In Hindu-inspired holistic healing systems, the chakras are thought of as vortices of energy. As is common with ancient traditions, variations of the chakra system models have developed. Some variations are the Western tradition, Bön, and tantric chakra systems. Chinese medicine also incorporates energy centers that are similar to chakras.
Most chakra systems have seven major chakras, which start at the base of the spine and move upward to the top of the head. When defining chakras, these seven are named the root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye, and crown chakras, which may correspond with clusters of nerves in the body. These energy may require chakra balancing or chakra healing techniques for maintaining wellness.
Western thought on chakra systems has been strongly influenced by the translations and the works of Sir John Woodruff and C. W. Leadbetter. In the Western tradition, the Hindu concepts of chakras have been blended with Chinese medicine’s traditional understanding of qi, or life energy. As is true of many other traditions, in the Western tradition the chakras line up from the base of spine to the crown on the head. New Age derivations usually associate a color with each chakra, along with other physical, mental, and emotional characteristics. Some variants profess the existence of a chakra under the feet, known as the Earth star chakra, and one or more chakras over the head, known as Transpersonal chakras.
A Himalyan Bönpo tradition, taught by Tenzin and Wangyal Rinpoche, is named Bön. In the Bön tradition there are six major chakras. The Bön chakras correspond to the Buddhist six realms of experience. One key concept in this practice is that the chakras, which are life force centers, will affect the character of perceived reality.
Hindu tantric chakra traditions are frequently associated with sensuousness and sexuality. Kundalini yoga may be used in tantric healing practices. The practitioners conceive of a serpent of energy that is coiled near the lower spine. Certain yoga poses may be used in treating chakras by causing the serpent to uncoil. This action can unleash a transformation wherein all chakras, from the root to the crown, are pierced, and the individual’s consciousness merges with that of the universe.
Similar to chakra systems, the idea of energy centers are also used in Chinese medicine. The life energy moves down a channel near the front of the body and upward along a channel near the back. As is true for the Hindu chakra healing systems, energy must flow freely for health to be maintained.