What is the Third Eye? Science + Spirituality of the Third Eye Chakra

third eye chakra

Situated directly in the center of your forehead just above the space between your eyebrows is the third eye chakra. Known as ajna in Sanskrit, this energy center is known as the seat of inner wisdom, intuition, and self-realization.

You might have heard yoga or meditation teachers reference the third eye as a focal point for concentration during your practice. But what is your third eye?

How do you open and activate this chakra for deeper self-awareness and a greater sense of perception in your everyday life?

Here we’ll delve into all the historical, scientific, and spiritual details of the third eye chakra, plus how you can work to open your third eye for greater intuition.

What are Chakras? A Brief Overview

You may be familiar with the seven chakras or “wheels” of energy located in the body. Traditional yoga techniques seek to open and align these energetic centers using certain asanas (yoga poses), meditations, mudras (hand gestures), and other techniques.

Science, spirituality, and mysticism are all interwoven in the complex concept of chakras. First mentioned in ancient Tantric and Vedic texts some 3,000 years ago, these whirlpools of vitality are associated with specific organ systems and nervous system meridians.

The seven chakras begin at the base of the spine and extend upwards toward the top of your head. They are:

  1. Root Chakra (Muladhara)
  2. Sacral Chakra (Svadhisthana)
  3. Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura)
  4. Heart Chakra (Anahata)
  5. Throat Chakra (Vishuddha)
  6. Third Eye Chakra (Ajna)
  7. Crown Chakra (Sahasrara)

Chakras are important yogic symbols of energy flow and connectedness. When blocked or unbalanced, each chakra has associations with physical ailments, emotional symptoms, and subtle energies that affect our mind-body-soul connection.

Here we’ll uncover the specifics of the sixth chakra, ajna or the third eye, and explore how to unblock it.

What is the Third Eye Chakra?

The third eye chakra is the sixth chakra that is also correlated with the sixth sense. Located in the center of the forehead just above the space between your eyebrows, this chakra is the hub of intuition and spiritual consciousness. It is also linked to imagination, perception, and a vision for the “bigger picture” of your life and the world at large.

In Sanskrit, the ajna chakra means “perceive”, “command” or “beyond wisdom”. According to Hindu tradition, your third eye is the key channel to connecting to the subconscious mind and directly linking to Brahman, God, or universal forces.

In ancient yogic teachings, the third eye is the area of the human body where spiritual wisdom and subconscious forces can flow freely beyond the realm of the physical world. It is represented by the color indigo and linked to purple foods, amethyst and black obsidian stones, and the element of light.

Third Eye Chakra Overview

  • Location: Forehead, between the physical eyes
  • Associations: Imagination, wisdom, spirituality, intuition, perception, sight, inspiration
  • Organs: Pineal gland and pituitary gland
  • Mantra: “I see” or “SHAM”
  • Color: Purple or dark blue
  • Element: Light
  • Stones: Amethyst, black obsidian, citrin, celestite, fluorite, labradorite 
  • Foods: Blueberries, cacao, purple cabbage, eggplant, grapes
  • Essential Oils: Patchouli, citrus, frankincense, juniper, marjoram

Science of the Third Eye Chakra

While a lot of the vocabulary surrounding the third eye chakra makes it seem like solely a spiritual concept, the third eye is in fact closely related to the pineal gland and pituitary gland. Physiologically, these are the brain organs that govern our vision, wellbeing and relationship to the spiritual realm.

The Pineal Gland

First identified by Galen of Pergamon in 200 BC, the pineal gland is a pea-shaped gland located in the center of the brain. In the late 1500s, French philosopher called the pineal gland “the seat of the soul” based on its apparent psycho-physiological functions.

A number of peer reviewed studies have since discovered that the pineal gland regulates key hormones related to the body’s responses to light. Still, much remains unknown about the function of this mysterious part of the mammalian brain.

Light and the Third Eye Chakra

The pineal gland is also the part of the brain responsible for releasing serotonin and melatonin. These hormones are vital for regulating our circadian rhythms (sleep patterns), which were primally based on sunshine and moonlight. Light is the core element associated with the third eye chakra.

