The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
2020 was the year of organic, newly-discovered spirituality for me. When the world was imploding like the stock market crash of 1929, reading doomsdayer Tweets or depressing coronavirus headlines on the Wall Street Journal homepage seemed unproductive and unhealthy. There’s only so much the mind can handle and with graduation canceled, the sudden end of friendships and an online full-time job starting, I was at my wit’s end.
On a whim, I walked into the Scottsdale Barnes & Noble and found a cyan pocketbook entitled A Little Bit of Chakras. Half meditative exercises, half history, the tiny book illuminated the ancient Eastern idea of energy pools rippling throughout your body. For the first time, I dipped my toe into the ether and found myself feeling more self-aware, calm and open to new ideas. I wanted to write about this experience and encourage others to explore their chakras; it’s not a replacement for traditional therapy, but it definitely is cleansing on a different level. 🌼
What are chakras?
Before jumping in, I want to clarify the meaning of a “chakra” — by Western definitions, it is a pool of spiritual energy that swirls in specific parts of the body and is associated with certain colors, feelings and attributes. Of course, this “energy” isn’t something a microscope can see; it’s an etheric concept that stretches back to ancient Hindu and Buddhist texts. Healers and other spiritual workers can purportedly “read” your energy by tuning in to your chakras and seeing which ones are dull (blocked energy) or vivacious (healthy as a plum). In the Western tradition, the seven chakras, starting from the base of the spine and extending to the head, are the root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third-eye and crown chakras. Refer to the diagram I drew below (with stick figure illustrations!) that explains the chakras more deeply:
[bf_image id="787pbn5f7zkp4rjpjxprx"] I also recommend watching this YouTube video by Earth Mama Medicine that gives a visual understanding of the esoteric topic. And for fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender, this clip of the famous unblocking of the chakras scene is a friendly introduction told through a child’s perspective (#TeamAvatar🤘🏽).
I first learned about chakras through the A Little Bit of Chakras Guided Journal by Amy and Chad Mercree. I was skeptical when I began thumbing through the journal; my gaze landed on prompts like, “Who is the leader of your life?” and I rolled my eyes — might as well buy myself a 2021 inspirational quote calendar to match it. But the sample of prompts I judged wasn’t representative of the whole population. The deeper I went into the book and pondered questions like, “Are you able to express yourself freely? How easy is it for you to communicate thoughts and feelings to others?”, the more I realized how relevant the journal was.
On a personal note, I am Indian with Hindu relatives and ancestors — my boyfriend is also from India and we often talk about our shared cultural identity. I approach these topics with deep respect and appreciation because they are intrinsically part of my culture and myself. There is also an ongoing debate about cultural appropriation versus appreciation as it relates to yoga, chakras and other Eastern spirituality concepts. It’s no secret that the Westernized yoga industry is packaged in sexy leggings and promises of a trim body. However, it’s important to approach these practices — which are ancient and integral to several cultures’ ways of living — with the respect and research they deserve. Participating in the commoditization or dilution of spirituality, even if it’s unknowingly, can erode traditions and history.
However, my family also taught me that spirituality is for everyone, not just Hindus or Buddhists. If the practitioner is respectful and wants to make themself a more aware, calm and spiritually cognizant person, then yoga and chakras are open to them. For us, it’s all about intention and being culturally sensitive; for example, when you say “Namaste” at the end of yoga class, know that you are recognizing the divine in another person, not just uttering words so you can leave class early.
The garden of chakra benefits
Mindfulness and meditation apps like Headspace are all the rage now, but I’d wager that chakras are even better for mental health. Emotions and states of beings are messy and tangled like clumps of Spanish moss. However, segmenting them into different chakras — which are in turn associated with specific body parts, colors and adjectives — makes sorting energies easier. I talked with Nikki D'Ambrosio, a recent graduate of Loyola University Maryland and the soul behind the blog Naturally Nicoletta. She’s worked with chakra energies during her spiritual journey and clarified their meaning and power for me.
