Chakras for Beginners: The Root Chakra
While much of what I teach relates to the practical side of yoga (i.e. how you can translate what you learn on the mat and apply it to your every day life) and I rarely go into the philosophy behind the practice in class, many students, as they learn to love the practice, start to want to deepen their knowledge of the more philosophical and spiritual elements of yoga.
The study and practice of yoga is more than just the physical side of the practice which you might be more familiar with and a lot of yogic philosophy is focussed on the chakras, or energy points, within the body.
You might have heard your yoga teacher refer to your heart chakra, or your root chakra or even your third eye in class, but what does that actually mean?
Chakra means ‘wheel’ and in yogic philosophy a chakra is a point in the body where energy comes together on its journey through the body (from bottom to top); a meeting point, if you like. We cannot see them, or feel them with our hands, but each is responsible for a different part of our mind, body or soul. Yogis believe that all of your chakras must be unblocked/aligned/opened in order for you to reach the state of 'Samadhi' or 'transcendental bliss' through meditation. If you have a blocked chakra you will never be able to leave the physical world (i.e. your body) through meditation.
In practical terms, think of the chakras like Maslow's hierarchy of needs; you cannot feel completely satisfied, happy or healthy if your chakras are not aligned/fulfilled.
In this series of 7 posts I'll be covering the basic elements of each of the chakras and how knowledge and awareness of those chakras may be able to help you in your day to day life.
So let's get started:
The Root Chakra
The first chakra is the root or earth chakra, located between the anus and the perineum. This chakra is related to basic survival needs (just like the hierarchy of needs); thirst, hunger, tiredness, security, money, pain.
People who may have money or security problems in their life, or are focussed very much on money and business may need to work on fulfilling or unblocking their root chakra. If you have a strong root chakra chances are you have satisfied your basic needs for money, security, food etc.
Of course, throughout your life, and in fact, throughout the day, your root chakra may be more, or less active; depending on the situation. When you feel hungry, that's your root chakra in action. Just lost your job? Hello root chakra. So the idea of completely opening this chakra is kinda silly, because it's not possible to never feel hungry. However, on a broader scale, if you are financially stable/secure, have a roof over your head and can afford food when you are hungry, then likelihood is that your root chakra is in pretty good shape.
But what if it's not? And can you tell?
The answer to the second question is yes, according to yogis. A blocked root chakra will cause various symptoms, including, but not limited to:
- Problems in the legs, feet, rectum and lower body
- Eating disorders
- Fear of not enough money/job instability
- Inability to focus or sit still
- Lacking energy
- Feeling ungrounded
- Not feeling secure
- Feelings of lethargy
Of course, if you have a blister on your foot it's probably not to do with your root chakra at all and is instead just a symptom of ill-fitting shoes, so don't take this as 100% gospel. The idea is for you to start thinking about your body and mind as being connected. This is what yoga teaches us: Struggling to focus? Chances are you'll find balancing postures tricky... If you practice yoga regularly you'll know this.
So if you have some unexplained constipation, or leg pain, and you recently got made redundant...maybe this is your root chakra in action. This is your body trying to tell you what your mind cannot. Remember, some of these feelings might be subconscious. Maybe you do have a good, stable job, but deep down you're not so happy in it. Maybe subconsciously you're thinking about starting up on your own and well, that's going to lead to some pretty unstable times...cue: root chakra. See where I'm going with this?
So what happens if you think your root chakra needs some TLC? Well there are two ways to work through this: inside-out and outside-in. Outside-in is simple; fix the external problem and the internal one will heal. I.e. get a better paid job, buy a house, pay off your mortgage....
It's when those external fixes aren't possible that we turn to the internal. This means using the practice of yoga to help us deal with our fears and anxieties surrounding our external situation. It is now that we turn to the practices of yoga asana (the postures you do in class), pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation to go some way towards helping us feel more centred and in control of our mental state of mind.
So can a yoga class help?
Yes! Yogis believe that certain asanas (postures) can help to release tension and blockages in the chakras, just as they do in the muscles. For the root chakra, this means working on postures which relieve tension in the lower body:
- Yogic squat
- Triangle pose
- Extended Side Angle
- Butterfly pose
- Bridge pose
There are also postures which can help relieve that sense of disconnect and make you feel more grounded by, well, awakening your sense of connection with the physical ground:
- Seated meditation pose
- Child's pose
- Mountain pose
So what about off the mat?
I'm so glad you asked. The science of Ayurveda is closely linked to the practice of yoga. In essence there is the belief that what you eat has a direct impact on not just your physical health, but your mental/spiritual/energetic health also. Which means that food can help you to open up your root chakra too. What foods? Anything that comes directly from the earth, and anything naturally red (the colour of the chakra).
Anything else I should know?
Oh so much! If you're interested in going further and discovering meditation techniques to unblock the chakra, or specific mantras to chant then there's tonnes of stuff out there. This post is just the tip of the iceberg.
If you're in Brussels and want to know more...I'll be running an Introduction to the Chakras Workshop at Corpus Studios on 27th May 2018. You can book online at www.corpusstudios.com