The opening of the chakras has been the subject of a tremendous amount of focus in the yoga literature, with emphasis on the awakening of the kundalini energy at the base of the spine, and the rising up of this energy through each of the chakras up to the crown of the head. The dangers associated with this process have also been described, as a sudden opening of one of the lower chakras can lead to serious psychological and physical imbalances and dangers, particularly if there is not a trusted and experienced guide to help one manage the experience.

The integral Yoga has a different process that generally starts above and provides thereby the support and balance that the open mental and emotional centers can bring. Practitioners of the integral Yoga do not focus on awakening the kundalini energy, per se, but on the higher aspiration, the purification of the motives of action of the ego-personality and the desire-soul, and the opening to the higher force as it descends to empower and simultaneously widen the consciousness of the seeker.

The focus in the tantric tradition has always been on the peak experience of the rising of the kundalini and that is much of the allure of that path. The opening of the chakras, however, is not so much about a key experience in one’s life, but in the subtle and more permanent changes that take place in the consciousness over time through the energetic flow through the chakras. The process is less dramatic and more substantive than one finds in the popular imagination.

Practitioners of integral Yoga report the descent of the higher force as a pressure starting at the top of the head, or as a consistent drip of this force into the being from above. Yet eventually, as it works its way through the being, there arises a more constant state of connectedness, receptivity, openness and aspiration that spreads through all the aspects of one’s life. As this occurs, the seeker observes changes in the way of seeing and relating to the world around himself and the events and forces with which he interacts. The seeker then frames a new relationship to everything in life based on this new standpoint and way of experience.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “One can speak of the chakras only in reference to yoga. In ordinary people the chakras are not open, it is only when they do sadhana that the chakras open. For the chakras are the centres of the inner consciousness and belong originally to the subtle body. So much as is active in ordinary people is very little — for in them it is the outer consciousness that is active.”

“In the Tantra the centres are opened and Kundalini is awakened by a special process, its action of ascent is felt through the spine. Here it is a pressure of the Force from above that awakens it and opens the centres. There is an ascension of the consciousness going up till it joins the higher consciousness above. This repeats itself (sometimes a descent also is felt) until all the centres are open and the consciousness rises above the body. At a later stage it remains above and widens out into the cosmic consciousness and the universal self. This is a usual course, but sometimes the process is more rapid and there is a sudden and definite opening above.”

“In our yoga there is no willed opening of the chakras, they open of themselves by the descent of the Force. In the Tantric discipline they open from down upwards, the Muladhar first; in our yoga, they open from up downward. But the ascent of the force from the Muladhar does take place.” Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, The Integral Yoga and Other Systems of Yoga and Philosophy, pp. 31-33

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and is author of a daily blog post focused on them at He is author of 16 books on the subject and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. Santosh is also President of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.