March 7, 2016

Sometimes a Cigar is just a Cigar: Chakras vs. Science.


We read and hear a lot about chakras these days.

Chakras are energy centers in the body, according to eastern philosophy and alternative medicine.

These energy centers have certain attributes that correspond to our the health and wellbeing—emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually.

The theory is that energy flows through our body along certain pathways and when it is blocked by an unhealthy or unbalanced chakra, we suffer. There are supposedly seven main chakras and, depending on who you believe, up to 77 minor chakras. The seven major chakras are located in:

  1.  The groin area (root chakra),
  2.  Our abdomen just below the navel (sacral chakra),
  3.  Our solar plexus (solar plexus chakra),
  4.  Our chest or heart area (heart chakra),
  5.  The throat (throat chakra),
  6.  Our forehead (third eye chakra) and
  7.  On the top of our head (crown chakra).

Many healers contend that if we clear or balance our chakras then we will experience better health, wealth and happiness. Due to the fact that there is absolutely no scientific evidence that these chakras exist, or that any of the healing modalities for the chakras are anything other than placebos, the question arises why should we pay attention to these energy centers.

I expect that yoga, which is becoming more and more popular in our country, is at the center of this movement of focusing on healing and aligning our chakras.

As with most alternative healing theories, I am skeptical of the existence of these “energy centers” and believe that there is something else at work here.

In ancient times, human beings did not have the extensive knowledge of anatomy that we have now. Many ancient cultures attempted to explain the unknown as best they could and came up with theories or beliefs about things they could not see or understand. I believe that the whole system of chakra health is exactly that, an attempt to explain how our body works in spiritual (and unscientific) terms.

Yoga teaches that chakras are located at nerve junctions. That is incorrect. There are nerves that run through the body which have profound effect on our health and well being, the Vagus nerve being one. However, there are no major nerve centers which correspond to the classic location of the seven chakras. So if the chakras don’t correspond to our nervous system, I started looking for other explanations for this ancient concept of our bodies.

The true correspondence between this theoretical “energy system” and our physical bodies is our endocrine system.

In fact, if you overlay a chart of our endocrine system over a chart of the chakra system, they are almost an exact match. In the same order listed above, the correspondence is as follows:

  1. Root chakra—testicles and ovaries,
  2. Sacral chakra—adrenal glands,
  3. Solar plexus chakra—pancreas,
  4. Heart chakra—thymus,
  5. Throat chakra—thyroid,
  6. Third eye—pineal gland,
  7. Crown chakra—pituitary gland.

If you look at the theories and concepts of chakras, they also correspond with the functions of these glands. The root chakra is about reproduction, survival and how we relate to the world. Our sexual glands obviously play a major role in our reproduction and without them we would not survive as a species. The urge to procreate is similar to our survival instincts.

The sacral chakra governs our relationships to each other, our concepts of beauty and attractiveness. Our adrenal glands secrete hundreds of hormones and chemical compounds which control our metabolism and bodily functions down to a cellular level. The adrenals secrete adrenaline and cortisol which have everything to do with our appearance and liveliness.

The solar plexus chakra controls our willpower and confidence and how we relate to ourselves. It supposedly controls much of our negative emotions such as shame, guilt and resentment. Our pancreas on the other hand controls our digestive system, secreting insulin and digestive enzymes. These compounds determine how we digest food which directly affects how we feel about ourselves and our lives.

The heart chakra is all about love and acceptance. It is the middle chakra, three above and three below. It supposedly bridges the gap between the outside world and the inner world, as well as controlling our circulation. The thymus gland regulates our immune system. It creates “T” cells and various white blood cells that help with resisting disease.

The throat chakra controls our speech (communication), integrity and honesty. It affects how we feel about ourselves and whether we are empowered or disempowered. The thyroid gland regulates our metabolism and the functions of various organs in the body. It affects the production of testosterone and estrogen two of the most important hormones in our body. It controls our weight, our sense of wellbeing and sexual function.

The third eye chakra controls our intuition, our connection to our higher self, our imagination and how we relate to our divine self. The pineal gland is located behind our eyes in the middle of the brain approximately three inches behind the space between our eyes. The pineal gland secretes melatonin which creates a sense of well being and controls our sleep patterns.

The crown chakra controls our connection with God and divine will. This chakra controls the flow of divine energy into and through our body. The pituitary gland is our master gland and controls all of the other glands, in effect the “God gland.”It secretes eight hormones that control the functions of all of the other glands. In combination with the hypothalamus, this gland controls how we respond to external stimulus and improper functioning of other glands.

You may be asking yourself at this point, which is more important, the chakra system or the endocrine system?

On a physical level, our glands control how we experience life and our health. Perhaps on an emotional or mental level it is useful to know about chakras but many attributes of chakra theories are simply unscientific explanations of how our bodies work through our endocrine system.

A case in point, I noticed several years ago that I was more fatigued and experiencing occasional erectile dysfunction. I was experiencing depression on a much more chronic level than the situational depression I had experienced in the past.

The classical holistic interpretation of my symptoms was that my root and sacral chakras were blocked. So I set about healing those bad boys through meditation, energy healing, charka clearing and balancing. To be honest, that was all a complete waste of time and money.

The symptoms persisted.

Luckily I started consulting an internal medicine doctor who is more naturopath than traditional medical physician. He did some blood work and discovered that my thyroid was converting testosterone into estrogen (maybe as a result of my getting in touch with my feminine side, who knows?) and prescribed medication to stop that. When my testosterone levels rose, so did my libido and spirits. It was simply a function of growing older and living a wild and crazy life.

The point I am making here is that, as Sigmund Freud used to say, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

If you look at the whole chakra narrative as an attempt to explain in emotional and spiritual terms what is going on with our physical body it makes a lot more sense.

I attribute most of the stories I hear about chakra healing to the placebo effect or our mind’s ability to heal our bodies. The mind’s power to heal the body is extremely powerful. There is nothing wrong with going for the placebo effect.

If you suffer from anxiety and chronic depression, it may be that your chakras are blocked, but I strongly suggest you go have your blood chemistry checked. It may actually be your endocrine system which is malfunctioning.

Our mind and body systems are interrelated and complicated. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water by attributing symptoms to your chakras and ignoring your endocrine system.


Relephant Reads:

Embracing Yoga Skepticism.


Author: James Gray Robinson

Apprentice Editor: Sarrah Chaouki; Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

Photo: Spirit-Fire/ Flickr


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