Lockdowns. Masks. School closures. For the past two years, we’ve created (and re-created) new norms. We’ve made plans, canceled plans, remade plans, and then (hello, variants) canceled them again. And while constant calls for resilience in the face of an ever-shifting global landscape have taken an emotional toll, we still haven’t lost hope of trading in our next staycation for a bucket-list destination.
By now, we all could use a getaway—physically, mentally, and energetically. But just what that change of scenery looks like, well, that may be for your chakras to determine.
For the uninitiated: Chakras are your body’s seven main energy centers that align single-file from the bottom of your tailbone to the top of your head. These spinning wheels of prana (breath) create an energetic superhighway where intuition becomes fruition, creativity graduates to expression, and love finds reception.
But mental and physical stress can clog your body’s channels, turning a smooth energetic journey into a draining, bumper-to-bumper traffic jam. Long-term imbalances (thanks, once-in-a-lifetime pandemic) can manifest as physical issues ranging from moderate discomfort to outright debilitation. And the antidote isn’t always straightforward.
“Since we are talking about energy, it’s a personal experience,” says Kumiko Niwayama, a mind-body instructor at Cal-a-Vie Health Spa in Vista, California. She has studied the relationship between yoga, pranayama (breath control), and prana for three decades. She says it’s hard to generalize what people may need because everyone’s different.
The good news? Each chakra has a set of characteristics you can cater to, and even subtle intentional changes can get your energy moving at the right speed again. Inspired by Niwayama’s guidance—and our own wanderlust—we’ve compiled a jet-setting catalog of adventures sure to provide the energetic shake-up your pandemic-weary chakras crave.
Let your inner child play: Muladhara
Your muladhara (root) chakra sits at the base of your spine and connects you to the earth—the element to which it relates. It’s your primary source of stability and, when it’s out of whack, can influence your perception of security around your most basic needs. That’s why your muladhara chakra is associated with your inner child—the younger you who needed help navigating the big, wide world.
Feeling overly dependent on others? In constant need of validation? Your muladhara chakra may be blocked. Physical signs that your root chakra might be under-activated include changes in your eating habits, adrenal issues, and discomfort in your spine, feet, or coccyx, Niwayama says.
Engage your inner child and get grounded to the earth with a rock-climbing class offered by outdoor outfitter REI. Is the little kid in you afraid of heights? Go subterranean at Salt in Santa Barbara, California, to meditate in a cavern made of 45 tons of Jurassic Age salt blocks and crystals. Or connect to trees with a forest bath on Vancouver Island with Natural Connection.
Editor’s pick: Oahu, Hawaii
To activate your root chakra, get into the easy flow of island life and reconnect with the earth’s rhythms. Wake with the sun and paddle out with Moniz Family Surf for a board lesson in the warm, gentle waters of Waikiki Beach. Then work the land alongside native Hawaiians, getting elbow-deep in flooded taro fields at Papahana Kuaola, an educational nonprofit where you can harvest the sweetish root and pound it into the traditional Hawaiian staple, poi. As the sun drops, enjoy the soft pluck of a ukulele at The Laylow hotel, where midcentury design details, including a long, pink terrazzo bar, awaken your inner playfulness.
Close to home
“Reconnect your body to the earth by walking barefoot in a park or on the beach. Or just sit with your back against a tree to get grounded,” Niwayama says.
Find your pleasure: Svadhisthana
Your svadhisthana (sacral) chakra is located in your lower belly near your pelvis. It’s your body’s energetic pleasure center, where harmonious mental and physical relationships are nurtured. Energy should flow through it like water, the element to which it’s connected.
If a blockage slows the flow, physical symptoms in the sacral area may arise. You might experience menstrual, ovarian, or prostate issues; bowel or urinary conditions; or sexual dysfunction. Emotionally, you may feel depressed, disconnected, or unusually jealous, or find yourself struggling with low self-esteem, creative expression, or boundary setting.
Take a dip
Connecting with this chakra’s natural element is the key to balancing it, Niwayama says. Surround yourself with water, be it fresh—say, launching down waterfalls in wet canyon systems in Dominica with Extreme Dominica—or frozen, venturing over a series of ancient glacial caves by helicopter in Whistler, British Columbia, with carbon-neutral outfitters Blackcomb Helicopters.
