Mesmerizing matrixes of mystical magic… Like geometric, psychedelic flowers… The rainbow-colored patterns you see in yoga studios and spiritual books, printed on t-shirts and tattooed upon devoted yogis… Behold, the chakra symbols.
In this article, we’ll examine:
- The Chakras
- History of the Chakra Symbols
- Sacred Geometry
- The Seven Main Chakra Symbols
- How to Use the Symbols to Elevate your Practice!
A Meditative Prop
Just as a block and strap are physical props for asana, and mantra is an audio prop for meditation, a chakra symbol is a visual prop to help focus the awareness. These patterns can have a powerful effect on the mind – generating increased coherence in our brains, and energetically calming and balancing us.
Each chakra symbol, from the color to the shapes to the meaning, is designed to help free the mind from disturbing thoughts and negative feelings, and relax into equanimity.
Understanding the chakras and how to work with their symbols can be incredibly powerful and transformational. Ready to find out what the chakra symbols are all about?
First, What are the Chakras?
The chakras are spinning vortexes of energy that radiate from a subtle energetic pathway within the spinal column. The seven main chakras are the bridge between the body and universal consciousness. They control mental and physical behavior and reactions.
The Sanskrit word chakra translates to “wheel” or “disc.” The seven major energy wheels in the human body are situated along the spinal column, which is synonymous with the central energy channel, Sushumna Nadi. Beginning at the base of the spine and ending at the crown of the head, the chakras connect the body, mind, and soul.
The mind is projected through these wheels, which reflects in the way one experiences reality according to emotions, and manifests in physical symptoms often labeled wellness or illness, abundance or deficiency. These symptoms and emotions always come full circle, illustrating the ever-changing, impermanent nature of everything…
History of the Chakra Symbols
Ancient Tantric texts describe each of the major chakras with a unique symbol, which references the colors and qualities of the organizational centers responsible for lovingly taking in, incorporating, and emanating energy through our bodies to keep us functioning at optimal levels.
The patterns associated with the chakras aren’t just pretty designs. These symbols metaphysically represent the cosmos – a microcosm of the universe from the human perspective.
So what makes a fabulously cool sticker for your yoga mat is actually a sacred geometrical diagram, a symmetrical design, which is said to emit cosmic positive energies, curb negative tendencies and help practitioners grow spiritually.
What Are The Chakra Symbols?
Simply, profoundly: Cosmic geometry of the universe.
Each chakra symbol reminds us of our connection to the divine. Practicing yoga helps connect us with the universal energies.
As opposed to what Instagram implies, yoga isn’t just about perfectly styled, impressive arm balances on cliffs and heavily-propped, essential-oiled restorative poses. The physical and fitness benefits are a side-effect of the real stuff.
Yoga is a vast science through which we can align our inner world with the outer world – a way to engage with the cosmos through the geometry of our own energy system.
How can yoga help us align?
The universe is perfect. Learning and practicing how to place our bodies in specific ways enables alignment with this cosmic perfection allowing it to pour inward, granting us access to all the wisdom, light, and energy there ever was and ever will be.
When this life force energy moves you, spinning through the major chakras as it sublimes from the root chakra all the way through the crown, it is possible to attain true bliss, pure consciousness, and absolute realization of the full potential of our physical form, and our spirit.
So what do the chakra symbols have to do with It?
The Sacred Circle
The terms “mandala” and “yantra” are often used interchangeably. In Sanskrit, mandala means “circle.” The word yantra translates to “any instrument for holding or restraining.”
In the yogic tradition of sacred geometry, these power diagrams are composed mostly of circles, squares, triangles, and lotus petals. And in the philosophy of Hinduism, they symbolize a deity’s energy field or the whole, vast universe.
The circular design illustrates the belief that life is never-ending and everything is connected, derived from a single source of life force. The chakra symbols represent the spiritual journey of the practitioner, the universal unity between all, and the individual need to find our own place within the cosmic connection.
Inside and Outside of the Circle
The circle is a universal representation of infinity, and the infinite and cyclical nature of energy. And the circle is the geometric element all of the chakra symbols have in common.
Representative of connection and unity – with ourselves, others, and a greater good or higher power – each chakra symbol incorporates the circle as a reminder of our connection to the divine.
