We may say that a Yantra is an instrument, designed to curb the psychic forces by concentrating them in a pattern, and is such a way that this pattern becomes reproduced by the worshipers visualizing power.

- Heinrich Zimmer, Ph.D., Indologist

It has been suggested by several modern schools of Yoga that the chakras, with their associated symbology, represent nothing more than a method of forcing the mind to concentrate upon the body.

This may be so, especially when we consider that one of the literal meanings of the Sanskrit Laya  is absorption. Such absorption, or concentration of the mind upon the body, would lead to the opening or harmonizing of the chakras and their respective psycho-physical functions.

Harmonizing the chakras implies an ancient chime of psychic anatomy that corresponds with our western physical, or gross/macroscopic anatomy, of the central and autonomic nervous systems. Consider the following correlative analysis.

Central Nervous System
Divided into brain and spinal cord.
Brain: Cerebrum and cerebellum. A midline sagittal slice resembles the fetus, symbol of latent growth, the neophyte, or Sahasrara padma - i.e., full potential yet to be released.
Spinal cord: Averages eighteen inches in length. Eighteen is the Hindu number of completeness. In the Mahabharata we note the eighteen days of the Great Battle, the eighteen battalions that fought, and the eighteen chapters of the Bhagavad-Gita  ("Song of God"). When the spinal cord is dissected out of the vertebral column, along with the brain cone, it resembles a serpent (Kundalini), while the cavity of the spinal canal is sushumna. The spinal cord transmits sensory (afferent) messages to the brain and receives motor (afferent) signals from the brain down its tracts to produce changes in effectors (i.e., muscles and glands). The sensory nerve tracts of the spinal cord represent Ida (receptive, passive) functions while motor nerve tracts down the spinal cord are equivalent to Pingala (projective, active) functions.
Autonomic Nervous system
It was formerly called involuntary, and even earlier (nineteenth century), the vegetative nervous system, as it was thought to govern functions beyond conscious regulation-e.g., heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, digestive functions, etc. However, by the 1970s Elmer Green, Ph.D., was able to prove that voluntary control could be established through a combination of biofeedback and autogenic training.

The autonomic nervous system divides into two sections which constantly interact with each other, either for dominance (according to need) or functional integration.

Nervous System
Sympathetic Branch: Left and right chains of ganglion, tethered to the spinal cord but running down each side of the anterior bodies of the vertebral column, and averaging twenty-two ganglion a piece, spread out from the coccyx up to the cervical vertebrae. This symmetry is reminiscent of Ida and Pingala with Sushumna, the spinal canal, as the "Middle Pillar" of Western Magical practice. The twenty-two ganglion represent the number of the Avatar, or coming savior in Hinduism, and in Western occult anatomy the twenty-two ganglion correspond to the twenty-two paths on the Qabalistic Tree of Life, twenty-two letters of the Hebrew Alphabet, twenty-two bones of the skull (used as a "communion cup" a sin the Nordic Skoal), and the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana in the Tarot. Functionally the sympathetic nerves most often act as an accelerator, producing pingala reactions, an extreme example being the so called "fear, fight, flight" syndrome.
Parasympathetic branch: The major section comprises a pair of vagus (in English, "vagrant") nerves, which emerge from the base of the skull to wander down the neck, through the chest, and deep into the abdominal cavity. Again remember the symbolic twins: Boaz and Jachin, Ida and Pingala. Parasympathetic branch fibers constantly meet with sympathetic branch fibers to form plexuses, the major ones on the physical plane representing the materialization of the non-physical chakras. Functionally the parasympathetic nerves most often perform braking actions; I call them the "rest, relaxation, recuperation" fibers, and hence they may be allied to Ida reactions.
A Few simple examples may help us relate to the autonomic nervous system in a meaningful way.
Organ or system Sympathetic Action Parasympathetic Action
Pupils of eyes DILATE: Better to see with if interested or frightened. CONSTRICTS: No threat, so every photon of light not necessary.
Heart rate INCREASED: Tachycardia. If frightened or anxious, more oxygen and glucose pumped around faster. SLOWED: Bradycardia. Safe to relax and rest.
Hand temperature COLD: Principle of "Brain sparing." Blood is with-drawn from extremities and saved for the heart and brain. WARMED: Vanishes cold hands. Many types of meditation do this.
Sleep HYPER-ALERTNESS: Anxiety, insomnia. Deep sleep comes easily.
Erection Inhibits if nervous, as arteriole blood supply constricted to penis. Allows full erection.
Ejaculation Sympathetic arousal at right level is necessary for ejaculation. Inhibits ejaculation.
Vaginal lubrication Inhibits Promotes
Nipple tumescence Inhibits Promotes
Clitoral tumescence Inhibits Promotes
Note: Overarousal of the sympathetic may lead to premature ejaculation and also ejaculation without erection.
The above examples demonstrate a delicate "union", or Yoga, that must occur between the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system. In the sexual example, we could express it in Laya Yoga terms and say that a fine balance is necessary between Muladhara and Swadhisthana, and between the God and Goddess cohabiting within each chakra.

