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Body Physiology and Astacakra: The Eight Cakras

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ayurvedic medicine

Yoga and Ayurveda are excellent, proven and scientific medicinal systems that also provide a model for a supreme quality life and overall development. Yoga and Ayurveda are also the only ways for an individual to attain complete health, eternal bliss and a divine life by the awakening of inner knowledge and consciousness and by developing one’s own intellect, internal strength and complete human energy.

Caraka Samhita describes many divine medicines to be used as rejuvenators for the complete health of an individual, achieving an inner glow (teja), longevity, youth, a pleasant voice, healthy complexion, development of the body, strength, intellect and all desirable attributes. In all the rejuvenators, acara (healthy living habits) is considered to be the best rasayana (rejuvenator). In reality all righteous deeds and healthy living habits are ‘acara.’ This is also called ‘sadacara.’ There is no other way to achieve the best sattvika nature (sadacara) apart from yoga. The complete benefits of yoga can be achieved only by regular practice and detachment. Our ancient sages understood the subtle intricacies of physiology and described the body as a small model of the whole universe, a microcosm by saying “Yatha pinde, tatha brahmande.” Our visual-non visual, gross-subtle personality or existence is quite mysterious, adventurous and very scientific. To know this extensively, it is essential to understand the power centers located within the body, these power centers are called cakras. About these cakras the Atharvaveda states:

“Astacakra navadvara devanam purayodhya.


Tasyam hiranyayah kosah svargo jyotisavrtah.”

                                      — (Atharvaveda 10.2.31)

It means that this body symbolises God’s city, Ayodhya, which has eight cakras (eight power centers) and nine gates (both eyes, both nostrils, both ears, the mouth, the anus and the urethra). In this city there is an illuminating golden treasure “sahasrara cakra,” which is filled with infinite, eternal happiness, bliss, peace and divine light.

Only yoga practitioners, worshippers and spiritual seekers can achieve this divine treasure. Though these cakras appear to be related to the physical body, they are actually associated with super power centers of the body. They cannot be seen by the physical senses as they are known only by means of extra-sensory or imperceptible knowledge and strength. These power centers help the body in obtaining the life-force. But after death or assimilation of the body this energy is diffused by itself. That is why in a post-mortem these cakras are not seen in the spinal cord. As they are not anatomically seen, these cakras are considered to be imaginary. We must remember that the soul or life-force cannot be seen in a post-mortem.

Energy is experienced not by its visual existence but by its effect. These power centers distribute the life-force in each cell, each tissue and each nerve emerging from them. In these nerves the flow of prana (life-force) is bidirectional. These cakras are situated from below the base of the spine, the muladhara (filum terminale) to the sahasrara (brain) throughout the spinal cord. This undoubtedly proves that the ancient sages had a more subtle and intense knowledge of body physiology and anatomy and the body’s invisible power centers than modern medical science has. They not only identified the main power centers of the body but also discovered various techniques to awaken these invisible energy centers by vivid yogic activities, sddhana, pranayama, yoga and meditation to get free from disease and to reach self-refinement.

  • Astacakra colors and their scientific approach

 The petals of the cakras imagined in the classics are the group of subtle nerve plexuses around that cakra. These nerves more than being a part of the nervous system are the medium for expansion of the Consciousness. Here ‘nadis’ are not nerves rather they are channels for the flow of energy (Consciousness) in the subtle body. The literal meaning of nadi (nerve) means ‘flow.’ As negative and positive charges flow together in electric circuits, the prana (life-force) and manas (mental-force) energies flow through all parts of our body via these nadis. These nerves (sources of subtle flow of Consciousness) are said to be from 72 thousand to 72 million in the Upanisadas and different classics. These are distributed all over the body. These very subtle waves are white, blue, yellow and red. The color and subtlety of these nerves are also said to be like the color and subtlety of the sun’s rays. These nerves are said to dissolve in the Sun after death. Ida, pingala and susumna are important among these nerves. The energy of ida nadi flows through the prana vayu of the left nostril and pingala nadi through the right nostril. They are also called candra nadi and surya nadi respectively.

Ida nadi is cold and pingala nadi is hot in nature. The origin of these nadis is called muladhara. These two nadis form a circle (cakra) which combines with the susumna at the base of the spinal cord. This is called the mulakendra (origin) of energy. These nadis control the flow of prana and Consciousness. From this supposed location the susumna moves up vertically straight, idd moves up from the left and pingala from the right side. These nadis meet each other at the locations of different energy centers (cakras) along the susumna and they reach all the way up to the sahasrara cakra.

One can know the deep and subtle aspects (secrets) of body physiology by understanding these cakras and can attain infinite powers and complete health by awakening the latent powers located in these energy centers. The energy when reaches the sahasrara from the refining and awakening of these cakras through yoga sadhana, brings immense happiness and eternal bliss. This is the main aim of all methods of yoga sddhana (practices). These power centers or the centers of vital energy are known as ‘Astacakra’ and the energy, extra­sensory or imperceptible knowledge or inner strength awakened by these cakras is known as ‘Brahamavarcas’ (cosmic radiance or the radiance of the brahamana) and ‘Kundalihi Jagarana’ (awakening of serpent power) in Modern Tantra Classics.