As technology and microscopy have evolved, even scientists have begun to call the pineal gland the “third eye” because it is a core component of the three-part photo-neuro-endocrine system, in other words, the body parts that regulate our actual vision:

  1. Retina (physical eye)
  2. Central nervous system
  3. The pineal gland

No wonder the third eye chakra is so intricately linked with both ordinary sight and spiritual vision! The crown chakra also has many associations with the pineal gland.

The Pituitary Gland

The other key organ linked to the third eye is called the pituitary gland. Like the pineal gland, the pituitary is also pea-shaped. This gland is actually physically closer to the third eye chakra at the front base region of the brain, inward from the physical eyes.

Biologically, the pituitary is a “master gland” that regulates the hormonal secretions of much of the endocrine system. Energetically, the pituitary is linked to the third eye chakra because both are needed to create balance and governance of the whole chakra system.

Third Eye in History and Religion

The pineal gland and third eye symbolism have appeared in cultures around the world, dating all the way back to ancient Egypt and ancient India.

Third Eye in Ancient Egypt

The Egyptian Eye of Horus can be found carved in tombs and Egyptian artifacts dating back thousands of years.

This iconic eye symbolizes rebirth, protection, healing, and rejuvenation. It has also been called the “all seeing eye” or the “third eye”.

This mythological symbol has 6 key parts that, when superimposed on an image of the human brain, are directly correlated with particular parts of the brain that regulate the five senses. Some mythology also asserts that these are the brain regions necessary for the achievement of spiritual enlightenment.

Scientists and historians have long marveled at the ancient Egyptians’ mastery of science, engineering, and mathematics, but through the third eye we can also see the ingenuity of ancient Egyptian’s understanding of human anatomy and spirituality as well.

In relation to the third eye chakra, we can see that spiritual mysticism around this “inner eye” has captivated humanity for millennia.

Third Eye in Buddhism

The ancient Indian healing system of Ayurveda is intricately linked with Buddhist beliefs and perceptions about the third eye. You will notice a third eye or “wisdom eye” located on the forehead of sacred Buddhist paintings and statues. This symbolizes that the third eye chakra is open and channeling higher consciousness to aid in ending the suffering of humanity.

Buddhists refer to ajna as the “eye of consciousness” which represents a vantage point far beyond physical sight. It is a reminder to see the world with the mind and with the soul rather than only the physical body.

Third Eye in Hinduism

The third eye chakra is also depicted as a dot on the brow center of Hindu deities such as Lord Shiva. In Hindu traditions, the third eye is called urna.

It is thought that Shiva’s right eye is the sun, the left eye is the moon, and the third eye refers to his ability to see past the apparent reality and protect believers from evil.

Signs of a Blocked Third Eye Chakra

Regardless of your religious or spiritual belief system, the mystical third eye is undeniably a doorway to psychic and subconscious realms. In yoga, chakra blockages or imbalances are caused by stagnant energy in certain regions of the body. A lack of connection to mind’s eye can lead to numerous symptoms of a blocked ajna chakra.

Physical Manifestations of a Blocked Third Eye Chakra:

  • Problems with eyesight
  • Poor vision
  • Migraine
  • Sciatica
  • Seizures
  • Sinus problems

Emotional and Spiritual Manifestations of a Blocked Third Eye Chakra:

  • Feeling “stuck in the grind”
  • Confusion about life
  • Lack of purpose
  • Lack of focus
  • Pessimism
  • Rejection of spiritual beliefs
  • Difficulty seeing a “greater vision” of life
  • A gut feeling that something just isn’t right

How to Open the Third Eye Chakra

An open third eye is feels like a free-flowing of spiritual wisdom, insights, and a larger positive vision for your life or the world. Unblocking this chakra often leads to major breakthroughs and mental clarity, including:

  • A sense of bliss
  • Insight
  • More decisiveness
  • Intuition
  • Creativity
  • A clearer sense of self expression
  • Hope and excitement for the future

Meditation

The third eye is a key focal point in meditation and yoga. With your eyes closed, you can direct your inner vision toward the point between your eyebrows.

