Chakras, Nadis, & Marmas: Subtle Body Part 2
Here, we’ll dive into the chakras, nadis, and mamas and hit a few other key ideas along the way. If you haven’t read part 1 yet, that’s where we get super clear on what the subtle body is, the layers than compose it, and why it matters.
Here’s the big take away so far that’s still true for all of this information I’ll share today. You are a lot more than just a physical body of flesh and bone. This can be the easiest to conceptualize when we think about the mind. The mind is not physical, you can’t do surgery on your thoughts, but you can absolutely see how they have an effect on the health and wellbeing of the physical body. In the Ayurveda and Yoga world the mind, the emotions, and more are all a part of the subtle body system. These sciences uses techniques to help heal and restore balance to the subtle aspects of ourselves as well as the physical. Your physical body and your subtle body are intrinsically connected, and the health and flow of one will have an effect on the other.
How the Subtle Body Works
In the physical body, we know how important circulation of the blood is. If blood isn’t moving through the body in the way it should be we can get a host of problems. Blood can be too thin, and blood can get too thick which leads to clots. On either end of that extreme we can have life threatening situations.
In the energetic body, or the pranamaya kosha, we need energy to flow smoothly much like we need blood to flow in the physical body. If energy is leaking out too freely, we have a problem. If energy is blocked or stuck, we have a problem.
To stay with this analogy, the “organs” that move energy throughout the subtle body on the pranamaya kosha are called the chakras. Just like the organs work together in the physical body, the chakras work together in the subtle body. If one chakra is working too hard and overproducing energy, it will have an effect. If a chakra is under producing, or stuck, it will have an effect.
This doesn’t mean that if one chakra is struggling the other charkas completely break down, it means one part of the system has an effect on the overall whole. Just like in the physical body, if the heart is strained, it has an effect on the other organs as well.
What is Ayurveda & How Can it Help Me?
What are The 7 Chakras?
There are seven chakras. Again, this is an entire course in an of it’s self, but I want you to understand the basics with me now so we can go deeper into each one later. You can easily correlate the chakra system to ideas in western phycology around hierarchy of needs and personal development. There’s a great book called Eastern Body, Western Mind that explores these connections in great detail. For now, I’ll give you the highlight real of each chakra.
A chakra can be thought of as a wheel of energy, each with with a different property. Those energetic wheels are positioned all the way up the spine. The first one is placed at the bottom of the spine, the last at the crown of the head. Each is associated with a different color, mantra, element, planet, and purpose. Each one can be in one of three different states, balanced, deficient, or in excess.
Because each chakra has a different purpose and a different type of energy, each one can create different problems at the physical level. Each chakra has its own healing and balancing strategies.
If you’ve ever heard people talking about kundalini rising, this is the space they are talking about. In everyone, there is a dormant energy at the base of the spine called kundalini. It’s describes as a coiled up snake. When we start to awaken to higher levels of our self and move deeper into an awareness of the subtle body that energy wakes up. When kundalini, or that coiled up snake, wakes up and starts to move it’s called shakti energy. That Shakti travels up though the charka system as we become more awake to our own true nature.
The 7 Chakras at a Glance
The first chakra is the root charka, or Muladhara.
This is the foundational energy center that relates to survival, self preservation, and security. It is located at the bottom of the spine. Too much and this and it looks like hoarding, fear, and greed- That would be this energy center in excess. Too little and it looks like a boundary lacking, anxiety storm- That’s this energy center in deficiency. Just enough, or a balanced state here looks like a lovely, grounded, stable, connected human. I already talked a lot about this chakra in episode 4- so you can go deeper into the root chakra talk in that episode. Moving forward I’ll simply explain the balanced state of each chakra, and other episodes we will go deeper into each one at an individual level.
The Second Chakra is Swadihishana.
It sits in the low abdomen at the sacral plexus and it’s all about self gratification. This is an emotional center that is strongly tied to sex, pleasure, and enjoyment.
The Third Chakra is Manipura.
It’s right at the solar plexus and relates to a sense of self. It’s about your personal power as a human being. It’s related to self esteem, confidence, and autonomy.
The Forth Chakra is Anahata, or the heart chakra.
This is the love center! This is about half way up the spine at heart level and it’s the turning point in the chakra system when we move from the more ego-based energy centers up towards the higher spirit-based energy centers.
When I say ego, I do not mean the bad kind of ego that a high school girl has when she thinks too much of herself. I mean the personality self that every human being has. As we move into higher levels of conscious awareness our relationship to our ego changes. There’s a shift from identifying with the ego, to watching and observing it. This is at the heart of spiritual development. The ability to shift identification is a big deal!