Another mystical, magical element prominent in the chakra symbols is the lotus. This flower represents our connection to the divine, unity with other beings and the universe, and prosperity and eternity of these integral connections. The petals point outwards, as if opening – illustrating the unfolding of our understanding.
The Seven Main Chakras and Their Symbols
Each chakra symbol has a color associated with it, and other geometric elements inside and outside of the sacred circle. In some artwork, the Sanskrit bija mantra of the chakra is depicted in the center. A unique number of lotus petals always encases the entire symbol.
#1: Root Chakra Symbol – Muladhara
Muladhara | mula – root; adhara – base or foundation
The Root Chakra, associated with the Earth element, situated at the base of the spine, is all about grounding. Linked to our survival instincts and our ability to root ourselves in the physical world. It’s seen as the center of vital life force and the seat of kundalini – the dormant energy within us which stays coiled until waking to distribute its energy through the whole chakra system. The symbol is full of stability and beauty.
- The inverted triangle is the alchemical symbol for earth as well as the divine feminine, which points to the grounded energy of Muladhara. It’s also a symbol of spirit connecting with matter to ground us here for our earthly existence.
- The square, the elemental symbol for earth, represents stability. It provides a strong foundation for the chakra system.
- The four petals symbolize the four aspects of consciousness: Manas – mind, Buddhi – intellect, Chitta – consciousness, Ahamkara – ego.
- Red, the color of the 1st chakra, which represents courage, passion and loyalty. It’s also the color of the spectrum most visible to the naked eye.
#2: Sacral Chakra Symbol – Svadhishthana
Svadhishthana | sva – self; shthana – place
The Sacral Chakra, associated with the element of water, located just below the navel, is the center of creativity. Core beliefs are formed within and our desires, passions, and imagination are expressed through this energy center. The symbol illustrates the characteristic flow and flexible energy of Svadhishthana.
- The circle represents the water element, as well as the cyclical nature of birth, death, and rebirth.
- Intersecting circles create a crescent moon shape, often depicted as silver – a reminder of the connection between creativity and the lunar phases, and the relationship between the moon’s phases and the fluctuations in the water of emotions. The symbolism of the moon’s cycle also points to the feminine menstrual cycle which takes the same number of days to complete and links to the sexual organs located within the cross-section of the sacral chakra.
- The six petals of the lotus are associated with anger, jealousy, cruelty, hatred, pride, and desire – the qualities that must be overcome to purify the sacral chakra.
- The sacral chakra is most usually represented by the color orange. In homage to water, it could also be perceived as pale blue or white.
#3: Solar Plexus Chakra Symbol – Manipura
Manipura | mani – jewel; pura – city or place
Located just above the navel, the Solar Plexus Chakra which is associated with the fire element unites us with the sun and affects confidence. Here lies your personal power and expression of will, power, and determination. And the typically yellow symbolism is fiery!
- The inverted triangle represents the fire element and transformative power – fire turns matter into energy that can be harnessed for forward momentum.
- The upside-down triangle is also seen as a convergence of the energy of the lower chakras rising up to the higher chakras.
- Ten lotus petals link to the ten Pranas (directions or types of energy manipulation) in the body.
- Often the petals are depicted in the color of blue flames while the rest of the symbol is yellow.
#4: Heart Chakra Symbol – Anahata
Anahata | unstuck, unbeaten or unhurt
Associated with the element of air, the Heart Chakra, in the center of the chest, fuels compassion towards the self and others. Unique because it’s the connection between the three lower chakras and the three higher chakras. At the essence of this chakra is potent energy with the power to illuminate the compassion, love, and beauty in life. And the beautiful symbol encompasses this.
- A downward-pointing triangle (feminine energy) interlaces with an upward-pointing triangle (masculine energy), to form a hexagram, or six-pointed star. The intersecting shapes represent the air element and its omnipresent quality as well as symbolize the union of opposite principles.
- As well, the star and petals combine to represent the 72,000 energy channels, or nadis. This is also symbolic of the harmonious joining of forces at the heart – the central chakra that unites the whole system.
- The circle is all about what comes around goes around – a nod toward the concept of karma, as well as physical blood flow.
- The twelve petals are often depicted with the color red and symbolize the twelve divine qualities associated with the heart: love, unity, harmony, peace, empathy, understanding, purity, clarity, compassion, forgiveness, kindness and bliss.
- The majority of the Heart Chakra symbol is typically colored green, though sometimes seen, in the mind’s eye, as pink.
