Getting to the Root: Understanding the Root Chakra
Root Chakra: Finding Solid Ground
Location: Base of spine, seat, legs, feet
Bija Mantra: Lam
Sanskrit Name: Muladhara (root place)
Many people have dreams where they are flying. Soaring above the earth, with friends and family down below. Does anyone in those dreams actually land? Is a runway cleared, and a graceful touchdown occurs, or is it more like a crash and burn? Maybe some of us just wake up to realize that there is nowhere to fly off to — our life is right here where we left it. Being a yogi means getting into our life, and remaining rooted to the family, friends, and support system we’ve created. It also means realizing our innate humanness which has the distinct quality of consciously bringing about change when we focus on it.
The muladhara chakra’s element is earth, so we often talk about feeling grounded and stable when the energy is flowing properly at this juncture. Some issues we run into here are feelings of being “stuck in the mud” or complete helplessness. It is when life spins out of control and our most basic needs aren’t met — food, shelter, financial stability, connection to family — that signals creep up from this place to challenge us to stand firm, and to stand up for what we need. The root chakra is our base, our foundation, and unless we stand on our own two feet, the rest of our journey is rocky and unstable.
It would be an arduous process to try and list all the complications, maladies or illnesses that accompany each chakra. It does tend to be very location specific, making it easy to target which chakra is affected by a particular situation. For example, with the root chakra, issues that plague the lower extremities, eliminatory organs, or challenges with balance typify the physical manifestations of a lack of harmony at this chakra. The process of working with the chakras requires us to tune in more closely to locate the symptom so that we accurately trace it back to the cause. For example, someone with a recurring knee issue has a root chakra that needs attention, as does someone who has difficulty regulating bowel movements. Issues in these chakras can also be reflected by our behavior, too, so we need to understand the chakra’s function in our lives to know where to go with our yoga practice to optimize health.
The root chakra’s main function is to ensure stability, groundedness and security in our lives. Anytime these things go out of whack — we lose our jobs, we’re staring at a minuscule bank balance, we have a rocky relationship with our parents (anyone?) — then we have evidence of an external expression of our internal energetic system, and in particular, with the root chakra. The person who always borrows money, the abused child, the one who looks at the world like it’s against them, these are classic root chakra-based symptoms. Problems in this area don’t need to be as extreme as that. In yoga, we want to maintain a system of balance, so even a minor disturbance that shows up in our physical body can be a clue that we’ve got to pay more attention to the way we budget our grocery bills, how we stand up to our boss on a daily basis, and quelling the urge to speak to our mother by simply picking up the phone.
At some point, we need to recognize that there is something bigger at work here. Call it what you will—spirit, source or soul—there is a deep intuition within all of us that points us toward exactly what creates more freedom and joy. It’s just that so many of us are so bent on ignoring the signs that we get used to our symptoms and find ways of bracing (or medicating) against the discomfort, all the while using more energy than we need to, and feeling exhausted at the end of each day.
Our yoga practice gives us freedom, particularly when we use it to engage in reversing the patterns of exhaustion and discomfort. When a parent or the bank calls, we have a resource to stay grounded and centered even when the call is not going well. We pay attention to our breath, root down more firmly into our feet, and perhaps even put our hands on our thighs to awaken the energy. It’s not that this cures the imbalance of this chakra, but even the small things we do in our practice sends a clear signal to our body that at least, we’re working on it.