The chakras make up a psycho-spiritual system that are part of our energetic anatomy. They are the record of all our life experiences, as well as our conscious and unconscious beliefs and emotions surrounding them. Although we cannot see or touch a chakra, we sense them when we have a somatic experience. For example, our stomach feels queasy before we give a big presentation; the center of our chest aches when we are depressed; we hold our head in our hands when we are deep in thought.
Chakras are located throughout the body. As yoga practitioners the chakras we are most concerned with are the seven that line the spine. There is no hierarchy when it comes to the chakras. One is not better or more enlightened than another. The chakra system is very simple, although working with it can be challenging. When we experience physical dis-ease or imbalance in a chakra, our work is to look to the mental, emotional, and/or spiritual root cause in conjunction with whatever treatment is required.
Muladhara Chakra: tribe and survival.
The first chakra is named Muladhara, which means “root”. It is located at the base of the spine. This chakra is associated with our survival needs: food, shelter, healthcare, etc. Our root chakra is our physical foundation in the material world. Difficulty with this chakra limits our ability to grow and thrive. It also suggests other chakras will be unable to operate optimally.
Muladhara chakra is also associated with our birth family and the tribe we were born into. Whether we had a wonderful childhood or a traumatic one, we all have difficulties in this area. We were raised by imperfect people in an imperfect world. We adopted beliefs about ourselves, others, and even the nature of the universe that did not belong to us. As adults, we work to tease out what we learned in childhood that is useful and what we would like to let go.
Disturbances in the root chakra are felt in the lower body, particularly in the feet, legs, and lower bowels. Psychological and spiritual symptoms include intense fear, persistent anxiety, and even the feeling that we do not have the right to exist! We may have difficulty providing for our basic survival needs when this chakra is unbalanced.
Nourishing Muladhara chakra.
Working with the chakras is a conscious process. There are many ways that we can work with our chakrs… the key is finding what works best for us! Usually a combination of physical exercises, spiritual practices, and re-writing our unconscious psychological script are most effective.
As yogis, we can work with our chakras through our asana (yoga pose) practice. Standing poses such as Virabhadrasana I and II (Warrior I and II) strengthen our feet and legs, areas that are often sensitive when we have deficiency or excess in our root chakra. We feel the foundation we are standing on. We experience what it is like to be completely supported by the ground beneath us. We embody the warrior strength these poses are named for!
Earth is the element associated with the root chakra. Being in nature is very healing for Muladhara, especially if we really get down into the dirt! It can be helpful to incorporate spending time outdoors into our daily lives. Sports, gardening, and even going for a walk can be quite a boon!
Walking barefoot helps many people feel more grounded! This is true when walking indoors, but especially outdoors. Not only is it like a mini-reflexology session, but it also helps us improve our balance, foot mechanics, and maintain foot and ankle flexibility and range-of-motion.
We can’t always go outside when we want to, and in a moment of crisis it may not be convenient to strike a yoga pose. It is helpful to have a variety of tools in our yoga toolbox! Each chakra has a particular syllable, called a bija mantra, associated with it. The bija mantra for the root chakra is LAM. When feeling ungrounded chanting LAM can help bring us back down to earth.
Affirmations for Muladhara include:
- I am stable.
- I am grounded.
- I am held and supported by the Universe.
What practices do you have that make you feel more balanced and allow energy to optimally flow through this chakra?