“Yoga is not an ancient myth buried in oblivion. It is the most valuable inheritance of the present. It is the essential need of today and the culture of tomorrow.” -Swami Satyananda Saraswati
The Brain and Nervous System according to Yoga and Ayurveda are defined in a distinctive way. Our body is controlled by Brain, Nervous System and the secretions of Endocrine Glands. This collaborative functioning of Brain, Nervous System and Endocrine Glands is segregated into various groups called “Chakras”, means wheel and according to yogic context Chakra means Whirlpool. There are seven major Chakras along the Sushumna (Centre of the Spine). Sushumna originated at perineum (the area between the anus and the scrotum or vulva) and ends at the top of the head. The flow of energy to particular chakra increases the functional ability of the organs under that chakra and this flow of energy can be achieved by concentrating on that particular chakra or breath or by performing yoga asanas which will activate that chakra. In spiritual context, concentrating unlocks the blocked or inaccessible portions of human brain which is called Spiritual Enlightenment. Humans use virtually all the portions of the Brain but the extent of the usage is very less. This Spiritual Enlightenment increases the capacity of Brain functioning and keeps the body active. A kind of extreme Spiritual Enlightenment or Unlocking Brain’s inaccessible portions is shown in a recent film “LUCY”.
Till now there is no such event of unlocking of Brain, but performing Yoga daily has proven a good impact on our body. People who practiced Yoga regularly reported increased mental activity, peace of mind, sound sleep, increased cognitive skills, flexibility of body etc. Yoga is being prescribed by many doctors for several medical ailments. In this post we are going to explore which Chakra is associated to which endocrine gland, it’s functions and which type of Yoga to be performed to keep that chakra active.
The Endocrine System
On its surface, the endocrine system seems quite complex. But when you break it down into its individual parts, it isn’t so bad. Overall, this network of glands is in charge of producing, regulating and distributing hormones throughout the body. Released into the bloodstream, hormones play a pivotal role in the body’s ability to mature, metabolize nutrients, and function.
Historical Perspective on Chakras and Glands
It seems that no direct correlation was made by Indian traditional chakra systems between glands and the chakras. However, modern literature from both the Western and Eastern cultures highlights the connection between each the primary chakras and the endocrine and nervous systems, as well as organs. According to Patricia Mercier in “The Chakra Bible”, two Western figures started to imply that the position of the 7 primary chakras coincides with the locations of nerve plexi, endocrine glands and organs. Leadbeater, one of the first to shed light on the chakra system in the West, and Alice Bailey, theosophist and teacher of esoteric knowledge at the beginning of the 20thcentury, both started outlining the connections between the chakras and the biology of the human body.
Energy flow between the chakras is continuous, thereby allowing the body to remain healthy. But when there is a disruption due to the alteration of our individual consciousness, the subtle energy flow is disrupted, thereby causing imbalances, physically or mentally. By focusing on each of these chakras, it is believed that the body’s operation will be perfectly normal and there would exist perfect balance in its overall functioning.
1. Mooladhara Chakra
Mooladhara chakra is the root chakra, intimately connected in the male with the testes, and in the female with the cervix, and with the perineum and anus for both sexes. This chakra is connected with the sense of smell, the nose and the earth element, with passion, the animal instincts, anger, greed, excretory functions, secretory and sexual aspects, attachment, material security, survival and materialism. Working on this chakra releases suppressed emotions and unconscious memories, and causes extreme swings in mood. It is the seat of kundalini, and has obvious and direct connections with sexual energy in its most earthy aspect.
If these hormone ratios become abnormal, then one might witness precocious puberty at younger ages, more reproductive/prostate cancers, painful menses, weight gain, abnormal menses and sex drive, mood changes, depression or increased acne. There would also be an increase in infertility with imbalanced levels. Sound familiar? The spiritual connection to the sex organs comes with the root chakra, which is responsible for safety and basic needs, and connected to the reproductive glands. You can see how molestation or rape would affect one’s safety and trust issues, damaging this chakra through direct physical abuse of the gland.
