With so much uncertainty surrounding us at this time, many of us find ourselves recommitting our minds to self-improvement/self- knowledge, and with it a closer look at how to prioritize our time and energy. At this time of seeking balance, I feel compelled to explore with you the vital energy systems that flow through our bodies, minds and consciousness. Practitioners of yoga refer to these vital energy systems as chakras, of which there are seven, progressing from meeting our very basic needs, to the most ethereal.
We’ll take several months to reveal some practices that can give you more understanding, and therefore access, to these energies and how to encourage growth and expression in these areas, with the ultimate goal of creating balance. And although we all desire to exact control over our universe-especially in uncertain times, the appeal of exploring these long held beliefs is gaining the understanding, encouragement and ability to let go, gradually over time and with practice. Some describe yoga as the dance between control and surrender—and for many of us, surrender is very difficult. It is the very crux of faith and gratitude- in whatever belief system you ascribe to.
Let’s begin this series with Muladhara, the base, or root chakra (located at the base of your spine). Red in color, it is fundamental to the chakra energy system. It is the root of your being and establishes the deepest connections with your physical body, your environment and with the Earth. It is the foundation from which we climb the ladder of the Chakras; the root from which we receive the nourishment for spiritual development. Muladhara is the most instinctual of all chakras - it is the survival center. The fight and flight response is initiated from this chakra. This is our primal, animal nature. The energy of Muladhara allows us to harness courage, resourcefulness and the will to overcome during trying times. It connects us with spiritual energies of our ancestors, their challenges and their triumphs.
“Everyone admires the leaves and flowers of a plant, but hardly anyone takes any notice of the roots that lie hidden in the darkness of the earth. But the roots form the basis of the vegetation. From the sustenance received from the roots the sprout gains the power to penetrate the dark soil, grow upwards towards the sun and produce flowers, fruit and seeds.”
The root chakra is comprised of whatever grounds you to stability in your life. This includes your basic needs such as food, water, shelter, and safety, as well as your more emotional needs such as letting go of fear. When these needs are met, you feel grounded and safe, and you tend to worry less day to day.
Among other things, regular Yoga practice can connect you to a higher spiritual plane, while also serving to ground you. You may not always be able to trust that the world will give you what you need to survive, but connection to your higher self and trust in a power higher than yourself may give you what you need to feel safe.
It does not matter if you call that higher power Consciousness, Mother Nature, God, or Spirit. Connection to universal energy will bring you a sense of peace and stability.
What happens when the first chakra is imbalanced?
For a person who has imbalance in the first chakra, it might be hard to feel safe in the world and everything looks like a potential risk. You may experience overwhelming concerns over the job situation, physical safety, shelter, or health. Do you feel threatened by looming fears about the end of the world, or do you trust that no matter what happens, you and your family will be OK? How resourceful do you feel when you meet life challenges (whether they are financial, health-related, job-related, etc.)?
When the desire for security dominates, it may turn into behaviors ruled mainly by fear. Fear might turn into greed and paranoia, which are extreme forms of manifestation of imbalance in the first chakra. Issues with control over food intake and diet are related to it.
Physically, the root chakra governs the adrenal glands, blood, large intestine, bladder, kidneys, lower extremities, and spine so when there is an imbalance, you can experience physical symptoms that include constipation, weight issues, fatigue and back pain.
On the emotional level, root chakra imbalance may manifest as being short-tempered or unusually aggressive, fearfulness, frustration, anxiety, and depression. The deficiencies or imbalance in the first chakra are related to excessive negativity, cynicism, poor decision making, eating disorders, greed, detachment or the excessive feeling of insecurity - living on survival mode constantly.
On the spiritual level, root chakra issues may show up as stubbornness and not willing to expand one's view point, or extremely black and white thinking.
How To Heal Your Root Chakra
The root chakra fosters confidence and security when it is opened and balanced. However, when it is in need of healing, there are several simple exercises and steps you can take to restore balance.
