We could talk about chakras for hours. There are many books and information on the web about them. But rather than talking about the specifics of chakras I would like to just consider the big picture.
What are chakras? In simple terms, chakras are places in our body where energy revolves and concentrates. Energy flows through our body in different forms like electric pulses through our neuropaths, heat from our cells, chemical reactions through our muscles, motion of blood through our veins, air through our lungs and more. In yoga all the energies are together in a single one: Prana or life force. In yoga, this energy flows all over our body, but tends to gravitate around seven major points along the spine.
Why Chakras are so important in yoga? Chakras are associated also to emotions. For each chakra there is a group of emotions. You really don’t need to be a spiritual person to relate to this idea. When you are in love you feel it in your chest. When you have fear you feel it in your stomach, when you are aroused you feel it in your lower abdomen area. More complex emotions belong to the mental realm and are difficult to link with a body area because they originate in the mind. From this perspective, you can map your emotions in your body. This is a powerful tool for balancing your emotions. When you repress an emotion, a chakra gets blocked and energy doesn’t flow as it should. When you let these emotions manifest in a healthy way, energy flows freely again. By exploring your chakras you check your emotional deficiencies and establish ways to address these deficiencies.
Chakras from bottom to top: Chakras at the bottom of the spine are associated with basic emotions and emotional needs, while at the top, chakras are related to more complex emotions. In yoga you work first on balancing basic emotions and then you can work on deeper and more subtle feelings. I tend to compare this with Maslow pyramid of needs. Our most basic needs are physiological and safety related. These are also located in the first three chakras. Then there is love and belonging, which you can map around the fourth chakra. And at the top of Maslow pyramid is self-esteem and self-actualization, aligned with the top three chakras. In simple terms, to achieve emotional balance you have to address first your basic emotions and feelings related to hunger, thirst, secretions and sex, before dealing with complex feelings like love, anger, fear and compassion.
Making the unconscious, conscious: Taking care of basic needs before dealing with deeper necessities may seem obvious, but we tend to do the opposite. We want to be happy while we don’t eat healthy food or don't exercise, to a point where we get sick or develop chronic conditions. And that is just at a physical level. This is the result of suppressing emotions for long periods of time, keeping them in the realm of the unconscious. Sometimes we need to suppress certain emotions to deal with life problems. You could say that we do this so we can live in society. Otherwise, fulfilling some emotional needs could step into others people liberties and rights. But there are ways to deal with your emotions and yoga is one of them. From my own experience, you can let your emotions flow through yoga to a point where balance arises. The chakras allow us to look out for those emotions we are suppressing and deal with them one day at a time.