1. How long have you been working with the chakra system, and how did you originally connect to it?
I first discovered yoga in 1975. There weren't many classes then, so I did a lot of reading and I came across writings on the chakra system at the same time. As soon as I read about it, a shot of energy went through my body. I knew I had found a vital key that unlocked many mysteries, yet somehow tied things together in cohesive fashion. Now, 40 years later, I realize those keys were far more profound than I had even imagined at the time. It just keeps getting higher and deeper!
But what I was reading implied that the lower chakras were bad and needed to be shut down in favor of the higher chakras above. I knew intrinsically that such an interpretation was unbalanced and fueled by a spiritual prejudice that ignores the body and denigrates the earth. Why would we have seven chakras only to suppress the first three? That just didn't make sense to me.
Now after four decades of working with the chakra system through writing, teaching, and private sessions, I am thoroughly convinced that each of the chakras plays a vital role in the journey between heaven and earth, human and divine. You can't leave out any of the stepping stones on this path and still go the distance. Each one has its own unique role to play in the journey toward wholeness. It really is an archetype for wholeness, something Carl Jung said that each one of us needs as a guide.
The chakra system has been my guiding template and a healing context for millions of others to find their wholeness.
2. How would you describe the chakras in just a few sentences?
I define chakras as organizational centers for the reception, assimilation, and transmission of life energy. They correspond to the major nerve ganglia branching out from the spinal column, as well as states of consciousness, patterns of behavior, and even stages of human history. Metaphorically, chakras are the inner psychic gears that move us along the journey of life. If we want to get up to speed, we need to have all our gears working properly. The word "chakra" literally means wheel or disk, and like a computer disk, each center contains habitual patterns, or "programming," that enables our life force to interact with different levels of energy, such as physical, sexual, emotional, mental, or spiritual energies. If we have "bugs" in our programs, then we have trouble dealing effectively with one or more of these important levels. When we do the work of cleaning up that programming, our life flows more smoothly at that level.
3. What is the simplest way for someone to become aware of and make use of their own chakras?
The most direct access is through your own body. Simply tune into the part of your body where a particular chakra is located. For instance, when you feel butterflies in your belly due to nervousness, you are feeling your third chakra, often called the power chakra. When you fall in love, you feel energy in the heart chakra. When you have an orgasm, you are feeling the second chakra. When you feel all choked up and are unable to speak, you’re feeling constriction in your throat chakra. These are very simple, everyday experiences. Once you learn the system, you can then practice exercises associated with each chakra to help open, develop, and evolve that particular center. These practices involve yoga postures, breathing techniques, visualizations, sounding, and taking tasks on in your life.
For instance, as one works through blocks in the throat, their creativity is enhanced. Healing blocks in the second chakra can deepen one's sexual connection. Opening the heart improves your quality of intimacy in relationship. People's finances improve when they learn to ground properly and open the first chakra. I've seen this happen so many times that I wish I could get a commission! The changes in your inner life can bring profound changes in one's outer life accordingly.
These are real and tangible results. They don't happen every time, but often enough that I am amazed at the power of this system when practices are applied.
4. As you travel around and teach your workshops, what do you find are the major issues people have today?
I find that people today are hungry for the sacred, which is why I call my business Sacred Centers. In my workshops, I use yoga postures for each chakra, guided meditations, movement, art, dance, even ritual, to bring someone into an experience of the sacred within themselves and from there into a sacred connection with others. This is what brings about meaningful transformation. It makes it real inside your own body, instead of going home with a notebook full of intellectual knowledge that never gets looked at again.
Aside from a hunger for the sacred, people want an embodied experience. They want to feel something in their bones and their flesh. Then it is very immediate. And this has always been a challenge for me, because I love the intellect and the realm of ideas so much. But I know the deepest truths are embodied truths, realizations that we feel in the entirety of our being.
As for the issues people face, the most common themes I see are that most people are not grounded; that women struggle with their third or power chakras; and almost everyone claims to have trouble with their throat chakra.
The key is to find balance in each chakra. Chakras can be excessive or deficientmeaning we do too much of something or not enough, compensating for something we didn't get or avoiding something we didn't want. Excessive chakras need to discharge their energy or move it to another chakra. Deficient chakras need attention and focus in order the charge up.
5. What do you hope to achieve with your newest book, Anodea Judith's Chakra Yoga?
I see this book as a guide for teachers and students alike. Arranging your practice or your classes by the chakras puts everything you do in a very sensible context, from finding one's ground, to opening to others, activating your power, opening your heart, speaking your truth, seeking a vision, and liberating your spirit. Anyone, no matter where you are on the path, can learn from this.
I've been in the yoga world for forty years. I've seen the yoga movement grow from occasional classes of a few people in someone's living room, to the mega-business of goods and workshops that it is today. People just discovering yoga often think it is just an exercise routine. I hope to bring the deeper meaning of yoga in a way that relates directly to people's lives, chakra by chakra.
6. Do you have some parting words?
We are being called forth to play in a grand symphony of creation together. But to play in the symphony we need to practice, practice, practice. The ancients have handed down practices to help us mature and develop. I don't believe we need a lot of elaborate, painful, or time-consuming practices to enjoy what life has given us, but we do need some practices to keep us on track. We need to heal the divorce between matter and spirit, mind and body, and awaken to our divine natures. The body is a vehicle equipped with everything we might need for this spiritual journey.
Inherent within each of us is an archetype of wholeness that will take us home to our fullness if we allow it and trust it. The chakras integrate mind, body, and spirit into within a full spectrum experience. When we use this system as a map for our journey, there is a greater opportunity for wholeness to emerge. That wholeness can change the world.