Editor’s pick: Costa Rica
Unlock your svadhisthana chakra at Nayara Tented Camp, deep in the rainforest that frames the base of Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano. Each room is elevated on stilts and boasts its own private plunge pool fed by a natural hot spring that is rich with volcanic minerals. Spend your days exploring hanging bridges, dipping your toes into waterholes, and practicing in Nayara’s open-air yoga pavilion.
Close to home
Immerse yourself in water—be it in a stream, the sea, or your bathtub—or create a Spotify playlist featuring the sounds of the ocean.
Boost your confidence: Manipura
At the center of your being, your manipura chakra contains your sense of self—that innate fuel that powers your mind, body, and spirit. The solar plexus is home to your purpose and identity, as well as your digestion and metabolism.
Given the importance of this chakra, Niwayama says, it’s important to pay attention to digestive issues such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, or inadequate absorption of key nutrients indicated by bloating, weight loss, and fatigue. The manipura chakra plays a vital role in processing food and directing energy to your body. If you’re feeling anxious, preoccupied with perfection, or lacking willpower, it’s time to remind your manipura of its own heat.
Light a fire
Your third chakra is solar powered—it comes to life in the sun. Cultivate heat with a sunrise yoga session at San Diego’s oceanside Yoga Del Mar. Or venture to Death Valley, the hottest place on earth, to flow in the same temperatures you’d normally experience in a hot yoga studio. “But don’t get too warm,” Niwayama warns. “If you’re short-tempered or tend to get angry, you may accidentally over-activate your solar plexus.”
Editor’s pick: Ubud, Bali (Indonesia)
Reignite your fire at Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Ubud, where the warm, tropical air soothes mind and body, and a suite-side personal pool ensures you won’t overheat. Gently tend the earth in the on-site rice paddies to gain perspective, clear your head, and realign with your purpose. Close out the day with an invigorating riverfront yoga class dedicated to the sun and designed to honor your radiance.
Close to home
Cooking with spicy global flavors is almost a form of international travel. Get a taste of Vietnam, India, Morocco, and other countries with international cooking classes such as the ones offered by Food Lab Boulder.
Open your heart: Anahata
Unhurt, unstruck, unbeaten—those are English translations for anahata, the Sanskrit name for your heart chakra. When prana moves freely through the energy center at your chest, that’s exactly how you feel.
Physical distress such as asthma, tension between your shoulder blades, or respiratory issues such as bronchitis are signs of a clogged anahata. Emotional symptoms—struggling to let your walls down, or making everything about you—are also signals that it’s time to dive heart-first into a feel-good trip.
“The best way to open a closed heart is—drumroll—a pet,” Niwayama says. Make animals your travel buddies to open your heart center for optimal energy flow. Dog, cat, horse, bird—the species doesn’t matter, as long as you connect with the creature. Spend time with animals of all kinds in the red rocks of Kanab, Utah, at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, home to 1,600 rescued animals housed on 3,700 pristine, hikeable acres. For an underwater interaction, don your snorkel at dusk and paddle out in a traditional Hawaiian outrigger canoe with Ānelakai Adventures in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii Island to watch 12-foot manta rays backflip inches from your face while they feed on plankton.
Editor’s pick: Namibia
Embark on a once-in-a-lifetime trip with purpose-driven company Wilderness Safaris, whose high-end luxury camps across Africa leave no trace of your visit and focus on animal conservation, sustainability, and social equity. Set off on a customized itinerary across Namibia, starting at Little Kulala camp, where you’ll rise before dawn to track and catalog ostrich, brown hyenas, and bat-eared foxes. Then fly to sister camp Damaraland in a six-seater Cessna to follow the sandy footprints of an elephant herd to a desert oasis. Delight in the collective nouns of all the wildlife—a troop of monkeys, a tower of giraffes, a zeal of zebras—that you meet along the way.
Strengthen your voice: Vishuddha
Communication originates in your throat chakra, or vishuddha. Your other energy centers depend on the gates of your fifth chakra to be open in order for their respective attributes to be fully realized and expressed. When your throat chakra is blocked, you may feel small and unwelcome, struggle to keep your word, and experience all manner of physical ailments, from sinus and dental issues to sore throat, scratchy voice, or thyroid problems.
Push the edge
Living big is the antidote to feeling small. While the first four chakras in your body relate to tangible natural elements—earth, water, fire, and air, respectively—the fifth is space, or ether. Taking up space with your body and voice re-energizes and balances your vishuddha. Shake suppression by being truthful to yourself. “Give yourself permission to be you, to speak your mind,” Niwayama says. “Be authentic.”
