Seven Steps to Need Fulfillment: The Chakratic Hierarchy

By P.D. Kai Swigart, PhD, MFT

In 1943, Abraham Maslow handed over a theory of human motivation that is, to this day, widely accepted. Like other shrink researchers, he was trying to describe what drives people to do the things they do (and maybe make a name for himself). He used the terms “physiological,” “safety,” “belongingness and love,” “esteem,” “self-actualization,” and “self-transcendence” to describe the patterns of motivation people usually move through. Maslow studied only those he called “exemplary people,” including Albert Einstein, Jane Addams, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Frederick Douglas—based on publicly available snippets of their lives (no real insider stuff). This already limits the validity of his theory to a fraction of a percent of the human population, based on information available to the masses. And, back then, information (especially about such prominent people) was tightly controlled. Despite these obvious limitations (highly skewed subject pool and controlled information), his Hierarchy of Needs was (and still is) generalized to the entire population, and widely used by educators, psychologists, sociologists, and other scientists as an explanation of human motivation.

The Human Energy System: An Ancient Watercolor

Because the condition of our physical body often reflects the needs of our energy body, one of the best ways to understand its requirements is to identify the corresponding demands of our energy body, along with its patterns, beliefs, and emotions. Imbalances often occur there first, and if not resolved, may eventually enter the physical body. The Chakratic Hierarchy of Needs will help us understand what these needs are, where potential imbalances lie, and what to do about them. When we encounter physical problems, it is usually because our body is showing us the needs we have neglected within ourselves. If we have physical issues, then we can trace them back to their origins in the energy body. When we develop greater self-awareness, we can identify such imbalances and remedy them before they cross over, through the chakras, from the energy body to the physical body (encouraging prevention rather than treatment of physical disease).

According to ayurveda, we are composed of three bodies containing five sheaths: physical body (food sheath); astral body (pranic, mental, and intellectual sheaths); and causal body (seed sheath). For the purposes of this post, energy body is synonymous with astral body. The astral body is connected to the physical body at several points called chakras. We are alive because of the life force, or prana, flowing through us. Prana circulates within the astral body through channels called nadis, enters the physical body through the chakras, and circulates within the physical body through pathways called meridians.

Many forms of illness exist first in the astral body, and may exist there for years before reaching the physical body. A blockage or imbalance in the energy flow within the astral body may lead to physical, emotional, or mental illness. Chakras send energy outward from the core of the physical body to the astral body, and receive prana from the astral body which enters the core. Chakras can be open or closed, excessive or deficient, or can exist at various stages in between. The chakras must be in balance with each other, and there should be an even flow of energy through all of them.

After entering through the chakras, prana circulates within the physical body through meridians. These meridians govern the functioning of the major organ systems of the body. For each organ system to remain healthy and balanced, prana must flow freely along the meridians. Ayurveda maintains that specific organ systems and nerve centers of the body are nourished through the chakra and nadi system by particular colors, which has now been verified through the use of gem light instruments (the method of beaming light through gems at an imposed frequency). The seven primary chakras vibrationally correspond to the seven colors of the rainbow, the cosmic rays emanating from the seven planets of vedic astrology, and the seven primary vedic gems—the sevenfold vibrations of light and life.

Chakratic Hierarchy of Needs

The Chakratic Hierarchy of Needs explains our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs and motivations. It does this by considering how the chakras (energy centers), based on their relative state of balance, influence our health and happiness. This hierarchy applies to all people (as opposed to Maslow’s elite subgroup of “exemplary people”). It is based on 5,000 years of recorded history, studies, and scientific practice. This is the real hierarchy of needs. For the sake of simplicity and clarity, the motivational patterns contained within this model will be described as Survival, Emotions, Confidence, Love, Communication, Intuition, and Understanding. These parallel the Root, Sacral, Solar Plexus, Heart, Throat, Brow, and Crown chakras.

Following is a breakdown of each level in the hierarchy, signs and symptoms of imbalance at each level, and recommendations for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual need fulfillment. If the imbalance is occurring mentally, emotionally, and/or spiritually—but not yet physically—then we can address its needs directly through the energy body. If it is already manifesting physically, then we may want to address it from both sides of the chakras. Either way, we could use the following prescriptions to help us meet these needs and alleviate the notifying symptoms (physical symptoms are signals to underlying imbalances).