Make someone else’s day! A kindness extended to a family member, friend or complete stranger does amazing things for your sense of self, and of security in this world.
Most of us have energetic blocks and imbalances as well as energy-sabotaging habits that prevent us from accessing our full vitality, which leads us to feel exhausted, scattered, dull… even ill.
The good news is that doesn’t have to continue! Several steps may be taken to heal an imbalance. You may opt to use meditation, Yoga, aromatherapy, or even a variety of forms of energy healing, from reiki to acupuncture and sound therapy — which you can explore outside of this series.
Following are seven strategies I have collected from many wise yogis and writers on the topic of balance and the base chakra:
Anchor yourself in your environment
Root chakra preoccupations relate to feeling safe in the world. Developing a harmonious relationship with your environment is key in fostering safety. How you feel in your immediate surroundings, from your home to your neighborhood and region matters in supporting the first chakra balance. Try something as simple as standing when you’re feeling less than grounded. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and relax your upper body. Let your arms rest comfortably at your sides and allow your hips to rest slightly forward. Breathe deeply and with each exhale feel your connection to the earth deepen. Take this further with mindful walking. Whether you are walking out in nature or down a crowded city street, be aware of every step you take. Concentrate on your breath and every footfall. With every step take note of the sensation you feel each time your foot touches the ground. Mindfulness of something as mundane as walking can activate the root chakra and ground you to the earth.
Connect intimately with the earth
In order to heal root chakra imbalance, it’s important to connect directly to the earth. Go outside and walk on unpaved paths, dig your hands in the earth, plant seeds… These are all examples of personal connections with the earth element that will support the opening of the root chakra to a more grounded, sustainable energy flow.
If you do not have access to garden, walking outside to a park paying attention to every step you make and feeling the contact of your feet to the ground creates connection. Make it a daily practice. The presence of plants in your immediate surrounding can also be helpful to bring the earth closer to you. Breathe in the scent of the air and plants, as the sense organ that corresponds to the first chakra is smell. If you are into aromatherapy consider using flowering, earthy scented essential oils. Those most commonly associated with the root chakra are Sandalwood, Myrrh, Frankincense, Ylang-ylang, Vetiver, Cinnamon, Ginger, Cypress, Carrot Seed, Cedar and Lavender. There is a wealth of information related to these oils and their properties if you wish to explore further.
Physical activity promotes root chakra health. Allowing the body to be free to move uninhibited will dispel negativity, open and balance the first chakra. Everyday physical movement, from running to completing chores around the house, is a great way to heal your root chakra. The key is to be aware of your body and feel the sensation of movement. Awareness is crucial to healing.
Let’s face it, the root chakra governs the quality of our physical presence and feeling of aliveness in our body. Physical activity, no matter big or small, supports root chakra healing. Any movement involving your feet and legs will be particularly helpful. When you feel your vital force, you connect with the strength of root chakra energy and grounded in your life.
Adopting a regular yoga routine is a great tool to open up, heal, and balance the root chakra. Introducing balanced standing positions can help stretch your legs, back and spine giving you a strong foundation. To ground yourself and activate your root chakra, try these poses to foster balance and focus:
- Tree (Vrksasana)
- Eagle (Garudasana)
- Mountain (Tadasana)
These basic asanas (poses) for the root chakra not only ground you, but also bolster your primal nature. By strengthening your core and lower extremities, you also increase stamina. To further open and balance your first chakra, introduce forward bends and other standing poses to strengthen your core, legs, and feet. Unsure where to begin? Start with these:
- Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) — By stretching the legs and hips, standing forward bend strengthens the knees and thighs which allows for stable grounding and opening of the root chakra.
- Garland (Malasana) — Frequently used to lead into standing forward bend, garland pose strengthens the ankles and lower back to help activate the first chakra.
- Head-to-knee Forward Bend (Janu Sirsasana) — Benefiting the spine, hamstrings, and groin muscles, this pose stimulates kidney and liver function and increases energy flow through the first chakra.