The discussion of the nervous system has been vastly oversimplified but it can form a solid physical matrix to build a much more subtle base for inner concentration. Someone once defined Laya Yoga as autonomic nervous system gymnastics.

Indeed more specifically, we could define most meditation as parasympathetic gymnastics


Physical Anatomy Yoga postulates that the focus of psychic power may be developed through concentration (Dharana) upon the chakra zones. The result is dispersion of psychosomatic tension that so often occurs at one or more of these vital zones.
An analogous situation is autogenic training, developed in the early part of the twentieth century when the German psychiatrist Dr. Johannes H. Schultz amalgamated Yoga methodology with a then current European fascination-hypnosis. For example, concentrating upon the hands, visualizing them flushing red with blood, and telling yourself they are getting warm will actually raise the hand temperature by as much as ten degrees Fahrenheit, depending on your starting point.
This type of autogenic training is a form of "Western Yoga" and works exactly the same way as most meditation methods. The sympathetic nervous system is dampened, allowing the peripheral arterioles to dilate and flood the extremities with blood. By now you will have empirically discovered that successful meditation is always accompanied by an end result of warm hands and feet.
Psychic Centers In the initial stages, the mind is best trained by giving it something concrete upon which to concentrate. This is the purpose of the elaborate symbology. Each chakra has a certain number of petals, and each petal is inscribed with a letter of the Sanskrit alphabet (this is for awakening the chakra through Mantra Yoga), an animal, a god and goddess, a geometric form, a color, and a Bija, or seed, mantra.

All that will be necessary, for our purposes, will be a knowledge of the last three symbolic components: color, form, and Bija mantra.

The form and color of the first five chakras represent the Tattwa, or element, assigned to each. The Bija mantra is a basic sound which groups or awakens the dormant energy of the individual chakra.

Chakra Two dimensional geometric form Color Body Space
Muladhara Square Yellow Gonads, pelvic floor
Swadhisthana Crescent moon Silver Between pubic bone and navel
Manipura Triangle, apex down Red Between navel and breast bone tip
Anahata Hexagram Blue Behind breast bone, roughly on a line between nipples
Vishuddha Oval(egg) Black Inside "Voice Box"
Specific Advantages of Chakra Dharana
1. Concentration and visualization are improved.

2. Eastern occult theory states that this technique of concentration is one of the safest and most natural ways of gently awakening and harmonizing the psychic centers.

3. Relaxation of psychosomatic tension, in any specific chakra body space, develops by focusing upon that chakra within its area.

4. Traditional psychological characteristics are encouraged by meditating upon chakra areas with the appropriate color, sound, and shape.

Chakra Three Dimensional geometric form Psycholigical attributes
Muladhara Cube Solidarity, cohesiveness, Integration
Swadisthana Crescent Diplomacy, flexibility, equanimity
Manipura Tetrahedron Power, passion, energy, motivation
Anahata Hexagram Compassion, tolerance, understanding
Vishuddha Egg Empathy, Communication, freedom

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