There’s a Troll in My Chakras
By Kristine Kaoverii Weber | October 22, 2021
I have a chakra troll.
When I post anything about chakras on Facebook, she makes a point to correct me and my wayward thinking.
Typically she writes, “Chakras don’t exist” or “Chakras aren’t real.”
But I also realize that her thinking represents a segment of the world (even the yoga world) that looks at chakras like they are a fantasy, a throwback to medieval magical thinking, a way to sell essential oils and gemstones, and/or a New Age trope.
This way of thinking arises from a worldview colored by scientific materialism, which is the way that most of us in the west have been trained to look at things. If you can’t boil something down to the material – it isn’t worth investigating, it doesn’t exist.
But science can’t explain lots of things about health and life.
Science doesn’t understand the mechanisms that underlie acupuncture and homeopathy. And yet they work. There is plenty of research to evidence their benefits.
(Photo Credit: Pixabay)
Homeopaths actually developed the randomized control trial.
Science doesn’t explain the mechanisms underlying most energy medicine (although there’s some very cool research from folks like Helene Langevin at the NCCIH). It’s not about placebo. If placebo was the mechanism, then acupuncture and homeopathy wouldn’t work on dogs, horses, and babies…but they do.
So what about chakras?
(Art Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Cutting ourselves off from the possibility of their existence and their benefits limits the potential to heal.
Some scientists have done interesting research on the chakras, including Valerie Hunt at UCLA and psychoneuroimmunologist Candace Pert who said this in an interview with Dean Ornish in 2000:
“It really got me excited when I realized that there is a very close correspondence between the highest, most concentrated areas of enrichment of a certain neuropeptide and where the chakras are classically supposed to be – there’s a striking concordance. The seven centers actually correspond in places of enriched neuropeptide VIP (vasoactive intestinal peptide), which is an incredibly important neuropeptide, critical in regulating the neural immune switches between the brain and the immune system.”
In 2001, Charles Shang proposed that chakras are associated with embryological organizing centers in the central nervous system. It’s an interesting theory. Most scientific theory about the chakras has focused on the autonomic nervous system rather than the CNS.
(Art Credit: Pixabay)
Shang’s work dovetails with theory about the Biofield, defined by biophysicist Beverly Rubik and others in 1992. The biofield is “a massless field, not necessarily electromagnetic, that surrounds and permeates living bodies and affects the body.”
The biofield first gained the interest of embryologists. Probably because the most fundamental research questions in that field tend to be things like: How do two cells become a baby nine months later? What is the organizing mechanism? Where is the blueprint? What makes fetal development occur?
Perhaps the chakras, as the organizing structures of the biofield, can help to explain that mechanism.
Chakras may be associated with sites of developmental control over the five classically defined regions of the spine: coccyx, sacrum, lumbar, thoracic, cervical, which correspond to the five lower chakras. And the upper two chakras are located in areas where brain regions differentiate developmentally – between the hindbrain and the midbrain, and between the midbrain and the cerebrum (forebrain).
(Photo Credit: Pixabay)
I don’t mean to be reductive here, but if chakras have nothing to do with the physical body, why are they located in these developmentally critical areas?
I’ve heard at least one yoga scholar and several well-known yoga teachers claim that the chakras are simply a “symbol system” and that they change depending on the system and the practitioners.
However the system of seven chakras has been fairly well-known since around 900 CE in the Kubijikāmata Tantra and probably earlier, we just don’t have any ancient texts about them. And many other ancient cultures acknowledged and utilized the chakras. While the science is still nascent, it’s not necessarily accurate (or helpful) to write the chakras off as merely symbols.
So why does it matter if chakras are real?
The reason the existence of chakras is relevant and important is that we are in the middle of a massive health care crisis – which has been building for many years and has intensified with COVID. Pre-COVID, 90 percent of the $3.8 T U.S. healthcare bill was spent on chronic diseases.
Whatever you think causes a problem will determine how you treat it. Our ideas about what causes human disease and how the human being functions are insufficient. We need new paradigms.
