Chakras are wheels, or vortexes, of energy in your body that are believed by some yogis to affect your emotional and physical health. Colors, food, lifestyle habits and mantras affect these chakras, as do specific yoga poses.
Seven main chakras exist, beginning with the tangible, foundational root chakra and moving up your spine to the ephemeral crown chakra. Use your yoga practice to stimulate and balance these centers so your energy flows freely to maximize your health and well being.
Root Chakra (Muladhara)
The root chakra exists at the base of your spine and represents everything that defines how you operate in the world, from your home to your job to your financial decisions. Grounding poses, such as Warrior II, Mountain pose and Tree address this chakra. Other standing poses, such as Side Angle and Triangle, also stimulate this chakra.
Sacral Chakra (Svadhisthana)
Move up your spine, to the area between your pubis and belly button, to find your sacral chakra. This energy zone corresponds with your sensual self and creativity. A healthy sacral chakra means you're in touch with your emotions. Stimulate this zone with poses that open the hips, including Standing or Seated Wide Forward Bend, Bound Angle Pose or Pigeon.
Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura)
You find the solar plexus chakra right above your naval, around where your stomach is. Manipura affects your self-confidence and self-worth as well as, most tangibly, digestion. Poses such as Boat, Supine Twist and Half-Lord-of-the-Fishes are used for this chakra.
Heart Chakra (Anahata)
The heart chakra is found, unsurprisingly, in the chest. It corresponds to your abilities to form relationships and to be compassionate and loving to others, and yourself. Use Camel, Cobra and Bridge pose, among other classic back-bending heart openers, to address this chakra.
Throat Chakra (Vishuddha)
The throat chakra represents your ability to communicate with the world. Blockages in this chakra may make it hard for you to speak your mind or say no. Fish pose, Shoulderstand and neck rotations directly affect this chakra.
Third Eye Chakra (Ajna)
The third eye is located in the middle of your forehead, or your brow. It's the source of your intuition and humility. It's here where you're said to store all the teachings you've encountered, from classwork to experiential learnings. Stimulate the third-eye with Child's pose and seated meditation.
Crown Chakra (Sahasrara)
Your crown chakra is about spirituality and your relationship to the other — the divine — whatever that means to you. Headstand, as well as seated meditation focused on self affirmations, are ways to generate more energy in this chakra. Pranayama techniques, including Nadi Shodhana, or alternate-nostil breathing, and Kapalabhati, or Skull-Shining Breath, are other methods of opening up awareness in your crown chakra.