- Chara Bandhasana
- Janu Sirsasana
- Yoga Nidra
2. Swadhisthana Chakra
Swadhistana is connected with all “the phases of the unconscious”, the subliminal mind. Swadhistana is made up of all the rubbish which you never wanted, which you never needed, which you never desired but which got in. Traditionally it has also been linked with sexuality, sensory pleasure, liquid, taste, procreation, self-indulgence, the kidneys and the prostate gland. Swadhistana is connected with the generative aspect of sexuality embodied by the womb in women, with follicle stimulating hormone and luteinising hormone, oestrogen and androsterones as the hormones of this chakra. These hormones are central to the development of the secondary sexual characteristics – that which makes a man a man and a woman a woman – they define our gender, our selves as sexual people, the pitch of our voice, the shape and strength of our body, whether or not we have a beard, and the differing emotional characteristics related to oestrogen and testosterone – that which is the essence of man or woman.
- Ardha Matsyendrasana
- Ardha Pada Hastasana
3. Manipura Chakra
Manipura chakra is located behind the navel and causes old age, decay and emaciation by burning up the nectar of immortality. It is also connected with the sense of sight and the eyes and it is the organ of action and hence is also connected with walking, the legs and the feet. The solar plexus is the locus for our “gut feelings” about people and situations, and is connected with digestion and assimilation. It has also been linked with ambition, will, self-assertion, vital energy, power struggles, anger and jealousy. Manipura is the uppermost of the “earthly” or base chakras. There are two possible endocrine organs in the gut which could be linked with Manipura.
The adrenal glands sit atop each kidney and are responsible for the rush of warm, frantic energy you get right after you avoid a car accident. We all know that feeling! If constantly stimulated by stress or trauma, the adrenals can burn out as they ensure proper adrenaline or epinephrine as well as cortisol release. The adrenals’ claim to fame is the “flight or fight” syndrome. Imagine what years of competitive schooling or a continuously stress work environment does to our poor adrenals? Unfortunately, western medicine continues to turn its nose up at adrenal fatigue syndrome. The adrenals are connected to the Manipura chakra, which is responsible for the adrenal gland, oversees immunity, emotion and vitality. It can easily be burned out from suppressing emotions or adrenal fatigue due to chronic stress and release of the “flight or fight” hormones.
The pancreas is a gland located just above the stomach and digestive tract in the left upper quadrant of the abdomen. It is crucial in glucose uptake and conversion of energy for building blocks. In response to eating a meal, it releases digestive pancreatic enzymes and ushers in bile, necessary for proper breakdown of nutrients. It is also the only gland in the body capable of making and secreting insulin, which exports glucose into cells. Damage to this organ system is common and results in diabetes and pancreatitis. The Manipura chakra, the center of willpower, confidence and ego, is connected to the pancreas and biliary tract. It oversees digestion, detoxification, bravery in groups, and self esteem. Not knowing oneself, indecisiveness, or extreme fear can produce bowel and digestion issues, disrupt beneficial gut flora and damage this chakra.
- Vajroli Mudra
- Ardha Pada Hastasana
Symbols of Chakras
4. Anahata Chakra
Anahata chakra is concerned with will and with feeling, touch, the skin especially the hands, manifesting in such arts as painting, poetry and music, which are aspects of Heart. There are two possible endocrine organs in the gut which could be linked with Anahata.
