Have you ever wondered about the source and history of the chakras?
What are the origins of the chakra system?
Who decided that Anahata chakra (the heart) was green — surely, it should have been red?
What about the word chakra itself? Where did chakras originate? And who came up with this stuff?
For someone who has not studied yoga in depth, the origins of the chakra system can be murky. Even many yoga teachers are not aware of the history involved. Today, I want to clear this up for anyone with a little more curiosity than the average yoga student.
In this article, we will explore the:
- Greatest myths spread around the chakra system.
- True origins of chakra theory, by looking at the history of the chakras.
- Foundations of this ancient knowledge.
- Individual colors of the chakras, and whether the chakra rainbow of colors is fact or fiction.
If you have ever found your mind wandering while lying in savasana and pondering who came up with all the chakra stuff – you have come to the right place. Read on!
Table of Contents
What is the origin of the chakra system?
The first texts to mention chakras date back approximately 2700 years. It was the yoga Upanishads — dating back between 700 and 500 bce — first mentioned the word chakra.
But the Tantras first mapped it out in detail, which flourished from 600-1300 CE and is still alive and practiced today.
What does chakra mean in English?
Chakra roughly translates to ‘wheel’ or ‘lotus’ in English. However, we focus on the etymology in far more depth in this article.
What are the biggest chakra myths and misconceptions?
Let’s start by busting the biggest and most unbelievable 9 myths about the chakras:
1. Chakra doesn’t means ‘wheel’
When we look into the etymology of the Sanskrit term chakra, we see how embedded the chakra system is in eastern cultures and traditions.
According to New World Encyclopedia, the English word chakra derives from the Sanskrit cakraṃ चक्रं, meaning “wheel” or “circle.”
So yes, on the surface, it translates to wheel — BUT…
Going deeper into the philosophical theories, we can see chakras explored as systemic vortices of energy. The mystical practice of yoga in Ancient India first codified these theories.
And if we are to take a broader lens on the term in Hindu and Buddhist texts, it also refers to circular objects, formations, or patterns. In other texts, it’s translated closer to the English term “discus.” This is a type of divine weapon which is particularly linked with the god Vishnu, a potter’s wheel, or a form of military array.
In the History of the Tantric Religion, Bhattacharyya states the chakra refers to:
- Circle: symbolizing endless rotation of shakti.
- A circle, or group, of people. In rituals, there are different cakra-sādhanā, an assembly involving rites.
- Yantras or mystic diagrams, such as trikoṇa-cakra, or aṣṭakoṇa-cakra,
- Different “nerve plexi within the body.”
And examining Buddhist literature, the term cakra refers to a Buddhist concept of the four circles. These are the four states of existence in which gods or men may find themselves.
2. We don’t have 7 chakras
We have up to 114 chakras. But you’ll only ever hear about the seven chakra system — or six major chakras +1 (Sahasrara chakra).
Let me explain.
So, the subtle body — also known as the energy body — is made up of subtle energy that flows through channels called Nadis. You may be familiar with nadi shodhana pranayama. This pranayama is a subtle energy clearing through the breath channels — Ida and Pingala.
Any ailment in the physical body can (usually) relate to the flow of energy within our Nadis. For this reason, healing anything can be easy when approached through the subtle body. You just need to have the proper knowledge of the chakra systems and how to apply it to the human body.
Speaking of Nadis, we have thousands of them — approximately 72,000.
Where several Nadis cross, a chakra point occurs.
A chakra is, therefore, an energy center. Hence its slightly longer name, ‘chakra energy center.’
Due to having so many Nadis, our body has up to 114 chakras. The exact number depends on the applied system.
