The Psycho-phyisology of the Yogic Chakra System - Part 2

Dr M. Roney-Dougal, UK

The solar plexus: Manipura chakra

The Manipura chakra causes old age, decay and emaciation by burning up what Satyananda calls the nectar of immortality. It is also connected with the sense of sight and the eyes and is the organ of action, hence it is also connected with the feet. The solar plexus is the locus for our 'gut feelings' about people and situations, and is connected with digestion. Manipura is the uppermost of the 'earthly' or base chakras.

The adrenals are the endocrine glands related to the solar plexus. Most people know these as the 'fight or flight' glands in that adrenaline is produced when we are in a stressful situation and we burn up our body energy in order to cope with a crisis; adrenaline is the hormone of action.

The pineal is connected with the adrenals, and in particular with their hormones, adrenaline and noradrenaline, in many ways.

The adrenals comprise two parts: the cortex and the medulla. The cortex secretes glucocordcoids such as corticosterone,on a rhythmic light-dark cycle linked with hormones from the pituitary and the hypothalamus. These are stress-related hormones.

Removal of the pineal gland causes enlarged adrenals (and also an enlarged thyroid)*7. The medulla secretes adrenalin. The pineal inhibits release of all of these hormones, thus controlling our physical level of immediate short-term stress, as it does with the thyroids on a long term basis.*8

Melatonin is actually found in the gut as are the betacarbolines.*9 Betacarbolines interact with adrenaline and noradrenaline uptake and outputs as well as with corticosterone secretion, thus interacting closely with the adrenal functions. Constant administration of small doses of betacarbolines causes the weight of the adrenals to decrease.

They become enlarged because the inhibitory effect on these glands has been removed so that they work overtime. As a result, one burns up! This can be understood in the spiritual as well as in the physical sense.

It is interesting that not only melatonin is found in the adrenals, but also betacarboline. Why we need a hallucinogen in our gut I cannot imagine, unless it is a chemical link with the psychic aspect of our solar plexus.

The root of the spinal cord: Swadhisthana chakra

Satyananda states that Swadhisthana is connected with all 'the phases of the unconscious'. Swadhisthana is made up of all the rubbish which you never wanted, which you never needed, which you never desired but which got in. It is the generative aspect of sexuality embodied by the womb in women, and by the hormones oestrogen and testosterone. These hormones are central to the development of the secondary sexual characteristics, that which is the essence of man or woman. They define our gender, ourselves as sexual beings in terms of mother or father. This essence of masculinity or femininity becomes easily distorted, as the patriarchal system demonstrates, because it is so unconscious, so instinctive, such a basic part of our selves.

The glandular connection of Swadhisthana is with the testes, ovaries and related systems so that to some extent it overlaps with Mooladhara chakra.

The coccygeal plexus: Mooladhara chakra

The Mooladhara chakra is the root chakra, intimately connected in the male with the prostate gland and testes, and in the female with the uterus. This chakra is connected with the sense of smell, the nose and the earth element. Working on this chakra releases suppressed emotions and unconscious memories, and causes extreme swings in mood. It is the seat of kundalini, and has obvious and direct connections with sexual energy in its most earthy aspect. This is the most base of all chakras, the one most closely connected with our animal self.

The pineal and the gonadal system interact extensively. Satyananda considers that there is a special connection between the Ajna chakra and Mooladhara, and there are certainly extensive connections between the pineal gland and the gonads. The pineal synthesizes antigonadotropic peptides. In their turn the gonadal hormones testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone inhibit the biosynthesis of the pineal hormone melatonin. As we have already seen prolactin secretion is inhibited by ovarian steroids.

Thus, the pineal makes a hormone which inhibits gonadal development and regulates the onset of sexuality, both at puberty for humans, and on a seasonal basis in animals. There is a possible fall in plasma melatonin associated with male human pubertal development. One intriguing aspect of the pineal is that it gradually calcifies. The pineal is known to be sensitive to the earth's magnetic field, and one could speculate that the calcium component could be the detector.

The pineal night-time melatonin concentration decreases progressively during the oestrus cycles, with a nadir at ovulation and peak values during menstruation.*16 Thus women show a 28-day melatonin rhythm. Melatonin seems to be taken up by the ovaries, testes and uterus. Continuous light, which causes a decrease in melatonin production, also causes a decrease in ovarian melatonin concentration, while injections of melatonin result in smaller testes. Another link with lunar cycles is shown by the 25 hour circadian rhythm established if one is kept in constant darkness. The moon circles the earth once every 25 hours. However the two studies which have explored the link between menstrual cycles and psychic ability are inconclusive.

Since continuous light decreases melatonin production, and melatonin regulates the onset of puberty, it is possible that continuous light causes earlier onset of puberty. However, our house lighting is, in most cases, below the level that inhibits melatonin production as is shown so well by the use of artificial sun lamps to help those suffering from depression. This is not to say that we are not affected by our artificial lights: I think we are, but exactly how is not yet clear.

