WholeYou podcast #6: first chakra (muladhara / root chakra)

WholeYou podcast #6: first chakra (muladhara / root chakra)

The lovely Lauren Fowler and I are BACK with WholeYou podcast episode 6! 

In this episode, we're talking all about the root chakra. It's our foundation, so if you want to feel more grounded, take a listen.

First Chakra At a Glance:

  • Sanskrit Name: Muladhara
  • Location: Base of the spine
  • Element: Earth
  • Color: Red
  • Issues: Roots, grounding, nourishment, trust, health, home, family, prosperity, appropriate boundaries

What we Discuss in Episode #6: 

  • The "rights" of the first chakra.
  • Imbalances and what a balanced root chakra looks like.
  • Signs of a deficient and excessive root chakra.
  • Healing practices to bring the root chakra back into balance.

You can stream or download episode #6 via SoundCloud right here on the blog post, or search for WholeYou (and subscribe) in iTunes or your favorite podcast app. And if you love the show, don't forget to leave an iTunes review

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WholeYou podcast #5: overview of the chakras

WholeYou podcast #5: overview of the chakras

Feeling a little spacey or up in your head? Listen to this episode for tips on how to know if your first chakra is out of whack, and what to do to get grounded. 

Thank you all for your comments and thoughts on our first few shows. We really appreciate you taking the time to listen and share your thoughts. If you like the show, subscribe on iTunes or your favorite podcast app, and please leave a review on iTunes  — it helps us to reach more people!

In this "chakras 101" episode, we give an overview on the chakra system and how to work with it for more holistic wellness in mind, body, and spirit. If you've been to a yoga or meditation class before, you've likely heard references to the chakras. And if you're excited about this episode, lucky you! We have a whole series of future episodes planned to dive into each chakra in depth. 

Here's what we chat about in episode #5:

  • What the heck are chakras? 
  • What got each of us interested in chakras
  • Brief history of the chakra system
  • The name, physical location, and central issues/themes for all 7 chakras
  • How you can explore working with the chakras to benefit your wellness — so many ways!

We'd LOVE to hear your thoughts, so if you take a listen, please leave a comment on your thoughts, or any questions or ideas you have.

You can stream or download episode #5 via SoundCloud here on the blog (click "Read More" below), or search for WholeYou (and subscribe) in iTunes or your favorite podcast app. And if you love the show, don't forget to leave an iTunes review

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balance your root chakra to get shit done (first chakra)

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First Chakra Healing - Root Chakra Balancing 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

If you found this post interesting, you’ll enjoy my Mind + Body + Spirit meditation, a 13-minute practice that focuses on bringing awareness to the three core facets of life. It’s like a vitamin! Download it for free right here.

introduction to the chakras for mind + body + spirit wellness

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Over the past few months, I've been studying the chakra system and have become completely enamored with it. I firmly believe that to heal from any sort of trauma or to achieve meaningful personal growth, we have to approach mind, body, and spirit in an integrated way. This is why pure "talk therapy" is not very effective, and why making changes to physical lifestyle (like exercise and diet) is rarely sustainable without also addressing underlying psychological and emotional issues. The chakras offer an ideal framework in which to map out and assess every facet of the human experience, both individually and as a whole, interdependent system.

Anodea Judith and the "Rainbow Bridge"

The majority of my education on the chakra system thus far has come via Anodea Judith, PhD, a therapist, yogi, spiritual teacher, writer, and founder of Sacred Centers teaching organization. Anodea is an expert in mind + body integration and has been working with the chakra system for over 40 years. In addition to soaking up her incredibly comprehensive book, Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self, I have the privilege of calling Anodea a teacher, having attended her Mind Body Integration course at Kripalu last month. (I'm also planning to attend her Chakra Therapy course in 2015 and CANNOT. WAIT.) After initially getting my feet wet with other writers and teachers of energy and the chakras (like Caroline Myss), I have found Anodea to be the best fit for me. She gracefully blends mysticism with grounded psychological science and real-world experience, and is not about to tell you "All you have to do to balance your chakras and heal your life is to meditate!" Anodea introduces the system beautifully:

Chakras are not physical entities in and of themselves. Like feelings or ideas, they cannot be held like a physical object, yet they have a strong effect upon the body as they express the embodiment of spiritual energy on the physical plane… Just as emotions can and do affect our breathing, heart rate, and metabolism, the activities in the various chakras influence our glandular processes, body shape, chronic physical ailments, thoughts, and behavior. By using techniques such as yoga, breathing, bioenergetics, physical exercises, meditation and visualization, we can, in turn, influence our chakras, our health, and our lives. This is one of the essential values of the system—that it maps onto both the body and the mind, and can be accessed through either.

She often refers to chakra work as "crossing the Rainbow Bridge," as each chakra is represented by a color of the rainbow (see chart above): “The seven colors of the rainbow represent an alternative to our binary black-and-white consciousness, offering us a world of multiple opportunities ... To restore the Rainbow Bridge is to reconnect to our own divinity, anchoring it in the world around us and healing the rifts that so plague our world.”

History and Focus of the Chakras

Chakras were originally referenced in the Vedas, an ancient Hindu spiritual text dating back more than 4,000 years. The 16th-century text Sat-Chakra Nirupana, written by an Indian yogi, thoroughly described the chakra system, and in the 1920s, Arthur Avalon introduced the Western world to the Chakras in his book, The Serpent Power. The chakras have garnered more attention in recent years with the explosion of yoga in in the West, and more widespread acceptance of an integrated "East + West" approach to physical and mental health.

As you can see on the chart, each chakra,  an energy center located in a particular area of the body, is associated with different elements and psychological constructs. Generally speaking, the lower chakras (1-3), closest to the earth, are associated with physical matters: survival, experiences of the body, physical health, and the ego or individual self-concept. The upper chakras (5-7) are associated with cognitive and spiritual matters via symbolism, language, and imagination, and the heart chakra at the center mediates between the physical and spiritual, the individual and universal.

Currents of Liberation and Manifestation

Another important concept is the flow between consciousness and matter as energy travels up and down the chakras. Until recent years, the primary focus has been on ascension through the upper chakras, also known as the current of liberation. The goal was thought to be nirvana, enlightenment, total non-attachment and  "freedom" from the limitations of the physical world. Little attention was paid to the current of manifestation, or the downward flow of energy from the upper to the lower chakras.

However, as Anodea Judith suggests, "without the current of manifestation we become aimless and empty -- dreamers flying into vast realms but unable to land, full of ideas but unable to make commitments or completions." We're unable to turn our dreams and ideas into action and creation. And without the current of liberation, we become stuck in routine, going through the motions of daily life, isolated from our dreams, visions, and connection to the universal web of life. Whole-hearted living requires the flow of both currents, and each can be impacted or blocked by trauma, social programming, and oppressive environments.

Unlocking My Path and Passion

I certainly still have much to learn and experience both in my own chakra work and the healing work I do with my clients -- but finding the chakra system has felt like unlocking the door to my future, personally and professionally. All my favorite psychotherapy approaches (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, experiential and somatic therapy, etc.) dovetail seamlessly into chakra work, as do many of the mind + body approaches I'm currently exploring and learning about, like aromatherapy with essential oils, flower essences, and crystal healing. Being at Kripalu recently also made me eager to complete a 200-hour yoga teacher training (which I plan to start in September 2015) followed by Anodea Judith's Chakra Yoga training. (Phew!) Can you tell I'm excited?!

I'm planning a series of posts that will go deeper into each chakra, how it gets wounded and blocked, and how to work toward balance. I also have a vision for leading workshops on the chakras and crafting an eBook focused on practical guidance through the chakras and how to use this framework to live your best life physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

What are you most interested in learning about the chakras? What kind of format would be most helpful and accessible for you?