However, most systems now adhere to the main seven chakra system. These seven chakras link to experiential qualities of one of the six realms of existence. They include:
- Root chakra (Muladhara chakra or first chakra)
- Sacral chakra (Swadisthana chakra or second chakra)
- Solar plexus chakra (Manipura chakra or third chakra)
- Heart chakra (Anahata chakra or fourth chakra)
- Throat chakra (Vishuddha chakra or fifth chakra)
- Third eye chakra (Ajna chakra or sixth chakra)
- Crown chakra (Sahasrara chakra or seventh chakra)
3. The chakra colors are an ancient development
Thirty years ago, few had heard of the chakras. Now they have come into common usage. Along with the system, a new set of concepts arrived. These concepts exist as core beliefs in the modern yogic mind.
In the early ’70s, Christopher Hills published a book entitled ‘Nuclear Evolution.’
Most significantly, Hills was responsible for the chakra’s relationship to the color spectrum. They are also known as rainbow chakras. Until this time, no link existed between the two.
Hills also related the chakras to personality types. His correlation has now become mainstream in New Age and yogic circles.
Neither this nor the rainbow colors relate to the original intention of the system. They are, however, helpful and exciting tools for explaining human behavior and psychology.
The ‘70s saw a significant shift in the history of the chakras. This new Westernized perspective exploded in popularity. It has now become commonplace.
So, where did chakra colors come from?
Bottom line: The current ‘rainbow body’ color system came from Christopher Hills in his book ‘Nuclear revolution’ in the 1970’s. Before this, the colors varied depending on the text.
4. Our chakras don’t have to be open
Talk of “opening your chakras” is widespread in spiritual communities. Yet, the key word when discussing the optimal state of chakras is balance.
Chakras that are wide open or shut tighter than a clam only serve to throw the chakras system, as a whole, out of whack.
When the chakra system is in alignment, the energy through the koshas flows, remedying negative thoughts and feelings, and healing the body. It also facilitates a more profound course of connection with the Tantric teachings.
What happens if all chakras are open?
If all chakras are open, energy flows freely throughout the etheric body. We are free of physical ailments. There is spiritual, mental, and emotional balance. Having open chakras is referred to as ‘chakra alignment.’
5. There isn’t just one chakra system
The western chakra system of seven main chakras is the most widely known because of the popular book The Serpent Power written by John Woodroffe in 1918.
It depict a quite uncommon system of a seven-chakra system which was not used by many tantric lineages. Within the ancient tantric tradition, there are multiple chakra systems. Some of the common chakra systems involve 3,5,7,12, and 16 chakras. The Tibetan Tantrikas used the five chakra system, for example.
And it can be tricky to know which one to follow with these multiple chakra systems.
You might be questioning why such variety exists in the chakral understanding.
The reason boils down to the fact that the energy body is a highly fluid reality. Therefore, the energy centers can be perceived in different physical locations as a point of reference to the subtle body.
As diverse as the systems may be, they all agree on three major chakras: the sexual center, the heart, and the head. These are energy points where people experience psychic energy time and again.
When we look at our physical body, all of the organs, bones, and muscles are mapped out and present. Whereas the energy body flows and is far less distinct in nature. As we’ve mentioned, different lineages capture and experience this flow differently. What’s important is to follow a practice that harmonizes its chakra system while augmenting the life force energy.
6. Chakras don’t relate to glands
Traditionally the chakra system is considered a separate entity and not linked with the glandular system.
Chakras are found in the Pranamaya kosha — the subtle body. In contrast, the endocrine system is part of the Annamaya kosha — the physical body.
Classically, chakras are believed to energize and balance the physical body. The chakra is associated with the physical, emotional, and mental nature. However, they do not relate specifically to glands. These teachings came much later in the exploration of the chakra system.
So, although some modern western yoga teachers do link them to the seven chakra system, this was not always the case.
7. Chakras are not linked to psychological elements
This myth may surprise you. The psychological link was created by Carl Jung, founder of analytic psychology.
Let’s look at the ancient chakra system. We can see the Indian chakras don’t associate with emotions or psychological states. Yet, the esoteric teachings reveal the petals on each lotus contain these representations.
