The Myth About Chakras & Why You Probably Have it All Wrong. ~ Mijael Brandwajn

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photo credit: flickr/omnos

I want to be clear—I don’t want you to believe that the chakras don’t exist.

I cannot be sure of their existence myself, as no one has been able to “measure” these energetic centers in the body.  But just because science hasn’t been able to prove their existence, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

There are certain implications about the existence of chakras that need to be explored.

For starters, there is no unified theory of the chakras.

There is no consensus as to their shape, size, color, meaning, location, related organs and emotions or even how to balance or clean them if such a thing can be accomplished.

Sure, you will find book authors and teachers, many of whom speak about the chakras with such authority as if they had been present when God Herself invented them.

But the truth is that many people who claim to be enlightened or claim to see and feel the chakras with detail, or both, have spoken about them in terms that are nothing short of contradictory.

Some systems have 7, 9, 13 or however many chakras. Some say the third eye is blue, others purple and others say gold. Some say the root chakra is in the perineum, others in the anus, and the discrepancies only get bigger as authors add more details to their theories.

What is in the scriptures?

We can find most of the mentions of the subtle system in the Upanishads (very old yogic texts). They usually mention seven chakras, and along with their names, sometimes you can find location (not always the same for each chakra), their “bija sound” (seed sound or mantra) and their number of petals.

The colors? They began to appear in Western literature not that long ago. The idea that there is a strong relationship to our different organs and body systems or to different stones or affirmations is even newer.

Don’t even get me started on which poses affect which chakras.

Who’s telling the truth?

I would contend that if there is no way to measure them, at the very least the experience of the chakras should be somewhat universal.

What I mean is: the experts who claim to see and feel the chakras should have much more agreements about the way they experience them.

If the chakras do exist, and have a specific color, shape, and amount, then why is there so much disagreement among those who claim to know them authoritatively?

I consider three distinct options:

  1. Nobody knows the details, and our minds “fill in the gaps” of our knowledge about them.
  2. Only a few people know the chakras in the “right” way. Everyone else is wrong.
  3. The chakras don’t exist, and we have a case of massive delusion and placebo effects.

Does it matter?

This is, I believe, the ultimate and perhaps most important question of this subject. I use the chakras because they serve me and my students. They are a great way to describe our different needs as human beings and to tie them to a physical sensation, so it’s easier to access in a more tangible way.

To me, it is irrelevant if you are actually cleaning the chakra or if it’s the placebo effect helping you create more balance in your life. What matters to me, is that it works for you.

And I have seen it work, regardless of the color or whatever detail you may assign to the chakra. What seems to make a difference is how much you believe in what you are doing, both as a facilitator and as a student or client.

What is missing?

I believe we are missing some humility in the way the theories of the subtle body are taught.

Just because you were taught a system that works for you and your students, doesn’t make it an absolute, universal truth. Just because you can see the chakras one way, doesn’t mean that someone else might experience them differently, yet in a completely valid way.

So I suggest that you teach the chakras the way you see them, not the way “they are.” Treat the chakras with respect by allowing them to be true in the relative terms they have come forth to each one of us.

This way, even if the chakras turn out to be a myth, they will remain a very useful and valuable one.

 

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Assistant Ed: Paula Carrasquillo/Ed: Bryonie Wise

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anonymous Feb 13, 2016 6:19am

Have you considered that the chakras could be unique to each individual? Sure most of those who claim to have experienced it maybe lying but I thought that was one of the possibilities you hadn’t considered. We are all unique after all. Just a thought!

anonymous Jan 27, 2016 4:13pm

I wholeheartedly agree with this article. I have been thinking about this myself as I could not find good resources for why New Age spiritualists believe so strongly in the chakras. And unlike some others, I agree with this statement the most: "……as no one has been able to “measure” these energetic centers in the body. But just because science hasn’t been able to prove their existence, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.' It is a statement that all great discoveries were built off of. The discovery of the cause of epilepsy demonstrates this the most for me.

