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root chakra

Strength at the Root Chakra with Yoga for Stability

Your body is the journey, and it is where you begin. It is your connection to the physical world, your foundation, the home of your dance. You are the place from which all action and understanding will arise and to which it will return. You are the testing ground of truth.
– Anodea Judith, Wheels of Life.

According to Tantra yoga, the root chakra, Muladhara, is the first of the seven chakras. 

Muladhara translates from Sanskrit as the ‘root of existence.’ Mula means root, and adhara means to support. Its location is at the spine’s base at the coccyx.

The root chakra is responsible for our relationship to stability, family, and food. It is the basis for the other six chakras to flourish and correlates to our need for shelter, community, and food. 

The root chakra connects us to our inner stability and grounding.

When balanced in this chakra, we feel connected to the earth, those around us, and ourselves. When we feel out of balance in this chakra, we may feel overwhelmed, agitated, disconnected, and over-excited. 

Keep reading to see the root chakra themes, blockages, imbalances, yoga classes, and questions. 

This series explores each chakra with unique classes geared towards lighting them up.

7-day FREE trial to all new members on the Practice with Clara Membership Site.

A Brief Introduction to the Chakras

Chakra translates as ‘wheel’ or ‘disk’ and refers to the energy points of the subtle body. 

We have thousands of chakras in our bodies. The ones we focus on as yogis go up to our main energy channel, Sushumna, the spine, which starts at the pelvis and goes through the middle of the torso to the top of the head.

The seven chakras are located at Sushumna. The first one, Muladhara, is at the base. The second one, Swadhisthana, is just below the belly button. The third one, Manipura, is at the solar plexus, and The fourth one, Anahata at the heart. The fifth one, Vishuddha, goes to the throat. The sixth one, Ajna, is at the third eye center, the middle of the head. And then the seventh one, Sahasrara, is the top, the head, or just above the head, depending upon who you talk to.

It’s said that at the base of our pelvis sits our creative force known as Shakti or Kundalini. This is this dormant creative force that lives inside of the pelvis. As yogis, we want to ignite or awaken that energy to have it rise from the pelvis to our third eye center, where our consciousness lives. When the kundalini energy rises, it’s said that we are awakened or receive enlightenment.

When the chakras are open, the energy flows freely, and we are awakened.

The asanas and pranayamas help to move the stagnant energy that day-to-day life can create in the body. Yoga is a way to clear the stagnant energy by observing the themes and blockages of each chakra and then creating a practice to clear and move the energy. 

Prana (energy) flows through the human body’s 72,000 nadis (energy channels). The Prana that moves through the nadis is also what feeds and sustains the chakras. 

The body is our initial connection to the earth, and yoga is a tool to shift how we feel. We can always return to the practice- asana, pranayama, or meditation. We might use these as tools to shift states of dis-ease. The practice allows us to return to a place where we are grounded and feel a sense of belonging.

Root Chakra Themes 

Each chakra has unique themes that illustrate ways to express the energy at that particular point. 
Color: Red
Mantra: Lam
Element: Earth
Gland: Adrenals
Psychological Function: Survival, Stability, Independence
Body Part: Feet, Legs
Organ: Large Intenstine
Emotion: Fear
root chakra

Characteristics of the root chakra include grounding, instinct, boundaries with the self, and new beginnings/fertility. With the activation and balance of the root chakra, we are confident, strong, and grounded. 

Red is the color of the root chakra to express the vigor, health, courage, and fervor we need to support our emotional and physical wellbeing. Lam is the bija seed mantra for the root chakra; chanting this word will activate the energy of Muladhara. The element is earth, as this chakra is the initial link to the physical world. The earth gives us a location, a sense of place, and a spot to root. We discover a sense of belonging at the root chakra when it is open and balanced. 

The adrenal medulla is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response in the body and releases cortisol and adrenaline.

The root chakra is associated with the adrenals as feelings of unsafety or fear cause the body to go into fight or flight mode.

The main function of the root chakra is survival. Our most basic needs must be met for us to exist on earth. 

Blockages and Imbalances 

When the root chakra is open and energy moves freely, we feel calm and centered in thought and action. There is a sense of ease and consistency in what we want to accomplish. We set goals, persist, and execute. We feel connected to the community and the earth. 

