The Science Behind Your Chakras: What Are Chakras and How Many Are There?

What are chakras and how many are there? You've likely heard of these swirling whirlpools of energy in the body, but scientists are still figuring out how to study them to know if they are real.

By Sara Novak
Oct 24, 2023 4:00 PMOct 24, 2023 2:51 PM
chakras
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According to the tradition of yoga and many New Age practices, the chakras are vital centers of energy that exist in all of us.

While these constantly spinning energy vortexes are not visible to the human eye, they’re thought to be essential to our ongoing development and health as human beings, says Karla Helbert, a licensed counselor, yoga therapist, and author of The Chakras in Grief and Trauma

“I think of them as invisible energy organs, each one self-contained and having functions that impact all parts of the whole,” says Helbert. 

If you're curious about the mystical realm of chakras, how many there are, and how to block them, you can learn more below about these energy centers and their potential for physical and spiritual wellness.

What Are Chakras?

(Credit: Sudowoodo/Shutterstock)

Chakras are believed to be energy centers, or points of spiritual power, in various traditional Indian spiritual and religious systems, particularly in Hinduism and Tantra. 

The word "chakra" is Sanskrit for "wheel," and it is used to describe these energy centers because they are often depicted as spinning wheels or vortexes of energy.

How Many Chakras Are There?

Some claim there are as many as 88,000 chakras in the human body. The chakras were first mentioned in ancient Vedic and Tantric texts, some of the oldest Hindu writings, dating from 1500 B.C. to 500 B.C. Each one of our endocrine glands supposedly has something to do with the functions associated with that chakra. In modern times, the chakra system has been linked to the endocrine system, with certain glands correlated to certain chakras, says Helbert.


Read More: What Science Says About the Potential Healing Effects of Essential Oils


What Do Chakras Do?

According to Helbert, the chakras are constantly moving at varying speeds in an effort to maintain homeostasis in the body, each one governing different physical and mental components of our being.

The three lower chakras are linked to our “earthly” existence, including our survival instinct, reproduction, and self-confidence. The heart chakra is linked to empathy and acceptance of others, and the upper three chakras are linked to less physical attributes, including self-expression, intuition, and “our connection to the divine.”  

What Are Blocked Chakras?

When our chakras go out of balance — or become “blocked,” a phrase you may have heard spouted by certain spiritual characters in pop culture — it purportedly causes certain negative results. For example, an imbalanced sacral chakra is associated with fertility issues and a blocked throat chakra means you have trouble expressing yourself.  “The chakras regulate functions that affect us on all levels: physical, mental, emotional, intuitive, spiritual, and sensory,” says Helbert.  

How To Unblock Chakras

Chakra unblocking can be achieved through various methods, such as meditation, energy healing, yoga, and other chakra exercises. These practices can help release blocked energy and restore balance.


Read More: Does Yoga Really Detoxify the Body?


What Are the Seven Main Chakras?

(Credit: moibalkon/Shutterstock)

The seven main chakras, according to some belief systems, are thought to be associated with the endocrine system in the human body as energy centers. Here are the seven main chakras, along with their locations and how they are associated with the endocrine system:

1. Root Chakra (Muladhara)

Associated Endocrine Gland: Adrenal glands

Function: The root chakra is linked to the adrenal glands, which produce hormones related to the body's fight-or-flight response. It plays a role in managing stress and survival instincts.

2. Sacral Chakra (Svadhisthana)

Associated Endocrine Gland: Gonads (testes in men and ovaries in women)

Function: This chakra is connected to the gonads, which regulate reproductive functions, including sexual development and fertility.

3. Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura)

Associated Endocrine Gland: Pancreas

Function: The solar plexus chakra relates to the pancreas, which produces insulin and regulates blood sugar levels. It's associated with the body's metabolism and energy balance.

4. Heart Chakra (Anahata)

Associated Endocrine Gland: Thymus

Function: The heart chakra is associated with the thymus gland, which plays a crucial role in the development of the immune system and the body's ability to fight off diseases.

5. Throat Chakra (Vishuddha)

Associated Endocrine Gland: Thyroid and parathyroid glands

Function: The throat chakra is linked to the thyroid and parathyroid glands, which regulate metabolism and calcium levels in the body. It's also associated with communication and self-expression.