The Thymus helps to produce killer T cells, which are experts are in recognizing foreign invaders within the body. The thymus’s function is also somewhat of a mystery although it is linked to immune function. We do know that it is responsible for a large part of our immune system that is located in the lymph system. It is located behind the sternum, near the heart and begins to shrink after puberty. The Anahata chakra, connected to the thymus gland, helps regulate the nervous system, anxiety, compassion, and harmony. Damage to the Anahata chakra is common in western countries due to left brained energy, justice over mercy and the standard American diet. As you can see, the fatty, chemical filled food in the west damages the heart musculature and forms plaques in the arteries. Coupled with less compassion towards others and an overworked heart muscle, this is a recipe for a closed chakra and heart disease. Think about how many people have chest pain, cardiac stents or open heart surgery. Diet plays a large role, but is not the only factor in this epidemic. You can stimulate immunity and produce relaxation by tapping on your sternum to awaken the thymus gland.
There is another hormone connected with this region in humans which expresses heart emotion much more strongly: the hormone Prolactin which is connected with lactation in the breasts. Prolactin is involved with pregnancy and stimulates lactation, and is implicated in manic-depression. Prolactin (PRL), also known as luteotropic hormone or luteotropin, is a protein that in humans is best known for its role in enabling mammals, usually females, to produce milk. It is influential in over 300 separate processes in various vertebrates. Prolactin is secreted from the pituitary gland in response to eating, mating, estrogen treatment, ovulation and nursing. Prolactin is secreted in pulses in between these events. Prolactin plays an essential role in metabolism, regulation of the immune system and pancreatic development.
5. Vishuddhi Chakra
Vishuddhi chakra is located in the throat and is the centre of “the nectar of immortality.” It is connected with the sense of hearing and thus with the ears, and of course with the vocal cords and with self-expression.
The thyroid is a small gland located at the throat, below the Adam’s apple. It is a sensitive gland that helps to regulate the body’s metabolism. The thyroid makes thyroxine which regulates the metabolic rate of the body, i.e., it controls how fast the body runs. The thyroid requires iodine, a member of the halide family, to function properly. It can be offset by any other halide which can take its place, such as bromide in bread, chlorine in pools and hot tubs, and fluoride in water (which comes from toxic waste)! The Vishuddhi chakra, connected to the thyroid gland, governs expression and freedom of speech. If overactive, you might be domineering and a poor listener. If underactive, you might feel suppressed in your true feelings. It becomes damaged by not speaking your personal truth or telling yourself lies. This is also common in western countries. Unfortunately, the toxins in today’s world are able to offset the thyroid rather easily. Moreover, most people also feel their voice is suppressed in their job or daily life. This is also a recipe for an autoimmune condition of the thyroid due to emotional damage to the chakra.
6. Ajna Chakra
“The name Ajna comes from the root “to know” and “to obey and to follow”. Literally the word Ajna means “command”. Yogis, who are scientists of the subtle mind, have spoken of telepathy as a “siddhi”, a psychic power for thought communication and clair-audience etc. The medium of such siddhis is Ajna chakra, and its physical terminus is the pineal gland.” The pineal gland is somewhat of a mystery to western medicine, however for thousands of years, it has been the center of spirituality in eastern countries. The pineal gland is situated in the centre of the brain and its main function is to make neurohormones which affect both the brain and the body. The pineal works together with the pituitary through the hypothalamus controlling the endocrine system. Basically it is one of the regulators of our circadian rhythm, is implicated in our emotional state, reproductive function, possibly dream sleep and in certain psychoses. Recent breakthrough studies have shown that it has the potential to release a psychoactive, short-lived substance responsible for enlightenment in mediation and near death experiences. Known as the third eye, it is located behind the optic nerve at the center of the brain. The third eye, or Ajna chakra is connected to the pineal gland and pituitary gland. The pineal gland is easily calcified due to fluoride in water by age 17 on MRI scans. This is your spiritual antenna to the ether and your higher self. If damaged, you will be separated from source and your sixth senses. Luckily this is reversible with proper care and detoxification. The pineal gland is also thought to possibly secrete DMT, a natural psychoactive substance that is postulated to be responsible for near death experiences and deep meditation. The pituitary is one of the main control centers in the brain that helps to control release of hormones using a complex biofeedback loop finally affecting target organs.
