The wisdom of the chakras permeates new age teachings, holistic healing, energy therapies, and modern ceremonies. Its popularity is due to how practical, holistic, and spiritually elegant this system of seven power centers is. Though it comes to the West via the teachings of India, you can find parallels of the chakra system in all forms of healing, meditation, and magick. The chakra system is a map of our bodies, and the consciousness within our bodies. Everyone can apply chakra wisdom to their life.
The word chakra is Sanskrit, and many believe it translates to "spinning wheel," referring to the seven energy centers within the body that psychics and seers view as spinning vortexes. Each vortex is associated with a gland and system in the body, a color of the rainbow, a symbol, tone, a note in the musical scale, and a type of consciousness. The chakras run up the chakra column. As they ascend up the spine, they ascend in levels of complexity and spirituality, yet every chakra is important. Those lower on the scale are the foundation, and are equally important as the upper chakras. The relative balance of the spinning chakra vortexes, what healers often describe as more "open" or "closed," is in direct relationship to the health of the individual at that level of consciousness. Various exercises, meditations, therapies, and rituals can be used to balance and align the chakras, thereby balancing and aligning your health and awareness.
As this material comes from the Hindu traditions and has been translated into Western consciousness, various additions, subtractions, and reinterpretations have occurred. You can find conflicting systems and associations between chakra experts and healers. Most associate the chakras with the seven major colors of the rainbow, starting at the bottom with red and ascending in color from orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. In some traditional Hindu lore, the chakras are not on the color scale, and chakras such as the heart are associated with the color red and the solar plexus with gray. Modern channeled New Age systems have wildly different colors for the energy systems of the next age, and have added many more points to the simple, seven-chakra system. For many, the experiences of the chakras are somewhat subjective, so as you learn to work with them, let your own experiences inform you. Ground yourself in the basic and be open to new ideas and experiences.
One of the classic works on the chakras is Wheels of Life: A User's Guide to the Chakra System by Anodea Judith. It was the first book I ever read on the chakras. The scope and detail of the work can be intimidating, but it is well worth reading cover to cover. You can also use it as a desk reference, for looking up information on a specific chakra. The book covers energetic models and concepts in detail, then explores each chakra in depth. The manual closes with how to work with the chakra, including topics on magic, manifestation, healing, divination, personal evolution, and a self-test on each chakra. Here is a sample of the self-test from page 420.
Chakra One: Earth, Survival, Grounding
Mark "N" for never, "S" for Seldom, "O" for Often and "A" for Always. Mark "P" for Poor, "F" for Fair, "G" for Good, and "E"; for Excellent. Score 1 point for answers in column one, 2 points for column 2, 3 points for answers in column three, and 4 points for column four. Add up the points for each chakra before proceeding to the next one. Although the totals themselves are irrelevant, it's interesting to compare scores between chakras.
For a serious study of chakras and yogic traditions, explore A Chakra & Kundalini Workbook by Dr. Jonn Mumford. It is a detailed and helpful workbook to explore the powers of the chakras. Though firmly rooted in Eastern spiritual traditions, Mumford compares aspects of this work to other spiritual and mystical traditions, including Western alchemy, Christianity, Japanese judo, Indian martial arts, and modern science. The book is filled with very educational diagrams and information, starting you at the basics, such as meditation poses, and building to more complex exercises, such as tantra.
A practical and accessible guide to the chakras is Kundalini and the Chakras, written by Genevieve Lewis Paulson. Paulson's background is based in Western Christianity and its mystical traditions. From her own kundalini experience, she developed a system of working with this energy through the chakras. This book helps safely guide those of a Western and more traditional background into understanding the universality of Eastern lore. She discusses kundalini and the Holy Spirit, and how to apply these principles in our modern world. I found her work thoroughly enjoyable and a clear approach to working with kundalini. She also has the very practical spiritual advice of living a balanced life by "including time on each of the following: Being, Doing, Learning and Inspiring." She also urges us to take time for appreciating life and self-appreciation.
New Chakra Healing is an innovative look at the chakra system, expanding from the traditional material. Author Cyndi Dale first builds upon the seven-point system, with twelve chakras, both in and around the body. She further expands the chakras, relating twenty other spiritual energy points, and relates this information to the spine. Not only does it describe the points, but she outlines an easy-to-follow method for removing energy blocks from these points, and your energy fields. Through this transformative process, you can manifest the life you are meant to live. Such "higher energy centers" include points 16—Balance of Similarities, point 21—Abundance, point 27—Peace, and point 32—Grace and Divine Source Consciousness.
As you go through life, and find yourself blocked, look to the chakras. When an issue comes up in your life, think about which chakra rules it. If you have an illness or injury, think about what chakra is associated with it and how its energy manifests in your life. Become conscious of the chakras and work with them. This simple, yet detailed, system can make problem solving, healing and greater spiritual awareness simpler and easier with grace.