Evidence of epilepsy has been recorded back for thousands of years. Theories abounded as far as the cause…evil demons, people having a behavioral disorder, some even believed that people with epilepsy had other wordly powers. Most scientists believed it was a disease of the blood. Some will say that you can at least see evidence of an epileptic seizure. But not always. In the case of absence seizures for instance, one may just stare for a few moments before appearing to come to. It looks very similar to someone daydreaming. It wasn't until 1849 that Robert Bentely Todd proposed the first electrical theory of epilepsy, although he thought the discharges were from places throughout the body and he had no way of measuring them. And it wasn't until the 1930s that Hans Berger was able to prove that electrical discharges from the brain caused seizures when he invented the EEG. And even with that, we are still looking for appropriate treatments. And we don't fully understand why the brain gives off these electrical discharges.

So, if someone experiences chakras and I don't or they experience them differently from me, it isn't necessarily true that chakras just don't exist. Perhaps we haven't invented the "chakra EEG" yet. I'm glad scientists don't just stop at "I don't have evidence for it, therefore it must not exist." Sometimes we are very full of ourselves in that we truly believe that we have somehow already discovered everything there is to know about everything.

anonymous Jan 1, 2016 12:35pm

Tradfitional Chakras appear to be located at "Mid Somatic Sections" or "Mid Dermatome Sections" (the same thing). As they are in the spinal column they are not Endrocrine glands or Plexuses, although may be correlated with them. Some confusion about this has occurred because of Charles Leadbeater's book "The Chakras" which has vortex like extensions coming from the Chakras to the front of the Body. There are a number of people who claim to be able to detect Chakras with Electronic devices.
1. Valeria Hunt, who in her "Infinite Mind" stated that she place electrodes on the areas of the Chakras because it was were the Base Line Measurement was at its highest. She gives no evidence for this statement & shows no read-outs from her elecromyography studied, so I believe she is making an assumption.
2. Patrick Flanagan, who's "Chakra Mapper & Detector" apparently can measure the pulsations of the Chakras.
3. Victor Inyushin, When I was working at CHEFR a college mentioned witnessing a demonstration of a person standing in a plastic bowl of water with two tin electrodes under each foot, one connected to a tin plumbob held in their hand the other connected to a meter with an antenna held by another person, which when passed over the areas corresponding the the Chakras responded by a movement of the needle of the meter.
4. The Life Energy Field Meter, Based on the work of Wilhelm Reich & his Orgone Energy Field Meter, these claim to also detect the Chakras, see Heliognosis site
5. Hiroshi Motoyama, whose book "Theories of Chakras" has a section about his devices one that detects Biophoton emissions the other electronically however he uses subjects who meditate upon Chakras & therefore could be detecting artifacts
6. Those many systems such as "Aura & Chakra Photography" & "Gas Discharge Visualization" which extrapolate from measurements taken from the fingers.

I myself believe that Chakras are related to the Peak Frequencies of the "Schumann Resonance" as they are roughly double the number of petals of each Chakra & the magnetic componant of this resonance could produce standing waves in the perineurium of the Glial cells of the spinal cord this should be measurable either by a Scumann Resonance atenna or a mobius antenna

anonymous Oct 25, 2015 8:18am

"just because science hasn’t been able to prove their existence, doesn’t mean they don’t exist."

And just because you can't see the invisible, silent unicorn made of aether that lives in my basement doesn't mean THAT doesn't exist, either.

The fact that anybody would use that argument to substantiate a belief is absurd.

anonymous Jul 6, 2015 3:27pm

as a reiki healer we are taught to clear the chakras of blockage. I thought they were real and we wee born with them as if god made it that way. They are only real because we believe they are there.
We were taught to believe to keep them open or they close through negative thought and emotions they get blocked and the cells in that area can not get life force to stay healthy. I am going to remove my chakras so that all my cells can always get life force enegy at all times and be there true glowing light body selves with out any hinderance.

anonymous Jun 9, 2015 11:52pm

The hilarious part about this is that it's really the same thing as believing in "god". If you believe in chakras you might as well believe in the invisible man in the sky as well. What would be really funny is to find somebody who believes in one but not the other. Cause, well, it's the same thing. (Having faith and believing in something that hasn't been proven to exist)

anonymous Nov 15, 2014 4:28pm

I think of knowledge of energy and vibrational medicine is evolving, just like it took us awhile to discover that Earth goes around the Sun, so too will it take us awhile to find the "accurate" Chakra system. Using my own research I've discovered a few subtle differences from the most popular reference so I think it will take awhile for us to discover the truth about energy but I think, in time, we will be able to prove it with science because we'll be able to have devices that measure energy at that frequency. In the future, when we have devices that can measure vibrational energy and such, we may just find it silly that the belief in Chakras was not widely supported by science.

anonymous Jul 14, 2014 6:34pm

"……as no one has been able to “measure” these energetic centers in the body. But just because science hasn’t been able to prove their existence, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.'

