Chakras, asanas, bandhas – you’ve probably heard these terms thrown around in your yoga classes, but what do they actually mean? We’re polling our resident yogi instructors in an effort to break it all down. First up, Micki Ramondt talks to us about chakras…

First thing’s first: how do you say it?
If you know anything about Sanskrit, it is so much about the vibrations of the words. This is why chanting in Sanskrit is so powerful without even knowing what you’re saying. Anyway, chakras… It’s not SHOCK-ra. ‘Cha-‘ (sort of like ch of chug) + blend in the ‘k’ + slight roll of the tongue for the ‘r’. The ‘a’ is like ‘ah’, and it’s short as there is no line over the top of it like ā, which makes the ‘ah’ sound two beats in Sanskrit.

Alrighty then – so what is it?
A chakra is about a wheel or spinning energy at certain points in the body. B.K.S. Iyengar (who developed much of the yoga which is practiced in Ashtanga-based classes) defines them as nerve centres.

It is commonly believed there are seven of these nerve centres (some say more, some say less). These points are where the three main nadis (lines or rivers of energy) cross over to touch each other. Idā (left side with feminine qualities), Pingalā (right with masculine qualities) and Sushumnā (centre with no quality of its own).

Hit me with the spiritual side – what’s the meaning of chakras?
Each of these points holds a strong energy and colour towards certain aspects in our life.

For example, the heart chakra is what you’d believe it to be: love, compassion, harmony and peace. It is the doorway to the remaining chakras, which are chakras of our foundation:

  • Our family life, values and how we grew up
  • The material and physical world
  • Our emotional and sensual aspects
  • Ego and self esteem

They are how we communicate with the outside world, our spiritual side, our intuition, our connection with the divine… Whatever that is or means to you as a human.

How do we channel our chakras in daily life?
The chakras tell us who we are and who we have the potential to be, our dharma or our path. We can use, listen, open and observe them to find where we are holding back or what’s stopping us from being the best that we can be. We can use them as a focus for a class… Opening up your Heart Chakra – we hear that a lot! But if you are afraid of being hurt, for example, it’s not a bad idea to focus in on a specific chakra both in your practice and in your thoughts and meditation.

Namaste, Micki. Keep your eyes on our email newsletter for more Yogi School 101 posts. We’ll see you in class!