Body Conscious: How To Read Your Aura

Staying physically and mentally fit is the young person's holy grail, but there's simply no one right way to do it. In our Body Conscious series, we'll explore how some people protect their minds and bodies. Today, we capture and analyze our auras.

An aura is a color field of luminous light that surrounds a person or object, kind of like a halo. Each color of an aura holds a different meaning based on the seven chakras within the body. Miraculously, for the small price of $15, you can acquire photographic evidence of your aura. The technology that makes this possible is almost a century old—a form of electrophotography named after the inventor Semyon Kirlian, who accidentally discovered that every object has a certain charge that can be visually captured with a few electrodes and a Polaroid camera. Apply the same logic to humans, and our "charge" is an obvious equivalent to our aura. Curious to see and compare our own biological rhythms, we headed to Magic Jewelry, a shop-turned-psychic-palace in Chinatown, to put the Kirlian system to the test.

Click through for four takes on the aura reading experience.

To begin with, my interest in auras was purely photographical. I had traced a friend's tripped out Facebook photo to a set of images created by Carlo Van De Roer, a photographer with a modified Polaroid machine that used long exposures and heat sensors to capture extra-dimensional color. I started doing a lot of research and placing the occasional eBay bid that I couldn't dream of backing up (search Kirlian Aura Camera—I'm pretty sure it's still there if anybody wants to go halvsies), but I didn't get too far.

Anyway, in addition to a stack of paranormal photos and auction listings, my tangent turned up an improbable address in Chinatown. I went to Magic Jewelry straight away, but found it closed on my first two tries. It's a tiny carpeted place you could walk past a thousand times, buried in a cell phone strip mall with vendors crowding the front door to near invisibility.

When I finally did get inside, I was underwhelmed by fluorescent light, mall-grade crystal displays and loads of unnecessary lamination. I was with two friends who took their turns on the aura throne first and I had one eyebrow up so high it almost touched my damn hair. That first wave of skepticism got vibrated out of me as I waited my turn in a rejuvenating crystal chamber. It was a thrown together joke at first glance—a lawn chair under a kind of chuppah, hung and flanked with oversized quartz—and I sat down smirking. But the undeniable energy that rattled my scalp seconds later straightened my face out real quick.

When my turn came to be photographed, I sat in front of a velvet curtain with my hands spread out across two metal sensors. I held very still, stared down the camera and waited for my results. Fifteen minutes later, the attendant turned over a turquoise-ghosted Polaroid and told me that I needed some rest. She continued with a spot-on reading, calling out everything from very real physical ailments to totally abstract character flaws (bitch!).

Now anybody could tell you with half a squinting look that I need a nap. I'm really not a particularly new agey guy, despite what the horse sweater above may lead you to believe. I don't eat much quinoa and, aside from believing that we are some 75% water and the moon controls the tides, I think most horoscopes belong wrapped around Bazooka gum pieces. I also have a big heap of doubt that you can tweak a Polaroid camera to tell you the future. But I'll tell you what. One $15 trip to Magic Jewelry and I was a true believer. In what, I'm still not sure. But I will definitely be back often to try and figure it out.

Fuck you in advance for crowding up my favorite place. —DANIEL ARNOLD

New York City is a place that will teach you some of life's most essential lessons if you're willing to stick it out and pound the pavement. It's a place that takes the rhythms of whatever bumblefuck town you came from and sends them through a complex vibe re-wiring system, making your brain think that it is completely normal to work all day long, party all night long and eat pizza for every meal. But that's not a sustainable lifestyle, and after eight years of living here, my rhythms have slowly gravitated back to a slowpoke pace. Responding to this natural slowing-down, I've tried to out-hippie the city in many ways—so many dollars spent on macrobiotic lunches at Whole Foods and healing crystals. But a picture taken of my dark, murky aura back at the beginning of summer was one of the final signs that these fixes were failing. And then I had an experience that changed everything. I spent two weeks outside of New York, in the middle of America. It felt like being lifted. I returned with a spring in my step and the knowledge that something would be waiting for me on the other side of the Hudson River, when I was ready for it. It kind of felt like being in love—not so much with a person, or any specific place, but with the idea of some TBD pastoral future. Excited about my new state-of-being, I returned to the Magic Jewelery for another reading. Maybe I waited too long, after the city had already taken me back into its rhythm, because my aura appeared almost exactly the same. Almost, except for a splotch of pinky purple light in my recent past on the left side, and a general brightness in the future on my right side. Maybe it's a bunch of bull and the bright spot is a fingerprint. But I do hope that future part is right, because I have finally decided to leave the city, in search of a slower life. My decision to move wasn't based around my aura readings. But like horoscopes and tarot and everything else, they helped confirm something true that I already knew. Perhaps I'll find a Kirlian camera somewhere in my new middle-of-nowhere life, and perhaps out there, my aura will look exactly the same. —HANLY BANKS

I look like the devil in this photo. I did not like the looks of it at first but my aura reader assured me that all colors are good as long as they are bright. Red typically symbolizes vitality, passion, energy, stability and spontaneity and as much as I wanted a pretty triple rainbow aura photo, red suits me very well this summer. I'm not sure if it's just that summer in New York feeling or a couple of epiphanies following some life burps, but I've picked up a lot of energy the last couple months. I've perfected the art of booking up my moleskine® calendar, hitting the beach and heading out to the Museum of the Moving Image's Jim Henson exhibit by myself during a bout of spontaneity.

For some reason, It hasn't always been easy for me to know exactly what I want in life and then go for that. I know picking a place to eat dinner can be challenging territory for lots of hungry humans, but sometimes it's so tough for me that I just give up and eat endless bowls of cereal. This summer I've learned a couple things: To love myself, first, and also to figure out what I want and just do it, dammit. You just have to go with what you feel and trust yourself. I've come to realize that if I was stranded on a desert island with no one else around, I might still have a pretty good time.

Before this aura photo, I'd never gotten any sort of reading before, and weirdly, I was nervous to have it taken. I wasn't prepared to hear something about myself I didn't already know. But as it turns out, getting your aura read is the same thing as getting a sweet photograph taken of yourself and hearing some vague remarks that reiterate what you might already know. —MAIA STERN

The woman who deciphered the clouds of color in my snapshot actually had a lot to say. The muddle of color around my head indicated a lot of worry, "too much thinking," she said more than once. The blotch of colorless light on the left side of the photo showed I was exhausted from thinking, both physically and mentally. The rainbow-shaped stripe over my head, particularly the purplish bit on the right, indicated that a relationship was the main cause of my distress.

The good news, though, was that all the yellow and orange light showed I was working hard in effective ways to reach my goals. While the area on the left of the photograph (energy from the past three weeks) showed how trying things had been, the area to my right (entering energy for the three weeks to come) indicated I'd find success through the hard work I was doing. The fact that these gold and orange areas appeared bright and opaque throughout was a good sign, she said, but overall my brain and body needed rest.

Leaving the shop, my mood was lifted. I learned that aura readings can't predict a specific future, but they can help to bolster your perspective. At least that's what mine did. While I was already quite aware that my post-breakup sleeplessness was not helping me heal, it did help to have another person recognize that frazzled energy and say that I should make that problem a priority. Hearing her forecast a light at the end of my tunnel helped me see that the dark, confusing head-space I was in would be temporary. - SARAH LYNN KNOWLES

Posted: August 30, 2011
Body Conscious: How To Read Your Aura