And no one has ever proven that the world spins on the tip of a monkey's tail. But just because science hasn't been able to prove it, it doesn't mean it's not happening.

This is a fallacy. Throw out the unfalsifiable and say it could be true because I can't prove it's not. Perhaps, it's more likely that there are no chakras. There's no reason to go beyond embodiment to find common vocabularies with students.

    anonymous Oct 25, 2015 8:19am

    This, this, THIS, a thousand times this.

anonymous Jun 5, 2014 8:59am

"……as no one has been able to “measure” these energetic centers in the body. But just because science hasn’t been able to prove their existence, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.'

Ahem: You may like to check out the work of Valerie Hunt from 1970's who used scientific equipment to MEASURE the chakras.

anonymous Apr 1, 2014 1:46pm

Good article Mijael Brandwajn

I have been having some of the same thoughts. I found this thread because I´m trying to figure our WHY the Chakras have the colors they have. I understand that different colors have different frequencies, but exactly why my stomach is orange and my heart is green I do not know. Don´t get me wrong, I do believe in Qi, life energy, and a lot more, but I find it really difficult to make other people get "it", because I cannot really explain what "it" is. (Oh no, I realized that was probably from The Matrix movie). Anyway, I did find something concrete to use to explain it to non-believers; the Chakras correspond with the glands in the body: 1. The adrenal glands. 2. The gondas/ovaries. 3. The spleen/pancreas. 4. The thymus. 5. The thyroid/parathyroid. 6. The pituitary gland. 7. The pineal gland.
At least that´s something both a traditional medical doctor and an alternative practitioner can use as a common starting point.
As for more clarity and understanding, may the force be with us all!

anonymous Jan 3, 2014 6:40pm

The chakras can only be experienced in a higher state that most of us are not in … and at most we have a glimpse of it sometimes momentarily … our experience is limiting and if we teach from our experience then we are … limiting. This is the limiting nature of the human mind.

Which leads us to the whole Guru thing … those who teach each class with the blessing of their guru/shiva teach not from their experience but from the infinite wisdom … and this is where the contradictions in western yoga teacher training and obsession with knowledge based on limiting experience begins.

Please read up Ashtanga … understand it before dealing with Chakras which are a natural progression in Dharana practice but cannot be done before.

When the sadhaka is ready, then the knowledge unfolds. Everyday that you practice, makes you move forward …

As a warning … higher practices done without preparation or when not ready and without the guidance of a Guru, is dangerous. There are too many cases with people doing incorrect practices without guidance and then having physical / mental issues …

anonymous Aug 4, 2013 11:17am

"The idea that there is a strong relationship to our different organs and body systems…is even newer…"

This is not correct — There is a considerable amount of information in ancient yoga texts in the Indo-Tibetan Buddhist tantric tradition that discusses the relationships between cakras and organs systems, etc, and the effects of working with cakras and nadis on one's health in some detail, texts dating from 8th century onwards.

anonymous Jul 21, 2013 7:31pm

This is why my agnosticism applies to everything and anything. I can't feel energy loops in Yoga. I think I may experience my chakras, but not sure. I rely of personal experience and never assume another human will have the same experiences, so I don't teach.

anonymous Jul 20, 2013 10:10am

Good …I relate more to the endocrine system

anonymous Jul 20, 2013 4:30am

Thanks, Mijael! I've been working on a short piece about the reality of chakras, which I'll post soon and am in total agreement that we need to base what we teach on our own experience.

anonymous Jul 19, 2013 9:41am

I've just begun studying chakras during my teacher training and have found it fascinating so far. Because what I've read makes sense to me, it's helping me relax my skeptical nature and open myself to more possibilities. Thanks for broadening my perspective on how to approach the topic.

anonymous Jul 18, 2013 9:00pm

All one has to do is recall a lump in the throat, a heartache, or butterflies in the gut to know these energy centers are very real. If assigning them colors makes them more accessible, or cleaning them creates some balance, why not? I love everything about energy, and chakras are a great way to understand it through their sounds, names, colors, their thrills and chills and especially their truth! Thanks Mijael.

    anonymous Jul 19, 2013 9:13am

    Thank YOU Vladimir!
    I couldn't agree more. To me it's really fascinating, and I also think that the more "tangible" we make the chakras (for example, giving them colors, sounds, movement), the more accesible and real they become, and the more useful they become.