Consider joining an immersive group adventure, which naturally creates bonds through collective experience and encourages you to step outside of your comfort zone. Look to certified B Corp Intrepid for variety in both price and destination choices. Alternatively, Pack Light Global founder Dawn Booker designs retreats that embrace travel for women of color to places such as Croatia and Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
Editor’s pick: Sonoran Desert, Arizona
Hike among massive boulders and 40-foot-tall old-growth saguaros in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. At wellness resort Civana, a robust catalog of complimentary daily classes encourages you to show up, be present, and take up space. Learn more about yourself in a myofascial-release class. During an hourlong session, you’ll get intimate with the sensitive connective tissues in your body and learn to target trigger points, release toxins, and restore body-wide connectivity. Other sessions that can help you reclaim your voice include an inner intimacy workshop, music and movement, journaling for transformation, chakra balancing, and multiple yoga, pranayama, sound healing, and chanting classes and workshops.
See clearly: Ajna
The sixth chakra, ajna, is also known as your third eye. This chakra drives intuition and wisdom, connecting you to divine inner knowledge and overall balanced awareness. When it’s blocked, the light dims. Uncertainty and mental fog might be joined by headaches, sinus congestion, and poor vision.
Turn off the tech
“Disassociate from the image in your brain, what you are subconsciously wanting,” Niwayama says. Getting hung up on “should” or “not enough” language creates an imbalance in your third eye, preventing clarity. “That becomes almost like a neurological disturbance,” she says.
Banish negative self-talk and combat the fog by stripping away distractions from the outside world and focusing intently on “truth,” i.e., nature. For this, Niwayama loves whale watching. At Laguna San Ignacio in Baja, California, visitors can go out on skiffs with eco-tour operators for close encounters with the gentle giants in their natural breeding grounds. Or, visit the lavender fields of Northern California’s Araceli Farms, which bloom spectacularly from May through June.
Editor’s pick: Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho)
Clear your head in Yellowstone. Its 2.2 million acres span multiple states and showcase one of the world’s most jaw-dropping collections of natural wonders. Set your alarm early to avoid crowds, explore miles of dirt trails, and soak in the beauty of America’s oldest national park. Yellowstone is home to the world’s largest concentration of geysers, fiery hot springs, and mud pots, with more than 10,000 thermal features. While the boardwalk around Grand Prismatic—a massive pool that looks like a thermal map of the earth, with bright yellows, blues, and greens—overflows with onlookers during the summer, the calm winter months grant you unobscured views, ideal for sitting in meditation.
Close to home
First step: Leave your phone at home. Second: Take a hike. Find a nearby labyrinth. Set aside time to watch the sunset. Do whatever gets you out of your head, into perspective, and back to what is real and true.
Find your highest vibe: Sahasrara
Your sahasrara, or crown chakra, resides at your body’s uppermost point and connects you with universal knowledge and sacred consciousness. When your crown is operating optimally, goodwill is in abundance, followed closely by cascading flows of kindness and inspiration. The flip side of that is isolation, anxiety, depression, headaches, and a busy mind, Niwayama says.
To help open your crown chakra, Niwayama suggests prayer and meditation. It may be time for a 10-day silent vipassana meditation retreat. Or try sound therapy—such as the Himalayan sound bath at Miraval in Tucson, Arizona—to rewire neural pathways to open your crown’s energy stream. Alternatively, immersing yourself in cross-cultural experiences may help take you out of your head and into your consciousness. Kwanda Tours offers intimate immersions into village life in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, including beadworking classes, traditional South African soul food meals, and even a Xhosa homestay.
Editor’s pick: Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Turn your walking meditation into a hike on a four-day guided expedition into the Blue Ridge Mountains of Shenandoah National Park with REI Adventures. This lodge-to-lodge trek follows the Appalachian Trail across creeks, high peaks, and into the wooded homes of black bears, peregrine falcons, wild turkeys, and salamanders. Gently tread over the damp undergrowth and match your breath to your measured, rhythmic gait, allowing yourself to commit the essence of this adventure to memory.
Close to home
Go somewhere that feels sacred to you—whether that’s a tree-lined park in your neighborhood or a room in your house that brings you joy—and practice Sama Vritti Pranayama, or box breathing: Slowly inhale, pause, exhale, pause, and repeat, all for a count of four.