The Firth Chakra is Vissudha, the throat chakra.
This energetic center is all about speaking your truth. It’s located at the throat and relates strongly to communication and intellectual creativity.
The Sixth Chakra is Ajna, or the Third Eye. This energy center is right between the eyebrows on the forehead and hopefully you’ve had a yoga teacher direct your attention up to this space. This is a self reflective space that allows one to see things clearly.
The Seventh Chakra is Sahasrara.
It’s located at the crown of the head. If shakti energy makes it all the way to this chakra we’ve moving into the space of liberation, true self knowledge, and higher conciseness.
Of course there is a ton more to say about each chakra, but I hope this gives you a basic understanding of what the system is, where it is, and how it works. To review, these are the whirring energy centers that move from the bottom of the spine to the crown of the head and keep energy flowing freely in the body.
There are two other major subtle body systems that work with the chakra system, the nadis and the marmas. These are also big complex systems and ideas that can be lessons and books within themselves, but I just want to give you a basic understanding of them here.
Where the Chakras are like energetic organs, big and important epicenters of energy, the nadis are the channels that disperse that energy throughout the body. You might think of it like the vascular system in the physical body.
It’s said that we have over 72,000 nadis or energetic channels in the body. Of those 72,000 14 are really important. From there we have three main Nadis. To make it as simple as possible, let’s think of them as the left, right, and central nadi.
- Ida Nadi: Located on the left side of the body and most easily accessed by breathing through the left nostril. This energetic channel is lunar and subtle in nature and has a calming and cooling quality to it.
- Pingala Nadi: Located on the right side of the body and most easily accessed by breathing the right nostril. This is an active, solar, and warming energy channel that can be accessed by breathing through the right nostril.
- Sushumna Nadi: This nadi runs up and down the spinal column through the chakra centers. It’s associated with spiritual practices, and usually involves breath through both nostrils.
Nadis in Yoga and Ayurveda
The Hatha yoga system is all about these Nadis. When I say Hatha Yoga, I’m talking about the Yogic Science System from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which is a different path from the Patanjali one we touched on in in part one. So, not just a movement class that’s not as flowy, but an ancient yogic system from the Nath Yogis. It’s an entire science developed to balancing the Ha and Tha, or solar and lunar aspects of one’s energy so that a balanced state can occur.
You might think of nadis as the veins that energy, or prana, travel through. Prana is life force, and if it is getting stuck somewhere, we need to clear a path so it can move again. A good Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist is watching the way you move and breathe and observing where things look and feel stuck. We can use yoga asana and pranayama to help get things moving again. When energy starts to move as it is intended to all sorts of wonderful things can happen like: improved digestion, improved mensuration and fertility, creativity, sleep, and a person’s ability to enjoy life.
An Ayurvedic Practitioner might use Nadi Parikshan or pulse diagnosis to get an idea of how energy is moving through the body, what doshas and sub doshas are in balance, and what tissue layers or dhatus need attention. Again, this is a huge subject, I just want you to know that this is a thing!
So, if the chakras are the huge energetic centers and major intersections of the nadis, or energy channels, then the mamas are the smaller stoplights on the way to the big intersections. Marma points are referred to in more than one way in different texts, and that can be confusing. They don’t even all agree on how many there are, 107, or 108 or so depending on what you read.
So, for now, think of these special, energy intersections as spaces that allow for manipulation and change. Trained Ayurvedic Therapists use these points in massage to help move energy in the body much like acupuncture points in Chinese Medicine. A yoga teacher with Ayurvedic marma knowledge can push on these points in yoga asana poses to help a student move deeper into a pose.
The Big Takeaway
Here’s the point friends. You are a lot more than just the physical body. How things are going in the subtle bodies has a direct impact on the health and well-being of the physical body.
I bet this isn’t hard for you to see. The steadiness and health of the mental body absolutely effects the physical body. The Energetic body flowing smoothly absolutely effects the physical body. Your connection to the higher, more subtle parts of yourself has an effect on the physical body.
A tangible example is the impact of the mind and emotions on digestion. You could be eating a beautifully prepared, seasonal, organic masterpiece of a meal, but if you’re fighting back tears, stressed, and on edge, it’s probably not going to sit well with you. The mental and emotional body are absolutely connected to the physical body.
When you work with an Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist, or even begin to explore on your own, you’ll want to take into account all 5 layers of your being, the way prana is moving through your energetic body, how your subtle systems are facilitating that movement, the kinks or ease in the mental body, and what needs help where. It’s a big beautiful picture with so many tools and possibilities for change, ease, and well-being.
This is also an Ayurveda Podcast you can listen to!