Survival (First/Root Chakra)

Muladhara, the first chakra, is situated between the genitals and anus. Its needs are associated with physical identity, survival, and grounding. Its element is earth, and function survival. Its associated glands are the adrenals, and body parts the legs, feet, bones, and large intestines.

When our Survival needs are not being met, the resulting imbalance can manifest physically as obesity, anorexia, sciatica, and constipation. There may also be chronic lower back pain, immune-related disorders, addictions, varicose veins, diarrhea, rectal/anal problems, impotence, water retention, and problems with groin, hips, legs, knees, calves, ankles, and feet. Mentally, its imbalance might take the form of obsessive preoccupation with safety, security, or other aspects of survival (food, clothing, shelter). Emotionally, it might look like fear, worry, anxiety, or stress related to perceived threats to survival. Spiritually, it would be a chaotic disruption in calmness, peace, or inner stillness.

Try these to help balance a crisis or trauma: Critical incident stress debriefing, additional sleep, earthing, weight-training, cardio, relationship support, meditation, and hatha yoga will help restore balance, grounding, and resilience following a real or perceived crisis. Increased protein consumption, cedar incense, ruby, garnet, or hematite gemstones, and balancing yoga poses such as Tree, Eagle, and Dancer will also help us re-establish our roots.

In the first chakra, Muladhara, grounding helps us become present in the here and now in order to truly exist within our bodies; it implies limitation which is essential to creativity because without limitation we would accomplish nothing; it is a simplifying force which takes us out of our head and places us in the here and now; it provides a method for coping with stress as the downward channel provides an outgoing circuit which protects us from psychic overload; it creates clarity through stillness; and it forms a foundation.

Emotions (Second/Sacral Chakra)

Svadhisthana, the second chakra, is located in the areas of the lower abdomen, genitals, and womb. Its needs are associated with procreation, emotional expression, sensuality, creativity, bodily functions having to do with liquid, circulation of the blood, urinary functioning, etc. Its element is water and function procreation. Its associated glands are the ovaries and testicles, and body parts the womb, genitals, kidneys, bladder, and circulatory system.

When our Emotional and Procreative needs are not being met, the resulting imbalance can manifest physically as impotence, frigidity, uterine, bladder, or kidney problems, or a stiff lower back. We may also experience pelvic perturbations, hip problems, OB/GYN concerns (e.g., fibroids or cysts), or issues related to fertility. Mentally, it might take the form of an obsessive preoccupation with sex, pregnancy, fertility, urination, blood pressure, or potential kidney issues; an intentional avoidance of such subjects; or a defensive reaction to them. Emotionally, it might present as hysteria (over-reacting or excessive drama), anxiety, or depression related to sex, emotional expression, fertility, planning to have children, etc. Understanding the emotional origins will help us know what to do to accept and release them (e.g., anxiety about sexual performance, sadness about infertility). Spiritually, we might experience a lack of alignment between the inner joy of our connection with the universe and our human feelings, resulting in a spiritual block, decreased awareness, or confusion about what we really feel.

Consider these things when experiencing stress, depression, or other emotional imbalances: Cognitive therapy, helping others, daily gratitude lists, hobbies, cardio, weight-training, tantra yoga, and meditation will help restore calmness and stability to our mood. Increase fluid consumption; use of orris root, gardenia, and damiana incense and pearl, carnelian, moonstone, and coral gemstones; and try yoga poses of Triangle, Forward Bends, Shoulder Stands, Plough, and Butterfly to also help feel better during difficult emotional moments.

Since this is where the dreamy delectation of our exotic bliss blossoms from, that rhapsodic radiance flowing out of joy into sensuality, we want to make sure we are not using our relationship to stabilize our mood. If we do, then our emotional control will be externally based, our stability situational, and we will depend upon our partner for our emotions. This creates a one-sided connection, and while it may feel good to us for a while, it may grow tiresome to our partner who wants an equal. Because those euphoric bursts of steamy sex can be intoxicating and addicting, we want to make sure our emotional needs are met before plunging into its lustrous love libations. If not, then our relationship may be based on emotional dependency or sex, will be unfulfilling and unstable, and may fizzle like the fireworks of our fantasy.

