The Neurophysiology of Chakras

Lloyd Sparks
11 min readJun 13, 2019
From The 7 Chakras by Belinda Grace

Hindu and Buddhist traditions describe a series of four to seven chakras (from the Sanskrit for “wheel”) located along the spine, which are hubs of energy collection and distribution. So elaborate are these descriptions that they each have their own physiological significance, seed syllables, sounds, subtle elements, colors, and even deities. They are said to influence qualities as subtle as emotions and virtues.

Traditional Chinese medicine and Taoist thought have similar theories involving the flow of energy (chi) along channels and intersecting at physiological centers often associated with physical organs. While I don’t pretend to completely understand these concepts, one cannot help but notice an interesting overlap both anatomically and functionally with major nerve plexuses in the body.

How close were the ancients to understanding human physiology in the depth and detail we do today?

The human body, like all vertebrates, is controlled in part by nerves which convey impulses to and from the brain via the spinal cord and nerve complexes located next to it. These concentrations of nerve bodies, or ganglia, support major physiological functions from breathing to heart rate to digestion, elimination and sex.

The vast bulk of information processing that happens just to keep us alive and functioning happens beyond our conscious awareness throughout the body. Although we are unaware of this activity, it is not true that we cannot consciously influence it. A bowel movement is controlled by autonomic processes, yet we learn to control it early in childhood along with urination. Breathing happens without thought, yet we can consciously choose to breathe or hold the breath. Yogic traditions and tantra have elaborate systems of breathing exercises, postures and locks designed to specifically influence the chakras and flow of energy which lend themselves to interpretation through Western science and medicine.

Let’s take the seven commonly described chakras and shed some light through a Western window.

1. The Root Chakra

At the base of the spine near the tailbone is said to reside the muladhara or “root” chakra. It is the chakra of stability and security with respect to our basic needs which, when met, make you feel grounded…

Lloyd Sparks

Lloyd Sparks MD is a neuroscientist who writes on the subjects of health, fitness and fearless living.