#5: Throat Chakra Symbol – Vishuddha
Vishuddha | visha – impurity or poison; suddhi – purify
The Throat Chakra is the center of communication, expression, authenticity, and purification – qualities of the ether element with which this energy center is associated. Here is where we summon the power to stand up for ourselves and what we believe in.
- The circle represents the full moon and symbolizes a pure mind.
- The inverted triangle is a channel to our consciousness and soul, an expression of our higher self. It also represents the upward flow of energy, or the gathering of knowledge as we move toward enlightenment.
- The sixteen petals are associated with the sixteen vowels of Sanskrit. The vowels, which are easy to pronounce, signify the light, airy potential of communication – hence a blocked throat chakra can inhibit the ability to communicate clearly.
- Blue is the color of the Throat Chakra symbol.
#6: Third Eye Chakra Symbol – Ajna
Ajna | command, or the higher understanding that guides our actions
The Third Eye Chakra is home to intuition, vision, and self-knowing. Associated with the element of light, this energy center represents wisdom and awakening.
- This triangle stands for the knowledge and lessons of the lower six chakras being gathered and expanded into your divine consciousness.
- The circle symbolizes the continuity of light and knowledge.
- The two petals symbolize the duality between the Self and God.
- The Third Eye Chakra symbol is illustrated in the color indigo.
#7: Crown Chakra Symbol – Sahasrara
Sahasrara | infinite
The Crown Chakra is where we commune with the Divine. Associated with space, or nothingness, qualities represented here include self-transcendence, oneness, and merging with the infinite. The symbol is simply the divine circle and the lotus flower – a reminder of our connection to all and the Divine within.
- The circle represents the full moon, which is indicative of awakening the conscious mind to a point of pure openness.
- The thousand petals represent connection to the Divine, unity with others, and the universe – the lotus flower symbolizes eternity and the prosperity of these integral connections.
- Violet is typically the color of the Crown Chakra symbol.
How to Use the Chakra Symbols
Cool t-shirt graphics aside, what are the chakra symbols really for? Enhancing meditation, attaining or maintaining balance, spiritual evolution, eventual (potential) enlightenment…
When feeling imbalanced, use these symbols (or other variations of them) to help realign your chakras. Use them when you’re balanced too – chakra maintenance!
Here’s one way to work with the symbols.
1. Choose which chakra symbol to work with, pending what you’re seeking from your practice.
2. Either commit the symbol to your memory or (as most of us will do) place the print out or image of the symbol at eye level, about an arm’s length away from where you’re planning to sit for your practice.
3. Make your way into a comfortable seated position, spine straight (chakras aligned!), chin ever so slightly lowered to keep the neck nice and long, eyes closed.
4. Begin to breathe. Perhaps eventually settling into sama vritti pranayama (or coherent breathing, or equal breath – where the length of the inhalation matches the length of the exhalation).
5. When ready, gently blink your eyes open, and softly settle the gaze upon the symbol.
6. Focus on the center. Keep the breath flowing. As the awareness wanders, continuously draw it back to the center.
7. Allow your vision to expand, seeing the shape that surrounds the center. This may be a downward pointing triangle, representative of the feminine creative power, an upward-facing one that represents male energy, or another circle that celebrates the infinite.
8. Further expand your vision to include circles outside of the inner triangles or circles – representative of the cycles of cosmic rhythms and the notion that time has no beginning and no end.
9. Finally, allow the vision to include the lotus petals which represent the heart, the seat of the Self. When the heart opens, understanding comes… As you continue to gaze into the symbol, allow the shapes and patterns to emerge naturally, holding your eyes only loosely in focus.
10. Slowly reverse the process by re-focusing back to the center of the symbol.
11. Close your eyes. You may still see the chakra symbol in your mind’s eye – the afterimage. All your inner vision to focus upon it until it fades away.
Creating Your Own Rituals with the Chakra Symbols
At the end of the rainbow, there are as many different interpretations of the chakra symbols as there are practitioners, and these are ours. Keep an open mind and heart (chakra) as you implement the chakra symbols into your own practice – you may discover that they mean something different to you.
You might also incorporate the usage of colors, scents, mantra, meditation, yoga practices, and more, to create your own rituals and magic. When your chakras are aligned, life feels smoother and sweeter – physically, emotionally, and energetically!
What will you do with the chakra symbols?