This article has been written as a contribution for my website YogaTogether several years ago by one of my mentors Acharya Pranaksnananda. If you are interested in how the Chakras function (according to a tantric yogi tradition), this can be something for you.
The word “cakra” means controlling nucleus. There are many controlling nuclei in the universe. The controlling nucleus of any particular province or state, for example, is the provincial or state capital. The controlling nucleus of the country is the national capital.
The nucleus of the moon is the earth, and the nucleus of the earth is the sun. The controlling nucleus of the universe is the Cosmic or Universal Mind, commonly called God. Everything in this universe has a controlling nucleus and each nucleus is controlled, in turn, by a superior nucleus, in heirarchical order.
The cakras or controlling nucleii of the human body are formed in two ways. The human backbone is actually composed of several small bones piled one on another, separated by pillow-like substances called discs. Through the center of these backbones runs the spinal cord.
This spinal cord seems to be one entity, but there are actually three channels within each other containing three subtle nerves. One central nerve descends from the brain, passing directly through the spinal cord within the backbone to the base of the spine. The second starts at the root of the right nostril and twists and twines around the central nerve, crossing at five points in the trunk of the body until it reaches the base of the spine.
The third nerve starts at the root of the left nostril, twisting and twining in a similar way around the central nerve, crossing at the same five points, reaching to the base of the spine.
Where these three nerves cross within the spinal cord marks the location of the first five cakras. The first cakra is located two fingers above the anus. The second is located at the root of the genital organs and also controls the first cakra. The third is located at the navel and controls the two lower cakras. The fourth cakra is found at the center of the chest, controlling the three lower cakras, and the fifth is at the vocal cord and controls the four lower cakras.
The cakras are also formed by clusters of glands which act like small factories which exist at these controlling centers; around each of the first five cakras are a number of glands. The sixth cakra is located at the pituitary gland and controls all the five lower cakras. The seventh and highest cakra is located at the crown of the skull where as a baby our skull was soft. The seventh cakra is the controller of all the six lower cakras.
Each of the glands or small factories surrounding the nerves produces a particular hormone or chemical which activates a special emotion, feeling or tendency within the mind. There are fifty factory-like glands producing fifty hormones or chemicals in the body. Each hormone activates a unique tendency within the mind, so there are a total of fifty mental tendencies. This chemical stimulation of the body affects the mind. Therefore, the cakras are physico-psychic; that is, the body influences the mind.
The three nerves mentioned earlier are the extensions of the brain, and the brain is the machine of the operator-mind. When a particular thought, memory or idea about one of the fifty tendencies or emotions arises in the mind, the glands respond accordingly and that hormone or chemical is released into the blood activating the particular emotion or tendency. So the cakra is also psycho-physical, mind stimulates chemical reaction in the body leading to emotional behaviour.
This network of seven cakras, with related glands, hormones and nerves, acts like a transmitter and receiver. Everything in the universe is sending and receiving peculiar energies in different wave patterns called vibrations. Each and every animate and inanimate energy is transmitting its own special expression of being or existence. The cakras, as a whole, act as an antenna, receiving and sending these various vibrations. These vibrations stimulate the nerves which activate the chemicals of a particular gland, causing the mind to experience an emotion, feeling or urge as a result.
These various vibrations can be categorized into three qualities – sentient, mutative and static. Energy qualifies, molds or restricts our capacity to know either positively or negatively. Sometimes the positive aspect of energy dominates the negative; therefore, we call it positive or sentient. When the negative aspect of energy dominates the positive, we call it negative or static. There are times, however, when neither positive nor negative dominates, but rather each is struggling to dominate. This dynamic situation is called mutative or neutral.
Each of the cakras is being activated by external and internal energies. If that stimulation or vibration activates the two lower-most cakras, we say that the stimulus is negative or static to the mind. If cakras located at the heart, the vocal cord or the pituitary gland are activated, we say that the vibration is positive or sentient. When the navel cakra (third) is stimulated, we label it neutral or mutative.
Everything of this universe is vibrating under the influence of one of these three limitations. Music, people, nature, food and mind are each transmitting one of these three expressions of energy. Our cakras are being stimulated by these external and internal vibrations day and night, whether we are aware of it or not.
