“Without awareness of bodily feeling and attitude, a person becomes split into a disembodied spirit and a disenchanted body.” - Alexander Lowen
Before you roll your eyes at the mention of “chakra,” hear me out.
This is not just new-age hippie crap. Scientifically, we know that we are made up of energy (gajillions of atoms) and we all know what it’s like to feel the palpable energy in a room. Think of the chakra system as a reminder to pay more attention to the energy in your body, and a roadmap for self-care and personal growth in each facet of life.
That means mind, body, and spirit. It also means your physical survival needs, connection and belonging with place, family, and friends, sensuality and sexuality, sense of self and healthy ego strength, compassion, creativity and communication, intellect, and spirituality/intuition.
The concept of the chakras originated in the ancient Hindu spiritual text, the Vedas, and there has been a resurgence of interest in them in recent years as scientific research continues to support for the validity of the mind-body connection and Eastern healing practices are more commonly integrated into holistic approach to wellbeing.
For a basic introduction to the overall chakra system, check out my earlier post on the topic. For today, I’m focusing on the characteristics of the first chakra, and how working to keep it balanced can help you actually follow through on your goals rather than being all talk/planning and no action.
Also, it should be noted that much of my research for this post comes from Anodea Judith’s epic text on the psychology of the chakras, Eastern Body Western Mind. I’m a student of Anodea’s and can’t wait to do another training with her.
First Chakra Need-to-Know:
Also Known As: Root Chakra Sanskrit Name: Muladhara Location: Base of the spine Element: Earth Color: Red Basic Rights: To be here and to have Issues: Roots, grounding, nourishment, trust, health, home, family, prosperity, appropriate boundaries
What are signs of an imbalance in the first chakra, and what do we do about it?
A first chakra that is either out of balance can present physically via disorders of the gastrointestinal (GI) system, eating disorders, or issues with the skeletal system, teeth, legs, feet, knees, or base of the spine. Additionally, various psychological issues (especially attachment-related) or behavioral patterns present depending on whether the chakra is deficient or excessive.
First Chakra Deficiency
People who are deficient in their first chakra tend to be flighty, aloof, and more interested in matters of spirituality and intellect (often meaning they are excessive in the upper chakras related to those domains) than day-to-day life. This person feels disconnected from her body, frequently fearful, anxious, and restless, and sometimes underweight. Additionally these individuals tend to get lost in fantasy, dreams and intellectualizing, and neglect the details of life.
This can lead to trouble following through, poor focus and discipline, and chronic disorganization. When a first chakra deficiency is present, it’s important to focus on any and all ways to get grounded and to reestablish a wider flow of energy in the body, especially through the legs.
Separated from the experience of our bodies, we are separated from our aliveness, from the experience of the natural world, and from our most basic inner truth. This division creates a dissociative state. Disconnected from our body, our actions become compulsive — no longer ruled by consciousness or rooted in feelings, but fueled by an unconscious urge to bridge the gap between mind and body at whatever cost. - Anodea Judith
Unhealthy acting out with alcohol, drugs, or sex is often a sign of a deficient first chakra, as a frantic effort to manage anxiety and feel connected to something. Restricting food is common as well, as nourishing the body is not seen as important, and restricting can give the person with an unsteady foundation and mistrust of the world something they feel they have control over.
First Chakra Excess
An excessive first chakra can manifest through hoarding or being overly materialistic, overeating, rigid boundaries, and fear of change. This person is likely to feel sluggish, tired, or describe themselves as “lazy.” They may have difficulty being flexible in situations or adjusting to what is most effective in different contexts. It’s pretty obvious to see how someone with a first chakra excess would have trouble getting things done. Rather than their more capricious first chakra deficient counterpart, they find it hard to get motivated and excited about moving forward with their goals.
In this case, there is a need to discharge the excessive energy in the first chakra and get the energy and body moving. Fluid physical movement is ideal, such as dancing, swimming, or yoga.
How to Balance Muladhara
A more balanced first chakra results in a feeling of vitality and being well-grounded, with a general sense of safety and security with your place the world. This includes the ability to take action on your goals rather than getting caught up in daydreaming or paralyzed by anxiety or insecurity. It also allows a person to relax and be still without becoming lethargic.
Healing practices will differ somewhat depending on whether there is excess or deficiency — and sometimes there can be a combination of both, when a person tries to overcompensate within one chakra rather than balancing within the system as a whole (i.e. the person who struggles with follow-through becoming obsessive over to-do lists rather than addressing the need to get energy moving and flowing within the whole body/system.)
But overall, reconnecting with the body is the top priority. This can be accomplished well through yoga and other types of movement, touch, massage, and grounding techniques. It is also important to explore the early childhood relationship with the parents (especially mother); first chakra issues are often related to insecure attachment, and if this is present, working with a therapist experienced in attachment issue will be beneficial.
“To lose our connection with the body is to become spiritually homeless. Without an anchor we float aimlessly, battered by the winds and waves of life… is it any wonder that we equally ignore our physical surroundings, damaging the body of the Earth in order to perpetuate our dissociated survival? … Only by recovering the body can we begin to heal the world itself, for as mind is to body, so culture is to planet.” - Anodea Judith