In the second chakra, Svadhisthana, emotions promote the evolution of consciousness throughout the body; they are linked to movement and fluidity; and they help the body release tension because it requires energy to repress emotions and so when emotions are released tension is relieved.

Confidence (Third/Solar Plexus Chakra)

Manipura, the third chakra, is located between the naval and solar plexus. Its needs relate to confidence, assertiveness, personal power, and energy generation. Its element is fire and function confidence. Its associated glands include the pancreas and adrenals, and body parts the digestive system and muscles. When our needs for Personal Power are not being met, the resulting imbalance can manifest physically as ulcers, diabetes, and digestive disorders. We could also experience anorexia or bulimia, liver dysfunction, fatigue, or simple indigestion. Mentally, its imbalance might take the form of self-doubt, obsessive preoccupation with being right/not being wrong, indecisiveness/ambivalence, or self-deprecation; the avoidance of these topics; or defensive reactions to them. Emotionally, it might look like passive avoidance, angry avoidance, anxious avoidance, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, depression, or other situational mood disorders. Addictions could form if substances are used to mitigate such anxiety. Spiritually, our inner sense of joy and laughter may be disconnected from our outer world, inhibiting our ability to take things in stride and truly enjoy life.

Give these a try if you lack confidence or self-esteem: Public speaking, spending time with positive friends or family, hobbies, giving, gratitude lists, helping others, weight-training, cardio, meditation, and Kundalini yoga will increase our personal power and improve our mood. Eating more carbs; dragons blood, sandalwood, saffron, musk, cinnamon, and ginger incense; red coral, amber, topaz, yellow citrine, and rutilated quartz gemstones; and yoga poses of Cobra, Bow, Abs Strengthener, Leg Lifts, and Crocodile Variation will also make us bolder and more secure in who we are. When we cultivate our courage through such methods, we will be less likely to depend upon external sources for strength and hope. Our power will come from within.

In the third chakra, Manipura, personal power leads to transformation; it is created by the matter from the first chakra and movement from the second; it moves upward destroying form taking the raw form of matter to a new dimension of heat and light; it, through the fire of will, propels us upward; and it helps us embrace the inner power which comes from the integration of bodily energy with conscious intelligence.

Love (Fourth/Heart Chakra)

Anahata, the fourth chakra, is located in the center of the chest. Its needs are associated with love, compassion, and generosity. Its element is air, and functions include anchoring the life force from the higher self, energizing the blood and physical body with the life force, and managing blood circulation.

Its associated gland is the thymus, and body parts include the lungs, heart, pericardium, arms, and hands. When our needs for Love are not being met, the resulting imbalance can manifest physically as asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease, and pulmonary dysfunction. We might also experience allergies, lung cancer, breast cancer, or bronchial pneumonia. Mentally, its imbalance might take the form of detachment, intellectualization, narcissism, stinginess, victimization, distrust of others, paranoia, and self-hatred; the avoidance of such topics; or defensive reactions to them. Emotionally, it might present as anger, irritability, frustration, hurt, loneliness, depression, or anxiety. Spiritually, we might experience a lack of self-love, and a subsequent inability to love others.

Try these in matters of love: Giving, planning a trip, going outside for 20 minutes each day, practicing genuine smiling, throwing negative thoughts in the trash, spending time with positive people, helping others, hobbies, cardio, weight-training, meditation, and Bhatia yoga will help us learn to love and accept ourselves. Eating more green fruits and vegetables; lavender, jasmine, orris root, yarrow, marjoram, and meadow sweet incense; emerald, tourmaline, jade, and rose quartz gemstones; and yoga poses of Locust, Camel, Cobra, Fish and Pranayama will also help us cherish who we are. If we try to love another before we learn to love ourselves; we will project our lack of self-love on our relationship, perceive a lack of love and trust from our companion, create more problems by blaming our partner for our own dilemmas, and be unable to resolve the issues because we’re not considering the truth of what they are (our own lack of self-acceptance and love).