When a gland is stimulated agian and again, it becomes overactive. Some glands are very seldom stimulated. For example, in some people the pineal gland has become calcified, hardened, which means it was not active at all. The special chemicals made by glands which control particular emotional tendencies become dominant in activated glands and dormant in unstimulated ones.
The combinations of these dominant and dormant glands makes up our character, our personality. So we can say that our personality or individuality is the expression of the strengths and weaknesses of the various glands located at the various cakras of our body. When the negative glands of our body dominate, our behaviour can be categorized as static. Also, when the positive glands are dominant, then our behaviour is sentient. This applies to the neutral glands, as well, resulting in mutative behaviour.
By understanding the scientific nature of our bodies, we can apply the techniques of yoga to progressively strengthen, control and direct the energies of our cakras for deeper mental and spiritual achievement for the benefit of all.
We develop the cakras by controlling the food we eat. The body is like a refinery or processing plant. After eating, the body chemically refines food for various uses. However, foods containing chlorophyll are especially important in the production of lymph, the chemical agent which causes the formation of hormones. Lymph is the food of the nervous system, especially the brain.
The glands use lymph to produce the various hormones which activate particular emotions according to what we think. If we think courageous, compassionate and benevolent thoughts, then the lymph will be converted into the hormones of the glands which control these emotions. However, if we entertain fear, hatred, jealousy and doubt, then the glands that control those emotions will grow stronger.
There are three categories of food – sentient (positive), mutative (neutral) and static (negative). Positive food activates sentient glands and hormones, negative food stimulates static behaviour and neutral promotes mutative emotions. Food stimulates glands, glands activate emotions, emotions build personality. Therefore, we should be very careful about the kind of food we eat.
Yoga postures called asanas, exercise and massage the glands to control the overactive hormones and to activate the dormant hormones. Shyness, depression, dogmatic thinking and fear can be overcome by performing yoga postures prescribed by a properly qualified teacher. Asanas also stimulate compassion, hope, sacrifice, rationality and determination. By applying and releasing pressure on those inactive or underactive glands, the hormones will work to help the individual to move more efficiently towards the Supreme Goal of life.
If we do not take precaution in the food we eat, then static food will undo all the effort we made in practising the yoga postures to control and activate the glands. Static food will activate the glands we wish to control and will not produce lymph needed for the hormones we need to develop the higher levels of mind. The relationship between food and yoga postures or asanas should be understood very well.
Thoughts activate glands, glands produce hormones, hormones control sentient, mutative and static emotions and mental tendencies and the collective interaction between these psychic urges forms our unique personality. It is very important to control thought. Thousands of years ago yogi’s declared, “As you think, so you become”. Mind is the cause of freedom and slavery.
Eating proper food and doing yoga postures is done to control the static mind and activate the sentient, rational and intuitive mind. If the mind is engaged in negative, static and selfish thoughts, the glands and hormones will only respond accordingly. Precise, controlled thinking and remembering applied to glands lead to positive, peaceful and joyful living.
People with similar thoughts like to be with each other. Peaceful places attract people who want of peace of mind. In this universe there are many living beings, much smaller than our capacity to perceive, which are attracted by our thoughts. They also want the company of our mind. This “small life” moves throughout the universe desiring companionship according to its positive, neutral or negative nature.
As we think, they are attracted by our thought. If we think positively, then the positive are pulled by our thought. If we think negatively, then the negative move nearer to us. Their positive or negative influence affects the glands and hormones of the cakras, helping or hindering our progressive development. It is the mind which is our best friend or our greatest enemy. We should choose our thoughts carefully.
Therefore, we should consider these four aspects of yoga practice. We should be very conscious of what we eat and how it affects our glandular system and hormonal (chemical) balance. Our physical exercise should also enhance the control of overactive glands and the stimulation of dormant glands. Our thoughts should be properly selected to lead us to oneness in heart, mind and movement. And our thoughts should attract only those living beings in the universe which will help us in our effort to surrender to our Supreme Goal.