And each particular chakra is not reduced to a certain quality or state of being.
If we refer back to Anodea Judith’s Wheels of Life, the teachings attest each chakra relates to certain foods, metals, crystals, herbs, and glands in the human body. However, there is no mention of these correlations within the Hindu and Buddhist texts.
That’s not to say that modern spiritual practices do not awaken healing light and inner knowledge. New age practices have a few decades of social proof. However, a student needs to know whether they are engaging in a truly traditional practice. Specifically one that has been refined over centuries to provide value and meaning.
8. Chakras are not a philosophy
All chakra systems enliven the practitioner to different dimensions of being. They are not a philosophy but more of a classification.
Classifications, as a whole, can be viewed as a structure that inhibits expansive cognition. Yet, the classification of the chakras aids in understanding the esoteric teachings. It also allows practitioners to feel and integrate chakra systems into their lives.
Discernment is a marker of intellect. And so, applying chakras beyond the texts shows true understanding.
In short, the chakra system has nothing to offer without integration.
It is the same with all learnings — without application, a scholar fails to become a master.
As chakra authority Andrea Judith explains in Eastern Body Western Mind: “We either get success or lessons. If we learn our lessons successfully, we get both.”
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9. We shouldn’t identify with the chakras
Many teachers will encourage aligning with your chakras. In theory, this can be helpful. The trouble resides when we believe ourselves intrinsically linked to the nature of the chakra.
For example, someone may want to focus on creating a healthy relationship with their sexuality. Their teacher may advise them to focus on balancing the sacral chakra.
The sacral chakra, or swadhisthana chakra in Sanskrit, translates as “the dwelling place of the self.” Therefore, hyper-focusing on this chakra will lead to self-absorption.
You are not your chakras. They are powerful energy centers that enable enlightenment through balance. There is not one more important for your ultimate well-being than another.
And so, regarding them non-judgmentally and ensuring the alignment of the entirety of any chakra system is vital.
Healing and the chakras
Now that we’ve explored the misconceptions, let’s focus on how you can actually work with them to bring balance to your being.
Yogic teachings say that a balanced chakra system equates to optimal health.
As a result, chakra balancing is essential in many modern-day healing practices. The chakra system has an immense role in the holistic improvement of physical health.
Some chakra healing is ancient. In contrast, many other of these practices are very recent. One such practice is bioresonance technology.
Sound and frequency diagnose and treat imbalances throughout the whole body system. This includes the individual chakras.
Other healing methods, such as crystal healing, are thousands of years old.
In crystal healing, a stone with specific healing properties is placed on or near the relevant chakra point. The chakra absorbs the crystal’s energy and restores balance to the life energy, or at least improves it.
For example, amethyst is used for someone wanting to balance their third eye (Ajna chakra).They would place the healing crystal on the point between the eyebrows (level with the pineal gland) to restore balance.
Another way of healing your chakras is to practice meditation on the chakras.
What is chakra meditation?
Chakra meditation is when you perform a meditation with attention placed on one specific center in the body – a chakra. The practitioner uses particular music to stimulate specific energetic responses. This relates to the chakra that you work on. Usually, you would work on a chakra which is blocked or imbalanced.
How do you know which chakra is blocked?
Each chakra is associated with specific physical, emotional, and mental traits. Therefore, to identify which chakra is blocked, you need to determine what you are experiencing. It will likely correlate with thoughts, behaviors, and physical issues associated with a specific chakra.
How to unblock the heart chakra?
Any heart-opening yoga pose, such as camel pose or wheel, will help. In daily life, you can consciously smile more often and give random acts of kindness more (even when there is no reason to do so — try it and see how you feel). Treat everyone you encounter with loving kindness, and you will feel your heart expand.
How to unblock the throat chakra?
Speak your truth! Don’t tell lies or suppress your emotions. Instead, stand up for yourself by setting boundaries.
How to unblock the third eye chakra?
