The Muladhara Chakra
Each chakra has an associated home and function. The lowest chakra is the muladhara, located at the base of the spine. Mula means root. The coiled serpent, the kundalini, lies just beneath this chakra, making the muladhara key to awakening the shakti, which must rise up the sushumna nadi. Being the lowest chakra, this center is the most base and is associated with the element prithivi, or earth.
Joseph Campbell, in his book Transformation of Myth through Time, has a metaphor for the muladhara chakra that is quite delightful – the dragon. This chakra is a dragon. Dragons don’t do anything of value, but they guard that which is valuable. Dragons hoard jewels and they kidnap beautiful women, but have no idea what to do with either one. They are only concerned with existing.
Purananda, in the Shat-chakra-nirupana text he wrote in 1577, tells us that meditation on this chakra can make a man “an adept in all kinds of learning. He becomes free from all disease and his inmost spirit becomes full of great gladness.”
The Svadhisthana Chakra
The next chakra is called the “svadhisthana.” Campbell liked to interpret this to mean “her favorite resort.” The svadhisthana is associated with the element apas, or water, and thus the many bodily functions that are fluid in nature are controlled here. Sexuality blossoms here, with all the joy and suffering that accompanies it. Often the svadhisthana is said to be located at the genitals.
Purananda tells us that meditation on this chakra frees a man “from all his enemies such as lust, anger, greed and so forth.” When this chakra is undeveloped, a man (or woman) is at the mercy of sexual impulses. Campbell reminds us that at the purely physical level, sex is the aim of life. Everything sexual is exciting, but the frustrations of sex are also here. When the frustration is high, these sexual energies are often sublimated into other avenues. Campbell believes civilization is a result of such sublimation.
The Manipura Chakra
Manipura translates as the “city of the shining jewel.” This chakra is located at the navel, although some sages claim it is located at the solar plexus. The energy here is aggressive, concerned with power. Meditation here gains one the “power to destroy or create (the world),” according to Purananda. The associated element is agni, or fire.
Campbell points out that people living at the levels of these first three chakras are mostly concerned with the lowest forms of religious awareness. They seek health, wealth, and progeny. They have no interest in higher spiritual attainment. Their prayers are requests of, or rather bargains with, a god for the fulfillment of the base desires of life. The true yogi, however, seeks to quickly purify these lowest three chakras so energy can flow up to the heart.
The Anahata Chakra
This is the heart chakra. The name anahata is the sound that is not made by having two things hit each other. It is the unstruck sound of Om. This is the level of transformation – of turning away from the material and sensual, to the spiritual. Purananda tells us that he who meditates here “is pre-eminently wise and full of noble deeds. His senses are completely under control.” The associated element is vata, or air.
Once all six chakras are open and functioning, and Shakti has reached Shiva at the seventh chakra, the yogi who wishes to return to life while residing in the body, returns and dwells in the heart. The heart is the balancing point between the first and seventh, the second and sixth, and the third and fifth chakras.
The Visuddha Chakra
Visuddha means pure. What is pure is not exactly clear from reading the texts; many suggestions are offered. Apparently, if you have to ask, you don’t know. This chakra is located at the throat and is associated with the element akasha or space, the subtlest of the five elements. It is also associated with the sense of listening. Richard Freeman, in his audio book The Yoga Matrix, explains that, when we listen, we create space. The two are intimately connected. For Freeman, yoga begins with listening, with creating space. 
Purananda tells us that this chakra is the doorway to becoming “a great sage, eloquent and wise and (one who) enjoys uninterrupted peace of mind.”
The Ajna Chakra
Ajna can mean command, power, or authority. This is the highest chakra that is actually a part of our body. It is located right between the eyebrows, a location often referred to as the third eye. Indian women commonly wear a dot, called a “bindu,” here. Georg Feuerstein claims that this is the site of the organ of clairvoyance and other paranormal powers.
The subtle mind, known as manas, resides here, according to Purananda. He also says that meditation here allows those accomplished in yoga to become “all knowing and all seeing. He becomes the benefactor of all long lived the creator, destroyer and preserver of the three worlds.”
The Sahasrara Chakra
This is the highest of the chakras. Sahasrara means one thousand lotus petals, which is the symbol for this chakra. The chakra is located just above the crown of the head. Campbell reports that between the sixth and seventh chakras, the soul beholds God. Here at the seventh chakra, the soul merges with God. Shakti and Shiva have come together, and the sage is liberated.
For unenlightened yogis, the sahasrara is responsible for the mental functions higher than manas (the lower mind). Discernment here may be manifested as a mystical experience or even illumination.
Let’s leave the final word on the final chakra to Purananda. “That most excellent of men who has controlled his mind is never born again as there is nothing in the three worlds which binds him. He possesses complete power to do all which he wishes and to prevent that which is contrary to his will. He ever moves towards (God)”
- This can be understood by recalling a time when you really listened to a friend. Normally when we listen, we are busy thinking about what we are going to say when our friend gives us a chance. But when we really listen, we create space for her to be whatever she needs to be in that moment.