If you choose to focus your meditation on a cakra (one of the options in the earlier list), you first need to understand the concept of cakras. According to Yoga, the physical body has a more subtle energetic counterpart that consists of a network of energy channels called nadis (pronounced nah-dees) through which the life force (prana) circulates. The most important channel, called the sushumna-nadi or "gracious channel," runs along the axis of the body from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. In the ordinary individual, this central conduit of subtle energy is said to be mostly inactive. The purpose of many Hatha Yoga exercises is to clear this channel in particular of any obstructions, so that the life energy can flow freely in it, leading to better health and also higher states of consciousness.
When the central channel is thus activated, it also sets the seven psychoen-ergetic centers of the body in motion. These centers are the cakras (often spelled chakras in English), which are aligned along the central channel. The word means simply "wheel" and refers to the fact that these areas are whirlpools of energy that keep the physical body alive and functioning properly. In ascending order, the seven cakras are
✓ Muladhara ("root prop," pronounced moo-lahd-hah-rah): Located at the base of the spine between the rectum and genitals, this center is the resting place of the dormant "serpent power," the great psychospiritual energy that Hatha Yoga seeks to awaken. This center is connected with elimination as well as fear.
✓ Svadhishthana ("own place," pronounced svahd-hisht-hah-nah):
Located at the genitals, this center is connected with the urogenital functions but also with desire.
✓ Manipura ("jewel city," pronounced mah-nee-poo-rah): Located at the navel, this center distributes the life force to all parts of the body and is especially involved in the digestive process as well as the willpower.
✓ Anahata ("unstruck," pronounced ah-nah-hah-tah): Located in the middle of the chest, this center, which is also called the "heart cakra," is the place where the "unstruck" or inner sound can be heard in meditation. It's also linked with love.
✓ Vishuddha ("pure," pronounced vee-shood-hah): Located at the throat, this center is associated with speech as well as greed.
✓ Ajna ("command," pronounced ahgyah): Located in the middle of the head between the eyebrows, this center is the contact place for the guru's telepathic work with disciples. It's also associated with the experience of higher states of consciousness.
✓ Sahasrara ("thousand-spoked," pronounced sah-hahs-rah-rah):
Located at the crown of the head, this special cakra is associated with higher states of consciousness, notably the ecstatic state (which we cover in "Working toward Ecstasy" later in the chapter).
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Discover How to Practice Yoga! Now you can use a practical stepbystep guide to learn Yoga techniques. Including the Practices and Exercises of Concentration, both Objective and Subjective, and Active and Passive Mentation, an Elucidation of Maya, Guru Worship, and the Worship of the Terrible, also the Mystery of Will-Force.