The chakras are energy centers along the front of the spine from tailbone to crown. They are a key part of the energy map of the human body, developed around 3,000 years ago in India. Some people dedicate years of focused yoga and other meditative practices to refine the connection between body and mind, allowing energy to flow freely through the chakras, leading to kundalini awakening and enlightenment.
We can also check in with the chakras as they are in the present, a source of information about our body and energy.
Chakras are associated with a rainbow of colors and symbols, although each person’s experience of their own chakras varies. Energy moves through the system from bottom to top in a “liberating” current, and from top to bottom in a “manifesting” current. The type of energy associated with the chakras ranges from solid matter at the first chakra to pure awareness at the seventh.
As you read the description of each chakra, sense gently into its location. You might sense a traditional spinning energy center, or a more vague sense of flow or blockage, or bright colors, or sounds, or emotions. Anything you sense is right for you. Each chakra might be tightly closed, balanced and flowing, or locked open.
Notice what feels easy about each kind of energy, and what feels hard. Even if that part of your life seems to be in complete disarray, there is still a spark of that energy in you. For example, the first chakra is associated with survival. Even if your survival seems in doubt at each moment, there is still something in you fighting to live, since you are still here.
Trauma affects all the chakras. The chakra system helps us focus on one kind of healing at a time, and notice what is going well in addition to what is difficult.
Root Chakra, Muladhara (root support), “I am”
The first chakra relates to survival, physical embodiment, family, and grounding. Through our legs and our sit bones, we physically connect to the earth. Sense for this chakra at the perineum, or the tip of the tailbone. You can also visualize it filling the whole bowl of the pelvis.
Trauma divides us from our bodies. Early abuse makes us question our fundamental right to be here. Rather than being a source of safety and support, family becomes a source of struggle and pain. As we heal from trauma, we treasure each regained scrap of physical awareness. We sense our determination to survive as we battle with despair.
Sacral Chakra, Svadhisthana (sweetness, one’s own abode), “I want”
The second chakra relates to gestation, sexuality, desire, and pleasure. Sense for this chakra at the level of the sacrum, or womb for those who have one. It can overlap with the first chakra.
Sexual abuse causes this chakra to shut down, or get locked open. We question our right to want. We question our right to allow desires and ideas to develop in quiet darkness until our own sense of timing says they are ripe to be born. As we heal, we learn patience with our deep rhythms.
Solar Plexus Chakra, Manipura (lustrous gem), “I will”
The third chakra relates to power, will, assertiveness, and boundaries. Sense for this chakra behind the navel, at the solar plexus.
Abuse and trauma teach us about helplessness and power-over, rather than strength and power-within. As we heal, we learn to take back our power and take action on our own behalf.
Heart Chakra, Anahata (unstruck, fresh), “I love”
The fourth chakra relates to love, connection, and compassion. Through our arms we reach out to the world around us. As the center of the chakra system, it also relates to centering and balance. Sense for this chakra in your heart and chest.
Child abuse and partner abuse mix our natural wellspring of love with pain and shame. As we heal, we learn that love does not have to hurt, and we regain compassion for ourselves as well as others. Over time, tightly closed hearts can open again, and wide-open hearts can learn self-protection. Rather than looking for the one right way, we weave a middle way between extremes.
Throat Chakra, Visuddha (purification), “I speak”
The fifth chakra relates to speech, expression, and communication. Sense for this chakra in your neck and throat, connecting down toward your collarbones and up toward your mouth.
Many abusers explicitly silence their victims with threats, lies, and coercion. Society implicitly silences survivors with disbelief, victim-blaming, and lack of attention. Fear and shame strangle our voices. As we heal, we allow our truth to resonate freely inside our bodies and ring out in the world.
Third Eye Chakra, Ajna (perceive), “I see”
The sixth chakra relates to vision, perception, and intuition. Sense for this chakra between your eyes, behind your forehead.
Trauma leads to hypervigilance, straining to see every possible threat and sense every nuance of the environment. Trauma also narrows our visual field, focusing on one thing at a time. Abuse often includes gaslighting, intentional questioning of our perceptions. As we heal, we can relax our eyes (and the rest of the body), allowing information to come to us rather than straining toward it. Our visual field can expand and soften when we no longer feel threatened. Gently covering our eyes with the palms of our hands can give them a rest.
Crown Chakra, Sahasrara (thousand-fold), “I know”
The seventh chakra connects us with All That Is. Where the first chakra is the most embodied, personal, individual chakra, the seventh is the most universal, spiritual, blended one. Sense for this chakra at the crown of your head.
Spiritual abuse directly damages our connection to Spirit. Trauma divides us from ourselves, and from the rest of the world. We wonder why we were harmed, and if we somehow deserved it. As we heal, we realize that no one deserves trauma, and we are all interconnected.
Your whole system
Now that you have been introduced to each chakra, check in with your system as a whole. As you sit or lie down, you could relax each part of your spine into support, starting from your tailbone and moving up through each section to the top of your head. Are there areas that feel cluttered, snagged, blocked, or overwhelmed? What parts of the system feel clear and flowing? How do they relate to each other?
Can you allow earth energy to rise through your system from the root chakra? Can you allow spiritual energy to flow down from the crown chakra? You could bring a gentle hand to any uncomfortable areas. You can invite any energy that does not belong to you, or no longer serves you, to flow away, to be recycled in the earth. You can also invite areas with more energy to support areas with less.
Respect for your balance
Each body has its own sense of balance and rightness, with some chakras more open that others. Consider offering respect for the way your system has managed the energies and events of your life. As you heal, your system responds to present conditions in a flexible, connected way.
Anodea Judith’s book Wheels of Life provides a thorough, inclusive introduction to the chakra system.
This article contains a good summary of basic chakra information and associations: Asanas for the Chakra System
Chakra symbols from Anodea Judith’s website, Sacred Centers, via wikipedia Chakra article.