March 29-April 16, 2018
I hesitated for a long time writing about the chakras (energy centers, literally “wheel” in Sanskrit, pronounced “chuhkras” not “shakras” which I think is a new-age pronunciation). The topic seems so contrived, but the root chakra was the focus of the month in February and even now that we have added focus on the 2nd and 3rd chakras, the root is still getting a lot of focus. It is the ROOT after all! (In Sanskrit it’s called “muladhara” meaning “root support” or “holding the root,” and it is located at the pelvic floor, between the anus and genitals.)
Angela Farmer and Victor Van Kooten, my main teachers who I have spoken of and referenced many times, are all about the root chakra. That’s one of the main foci of their yoga exploration and teaching. I have heard them speak of it a lot… and I never recall them saying anything about the other chakras. There may be some good sense in this since, as they teach, it’s possible to move the body and initiate many (all?) poses FROM purposeful movement or shifting of the root chakra. If you change the base, everything that is above it will change, too. (That’s a take-away lesson from the inner world and encouragement for all the grassroots activists out there.)
The root chakra is about stability and security, things that many people in our society find elusive or in some cases completely absent. Even if we have some apparent worldly security, the majority of people in this country are one bad illness or injury away from homelessness. Even if we appear to have some degree of mental and emotional stability, we all know personally the storm that lies inside. I also imagine that everyone knows someone who seemed so together who killed themself suddenly and unexpectedly. Even if we appear to be stable in our committed relationship and family life, there are many people we can reference who will speak to the fragility of life or to the transience of beliefs in and commitment to another person. This entire world is constantly changing; everything, everyone is dying all the time. NOTHING lasts. So maybe working “exclusively” on/from the root makes some sense.
Without a doubt we need security and stability in order to grow, but in our attempts to create some degree of stability and security this temporary and ephemeral world, all we can really create is a temporary semblance of it. However, if we cling too tightly in our attempt at security, we will either strangle the security, the other, or ourself. If we fall back on some fundamentalist formula, even if it’s “yogic”, all we have created is a prison, for ourself if not for others as well. In the body, this could be show up as being a tight ass, literally and metaphorically; maybe sounds funny but it’s true. We’ve got to find another way.
Another reason for a good bit of focus on the root (and sacral and navel chakras, too) is that many people drawn to real Yoga practice, not just asana practice, are spiritually inclined. As such, the chakras from the heart and up are where we naturally gravitate and what we generally find most easy to access and be present to. This leaves the “worldly” chakras from the navel down relegated to the “basement” of our consciousness, to the unconscious or subconscious, where they are potentially available but are more easily avoided and therefore generally ignored unless we are forced to face them. For some, this avoidance of the root chakra specifically can be so extreme as to manifest as, for example, difficulty staying employed for long or paying the rent or finishing anything or committing to things or to letting go on any level or staying grounded in any way.
Certainly there are yoga poses that specifically address or target the root chakra (standing or balancing poses and just about anything involving the legs, hips and pelvis in particular are good), and that is how most “chakra yoga” is led, and it is, of course, fine and workable to do it that way. Angela and Victor and myself, however, prefer a more direct approach to the root chakra, working with visualizations and getting it purposely mobilized and active using the mind. I personally do this, as I’ve been guiding in class, by visualizing it either as a compact disc, which is good when aligning it in the horizontal plane and when having it spin (like a CD), or as a four-petaled lotus flower. In this case, I go with the petals being in the front, back, right and left, and I personally prefer to have it downward-facing, but it can certainly be upward-facing if one prefers. The lotus visual is helpful when wanting the pelvic floor to be energized or activated in some way, muscularly or otherwise, for support (big surprise) as well as for safety of the low back.
If just sitting or standing there reading this, you visualize the pelvic floor as a CD and imagine it turning clockwise, if you pay close attention and feel for subtle shifts, even if you think the shifts are imagined, you may feel or notice effects up the rest of the body. If you then spin it counter-clockwise, you may notice that one or the other direction is more challenging than the other or feels easier or more natural. You may also notice effects going up the rest of the body. And if you’re wondering if it’s really energy moving or the energy center moving or if it’s just your mind, I think it doesn’t matter. What matters is what happens when you do it. If your mind can’t move in a particular direction, that’s a mental block, basically the same thing as an energy block. So in doing this exercise/practice, we are either freeing our mind or our energy, both of which are good to do.
Similar to that previous inner-experiment is if you imagine or try to close in all of the petals, and check in with each one of them one at a time. Very likely you will notice that some are more “mobile” or easy to move or easy to access than others. It’s possible that one or more are “stuck” open or closed, or are twisted or truncated or missing even. I’m sure there are other things you may notice. All these things point to a challenge on another level—mental, emotional, or otherwise—that we can then choose to address and move toward healing using both our loving attention and our commitment to not run away.
Joel Kramer, in last week’s reading in class (p.9 at the end of the section on “Habits”), says “One of the remarkable things about yoga is that it generates energy that opens you, while building both he physical and psychological strength (and I would add “energetic and emotional strength” as well) to assimilate change into your life. This gives an entirely different kind of security-the security of knowing that you can respond to whatever challenges life may bring.” If we have some “block” or “imbalance” or “issue” or whatever in the region of the pelvic floor (or if you prefer, in our mind in the region of space associated with the pelvic floor), we may fail to find a real security in our lives and may compulsively try to find or make it in less-than-functional ways. But if we are mindful and loving and sensitive and use the tools of yoga to free the mind/energy, then we can realize a security that is and comes from INSIDE and is thus beyond the changing phenomena of the world. This is then, I think, the REAL and ultimate “root support,” the “different kind of security” that Joel speaks of. It doesn’t come without intention and long-term focus, but it IS completely available to all. That’s one thing we’re working toward in our Yoga practice. Keep going 🙏🏽