    Again, thanks for sharing!

    anonymous Oct 25, 2015 8:22am

    OR, you might, y'know, research the actual physiological reasons that we experience those physical sensations, learn about the very real causes of them, and understand that you don't need to possess "energy centers" to feel such things any more than you need an "energy center" in order to feel hunger or thirst.

    Just a suggestion.

anonymous Jul 18, 2013 4:44pm

Hey Michael,
I studied Kinesiology and the teacher had this hand held machine (I can't remember what it was called) but it actually picked up and made a sound on the acupressure points. It was amazing! Just thought you'd be interested. Nice article cheers.

    anonymous Jul 19, 2013 9:10am

    Thanks Angela, I didn't know about this!

    I'm totally interested, and if you have the name of the machine I'd love to research further.
    Thanks for sharing!

anonymous Jul 18, 2013 1:51pm

What about a fourth possibility? We each have different centers/chakras, which depend on each individual's nature…? I have really no opinions about the chackras, i just have no clue… lol

    anonymous Jul 19, 2013 9:09am

    Hi Edee!

    I hadn't considered that! I guess in some people's minds it would be a bit like having different organs depending on your nature… but of course, it's energy, and it plays by different rules, so I think you are right in adding it as a 4th possibility.

    Thanks for enriching the conversation!

    anonymous Jul 24, 2013 5:38pm

    This is the possibility that I agree with! I have seen some colors associated with my energy coming from difn points of my body while in meditation. I find that my heart is pink; around my head, whether that be third eye or crown or whatever, is gold and my hands have an electric blue energy.

anonymous Jul 16, 2013 7:22pm

Great article Michael! I remember when I was first taught about the chakras over 15 years ago it took me another five years to realize that the whole body is filled with points of light that feed into the main chakra system. It was “enlightening” to feel myself “full”–all lit up with energy as opposed to only focusing on sensing the main chakras. Glad you are keepin it real and getting a humble message out there.

    anonymous Jul 16, 2013 9:06pm

    Thanks Michelle!! I have the same experience with energy, I feel it throughout the body, and my experience keeps shifting with practice… so I guess I have a lot to learn and experience when it comes to energy and the subtle body!

anonymous Jul 16, 2013 6:56pm

right on!!

Bob Weisenberg Jul 16, 2013 6:24pm

Well done, Mijael. I like your common sense approach.

I'm posting this to Best of Yoga Philosophy, my new virtual magazine & forum.

Bob W.
Yoga Demystified

    anonymous Jul 16, 2013 7:00pm

    Thanks SO much Bob! Really appreciate that!

Em Huck Jan 6, 2018 12:04pm

I really enjoyed reading this. I'm training to become a yoga teacher and am currently learning the different views and opinions on chakras and am just not getting it. I feel like I'm trying to convert to a religion that just doesn't resonate with me. I believe there are energy centres within us and I believe in a higher energy overall. But I have really struggled with reading books by so many different people with set views on chakras and taking them as fact. So thank you. I feel relieved to know I can interpret them in my own way and that there doesn't have to be a black and white way we view or teach them.