“Chakras help me break down the different areas of my life and see how they’re related,” she says. “But regardless of if your chakras are blocked or not, everyone can benefit from this ‘spiritual tune up’ to make sure each chakra is clear. They can be tools to further uncover aspects of ourselves, do shadow work around that and be a sort of ‘spiritual compass’ to figure out your energies. We all have energy everywhere in our bodies, and with meditation and yoga, you can focus your awareness and understand where this energy is flowing.”
Studying and journaling about my chakras forced me to face uneasy questions like, “What areas of your life diminish the love in your life?” and, “How empowered do you feel in your life?” Writing about myself critically made me become more self-aware about my habits, behaviors and true intentions. I realized which of my chakras needed more attention (my heart and throat), while other chakras like my sacral, third-eye and solar plexus were generally free-flowing and vivid. The journal gave helpful tips to open or unblock the chakras, such as increasing unconditional love with pets and plants and mantras to practice during meditation or yoga. Nikki also chimed in on chakra-opening techniques:
“For example, if your heart chakras are blocked, you can work on doing backbends. It makes your yoga practices more intentional and anything with intention has more power to transform your life … but it’s also important to build your chakra foundation first because if your root chakras are blocked, it makes the other chakras work harder.”
Learning about chakras this way is engaging and a constant back-and-forth between awareness of flaws and empowerment through them. Just reading the Bhagavad Gita or Buddhist Sutras cold turkey won’t impart the hands-on understanding that you need to grasp what chakras are.
Another side-effect of chakra learning was that I became internally calmer within a few months. When quarantine descended and regular living was snatched away, I was furious and sad. One off-hand comment was enough to have me throwing my turkey burger dinner into the ocean outside my house and howling to the dolphins. It wasn’t a pretty sight, and it became obvious that I couldn’t cope productively with a global pandemic.
Chakras helped me see my actions and emotions in third-person and analyze why I felt that way — was it frustration? General toddler anger? Or an inability to distill my emotions into healthy energy? My energy was bent a thousand different ways like a metal coat hanger on speed. However, this guided journal — along with reading The Untethered Soul and The Surrender Experiment by Michael A. Singer — put my heartstrings back together and transformed my impetuosity into tranquility. Doing yoga asanas (poses) every day was also a godsend as it focused my breathing and mind on intentional physical activity; dreadful headlines like “Covid-19 Is Resurging, and This Time It's Everywhere” melted away.
Additional reading and topics for spiritually-minded people
I also want to touch on other spirituality and energy topics that were either mentioned directly in A Little Bit of Chakras or are related tangents. Energy work is a wide and diverse field that attracts palm readers, psychics, intuitives, hypnotists, reiki practitioners — you name it. Again, it’s necessary to do your research, respect the ideas involved and if you’re still unsure, refrain from practicing until you have a conversation with someone native to that tradition.
The first idea is reincarnation. I was introduced to it through Many Lives, Many Masters, a book that came out in 1988 by Brian Weiss, M.D. about his hypnosis experiments with his young patient, Catherine. When hypnotized, she would have vibrant recollections of her past lives, such as one as a servant in a royal Ancient Egpytian household and another as a bloody pilot during World World II. In between lifetimes, Catherine would see bright, white lights and hear intonations from the “Masters,” spiritual beings from the beyond, until descending to Earth for her next reincarnation.
I also recommend researching lucid dreaming, dream yoga and the astral plane, which are all linked to the throat chakra. The connection still mystifies me, but your voice box is supposedly a portal to the dream world. In A Little Bit of Chakras, Amy and Chad write, “Many Eastern religions believe that we exist in an elaborate dream that only appears to be real.” For outside reading, Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold is a good starting point.
Finally, there’s the (often misunderstood) practice of tantric sex. At its core, tantric sex is having slow, meaningful intercourse that fosters true connection with your partner. It’s simply another avenue for spirituality to find an outlet; after all, the sacral chakra (associated with “simple pleasures” and sexuality) is an integral chakra to our creativity and wellbeing.
The ideas contained in this article have been healing and expanding the human psyche for thousands of years. It doesn’t matter if you’re Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or any other traditional religion — self-awareness and the belief in something greater are universal concepts. So if 2020 was also rough on you, maybe embracing your chakras is the therapy you need. For $12.95 and a few entertaining Google sessions, you might discover another plane inside your mind — and feel happier and calm all the while.