Various sacred tools exist to unblock the third eye. These include plant medicines, mental concentration techniques, and mindfulness meditation. Avoiding the consumption of fluoride water is also crucial, and ingesting other toxins from the diet. Both fluoride and dietary toxins cause calcification of the pineal gland, thus blocking this chakra.
How to unblock the crown chakra?
Chanting of ‘aum’ is an especially powerful method for unblocking the crown chakra. Try doing it for 15 minutes straight and see how you feel. Anything that gets you out of your head and into the present moment will unblock your crown chakra.
The chakras and yoga practice
Another important application of the chakra system is in the practice of Tantric hatha yoga.
Awareness of the chakra system and the origin of chakras provide essential insights. These extend into our psycho-emotional states and tendencies.
We can manipulate, transform, and sublimate this energy through awareness of each chakra. And understand and savor the unique flavor each chakra holds. Hence we can alter our emotional/mental state.
For example, a man with a blockage in his root chakra (Muladhara) may have a lot of heavy, dense energy as this chakra is related to the earth element. He may be lazy, slow-moving, and slightly clumsy. Emotionally he may experience a lot of worry about money, food, and shelter.
Such a man could use techniques from the system of tantric hatha yoga as focal points to transform this gross energy and ‘move’ it up the energy channels to the sacral chakra and onto the higher chakras.
Using specific asana or mental focus during meditation can correct imbalances. So, through consistent tantric practice, the man becomes less clumsy. He also moves faster and no longer worries about providing for himself.
How do you energize your chakras?
The yoga adepts can use specific asana from tantric hatha yoga to charge or balance each chakra within the tantric tradition. Kundalini yoga is particularly powerful for energizing chakras and creating free-flowing subtle energy. There are also many alternative healing methods, such as crystal healing and Reiki.
In Reiki, a Reiki master will channel Universal light energy. This energy will move through the giver to the receiver. The practitioner places their hands on each chakra point – charging each individual chakra one by one.
Other paths include Buddhist meditation and Buddhist Tibetan relaxation techniques.
The true chakra origin – the history of the chakras
Now we have the basics of the chakra concept out of the way, let’s look at the history of the chakras and their esoteric teachings. We’ll start at the beginning; where did chakras originate in the first place?
It was The Upanishads who first mentioned chakras.
The first known mention appeared in several early Upanishads around 7-800 BCE. The word chakra in Sanskrit means “wheel” or “lotus” and refers to energy centers in your body.
Later Upanishads (around 200 BCE – 200 CE) referred to tantric concepts. These include things such as chakras and mantras. They gave both locations and symbolism.
In the 10th century, the Gorak¬shash¬ata¬kam (Guru Gorakhnath) gave information on the powers of awakening and meditating on the chakras.
So, the chakras were born in 7-800 BCE.
The Serpent Power influence on the history of chakras
The subsequent significant development in the history of the chakras was in the 16th century.
At this time, Swami Purananda wrote the Sri-Tattva-Cintamini. The 6th chapter is called the Sat-Cakra-Nirupana (investigating the six energy centers). It includes descriptions and practices to activate the chakra systems. Also, he explained the powers and multiple physiological functions attributed to each chakra. Additionally, the movements of Kundalini reside in this text.
Sir John Woodroofe translated this work in the early 20th century. The Serpent Power was first published in 1919.
The Serpent Power is considered by many to be the foremost text on chakras and Kundalini. Sir John Woodroofe explores the fundamental life force that often lies dormant. This serpent coils three-and-a-half times around the Muladhara chakra at the base of the subtle spine.
Around this period, the theosophical movement was active. This movement introduced chakras to the West through the works of Alice Bailey. Alice’s writings were published over 30 years. They were a product of ‘telepathic communication with the Tibetan master Djwhal Khul'(*).