- Reclining Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasana) — As you stretch your inner thighs, knees, and groin muscle, reclining bound angle pose also stimulates organ function in the bladder, kidneys and reproductive organs which helps balance chakra energy.
- Wide-Legged Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana) — An asana similar to the standing forward bend, this position helps stretch and strengthen the legs and spine, which helps open and activate the root chakra.
- Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) — This pose helps strengthen and stretch the legs and ankles while nurturing a strong core. Mastering this pose will increase your stamina which is key to maintaining a balanced first chakra.
Overcome feelings of insecurity by learning self-reliance
To counter the tendency to worry about safety and well-being, an element characteristic of first chakra imbalance, long-lasting healing consists in reinforcing your belief that you’re OK in this world and can get what you need when you need it. Working on self-reliance, confidence, perceptions about resourcefulness in your life are key in healing the root chakra.
Affirmations are a great way to begin to heal negative programming that can be embeded in our subtle body. Try some of the following “self-talk” when you become anxious or insecure:
- I feel deeply rooted
- I am connected to my body
- I feel safe and secure
- I have a right to be here
- I stand for my values, for truth, and for justice
- I have what I need
- I am grounded, stable, and standing on my own two feet
- I nurture my body with healthy food, clean water, exercise, relaxation, and connection with nature
- I am open to possibilities
- I am grateful for all the challenges that helped me to grow and transform
- I trust in the goodness of life
- I make choice that are healthy and good for me
- I trust myself
- I love life
Discover your true needs and aspirations
To heal the first chakra, you need to know what your true needs and aspirations are. This generally helps guide your course of action and decisions with regards to the place you want to live in, the work you want to do, and the people you want to surround yourself with. Without this awareness, you have more chances to be swayed by others’ opinions or circumstances and may miss the opportunity to meet your deepest needs.
Introspection and clarity are therefore keys to healing the root chakra. This is no small task, but with some time given to personal reflection and friendly advice, you will get in the right direction. Pay attention to limiting beliefs about yourself, and trust possibilities towards a better life.
Go from a psychology of scarcity to personal abundance
Remember that a psychology of scarcity tends to self-perpetuate and reinforces limiting beliefs about your chances of success. Healing your root chakra aims at restoring confidence in your ability to provide for yourself and meet your basic needs easily.
An important step in healing root chakra concerns is to re-center the notion of material abundance on inner and non-material abundance. For instance, instead of assessing your level of wealth just base on your bank account, consider all the other types of riches you have in your life, from friendships to enjoyment of everyday pleasures. In the process, you will likely have to reconsider personal beliefs about money and physical safety.
Make decisions on trust rather than fear.
When healing the root chakra, it’s important to remember that the outer world is often a reflection of what is happening inside you. Your notion about what it means to be abundant in the material world is affected and affects your notion of inner balance and resourcefulness. In other words, your state of being translates into your ability to manifest in the material world. Base decisions on trust instead of fear.
I hope you find this advice helpful in your own journey. It is quite a list and may seem daunting. Keep things simple and address your greatest areas of need. Here are some things that help me feel grounded, and to access my base energies:
- Have a mantra. Whether you engage in prayer, meditation, or practice yoga, I find it grounding to have a mantra. One very powerful mantra for me is ‘Progress not Perfection’ to remind me that this life is a journey, and I cannot expect to neatly check things off my “to-do”, perfectly completed and masterfully finished. Instead, I turn to the wisdom of deep-rooted yogic beliefs, and the wisdom of Sally Kempton who wisely noted “the very heart of yoga practice is “abyhasa”—steady effort in the direction you want to go.” With life and all its possibilities and yes, challenges, unfolding along the way.
- Give yourself permission to just be. Make the time to reward yourself with those moments that allow you to connect deeply to your own needs. Many find this in nature, but just as nature lovers crave a serene forest path, others fulfill this need with a coffee in a mall food court, having hunted down the best bargains of the day-all before 10 am. Find your place of self-care.
- Make someone else’s day! A kindness extended to a family member, friend or complete stranger does amazing things for your sense of self, and of security in this world.