I feel that these studies linking the pineal gland with the gonadal endocrines aids understanding of the lore surrounding sexuality and psychic functioning. Children and celibates are almost universally those chosen as temple seers and prophets, the oracle at Delphi being an excellent example of this. Some research suggests that children are more psychic when they are younger, and much of the research into poltergeists suggest that adolescents are often the focus for this wild uncontrolled psychokinetic storm.

Cyclicity in mammals is seasonal rather than monthly, according to sun cycles rather than moon cycles, and certain animals become impregnated in autumn at the end of the long daylight hours. As mentioned with regard to the Anahata chakra, throughout the shortened days of winter, melatonin inhibits pituitary prolactin secretion and hence implantation of the blastocyst which is held in a sort of suspended animation until the spring and the return of longer days. While few clinicians would accept a seasonal basis for reproduction in humans, older epidemological data, and data more recently derived from conditions of borderline fertility, both support a seasonal change. The exact link to melatonin is as yet unestablished but seasonal changes in plasma melatonin have been described.

It has been shown that the foetus can synthesize and store melatonin. The diurnal rise in plasma melatonin appears enhanced as pregnancy progresses, supporting the idea of a role for the maternal pineal in entraining foetal body rhythms, since the biological clock works rhythmically even before the optic nerves are fully developed. Melatonin levels are exceptionally high at birth. There are similar findings between the gonads and betacarbolines, the pineal hallucinogen. Thus concentrations of betacarbolines seem to decrease with age. Betacarbolines fed to young male animals inhibit the development of the genital organs. In female rats, in high doses, it made the dioestrus longer or totally abolished the oestrus period. In smaller doses the weights of ovaries, uterus and pituitary decreased. All these research findings indicate that beta carbolines are connected with psychic functioning and with certain aspects of sexuality.


My knowledge of the endocrine system is still meagre. The neurochemists have only just isolated the betacarbolines from the pineal and are still learning about melatonin and serotonin. Thus our knowledge about the chemistry of our body-mind system is still rudimentary. However, partial as our knowledge may be, it does fit together with what the yogis, scientists of the subtle mind, tell us about the yogic chakra system. Our disciplines, apparently so different in language and method appear to corroborate each other.


*1. Capra, Fritjof, The Tao of Physics, London: Fontana, Flamingo Series, 1975.

*2. Tart, C. l., Transpersonal Psychologies, London :Rout-ledge and Kegan Paul, 1975.

*3. Paninjpe, A. C., Theoretical Psychology. The Meeting of Bast and West. New York: Plenum Press, 1984.

*4. Satyananda, Swami Saraswati, Kundalini Yoga. Bihar School of Yoga, Bihar, India, 1972.

*5. Satyananda, Swami Saraswati, The Pineal Gland (Ajna Chakra) Bihar School of Yoga, Bihar, India, 1972.

*6. Arendt J., The pineal: a gland that measures time? New Scientist, 25.7.1985; no. 1466: 35-39.

*7. Armstrong S., Nug K. T., Goleman G. U., Influence of the pineal gland on brain behaviour relationships. In Reiter The pineal Gland, vol. III : Extra-reproductive Effects. CRC Press Inc., Boca Raton,Florida, USA, 1982.

*8. Airaksinen, M. M. and Kari, I., Beta-carbolines, psycho-active compounds in the mammalian body. Medical Biology 1981; 59:22-23

*9. Roney-Dougal, S. M., Recent findings relating to the possible role of the pineal gland in ejecting psychic abilities. J. Soc. Psych. Res. 1989; 56:

*10. Naranjo, C., Psychotropic properties of the harmala alkaloids. In Effron et al., Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive drugs. NIMH, US Dept. for Health, Education and Welfare, 1967.

*11. Naranjo, C., The Healing Journey: Mew approaches to consciousness, New York: Ballantine Books, 1973.

*12. Naranjo, C., Psychological aspects for the yoga experience in an experimental setting. In Harner, M. J. (ed), Hallucinogens and Shamanism. Oxford University Press, 1978.

*13. Johnson, L. Y., The pineal as a modulator of the adrenal and the thyroid axes. In Reiter, R. J. The Pineal Gland, Vol. III: Extrareproductive Effects. CRC Press Inc. Boca Raton Florida, USA, 1982.

*14. Weiner, H., External Chemical Messengers: IV Pineal Gland, NY State J of Med. 1968, April; 912-938.

*15. Adam, C. L., Atkinson, T. and Moir, C. E., Melatonin lowers plasma prolactin levels in female red deer. J of Pineal Research, 1987; 4: 13-20.

*16. Vaughan, G. M., Melatonin in humans. In Reiter, R. J. (ed) Pineal Research Reviews Vol. 2. New York: Alan R Liss Inc., 1984.

*17. Wurtman, R. J., Rhythms in melatonin secretion; their possible role in reproductive function. In Zichella, L. and Pancheri, P. (eds) Psychoneuroendocrinology in Reproduction. Elsevier, North Holland Biomedical Press, 1979.