Additionally, Charles Webster Leadbeater published his book ‘The Chakras.’ Leadbeater’s book is based on the tradition of Madame Blavatsky. However, he added his own experiences and interpretations for an extra layer of depth.
Clairvoyant influence on the history of the chakras
Leadbeater used traditional concepts from Tantra and Indian religious culture. However, he interpreted them more freely. His mixture of occult interpretations made his work coherent with the ideas of that time.
The world of yoga cannot deny Leadbeater’s influence on spiritual communities worldwide. He made several observations that have been latched onto by others.
These observations include ‘theosophical and New Age writers and clairvoyants, although very few give him credit for being the first to come up with these ideas.’ (*)
The illustrations in his book ‘The Chakras‘ are stunning. They reflect a clairvoyant perspective on the chakras. And they reveal to us that traditional Tantra (mainly Tibetan) experienced the chakras as mental exercises.
What is now implied is that the chakras ‘have an independent objective existence in the subtle bodies.’ This ‘can be perceived by anyone who has developed the appropriate faculties’.(*)
Clairvoyantly, chakras are seen as vortices of energy within the auric field. Traditionally ‘the chakras are subtle centers of consciousness.’ (*) But they have no energy status of their own.
Leadbeater was the first to suggest that chakras were transformers of consciousness. This idea has now become a standard interpretation.
Chakra origins and development of the system in the 21st century
This esoteric tradition has lasted over a thousand years. Only recently has there been a clear shift in perception of the chakras. This shift mostly comes from Western perspectives.
The chakra system originates from Tantra and is seen as a gateway to help us understand ourselves. Unlike major religions, the tantric practice is a spiritual system.
We can interpret our existence as spiritual beings through the knowledge of the chakras. This understanding replaces the reductionist view of considering ourselves merely flesh, blood, and bone.
The original symbolism is not necessarily relevant to us now. Instead, it has evolved to provide meanings that we can understand and access practically.
Our need to verify and substantiate the reality of the chakras will no doubt continue into the 21st century. Scientific evidence could prove or disprove their existence.
I hope this will help clear up some of the murk surrounding the history of the chakras.
Last but not least, I would like to pose a question. Should we accept the New Age interpretations of the chakras without question? Or should we return to the traditions that have proven their ability to withstand the test of time?
I’ll leave it with you. Please let me know what you think in the comments!
And if you want to learn how to utilize the power of the chakras to manifest your soulmate or save your marriage, watch my free training here.
History of the chakras references and book recommendations
Ozaniec, Naomi, The Elements of the Chakras, 1990
Leadbeater, C.W. The Chakras, Theosophical Publishing House, 1927
Avalon, Arthur, The Serpent Power, Dover Publications, 1974
Feuerstein, Georg, Encyclopedic Dictionary of Yoga, Unwin Paperbacks, 1990
Anodea Judith, Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System As a Path to the Self
What religion does chakra come from?
Chakra stems from Tantra. This is not a religion but a spiritual system that enables the practitioner to reach enlightenment.
Where do the 7 chakras originate from?
The seven chakras originated in India. They were first mentioned in The Upanishads, ancient sacred texts of spiritual knowledge dating roughly from the middle of the 1st millennium BCE.
Where did the term chakras come from?
When learning the true essence of where does chakras come from, we can trace the long, winding history back to u003cemu003eThe Upanishadsu003c/emu003e.
Which chakra do you start with?
Typically, we start at the bottom with Muladhara — the root chakra.
What are chakras for beginners?
Chakras for beginners are the seven main chakra points and their Sanskrit names.
Do humans have a third eye?
Yes. We all have a third eye. The location of the third eye in the physical body is the pineal gland.
What is your weakest chakra?
Your weakest chakra depends on what kind of emotional, mental, and physical symptoms you are experiencing. For example, someone clumsy and constantly worried about money may have a weak Muladhara. It varies highly from person to person.
When were the chakras discovered?
The Upanishads first ‘discovered’ through deep states of meditation in 700-800 BCE.
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