If you have gone to a yoga class more than once, chances are, the word “chakra” has crossed your path. Chakras are psychic energy centers that govern the human body. Chakra in Sanskrit means “wheels”. Chakras are supposedly located in seven different parts of human brain anatomy beginning from the medulla going up to the right and left cerebral hemispheres.
Doctors will tell you that there is no scientific basis for the chakras. There are no actual wheels of light rotating inside human body. Sages might have been talking about circulations than actual wheels. That said, it is safe to interpret the chakras as seven circulations of vital activities within human brain.
Dr. Alfred Penfield identified the functions of specific parts of the brain that run our bodies. He called this body map. Neuroscience knows which part of the brain thinks of certain things. We now can see which part of the brain lights up (MRI flares) when we think of food, sex, or religion. There are the parts of the brain consistent with the thought processes of the chakra groupings and the exact anatomical equivalents of the human body.
The seventh chakra is the connection to the divine. The location is in the pre-frontal cortex, a feature of the human brain more developed than our ape cousins is the command center. The higher states of concentration, free will, feelings of “oneness” and altruism are found in this region. The pre-frontal cortex is the crown of the brain and is located on the forehead, but not on the crown. As a chakra, the crown is where we connect with the Divine. If you are connected to a higher power, you feel “one” with the universe resulting in altruism and harmony.
The sixth chakra which is the center that governs foresight is in between the eyebrows. Next to the pre-frontal cortex is the rest of the frontal brain that is divided into two hemispheres, namely, the left and the right hemispheres, each governing visual and verbal inputs. Information from the eyes and ears, namely, sound and sight perception of the outside world is integrated and interpreted within a thin membrane between the right and left cerebral hemispheres known as the corpus callosum. The pineal gland that lies right below the corpus callosum has been linked to third eye experiences. The sixth chakra also known as the third eye governs sight and perception. It is the chakra that is responsible for seeing within the mind’s eye. It is further described as the channel where Ida, the female nadi and Pingala, the male nadi meet. Descriptions of nadis in various yoga texts depict it as a kind of vessel of consciousness. A “female” and “male” in esoteric terms pertain to negative and positive energies. To be more scientific, the force that gathers is associated with the female and the force that gives or focuses is considered male. These are traits that could aptly describe the hemispheres, with the right brain governing the left side of the body and the left brain governing the right side of the body.
The fifth chakra is the domain of self-expression located in the region of the throat. Broca’s area is a small portion in the frontal brain, right below the frontal eye field. It is the region of the brain that helps us produce speech. It works with Wernicke’s area situated at the bottom of the parietal lobe to produce speech and decode language. The throat Chakra is associated with communication and expression.
The fourth chakra governs love and harmony and is located in the heart. Beyond Broca’s area, deep in the medial brain is the thalamus region where the hypothalamus is situated. The hypothalamus is the heart of the brain. It is the conductor of the orchestra of the brain. The hypothalamus is responsible for the circulation of hormones, the way heart circulates the blood all around the body. This area connects with all parts of the brain; the front with the bottom and the left with the right together. The hypothalamus is enabler of all deliberate movements and the thermostat or body temperature regulator of the brain. The hypothalamus is responsible for the generation of emotions. Below the throat chakra is the heart chakra that rules commitment and relationships.
The third chakra is the seat of courage that is located in the solar plexus. Below the medial brain are the three lobes called the parietal, occipital and temporal lobes. This area governs and orchestras the limbic system that part of the brain which mediates emotions and memory. The parietal, occipital and temporal lobes perceive sensation of time and space. With the help of memory, spatial and emotional associations influence action. We know where we are and who we are in relation to the world. The body has a mind of its own. The parietal, occipital and temporal lobes’ capability to interpret reality or what we call facts, gives these lobes power to influence our perception. We literally become what we think we are, not what we are in actuality. The third chakra found below the heart and the stomach is associated with self identity. It is also the seat of courage. In the human brain, the amygdala is found within the temporal lobe and the amygdala is where flight or fight responses are decided.
The second chakra is the center of human creativity and power that is situated in the reproductive area. Below the parietal, occipital and temporal lobes and separated from the cerebrum is the cerebellum, also called the reptilian brain. The reptilian brain is responsible for the desire for social dominance, lust and other unpleasant human traits. The pons is the part that connects the two halves of the cerebellum just as in the way the thalamus region connects the right and the cerebral hemispheres. Pons is responsible for self-protection and the meeting of bodily needs. The second chakra is where primal energy is derived from. In fact, the kundalini, a powerful primal force in yoga, is found here. Usually portrayed as a coiled serpent, it is believed that when the kundalini rises to the crown, mastery and awareness is achieved. Neurologically speaking, the reptilian brain is in charge of body memory. Driving a car, riding a bike, playing the piano becomes an automatic thing in this part of the brain. Perhaps, when altruism and forward thinking becomes an automatic process in your brain that is when you have achieved the awakening of the kundalini.
The first chakra is body’s connection to the earth and is the energy center for survival that is located at the base of the spine and the feet. The last part of the brain is the part that connects the brain to the spinal column. It is called brain stem. The brain stem regulates involuntary functions of the brain that keep brain and the body going. It also controls sleep-wake cycles, respiration, heart rate, and excretions. The first or the root chakra is also the chakra of survival. When your basic needs are met, root chakra will be healthy. Food and shelter problems weaken the first chakra and cause bodily pains and diseases.
Exercise and brain are directly connected. To be mentally fit one has to be physically fit. Healthy mind cannot live in a disease-ridden body. The actions of the body change the wiring of the brain, clinically substantiated in patients overcoming mental disability. Through persistent exercise, the brain can heal itself. This has been said before by mystics from the Upanishad period, thousands of years ago. This gave rise to the practice of yoga and the knowledge of the energy centers called the chakras. Science and ancient wisdom are converging. How was it possible for the ancient mystics to arrive at the same conclusions we are only beginning to observe today!? Perhaps the answer is; consciousness knows its own nature. If you bother to ask your consciousness the question, it will give you the answer in the language that you can understand.