Repeating specific affirmations and mantras may be helpful in unblocking the ajna chakra. Visualize a deep purple-indigo light while meditating and repeating one of these mantras:

  • “AUM” or “OM”: The primordial sound of the universe is also the seed syllable (or Bija) for the third eye chakra. Repeating this chant can help you transcend your human body and release negative energy to allow for more spiritual vision.
  • “I trust myself and I trust the Universe”
  • “I see the beauty in all things”
  • “I am wise”
  • “I trust my intuition”
  • “I am in harmony with all of existence”

Journaling

Because the third eye is so intricately linked with the subconscious dream world, keeping a dream journal can be a powerful way to open your third eye.

Journal prompts and questions to explore include:

  • When is the last time I trusted my gut feeling about something? Was I right?
  • Do I trust my intuition?
  • When did I ignore my intuition and wish I had followed it? What did I learn?
  • What is holding me back from taking a leap out of my comfort zone? Is fear protecting or hindering me?
  • If I could live my wildest dreams, what would a single step toward that reality look like?
  • How do I use my imagination? Was my imagination and creativity encouraged or discouraged as a kid?

Breathing Techniques

Pranayama breathing is scientifically proven to calm the nervous system, reduce stress, and improve your mental health. It can also help rebalance the third eye chakra by bringing you into the present moment and refocusing your energy on the world beyond your physical reality.

Try this breathing exercise to activate the third eye:

  • Sit comfortably in a quiet place with your spine straight
  • Inhale a long slow breath through your nose
  • Imagine holding the breath at the top in the space between your eyebrows
  • Slightly open your jaw to create a space between your teeth and gently place the tip of your tongue there
  • Put a light pressure on the tongue with your teeth
  • As you slowly exhale your breath, make a “THHOOOH” sound while allowing your tongue to slightly vibrate
  • Feel the tone vibration in your third eye
  • Repeat for 5 inhales and 5 exhales

Use Essential Oils

Scents like patchoui, citrus, jasmine, frankincense, juniper, lavender, and marjoram are all known to activate the third eye chakra.

You can use these in a diffuser during your yoga or meditation practice, or infuse them in a carrier oil to rub on your body. Remember that essential oils can be very strong and concentrated, so dilute accordingly.

Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini yoga is a form of yoga that is very focused on uncoiling the energy at the base of our spines and channeling it upward. This intense practice combines asana (physical yoga poses), breathwork, and chanting.

In Kundalini yoga, the third eye chakra is particularly powerful for activating your shakti energy and allowing you to move past your ego and expand your spiritual awareness.

Try this kundalini yoga flow to help open your third eye:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYn77mcVD9k

Practice Yoga Outdoors

Recall that the “third eye” pineal gland regulates our sleep cycles.

There is significant evidence that artificial indoor lighting (such as blue light from the screens we stare at) negatively impacts our brain’s light cycles and circadian rhythms, which could be contributing to the global “sleep epidemic” of modern times.

Basically, artificial light can lead to more third eye blockages.

Opening the third eye and restoring proper pineal gland function requires a reconnection with nature and sunlight. This is why one of our favorite places to practice yoga is outdoors.

Yoga Poses for the Third Eye Activation

Last but certainly not least, there are some key yoga poses associated with opening the ajna chakra. Some involve placing the forehead on the ground, whereas others channel energy into that area.

Eagle Pose (Garudasana)

Yogateket logo in pink with text over

Dolphin Pose (Catur Svanasana)

Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Forearm Stand (Pincha Mayurasana)

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Closing Thoughts

Your third eye chakra is a window to your soul and deeper meaning in life. Opening your third eye won’t happen overnight, but it is a worthwhile practice for expanding your consciousness and delving deeper into your yoga journey.

About Logan Hailey

Logan Hailey is a writer, entrepreneur, and vagabond yogi who lives in an school bus tiny home. She's a regular contributor on The Yoga Nomads. She travels the U.S. teaching about natural living, organic farming & gardening, and wilderness adventure. Keep up with her adventures on Instagram @ramblinfarmers.

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