7 Chakras and Maslow's Hierarchy
It is a known fact that human body is composed of subtle energy centers called 'Chakras'. Each Chakra has a deity, structure, color, symbol, mantra, an organ or a gland and exhibits specific characteristics when under activated or over activated or balanced. The main concept of this blog is to make an attempt to correlate Chakras with Maslow's hierarchy. Abraham Maslow's hierarchy classifies the needs into five major categories - basic needs, safety needs, love needs, self esteem needs and self actualization or self realization needs. Maslow's hierarchy emphasizes that a person tries to achieve higher needs such as recognition,self-esteem and self-realization only after gratifying lower needs i.e., physiological and survival needs. It is an effort to bring closer the social sciences and metaphysics.
Muladhara Chakra - Maslow's Physiological Needs
Muladhara or Root Chakra is responsible for fight/ flight response when survival is under threat.It deals with basic needs of shelter,survival and sex i.e., 'me conscious' and related to gonads. It is located at the base of the pelvis.The element is earth.
- Physical: Excretory organs
- Mental: Stability and instinct
- Emotional: Sensuality and survival
When this chakra lacks energy, a person tends towards self destruction due to fear of survival,stress,loss of appetite and passivity in day-to-day life. In excess of energy, a person may have delusions, indulge in overeating, excessive spending and greediness. But, when balanced it ensures physical health,financial security, material comfort, prosperity and the ability to be still.
Similarly, Maslow's hierarchy states that the first of the needs are basic or physiological in nature.They are food, water, sleep, shelter, sex and survival.
So, to heal this over-activated or under-activated chakra, the seed mantra to be meditated is 'lam' and the main yogasana is 'setu bandha asana' or a 'bridge pose'.
Swadhistana Chakra - Maslow's Physiological and Safety Needs
Swadhistana or sacral chakra is the second chakra in order, and is located two inches below the navel i.e., mid-pelvic region. It is related to testes or ovaries that produce sex hormones. It mainly deals with relationships,emotional needs and pleasure i.e.,'you and me consciousness'. The element is water.
- Physical: Genitourinary system, adrenals and reproduction system
- Mental: Creativity
- Emotional: Joy and pleasure
A deficiency in the energy levels of this chakra leads to emotional repression,resistance to change, boredom, rigidity and problems in reproductive organs. An excess of energy increases mood swings,obsessions and sexual addictions.A balanced chakra exhibits graceful movements,passion,feeling pleasure and a very healthy life.
Maslow's second set of needs are related to safety and security of physical, financial and emotional aspects of life.
Swadhistana chakra simulates Maslow's basic and safety needs.Any deficiency or excess of energy in this chakra is said to be corrected through chanting the seed mantra 'vam'. The major yoga posture serving the purpose is 'bhujanga asana' or 'snake pose'.
Manipura or Solar Plexus Chakra - Maslow's Safety Needs
Manipura or Solar plexus chakra is located above the navel and below the breast bone. It is linked with metabolic and digestive systems and rules the islets of langerhans, which are group of cells in the pancreas producing insulin, and adrenal glands. It is related with qualities such as pride in oneself, risk taking and assuming responsibility. The element is fire.
- Physical: Digestion
- Mental: Personal power, anxiety and fear
- Emotional: Expansiveness and openness
Deficient solar plexus chakra exhibits digestive problems, eating disorders, low self esteem, a tendency to blame others and passivity. Excessive energy of the chakra results into perfectionism,hatred towards others, arrogance, stubbornness, ulcers, diabetes and hypoglycemia. A balanced chakra will enable clear communications with oneself and others; and a good sense of timing and humor.
The second set of Maslow's hierarchy includes the safety and security needs of health, family,employment and property. A well balanced manipura or solar plexus chakra denotes that the person possesses substantial growth in both personal and financial matters which are the safety needs of Maslow's hierarchy.
Any imbalance in the safety and security needs can be addressed by healing solar plexus chakra by meditating on the syllable 'ram' and practicing 'dhanur asana' or 'bow pose' and 'shalabha asana' or 'locust pose'. Even 'sun salutation' yoga postures can activate this chakra.
Anahata or Heart Chakra - Maslow's Love Needs
The heart chakra is related to the thymus gland located in center of the chest , which secretes T-cells to fight any disease. This gland is adversely affected by any type of stress and thereby weakening the heart chakra. The element is air.
- Physical: Circulation
- Mental: Compassion, tenderness, well-being, equilibrium, acceptance and rejection
- Emotional: Unconditional love and forgiveness
The deficiency in the chakra may lead to lung problems, heart diseases, hypertension, an inability to forgive, secluding oneself, and a lack of empathy or sympathy. Excess of energy may turn out into anger, jealousy and domination over others. A person with a balanced love energy shows compassion, acceptance, forgiveness and contentment towards the fellow beings.
The third category of needs as per Maslow's hierarchy are love, affection and feelings of belongingness towards the family, friendship and other relationships.These needs are the main characteristics of the balanced heart chakra.