In the fourth chakra, Anahata, love is a unifying force and maintains relationships; it is basic to our personal growth as it promotes self-acceptance which is a necessary step to loving one’s self; it is not a matter of getting connected but rather a matter of seeing that we are already connected within a complex web of relationships which extends throughout life; and it is the deep sense of spiritual connection which can be described as the sense of being touched, moved, and inspired to heights beyond our normal limits.

Communication (Fifth/Throat Chakra)

Vishuddha, the fifth chakra, can be found in the area of the throat. Its needs are associated with communication, free will, self-expression, and creativity. Its element is sound, and functions expression and creativity. Its associated glands include the thyroid and parathyroid, and body parts the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands. When our needs for Self-Expression are not being met, the resulting imbalance can manifest physically as a sore throat, stiff neck, cold, thyroid problem, or hearing issue. We could also encounter TMJ, swollen glands, or scoliosis. Mentally, its imbalance might take the form of yelling, silent avoidance, passive-aggressiveness, obsessive preoccupation with communication issues, poor communication, auditory hallucinations, creative blocks, stuttering, stammering, manipulation, or lying. Emotionally, it might look like anger, frustration, depression, or anxiety related to self-expression or creativity. Spiritually, we could be relatively unaware of, and therefore unable to express the essence of our true nature.

Try these when experiencing imbalances in matters of self-expression: Therapy or classes for communication, brain training, hobbies, daily writing about positive things, helping others, unencumbered giving, going outside for 20 minutes each day, burning negative thoughts written on paper, cardio, weight-training, meditation, and mantra yoga will help us express the things important to our heart. Increased fruit consumption; frankincense, benzoin and mace incense; turquoise, aquamarine, and celestite gemstones; and yoga poses of Lion, Shoulder Stand, Plough, Headstand, Camel, and Fish will also improve the ways we communicate and share. Open, honest expression of feelings, needs, interests, and desires can help prevent the resentment, passive-aggressiveness, destructive acting out, and deception that can demolish the designs of your delightment.

In the fifth chakra, Visuddha, communication represents an act of connection; it shapes our reality and creates our future; and it can be seen as a symbolic system that mediates between the abstract and the manifestation idea. To successfully reach and open the fifth chakra, the body must attain a certain level of purification, the subtler aspects of the upper chakras require greater sensitivity, and purification of the body opens us up to these subtleties. Sound, as vibration and a force in all things, has a purifying nature; it can and does affect the cellular structure of matter; and it has the ability to harmonize otherwise dissonant frequencies in and around us. Ether, or spirit, the element associated with the fifth chakra, represents a world of vibrations, the emanations of living things which we experience as the aura, as sound, and as the subtle plane of whispered impressions on the mind into which mere solid realities are unfolded. The spirit realm is shared by the top three chakras. The most solid forms of matter are constantly vibrating at high velocities; and all sounds can be described as wave forms vibrating at a particular frequency.

Intuition (Sixth/Brow Chakra)

Ajna, the sixth chakra, is situated in the center of the forehead, slightly above eye level. Its needs are associated with intuition, awareness, wisdom, clear sight, concentration, and seeing that which is not physical. Its element is light, and functions seeing and intuition. Its associated gland is the pineal, and body parts the eyes. When our Intuitional needs are not being met, the resulting imbalance can manifest physically as headaches, nightmares, eye strain, blurred vision, and blindness. We might also experience brain issues, such as stroke, brain tumors, brain hemorrhaging, neurological disturbances, or seizures. Mentally, its imbalance might take the form of paranoia, delusions, visual hallucinations, concrete thinking, distrust of that which cannot be physically seen (lack of faith), inability to grasp various levels of abstraction, and an inability to “see” the universe directly through the eye of the soul (third eye). Emotionally, it might look like fear, anger, volatility, anxiety, or depression related to our distrust of our ability to interpret/perceive inner things accurately. Spiritually, it could be a lack of awareness of our interconnectedness and oneness with universal consciousness (being unable to “see” beyond the material world view).