Rebecca Beacher Abraxas Aug 25, 2017 11:34pm

I like the chakra system as a model like you are talking about ... however, I think the model can be limiting to our growth and rate of change if we make it too significant. IN my experience the sounds and colors shift and change depending what someone is working with and what you feel and are aware of can shift too ... locking someone into this model takes possiblity, creativity and choice out of the mix of transformation, 3 components I believe are required for change.... A reality just requires two people to buy into it ... could it be the chakras are a reality that a lot of people bought into. Is it possible that many other realities exist and are being created as we speak ... now that is interesting and exciting to me ! www.rebeccaabraxas.com

Matthew Kopp Jul 29, 2017 5:18am

What I have experienced is that there are certainly energy sensations in relationship to the location of the Chakras and they are in relationship to specific psychological functions. This is Not placebo, it is body mind psychology. You can tap into repressed power, sexuality, acceptance, expressivity. This is provable but scientists are not asking the right questions and the right people. Ask a well trained Opera singer how they can sing loudly and they will point out how they use their diaphragm (Chakra 3) they point out that they are trained to realease the muscles around their vocal cords (Chakra 6), they will point out that they need to actually relax their rectum (Chakra 1) which seems to have a sympathetic response to the back of their throat. Ask a well trained actor, dancer, and they will likely have discovered what a yoga practicioner knows. In the end it is about loving the body and taking care of it and discovering its beautiful capabilities.

Steven Tarnofsky Jun 30, 2017 2:31pm

Read the ancient secret of the flower of life both volumes and rewrite your article.3rd eye is indigo fact.

Steven Tarnofsky Jun 30, 2017 2:30pm

https://books.google.com/books?id=E0FEcoK0ds4C&pg=PA322&lpg=PA322&dq=flowerof.life+chakras+distances&source=bl&ots=7eZ0QHpfnC&sig=oFXdkMUWUlhMrBa_dUCfCEbyJDc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjqw9fC3OXUAhXKKiYKHfTIDrkQ6AEIVTAP#v=onepage&q=flowerof.life%20chakras%20distances&f=false

Allan Susoeff May 28, 2017 6:19pm

Check into the work of Hiroshi Motoyama, Valerie Hunt, or Konstantin Korotkov. All Ph.D.s, All have developed methods for empirically proving the existence of energy centers (chakras) within the body.

Warren Van Niekerk Apr 6, 2017 12:59pm

I think you are refering to energy in general. Some people are sensitive to energy and our bodies radiate it as different organs has magnitism and electricity to run itself and I think this is what sensitive people can feel.

Warren Van Niekerk Apr 6, 2017 12:57pm

I know this is old, but would just like to say, we can see feathers, skin and scales, people who disagree on Chakras are disagreeing on something that's invisible, who nobody can see in the 1st place. Many people can only see Chakras after they are told that it exists and what colour it is.......Just saying, our minds are powerful and you can feel someone burn you with a ciggarette if you are convinced about it, even if they are not physically doing it.

Jasper Neil Sep 4, 2016 6:34am

For an illuminating look into the chakras: http://www.tantrikstudies.org/blog/2016/2/5/the-real-story-on-the-chakras

John Berry Jul 5, 2016 1:04pm

BTW, if anyone wants to try and feel energy from their own Chakras with their hands, just contact me (via FB I guess). I can't guarantee you will feel energy, but most people do. Once you can create and feel energy, feeling chakras is not so hard.

John Berry Jul 5, 2016 12:56pm

As someone who can feel chakras, I know they exist. But You seem to think that there is just one was to be, and that is not so. I can feel Chakras, but the energy readily responds to intention, additionally there are minor and major Chakras, so it is indeed possible to have more than 7 in the body, not counting ones in the hand which also exist but are a lot weaker generally. Is there a mouth Chakra? I can feel energy that feels like he other Chakras coming out of my mouth. I made a coul that produced a chakra like energy but with a small distance between each vortex, once I applierd that to me I could feel many many small charkas from this coil. You should consider Chakras a bit like hair or faces, they are different and can be changed.

Elana Vital Jun 30, 2016 6:43pm

The idea that if they exist, they should all be uniform is fallible. That's like saying "If life on earth exists, why should someone be in the sea and some be on land?" Every animal is different, and while some earth animals breathe air, others do not. While some have feathers, others have skin or scales. Uniformity is not required for existence. I venture to even believe that some people are so unique in their spirit form that they have attributes that do not match others. Do you mean to say that "differences" don't exist?

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Mijael Brandwajn

Mijael Brandwajn is a yoga teacher and currently owns the largest yoga studio in Panama, Central America. He loves teaching teachers and facilitating his latest project,  yoga for back pain in Spanish. He is most passionate about the evolution of yoga and how we can make it relevant in our lives. Learn more about Mijael on his very opinionated blog.