6. Third Eye Chakra (Ajna)

Associated Endocrine Gland: Pituitary gland (often referred to as the "master gland")

Function: The third eye chakra is connected to the pituitary gland, which controls various other endocrine glands, helping to regulate important functions like growth, reproduction, and stress responses.

7. Crown Chakra (Sahasrara)

Associated Endocrine Gland: Pineal gland

Function: The crown chakra is linked to the pineal gland, which produces melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. It's also associated with spiritual awareness and consciousness.

Are Chakras Real?

While these ideas fit snugly into a more modern explanation of the chakras, there’s no scientific evidence to back them up.

“This is really a Western point of view and we don’t have any data to prove the connection,” says Shamini Jain, a psychologist and researcher at the University of California, San Diego, and author of Healing Ourselves: Biofield Science and the Future of Health

Electrode Testing Chakras in the Body

As a whole, there’s currently no meaningful way of measuring the chakras scientifically. To Jain’s knowledge, it hasn’t really been attempted since 1978.

“The most robust work in trying to measure the chakras was under Valerie Hunt at UCLA in the 1970s,” says Jain.

Hunt used electrodes at various points along the chakra system — for example, an electrocardiogram at the heart — to measure changes energetically in the body. But to date, we haven’t been able to detect chakra energy partially because the chakras don’t work in isolation, they work in coordination, so it would be difficult to isolate one of them to study, says Jain.  

Lack of Research About Chakra

A 2005 paper published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine mentioned the non-visible energy of the chakra system but didn’t investigate the practice. “The chakras are the energy transducers for subtle energy.

Subtle energy is a healing energy that anyone can learn to perceive and utilize. It is a crucial, but often missing, component in health care,” the authors write.  Other research efforts have investigated similar systems of healing energy called Reiki. 


Read More: 5 Natural Remedies To Boost Health


What Is Reiki?

(Credit: vetre/Shutterstock)

Reiki is a Japanese healing-energy technique that employs the use of gentle physical touch, and its impact on lowering anxiety, depression, and pain, as well as improving wellbeing. 

What Is Reiki Good For?

While its effectiveness may vary from person to person, Reiki is commonly used for the following purposes:

  • Stress reduction

  • Pain management

  • Emotional healing

  • Energy balancing

  • Improved sleep

Research has shown that the technique can be effective, but scientists don’t know the mechanism behind its success - for example, whether it’s due to this energy working or whether the practice itself is simply relaxing, therefore reducing the impact of stress on the mind and body.

Do Reiki and Chakra Healing Work?

Overall, Jain says, it’s often difficult to get funding for the large-scale research we would need to better understand the chakra system and healing energy as a whole. This is largely because energy isn’t material, meaning you can’t see it. “We’re comfortable with the idea that a drug can fix problems but we’re not comfortable with energy doing the same thing because many don’t believe that energy is real,” she says.

But Jain hopes that this will change. “If you could measure changes in your energy biofield before you got physically sick, you could potentially prevent disease.” And that, says Jain, is a code worth cracking.  


Read More: Grappling With the Science of Touch-Based Healing Practices


FAQ: Summarizing the Seven Main Chakras 

Here's how each of the seven main chakras is often linked to different endocrine glands and their functions:

What Is the Root Chakra?

The root chakra (Muladera), is located at the base of the spine. It represents your foundation and is associated with feelings of stability, security, and basic needs.

What Is the Sacral Chakra? 

The sacral chakra (Svadhisthana) is located in the lower abdomen. It is linked to emotions, creativity, and sensuality.

What Is the Solar Plexus Chakra?

The solar plexus chakra (Manipura) is situated in the upper abdomen, this chakra relates to personal power, self-esteem, and confidence.

What Is the Heart Chakra? 

The heart chakra (Anahata) is found in the center of the chest. It governs matters of the heart, such as love, compassion, and relationships.

What Is the Throat Chakra?

The throat chakra (Vishuddha) is located at the throat, this chakra is associated with communication, self-expression, and the ability to speak your truth.

What Is the Third Eye Chakra?

The third eye chakra (Ajna) is positioned between the eyebrows, it represents intuition, insight, and perception beyond ordinary sight.

What Is the Crown Chakra? 

The crown chakra (Sahasrara) is situated at the top of the head, it is connected to spiritual awareness, enlightenment, and the connection to the divine.


Read More: Contentment is the Most Underrated Key to Happiness


This article was originally published on Dec. 1, 2021 and has since been updated with new information, including an FAQ section, by the Discover staff.

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