This post presents a summary of the different chakras, including their ancient names, general location, and function—according to traditional Indian and Tibetan sources. These sources often differ from each other in specific details; these differences often have a specific purpose and are not just mistakes.
There is a strong relationship between our ability to love and our inner body of channels, chakras, and prana. Great yogis of ancient times mapped out this inner body, sometimes called the Rainbow Body, and found methods of using it not only for greater health, but for greater knowledge—and for a greater capacity to love.
Chakras and energy channels
The great meditation classics of India and Tibet describe a special type of prana, or inner wind, which we can learn to direct through our body in order to bring our mind out of this subtle wandering and return it to sharp, single-pointed focus. In these four days of teaching at Diamond Mountain Retreat Center, Geshe Michael Roach will take us on an exploration through the nature of these subtle meditation obstacles, and inner techniques to overcome them by moving the prana through our channels and chakras.
The Yoga Sutra was written in India about 2,000 years ago, and is considered the source of almost all the great teachings on yoga. It is organized around the ashtanga, or “eight branches of yoga,” which include not just the physical exercises but also things like meditation, mental calmness, and proper breathing.
Mahamudra thoughts are an ancient method of working on the clearing out the inner channels and chakras from the inside. The purpose of all mahamudra is to see emptiness, or ultimate reality, directly. When we do see emptiness directly, all of our inner winds or prana are concentrated in the central channel of our inner body. Since the inner winds and our thoughts are linked together like a horse and its rider, we can bring the winds to the central channel if we bring the thoughts there: wherever the rider decides to lead, then the horse must follow. Later we will work from the outside, to bring the wind-horse to the central channel, which will also help the rider arrive there.
If we do yoga asanas for an hour a day, there are still 23 other hours of the day when we could be mindfully improving our yoga, just by how we go through the activities of our normal day. In Tibet, this is called Chulam Neljor: All-Day Yoga.
There’s a yoga body, there’s a light body. On the way to your light body, it’s fine to want to look good. That’s a yoga body. We work on the asanas day after day, to wrestle ourselves into the yoga body: lean and strong. But if you know one simple trick, you can make the whole process happen much, much faster. Faster to your light body, and faster to what you were meant to become.
If any person does yoga on a modest, daily basis, then they will inevitably attain the extraordinary benefits of yoga. And so the question for us, as teachers, is simply getting students coming back to the studio. About sixteen centuries ago, the Indian sage Master Asanga—in his book called The Jewel of the Sutras—described four gifts that we give our students, so that they do come back for their practice.
Two people walk into their first yoga class. One of them leaves with the most exhilarating experience of their life. The other leaves with a sore neck, and never comes back. Why the difference? Our entire being is like the layers of an onion. The outermost layer is the gross physical body. The next layer down is what feeds this layer, the breath being our most important “food.” This breath layer is linked to a layer of subtle physical energy—the prana, or inner winds.
If one task is to get people to come back to yoga class, another is to inspire them to do their yoga practice daily, if only for a short amount of time. Anyone who has truly gotten deep benefit out of yoga knows that this requires a daily practice—opening up the channels and chakras is really a lot easier with a modest, regular, daily practice. Here then are some tips for getting people to actually do a daily practice.
The original purpose of the yoga asanas, of course, was to reach in from the outside to affect the inner channels, or nadis, through which prana and our thoughts travel, linked together. We thus loosen up chokepoints in the inner channels, where they twine around each other and form the circular-shaped “wheels,” or chakras.