Our ways of understanding what it means to be human and to be healthy are woefully insufficient and that’s largely because we’re trapped by scientific materialism. We tend to think our problems as emanating from the physical. They must be related to neurotransmitters gone awry, glucose intolerance, too many carbs, lack of vitamins, not enough serotonin, toxicity in the environment, etc.
And while all those things may be true, they are not the whole picture of human health and well being.
The mind is intimately involved in health – physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual. According to the yoga tradition, the energy field emerges from the mind. And yet, we tend to overlook that there may be healing available at this intersection of the body and mind, which, I would argue, is where the chakras exist.
(Art Credit: Alex Grey)
Chakras, the subtle body, and the biofield are all various ways to describe related phenomena that are begging for deeper research and understanding.
Chakras are the cutting edge of human health and well-being. If we want to have better health outcomes – individually and as a society – we should stop writing them off as New Age nonsense and start investigating them with increasing subtlety.
Please check out my course, Chakras Beyond the Rainbow: Rethinking New Interpretations, Reclaiming Traditional Wisdom.
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Thank you for this. I am and have struggled with the notion of chakras but I want to keep an open mind. As a retired healthcare practitioner and a Christian I keep thinking that if chakras were a real thing, they would either be mentioned in Scripture or have been documented in scientific texts or both. I kind of think sometimes there may be a suggestibility here, tell a student that they are opening their heart chakra and bammo, they feel more of a sense of lovingkindness or generosity. As for babies and how they form – in my Christian world view, it’s God who forms each of us. Certainly there have been people healed by prayer and in ways that science cannot explain. We don’t know what we don’t know….and this is why I’m keeping an open mind, the best I can. And if someone can feel better and find healing through a suggestion, who am I to criticize that?
Here’s some Christian chakra iconography for you to contemplate. https://wisdomscry.com/blog/holy-mother-mary-teach-me-to-love-your-son-as-you-did-prayer
There are so many folks who aren’t open yet to all that is surrounding us to help us grow and heal. Best just to stay on the path you have chosen. Focus on that. Teach what you know and what exists for you.
thanks for the comment
Pharmaceutical driven sick care which treats symptoms is not health care or even life supporting. A philosophy which considers the entire body, holistically, like the Chakra system supports life and health. I like the Gerber Mate quote…brings it to basics. Thank you for continuing to lift us toward life ❤
Daniel Simpson writes in “The Truth* of Yoga”…They only really exist if imagined into being…However focusing attention on such things can make them real, at least in the realm of subjective experience.
*”There’s no one thing that’s true. It’s all true.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
thanks for the comment
Will science ever be able to explain subtle realities that are only experienced by those who have developed their subtle senses?
For me, the big gap here is the superficiality that surrounds profound concepts that are just that – concepts – until one has evolved enough to have personal experience with these subtle realities. It’s easy to understand why ancient yogis kept this information secret and only given to those who were prepared to do the work to achieve the realizations. In order for the general public to understand, everything must be demystified and it’s understandable why people would question the validity of such teachings. And I think this is your point with your new chakra course right Kristine?
Chakras can certainly be felt and with the inner senses seen and heard. These come from deep practice. Yoga is an experiential practice that reveals its secrets as you unfold and evolve your consciousness. At least, this is my experience and I would not consider myself some highly evolved yoga practitioner but I have been steadily practicing and studying for 30 years and this has led to profound insights and understanding.
My Teacher always encouraged his students to “see for yourself”. So I guess my point is, doesn’t practice help you have a more open mind and heart? Its good, healthy, to question. It’s in the depth of practice, beyond the intellect, the realities of the chakras are revealed. Didn’t even the Buddha say practice and all else will be revealed?
I also think this is what makes yoga different than religion. It’s not asking you to believe. It’s asking you to find it for yourself.
Very nice Michelle…really good points about asking questions, keeping an open mind and finding out for yourself through practice.
Thanks Michelle. Great questions. And, I do think some of the tools of science are subtle enough to measure some aspects of the chakras. There needs to be more research – outer as well as inner.
