For the majority of individuals who live on the surface of their being, the energy they experience, the thoughts, emotions, feelings, perceptions are simply the working of the machinery, with no understanding about the process or source of this energetic action in their lives. For those who have some experience of the inner awareness, however, there begins to develop a perception of various energies being located in specific areas, and this perception actually carries through into the ordinary awareness as habitual sayings or thoughts. People speak of the emotions of the heart, the thoughts of the mind, the vital power in the solar plexus, etc. Various training techniques in the martial arts make a science of channeling and focusing the energy in a particular center or region. Thus, the knowledge of the chakras, and their action, actually permeates everyone’s awareness without it being specifically tied to the occult energy centers, per se.
Yoga practitioners traditionally look at the occult centers, which they call ‘chakras’ as being blocked or closed for the most part, and it is through techniques of yogic poses, various “locks” and routing of energy, the use of breathing techniques and mantras that they try to systematically open these centers. The rising of the occult energy of the Kundalini from its home in the Muladhara Chakra, through each successive chakra up to the crown of the head, is an experience that the Tantric tradition describes. Each chakra, as it is energized and opens under that pressure, releases powers of knowledge and action.
In the integral Yoga, the chakras also open, but in this case, under the pressure and impulsion of the higher force of consciousness that is situated above the crown chakra. Practitioners of the integral Yoga experience the descent of a concrete force from above and feel its influence first in the mind, then into the lower chakras, and they can identify definitive changes in their understanding, and in their active powers of expression and manifestation, as each chakra is energized, a process corollary to, but in a reverse order from, the rising of the Kundalini from below. Sri Aurobindo points out that this is actually a more sure and safe procedure as it uses the higher understanding and power of impulse management to reduce the chances of impure or misdirected energies arising as the lower chakras open.
Sri Aurobindo writes: “There is a force which accompanies the growth of the new consciousness and at once grows with it and helps it to come about and to perfect itself. This force is the Yoga-Shakti. It is here coiled up and asleep in all the centres of our inner being (Chakras) and is at the base what is called in the Tantras the Kundalini Shakti. But it is also above us, above our head as the Divine Force — not there coiled up, involved, asleep, but awake, scient, potent, extended and wide; it is there waiting for manifestation and to this Force we have to open ourselves — to the power of the Mother. In the mind it manifests itself as a divine mind-force or a universal mind-force and it can do everything that the personal mind cannot do; it is then the yogic mind-force. When it manifests and acts in the vital or the physical in the same way, it is there apparent as a yogic life-force or a yogic body-force. It can awake in all these forms, bursting outwards and upwards, extending itself into wideness from below; or it can descend and become there a definite power for things; it can pour downwards into the body, working, establishing its reign, extending into wideness from above, link the lowest in us with the highest above us, release the individual into a cosmic universality or into absoluteness and transcendence.”
Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 8, The Triple Transformation: Psychic, Spiritual and Supramental, The Spiritual Transformation, pp. 209-229