Blockages at the root chakra are associated with fear and insecurity. Fear shuts us off from experiencing the world and associating with others.

Insecurities take root as low self-esteem and disordered eating patterns. We are cut off and removed from the people, spaces, and foods that nourish us. 

Imbalances at the root chakra could include anxiety, eating disorders, binge eating, panic attacks, overthinking, depression, disconnection from the body, and ideas of unworthiness. 

Core Yoga for Stability 

Core strength is essential to the spine’s longevity, and mobility as the core muscles support the spine and affect the hips and pelvis.

A strong core means strengthening the transversus abdominis, internal and external obliques, the rectus abdominis, and the pelvic floor muscles. 

A weak core may result in lower back pain; low back pain indicates the need to strengthen the core, including supporting the back body muscles known as the erectors. The erector spinae is the group of muscles and tendons that run laterally down the spinal column from the skull base to the sacrum beneath the lower back. 

Take a class from the Yoga for Low Back Pain Playlist on Practice with Clara.

In yoga, we use the definitions sukha and sthira to describe the qualities of a healthy spine. Suka translates as flexibility, suppleness, and ease. Sthira translates as stability and strength. Ideally, these two aspects are balanced within the spine and the individual’s overall posture. Strengthening the core abdominals and erectors creates a corset to support the spine. We’re more prone to injury when we tend to one quality over the other. 

Something to watch for in core exercises is that you’re placing strain on the appropriate muscle groups.

The neck muscles and hip flexors tend to over-compensate during core exercises if we are unaware. 

A great exercise to perform to activate the core is a bridge pose with a block between the inner thighs or any related core action with a block or rolled-up blanket between the inner thighs.

Squeezing the block between the inner thighs integrates and isolates the pelvic floor muscles to ignite the core stabilizers and abdominals. 

Engagement of the pelvic floor is a simple activation one may do throughout the day while sitting at a desk or preparing a meal.

The pelvic floor muscles are engaged by hugging the belly button in and up. In yoga, we call this Mula Bandha. Three Bandhas in yoga are used to create energetic locks in the body.

Mula Bandha is the root lock at the diamond shape hammock of muscles located at the pubis (front body) to the coccyx (back body) and the two sitting bones on either side. This area is otherwise known as the pelvic floor muscles. 

Learn to engage Mula Bandha in a short yoga class—

Core & Resistance Band Playlist

Perks of the playlist:

  • 10-30 minute classes.
  • Band work strengthens the glutes, inner thighs, abdominals, and erectors.
  • Targets the deep core stabilizers.
5 ways to strengthen the core and back muscles at home:
  • Bridge pose, locust pose, and plank pose with a block between the inner thighs to isolate the core stabilizers.
  • Small crunches with the lower back and back ribs compressed on the ground to maintain spinal integrity and length. The spine should be neutral during sit-ups and crunches, aiming for the spine’s minimal curvature and the back pressed to the ground.
  • Leg lifts, either one or two legs at a time, depending on how you feel, with the back compressed to the ground. This action may be done with bent knees as toe taps to begin. 
  • Side plank poses to target the side body and obliques.
  • Leg and arm extension from plank pose or tabletop if a plank is too much; this strengthens the core and the erectors. 
These actions will engage the gluteal muscles (buttock) and hip flexors (muscles at the front of the hips) to create stability throughout the entire body, not just the core and back. 
A practice focusing on core engagement may be performed several times weekly. Ideally, 2-4 times weekly.
It depends on the practitioner’s level and how their body feels. Other muscles step in to compensate for the fatigued area when we’re tired, so it’s all about listening to your body and addressing where you are at each day over pushing through a set plan.

4 Ways to Balance the Root Chakra

Clara shared a few of the ways she balances the root chakra when she feels an excess or depletion of energy at Muladhara. Listen to the full podcast episode to learn more!

1.

Slow and Smooth Yoga Classes

—for those who feel anxious, overwhelmed, agitated

When we connect to our root chakra, in terms of the yoga practice, we deal a lot with the legs, connecting to the legs, and feeling the connection to the earth itself.

You will stay low to the ground if you want a more earthbound practice. You would do things that are very leg-heavy and hold the poses for longer. 

