle or etheric body, not the gross / physical body. Knowing where these points are in relation to your physical body helps give you a point of reference as to where you can direct your awareness.
Here is an overview of the Chakra and Element system:
Muladhara aka Root Chakra
- Element: Earth
- Color: Golden yellow (in traditional Tantra Yoga) or red (in modern Tanta Yoga)
- Location: Perineum
Svadhisthana aka Sacral Chakra
- Element: Water
- Color: Silver (in traditional Tantra Yoga) or orange (in modern Tanta Yoga)
- Location: 2 fingers above the perineum
Manipura aka “Solar Plexus” (locating the Manipura on the Solar Plexus is a new age invention)
- Element: Fire
- Color: Red (in traditional Tantra Yoga) or yellow (in modern Tanta Yoga)
- Location: 2 fingers below the navel
Anahatha aka Heart Chakra
- Element: Air
- Color: Smokey Grey, Black (in traditional Tantra Yoga) or green (in modern Tanta Yoga)
- Location: Heart
Vishuddha aka Throat Chakra
- Element: Space
- Color: Sky Blue (in traditional and modern Tanta Yoga)
- Location: Throat
Ajna aka Third Eye Chakra
- Element: Consciousness
- Color: Transparent / White (in traditional Tantra Yoga) or dark blue / purple (in modern Tanta Yoga)
- Location: Between the eyebrows
Sahasrara aka Crown Chakra
- Element: Pure consciousness
- Color: Colorless / Rainbow (in traditional Tantra Yoga) or purple / white (in modern Tanta Yoga)
- Location: One foot above the head
Chakra Yoga Poses to Bring Presence and Awareness to each Chakra
Each chakra holds different energetic signatures. These signatures either manifest in experiences that you interpret as good, if you resonate with that particular chakra, or bad, if you are in dissonance with that particular chakra or hold a “block” in it.
Remember that Tantra Yoga is non-dualistic. There’s no such thing as good or bad experiences. What does exist, however, is your interpretation of an experience and whether you attribute good or bad feelings to it. Chakras aren’t necessarily awakened or blocked, their natural state is in resonance.
Chakra Yoga poses, Pranayama techniques, and meditation can, however, all help increase the flow within a chakra to support the body and soul with any issues they may be facing.
In Tantra Chakra Yoga, various asanas can help you be more present and bring your awareness to each of the energy centers. Here are some Chakra Yoga Poses that you can practice for each of the seven main chakras and which will allow you to focus on the possible effects of either resonating or dissenting with the flow of energy.
Muladhara Chakra Yoga Poses
Practice asanas that help you ground yourself and feel your connection to the earth. Tadasana or Mountain Pose lays the groundwork for all other asanas in Hatha Yoga and is a solid foundation for beginning to practice Chakra Yoga.
Hip openers like Malasana (Garland Pose), Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby), and Baddha Konasana (Butterfly), are also good for connecting to the root chakra.
Muladhara Chakra helps with feeling secure, being realistic, and laying the groundwork for bigger plans. Failing to direct your awareness towards the energy of this chakra will allow fear and doubt to rise within you.
Svadhisthana Chakra Yoga Poses
Flow into poses like Utkata Konasana (Goddess Pose), Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge), Kapotanasana (Pigeon Pose), and Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero), to bring your focus to this area, resonate with the chakra, and open up your hips.
In traditional Tantra, both Muladhara and Svadhisthana are connected to the animalistic needs of survival. While the root chakra is about the need for security, the sacral chakra is about the need to procreate (energy labelled as sexual) as well as recognizing one’s individual identity and the ability to feel pleasure and pain.
The word Svadhisthana translates as “seat of the self.” Lacking a connection to this energy manifests as a fear of death and a loss of one’s identity.
Manipura Chakra Yoga Poses
The fire of Manipura Chakra can be sparked with asanas that challenge the core. These include Navasana (Boat Pose), Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), and Kapalabhati Pranayama (Breath of Fire).
Manipura energy is linked to Shakti, the goddess who is one with Shiva (Pure Consciousness). Without Shakti, consciousness is passive, stagnant, and immobile. Shakti brought Shiva to open his eyes and become active in the world.
Anahatha Chakra Yoga Poses
Expand your heart with backbends like Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Ustrasana (Camel Pose), Chakrasana (Wheel Pose), and Gomukasana (Cow Face Pose). These help bring awareness to Anahatha Chakra.
As the energy center located between the three lower human chakras and the three upper human chakras, it’s a place where animalistic tendencies, passions, and needs are tamed, and the qualities that are needed to attain balance and resonate with pure consciousness manifest.
Vishuddha Chakra Yoga Poses
Vishuddha Chakra is the energy center of purity. Consciousness is in the subtle realm at this point and all the elements of the lower chakras return to their purest essence in the ether, or space.
Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand), Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose), Matsyasana (Fish Pose), and Ujjayi Pranayama (Ocean Breath) bring awareness to Vishuddha.
Ajna Chakra Yoga Poses
Often associated with psychic powers and the ability to see the future, the so-called Third Eye Chakra is actually beyond time and space and beyond both the gross and subtle elements of the body. Consciousness is non-dual at this center. This is where unconditional truth is revealed.
Chakra Yoga Poses like Garudasana (Eagle Pose), Balasana (Child’s Pose), Bakasana (Crow Pose), and Nadi Shodana Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing) bring awareness to this energy center.
Sahasrara Chakra Yoga Poses
This chakra is located outside of the body, floating about one foot above the crown of the head. This is where consciousness remembers its union with Shiva-Shakti – Pure Consciousness, and where all desires and activities/distractions of the mind dissolve.
Bring presence and awareness to this chakra with asanas like Sirsasana (Headstand), Sasangasana (Rabbit Pose), Savasana (Corpse Pose), and Padmasana (Lotus Pose), as well as the practice of meditation, in particular by using the universal seed syllable “AUM”.
On the surface, traditional Tantra Chakra Yoga may not look all that different from Hatha Yoga. The difference lies in the philosophy behind the Vedic system and the Tantric system.
While the Vedas describe enlightenment as a state that can only be reached by first overcoming the lower chakras and then arriving at the highest human chakra, Tantra considers each of the chakras to be of equal importance, as they all help us connect with different energy flows and themes.