Practise and all is coming.
Thank you for this interesting article, Kristine. Science is only beginning to catch up with being able to “prove” what cannot be seen or measured.
In her new book, Dr. Shamani Jain discusses the mind-body connection and how science is finally starting to connect the dots (or silos, as it were).
Thanks for the recommendation!
Your text express so much what I feel. Like you practicing and studyiing has led me to profound insights and understanding. I write about my readings everyday and looking back at what I wrote many years ago I feel that I have evolved and became a better person.
Practice is the key word.
I also feel priviliged to have found and join this group.
I read a lot and maybe we could share the titles of some of our favrorite books.
Thank you Monique – we sometimes do “Book Club” posts over in Subtle Yoga Community on FB. I will put up a new post about that soon! thank you for being here. xo
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Kristine -I was commenting on Michelle text. I guess I did not do it right. Since I do not have a partner and because she expresses so well what I thought also about yoga and practice I was trying to create a link and share our readings.
There is more than one Michelle in the group so I guess I will check for her future comments.
This unit no. 18 is so far my favorite but I also enjoy all your teachings.
Another possible physical correlation to central chakras: the glands of the endocrine system.
yes Helen, thank you! Of course, however, I have seen little scientific literature.
Loved this! I am just beginning to delve into Qi energy and the chakras after practicing yoga for years. When I took yoga teacher training it only touched on the chakras. I believe there are energy centers and that we have the power to calm our nervous system as well as “heal”. I love the way you think and write about all of this.
Thank you Ann. I really appreciate your comment and that you get what I’m trying to say here. It’s complicated stuff and it takes a while to allow it to percolate IMHO.
Really good blog, Kaoverii. I remember when taking your 300 hour training in Asheville, you brought in two teachers and we did a Qi Gong practice in a circle where we felt the energy shift when people moved in and out of the circle with eyes closed. To me, if one can experience/feel that shift, and understand that we are vibrational/energetic beings, then why would it be a stretch to believe that we have corresponding energy centers along our spine that also have the ability to shift and/or influence shifts? (No need to post my comment — but am I on the right track here in my very limited understanding?)
that’s such a good point. I think you are exactly on the right track. The thing is that there hasn’t been very good research on this kind of phenomena, so it’s hard to convince more scientifically minded folks. I think there is an intersection of science and woo, that’s the stuff that is the most interesting to me. xo
P.S. I hope you don’t mind that I posted this, I’ll take it down if you like. Just LMK.
Hey Kristine, Chakras is a thing….whether or not it can ever be precisely explained to the satisfaction of those in the western world will remain to be seen.. In the end who cares, take it or leave it…work with it or choose to dismiss it….hey it’s fascinating to me and I want to know more whether this be from a scientific or historical viewpoint….
Part of me also wants to say, don’t let the troll get you down and feel the need to prove yourself….
You do you
Love your work and thankyou for contributing to the yogi world..
PS hope I make some sort of sense…
If I didn’t have your chakra course already (just need to get after it), I would have gotten it after reading this. I love the questions presented and your answers. I am finally ok with venturing past what science says,( not easy growing up Catholic either). Excited to explore these ideas and the possibilities , mostly because of how deliver the energetic world.
I went to my first yoga class after I saw what it did for my friend to help lift her depression after loosing her husband and get her energy back and get back into looking forward. I had an incredible experience in my first class and have wanted to understand what happened what was the connection between the movement and the change in my mental and emotional state and energy.
So I practiced and became a yoga teacher . That all began almost 20 years ago and I just keep learning about the science and traditions. I thought Chakras were “Maybe” wooo(?). Now I think some things have cultural traditions of the original time and that is why they are sometimes confusing or foreign to me. “Maybe” I can keep on practicing and learning and accept the origins can be meaningful to my understanding. Thank you for your teachings, Kristin and the opportunity to take time to hear what others think as well.
Thank you Carol – your comments are always insightful and I appreciate them – and you!