One of two ways I theme with earth classes is with a lot of standing leg poses and warrior poses. I would include a lot of hip openers. I would have a longer floor series, the lunar part of the class, and I would include a lot of forward folds to invite a space for introspection.

You want to create a feeling of staying low to the ground with the earth element. One of the descriptions of the earth is generally dark and heavy. So those elements are two things that we would bring into this class.

Take Sweet Hips or Stay Low Hatha yoga on the Practice with Clara Apps.

2.

Meditation Classes

—for those who overthink, feelings of uncertainty

I prefer meditation or putting my legs up against the wall. Putting legs up the wall is very grounding; it gets you into the parasympathetic nervous system. It allows me to arrive. 

That’s what I do, usually when I show up in a hotel room or when I’m traveling. Then usually, if I’m fortunate enough to have a bath, I’ll immerse myself in water. 

I use my yoga practice now as a tuneup. I’m tuning up parts of my body and therefore tuning up parts of my mind and spirit.  

Take Mudra Meditation or River of Prana Meditation on the Practice with Clara Apps.

3.

Core Stability Yoga Classes

—for those who feel depressed, heavy, lethargic

I love Forrest Yoga for the therapeutics that work specifically around the lower back and activating and stretching the psoas, which I think are two things that we don’t pay enough attention to in yoga.

If you’re a member on the site and you’ve done the core work classes, most of that is on Forrest Yoga. One of the things Ana Forrest gets people to do is to create a roll by rolling up a mat or a blanket. The roll is rolled up and placed between the thighs. I sometimes use a block. And the deep core work comes from hugging in at the upper inner thighs around the block. 

It’s very subtle work; it’s about the deep core muscles activating, the muscles that I call the stabilizers. If you want your stabilizers to work harder versus your, what I call your movers and shakers, then you need to do smaller movements to activate the stabilizers. 

Take We Must Root Down vinyasa or Strong Roots, Strong Glutes Practice with Clara.

4.

Pranayamas (breathwork) Classes

—for those who feel disconnected from the body 

Nadi-shodhana, alternate nostril breathing, is one. Nadi-shodhana balances the hemispheres of the brain as well as the lunar and solar sides of the body. 

The other pranayama I would recommend would be bhramari breath or bees breath. I would place my hands on the lower abdomen or hands-on thighs and then hum down into that area. 

The last would be a moving meditation, like a Tai Chi movement. You stand with feet shoulder-width apart, inhale hands upwards toward the sky and exhale hands back down toward the ground. I would do this standing to feel my feet on the ground and connect to the stability of the earth. 

Take Tethered to the Earth or We Are Energy Hatha yoga on the Practice with Clara Apps.
See four pranayama practices to ground overstimulation in this article.

Questions for the Root Chakra:

  1. Where do I feel safe? Who is with me?
  2. What are my eating patterns? How does the food I eat make me feel?
  3. What are my sleeping patterns? Do I give myself time to rest and replenish?
  4. What are my exercise patterns? How do the activities I choose make me feel?
  5. What is my relationship to career and family? Do I feel stable in each environment?
  6. Where do I invest my money, time, feelings, and resources? How does each of these areas serve me in curating a lifestyle that feels safe? 
  7. When I feel fear, what are my coping mechanisms? 
  8. When I feel overwhelmed, how do I adjust expectations? 
  9. Where do I go to restore myself when I feel depleted and tired? 
  10. What are three things I can change today to thrive with feelings of abundance?

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Connect to the Power of the Chakras

Your guide to each of the chakras with movement practices including yoga and meditation, to create balance and connect to the potential of each energy center.

Learn the themes, imbalances, blockages, and ways to connect to the 1st chakra.

Learn the themes, imbalances, blockages, and ways to connect to the 2nd chakra.

Learn the themes, imbalances, blockages, and ways to connect to the 3rd chakra.

Learn the themes, imbalances, blockages, and ways to connect to the 4th chakra.

Learn the themes, imbalances, blockages, and ways to connect to the 5th chakra.

Learn the themes, imbalances, blockages, and ways to connect to the 6th chakra.

Learn the themes, imbalances, blockages, and ways to connect to the 7th chakra.