When illusion is inhibiting our discernment, then these practices will open our eyes: Sensitivity training, planning a trip, weight-training, cardio, meditation, and Yantra yoga will help us see the bigger picture. Increased silver intake; mugwort, star anise, acacia, and saffron incense; lapis lazuli, quartz, and star sapphire gemstones; and yoga poses of Fish, Sealing Posture, and Shoulder Stand will also increase the scope and clarity of our inner vision. Sharing the broader universal view gives us more points within the cosmos to connect through.

In the sixth chakra, Ajna, vision includes seeing internally and externally; it involves seeing through the third eye which can be viewed as a psychic organ of Ajna just as our physical eyes are tools of perception for the brain; it includes the inner screen and vast storehouse of images that comprise our visual thinking process; the pineal gland acts as a light meter for the body, translating variations in light into hormonal messages relayed to the body through the autonomic nervous system; melatonin is triggered by exposure of the eyes to light; and melatonin is believed to strengthen our immune system, decrease stress, and retard aging. Light is electromagnetic energy; color is the form through which we perceive light; the physical eyes see by focusing reflected rays of light on to the retina; it is not our eyes that see but our minds; the physical eyes are simply focal lenses for transmitting information from the outer world to the inner world; it is not matter that we see but rather light; the more clarity we have within ourselves, the better we are able to see the subtle properties of the world around us.

Understanding (Seventh/Crown Chakra)

Sahasrara, the seventh chakra, is located on the top of the head. Its needs are associated with spirituality, a sense of oneness, harmony, guidance, wisdom, surrender, and knowing. Its element is ether, and function understanding. Its associated gland is the pituitary, and body parts the cerebral cortex and central nervous system. When our needs for Divine Understanding are not being met, the resulting imbalance can manifest physically as chronic exhaustion that is not caused by physical problems. Mentally, its imbalance might take the form of alienation, confusion, boredom, apathy, and an inability to learn. Emotionally, it would probably look like depression, anxiety, or fear related to letting go and trusting in something bigger than what we, ourselves, can see and know. Spiritually, we might be unable to experience the bliss derived from our oneness with universal consciousness.

Try these when encountering imbalances related to divine understanding: Meditation and Jnana yoga will turn on the light of awakened consciousness. Fasting; lotus and gotu kola incense; diamond and amethyst gemstones; and yoga poses of Headstand, Lotus, and all Meditation Poses will also lead to enlightened, happy living.

In the seventh chakra, Sahasrara, awareness connects us with divine intelligence and the source of all manifestation; it is the final goal of ultimate liberation; it allows, when we reach this level, for the seed of our soul to have sprouted from its roots in the earth and to have grown upward through the elements of water, fire, air, and light into the source of all consciousness itself, experienced through the element of thought; it is this chakra that yoga philosophy has deemed to be the seed of enlightenment; it relates to what we experience as the mind, especially the awareness that makes use of the mind; and our brain contains 13 billion interconnected nerve cells capable of making more connections among themselves than the number of stars in the entire universe. Consciousness is a force of unity, order, and organization; information is the perceived lines of order that make up one’s personal operating system; cognitive consciousness requires that awareness be focused on the finite and particular, sorted and assembled into logical order; transcendent consciousness requires opening awareness beyond cognition; meditation is the greatest practice for opening this chakra; there are countless meditation techniques including regulation of the breath, intone mantras, visualized colors and shapes, the movement of energy through the chakras, walking or moving with awareness, attaching one’s self to a brain machine, or simply staring into space; and these meditative techniques will work if they enhance, soothe, and harmonize the vibrational aspects of the mind and body.

Need Clusters

In addition to understanding needs based on individual chakras, there are clusters which relate to broader types of needs. These include Basic Needs, Social Needs, Relationship Needs, and Spiritual Needs.

Which of these needs have you found most challenging to satisfy? What has helped you satisfy it? What pearls of wisdom would you like to offer to encourage others?


Dr. Kai is a licensed shrink, shaman, spiritual teacher, vibrational healing practitioner, and coach. As a musician, he writes, arranges, and records original tracks and plays keyboard, guitar, sax, flute, and drums. He enjoys working out, landscaping, outrigger canoe paddling, swimming, fixing things, dobermans, and dark beer. Visit him at


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