- Yoga Mudra
7. Bindu Visarga
Bindu Visarga is not studied and considered as a chakra and Sahasrara, which is not a chakra is considered as chakra in many sources. According to Indian scripts, Bindu Visarga is a chakra. At the top, back portion of the head, where the Hindu brahmins grow a small tuft of hair, is a point known as bindu. The word bindu means ‘point’ or ‘drop’ and visarga means ‘to pour drop by drop’. This psychic centre is also known as soma chakra. Soma is the nectar of the gods and is also another name for the moon. Bindu visarga is symbolised by a tiny crescent moon on a dark night. It is also associated with the production of semen. Bindu is the centre of nada, and this centre is used for concentration on the psychic sounds which manifest there.
In practices such as
- Bhramari pranayama and
- Shanmukhi mudra
concentration on bindu is used to develop the awareness of nada.
Situated at the crown of the head is sahasrara. It is not really a chakra but the abode of highest consciousness. The word sahasrara means ‘one thousand’. Sahasrara is visualised as a shining lotus of a thousand petals, containing the fifty-two beeja mantras of the Sanskrit alphabet twenty times over. In the centre of the lotus is a shining jyotirlinga, lingam of light, symbol of pure consciousness. It is in sahasrara that the mystical union of Shiva and Shakti takes place, the fusion of consciousness with matter and energy, the individual soul with the supreme soul. When kundalini awakens, it ascends through the chakras to sahasrara and merges into the source from whence it originated. Matter and energy merge into pure consciousness in a state of intoxicating bliss, the goal of yoga. Having attained this, the yogi gains supreme knowledge and passes beyond birth and death.
To be simpler,
The crown chakra is also the pineal and pituary gland plus the nervous system. It is the center of enlightenment and spiritual connection. It is cone shaped and is in the middle of the brain behind and above the pituitary gland. It is necessary for these two organs to work together in opening the third eye. Eastern traditions have postulated that the pituitary is the masculine energy whereas the pineal is the feminine energy and they meet in the third ventricle, where there is union of spirit. Together they force us to look inward for change and proper action, but only when we are connected to our higher self and the present moment. These forces also work to properly run all biologic and higher sensing intellectual functions.
- Yoga Mudra
These activating asanas are just to keep the chakras active and cooperate with our daily function. But, to attain the extreme Spirutual Enlightenment it takes years of Meditation, Yoga, Spirutual and Concentration practices. In ancient days there used to be such kind of people who gained supreme knowledge beyond birth and death called “Yogis” in India. It is imperative that you take heed in avoiding toxins and chemicals in toiletries, cosmetics, deodorants, shampoos, soaps, lotions, household cleaning products, teflon cookware, synthetic prepackaged food, pesticides, heavy metals, antibiotics and synthetic medicine. Understand that you must learn to walk in your own path, unafraid of what society and the world thinks. It is a difficult battle to leave your heart open in such a world, but it is necessary. Love all, but do not care what they think of you. Know thyself, thy weaknesses and strengths, thy power and light. Only then will you be able to remove blockages and detoxify your physical body. Only then will the higher self be able to connect with your ego and provide you with the spirituality you have been missing. Your emotional, spiritual and physical body are all intimately tied together. Take care of yourself.
- “Specific Yoga Postures For Chakras” in allgoodthingscom.
- “On A Possible Psychophysiology of the Yogic Chakra System.” by S.M. Roney – Dougal, PhD, Psi Research Centre, Glastonbury, Somerset BA6 8HN, Britain in psi-researchcentre.co.uk.
- “The Intimate Connection Between the Endocrine and Chakra Systems” by md_kygirl in revolutionofthemind.org.
- “Chakras and Glands” in chakras.info.
- “7 Chakras And Their Influence On The Endocrine System” by Abhishek in boldsky.com.
- “Prolactin” from Wikipedia.
- “Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha” book written by Swami Satyananda Saraswati published by Bihar School of Yoga and Yoga Publications Trust.