Most systems of yoga recognize the seven chakras located along the spine. Kundalini Yoga also recognized an eighth chakra, made up of the electromagnetic field that encircles the body. This chakra is known as the aura or the auric field. All matter is made up of molecules and atoms. Circling around these structures are protons and electrons that emanate electromagnetic energy. Living things have a stronger field that projects from them and inanimate things a smaller one. Something like a rock might project energy about a foot and a half all the way around it. The average aura of a human is about three and a half feet around the body. The aura can be built and strengthened to the point where it can extend up to nine feet around a person on all sides.

The aura is associated with the human talent of radiance. It is a light which projects the very essence of who we are into the world around us. Depending on the energy we are projecting, the color of the aura may change. When a person is angry, the aura may be a bright red. Someone who is growing spiritually and expanding themselves may project a yellow aura. Most of us cannot see aura, but we definitely sense them on a subconscious level. Have you ever met a person that you just instantly clicked with or someone who you couldn’t bring yourself to trust, though you couldn’t quite put your finger on why? These are experiences of reading another’s aura. While we may be able to misrepresent ourselves with our words, facial expressions, or body language, the aura always projects our true nature and intent. As Yogi Bhajan said, “People lie. Auras never lie.” When someone is saying one thing and their aura is projecting something else, we pick up on it. It causes a dissonance that makes us uncomfortable. It tells us that things might not be what they seem and we may feel distrustful or even in danger.

When all the chakras are balanced and healthy a person’s aura projects out further from the body and the surface of it is smooth. When you come into contact with such a person you can feel their energy as it crosses into your auric field. When a person is physically, spiritually or mentally ill, the aura is smaller. Dimples and pockets disrupt the surface of the energy field and you are more susceptible to taking on the energy of other people. Coming into contact with a person projecting negative energy can dampen your mood and darken your outlook. Part of the function of the aura is to act as a force field of sorts that protects you from the negative projections of others. When two people’s auras come into contact, the energy magnifies. Think of what happens when two disgruntled coworkers get together or conversely when two lovers embrace. That’s the aura at work.

One of the ways that I experience my aura is in my interactions with my dog, Jill. I got her as a puppy from a rescue when my middle daughter went to college. I was feeling a hole left by my children growing up and needing to separate from their parents. They didn’t need (or even want) so much of my attention and I needed something else to fill the gap so that I could let go and let my children grow up. Jill is my dog and she knows it. While she interacts with everyone in the family, when I am home she follows me wherever I go. Nothing makes her happier than to be doing whatever I am doing with me. When I have to shut her out of a room, such as when I’m teaching a yoga class, she lays down on my bed (on top of a piece of my clothing, if I’ve left one out) and waits patiently until I come out.

The first time that I had to clip Jill’s nails, I did my older dog, Penny’s first so Jill could see what I was doing. Unfortunately, Penny makes a fuss every time I trim her nails. When I finished with Penny and turned to Jill she jumped up and ran into the other room. I didn’t go after her. I just sat patiently until she came back to where I was. She sat down about three feet away from me and looked into my eyes. I held her gaze and said softly, “You know that I love you and I would never do anything to hurt you.” She picked up a paw and offered it to me.

Now, I know that Jill is a smart dog, but I’m quite sure she doesn’t speak English and had no idea what I said. But she felt the energy of love and trust and kindness that I was projecting and she felt safe enough to let me trim her nails, even though she was unsure. If a dog can feel a human’s intentions and respond to it, how much more can we as humans pick up on the energy of one another?

The aura in conjunction with the Ajna chakra allows us to receive and interpret the energy the emanates from all of creation. When we do this, we observe, learn, and feel things that on the surface it seems like we shouldn’t be able to. However, the sense is as natural to us as it is to every other creature, many of whom survive by adapting to changes they perceive in the world around them through the electromagnetic field. Western thinking and science have taught us to be suspicious of what we can’t overserve with the five senses, sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. However, even science is starting to acknowledge that there may be other ways to sense. In a recent experiment on the power of words, two plants were cared for in exactly the same way except that one plant was talked to gently and kindly every day using positive words. The other was yelled at, told it was ugly and bad. The plant that was given negative words died while the one that was given love grew and thrived. Think about that the next time that you are angry with your partner, frustrated with your teenager, or disagree with a coworker. The energy you choose to bring to that interaction can make all the difference in the world.