To maintain a healthy heart chakra, a person has to imbibe love by chanting the seed mantra 'yam'. Some of the advisable yoga postures are 'ustra asana, the camel pose', 'bhujanga asana,the snake pose', 'ustra asana - the camel pose' and 'matsya asana, the fish pose' which improve the lung capacity and hence more oxygen, more love.
Vishuddha or Throat Chakra - Maslow's Self Esteem Needs
This chakra is located at base of the throat and is related to thyroid gland which produces hormone responsible for growth and maturity. The corresponding qualities are self esteem, sense of freedom, independence and self reliance. The element is space.
- Physical: Communication, growth through self expression and public relations
- Mental: Fluent thought, clarity in understanding, good listening and a sense of confidence
- Emotional: Self esteem, self reliance, independence and recognition in the society
Lack of energy in the chakra leads to throat ailments, hypothyroidism i.e., under active thyroid and fear of public speaking. Excess of energy results into hyperthyroidism i.e., overactive thyroid, talking too much, loudness, gossiping, spreading rumors and inability to maintain secrecy. A balanced throat chakra improves communication, art of advocacy, good listening, skill of lobbying for the purpose, strong personality and voice modulation.
The corresponding set of needs in the Maslow's hierarchy include self esteem, recognition, achievement, success and independence. One can see the similarities between throat chakra characteristics and self esteem needs of Maslow's hierarchy.
To correct the imbalances in this part of personality, the chanting of seed mantra 'ham' can help and important yoga postures for the purpose are 'matsya asana - fish pose', 'vipareetakarani - half shoulder stand pose', 'ustra asana - camel pose', 'sarvanga asana - shoulder pose', and 'hala asana - plough pose'.
Ajna or Third Eye Chakra - Maslow's Self Actualization Needs
Third eye chakra is located at the centre of the eye brows in the forehead. According to Yogic literature, it is the point where the two nadis or subtle channels of life force ida(left) and pingala(right) terminate and meet the central channel sushumna signifying the liberation from duality. This chakra is linked with the pineal gland that produces melatonin, a hormone which regulates the biological clock i.e., daily - sleeping, and seasonal functions related to reproduction.The element is mind.
- Physical: Sleep and waking up patterns and seasonal reproductive functions
- Mental: Visual Consciousness, good memory and concentration
- Emotional: Clarity on an intuitive level, balanced emotions and wisdom
Under activated third eye chakra may lead to eye/vision problems, bad memory, lack of imagination and inability to connect or visualize. Over activated third eye may create hallucinations, confusions, nightmares, head ache, insomnia and difficulty in concentrating. But, a well balanced ajna or third eye chakra improves intuition level, imagination, creativity, insight, memory, mind power, dream recall and wisdom. The inner aspects of this chakra are clairvoyance, trusting inner guidance,aligning higher and lower selves with the inner child and access of intuition or telepathy.
The uppermost grid of Maslow's hierarchy emphasizes on self actualization needs such as reaching the ultimate potential, self fulfillment, creativity, personal growth and morality. These needs of higher order are closer to the attributes of third eye chakra.
So, a person who wants to grow up to his potential, and fulfill his inner desires of higher order may meditate on the seed syllable 'ohm' or 'om'. The yoga poses which may serve the purpose are 'maha mudra - thunderbolt pose + forward bending', 'shirs asana - head stand pose' and 'yoga nidra - corpse pose'.
Sahasrara or Crown Chakra - Maslow's Self Actualization or Self Realization Needs
The crown chakra is related to pure consciousness, located at the crown of the head. This chakra is linked with the pituitary gland which secretes the hormones to communicate with the entire endocrine system. The pituitary gland is also connected to the central nervous system through hypothalamus. The element is universal or cosmic consciousness or atma.
- Spiritual: Release of karmic chain i.e., cause and effect reaction
- Physical: Connect physical action or material body with meditation
- Mental: Focus mind on universal or divine consciousness
- Emotional: Connect emotions to positive thinking
Deficiency at this level leads to depression, stress, apathy, narrow or closed mind and spiritual cynicism. Excess of energy at sahasrara sometimes may lead to spiritual delusions and extremities. A balanced crown chakra displays spiritual wisdom, philosophic insight, intelligence and presence of mind.
The higher most set of needs in the Maslow's hierarchy are self actualization and self realization, where the person tries to look beyond one's self and reach the state of enlightenment or cosmic bliss. According to vedic and yogic literature, this state of evolution is called samadhi where the sahasrara or crown chakra is active.
The meditation on 'om', practicing 'yoga nidra - corpse pose', 'padma asana - lotus pose', and meditating on breathing i.e., 'ana - pana - sati'( buddhism) can help to reach the state of breathlessness (samadhi) .
Abraham Maslow classified the needs into lower order (bottom three) and higher order needs (top two grids) . The priority of needs depends on various factors such as age, culture and crisis. A person who is poor may have satisfied his or her self actualization needs which come under the upper most grid of Maslow's hierarchy. Hence, there is no defined order to satisfy one's needs. One can satisfy his love needs even before achieving the safety needs. As per chakra concept, it is possible to correct any under activated or over activated chakra to maintain harmony among chakras.