What everyone needs to know about the root chakra
With the understanding that energy precedes form, illness in the physical body begins with dysfunction in the subtle body. The root chakra is the first energy center of the subtle body to develop, and therefore becomes the foundation for all of the other chakras to build upon.
Forming from conception through age 7, imbalances in the root typically stem from unconscious fears about safety. Eventually, this energy can manifest as physical or mental illness, particularly if there are areas in our lives where we don’t feel safe being authentic. Just as each organ has a function in the physical body, each chakra has a unique purpose in the subtle body — the root is about safety and survival, which is essential to a healthy, thriving life. Therefore we must create stability in the root before we can express ourselves through the other chakras in an aligned and authentic way.
Exploring the root chakra helps many of my clients understand why they are prone to specific health issues. Physical conditions associated with the root usually result from confusion about what is safe and what is not. For example, when someone is complaining of anxiety with no identifiable source, their body is giving them physiologic cues that they are not safe. This is an indication that there is work to be done in the root. I have a lot of clients that are unable to lose weight, but all of their lab tests are normal and their lifestyle choices encourage weight loss. Weight retention can be the bodies way of protecting itself- actually creating a physical barrier between the more vulnerable internal organs and an unsafe world. In both of these cases the body is attempting to protect itself to secure survival.
The immune system is one of the physical body’s best means of protection. So imbalances in the root chakra can also contribute to a dysfunctional immune system. Allergies and autoimmune conditions are physiologic expressions of an immune system that is confused about what is harmful and what is not. Rather than limiting its efforts to attacking foreign invaders, such as bacteria and viruses inside the body, the immune system reacts to the environment- or in the case of autoimmune conditions- the body itself. While all of these health issues can be improved with lifestyle changes, nutrient supplementation and medications, exploring and supporting the root chakra is integral to sustainable healing.
Survival in the first seven years of life requires attachment to our primary caregivers, so healthy root chakra development is supported by caregivers who are responsive to our needs. Growing up in a loving environment helps children to trust their ability to survive in the world and develop secure attachment patterns. However, even the most loving and responsive parents cannot meet every one of their child’s needs all the time. For example, an authentic desire for a toddler may be the preference for apple juice over orange. One morning, the coffee shop is sold out of apple juice so the parent gives them orange juice. When the toddler throws a tantrum amongst a crowd full of people to express their unmet desire, the parent becomes embarrassed and frustrated. During this early phase of life, children are highly sensitive to the feelings and energy of others, so the toddler may feel their parents frustration and respond by suppressing their desire in service of secure attachment. Some version of this has happened to all of us as young children and we learned to compromise our less critical, yet authentic needs or desires to secure attachment and survive. Although these compromises seem unimportant in retrospect, the theme of sacrificing authenticity for attachment is planted in the root chakra. The early compromises we make while the root chakra is forming can reinforce the misunderstanding that it is unsafe to be oneself. As we grow up, it threads into all areas of our lives as we compromise our true desires, feelings, thoughts and expressions to secure love and social acceptance. The misunderstanding that it is not safe to express oneself authentically is the foundation for dis-ease of the physical and subtle bodies.
Energetically, root chakra development runs parallel to the process of growing into one’s own individual body. Babies are just beginning to discover their bodies as separate from their mother’s. It is an energetically fluid time of life where babies and children are highly sensitive to the beliefs, emotions, thoughts and energy of others. Some of us pick up the fears our parents felt during this phase of our development and we create our lives mistaking those fears for our own. As children, we are influenced by social and cultural constructs, family values and expectations and often what we learn is in conflict with what the body authentically wants.
Babies sleep when they want to sleep, eat when they want to eat and eliminate when they need to eliminate. By the time children have entered the education system, they are conditioned to sleep during the night, eat at scheduled meal times, and eliminate when it is acceptable to excuse themselves for the restroom. Childrens’ physiological patterns are molded into those of the collective. As the root chakra develops, we learn to compromise our authentic physiologic needs to gain social acceptance. Ultimately this disconnects us from the natural rhythms and cycles of the body, potentially disrupting menstrual cycles, digestion, sleep patterns, energy levels, and healthy hormone function.
Healing the root chakra is a process of working through fears and learning to trust that it is safe to be who you truly are. It involves (1) exploring unconscious fears about survival; (2) learning that it is safe to be authentic; (3) clearing other people’s beliefs, emotions, and energy out of your field; and (4) trusting yourself and the process of life, even in the presence of fear.
Here are 4 practices to support your root chakra:
Tadasana (mountain pose): Set up your mountain pose barefoot on the grass (if possible). Take your time setting up the pose, focusing on the feel of your feet against the ground. Lift and spread your toes and the balls of your feet, then lay them back down. Rock back and forth on the soles of the feet, finding the point where your weight feels balanced. Then soften the knees but engage the legs creating a strong foundation. Only once the foundation feels solid should you engage the belly, open the chest, relax the shoulder blades and imagine the crown of your head lengthening up toward the sky. Stay in this pose for 3 minutes.
Make a list of your top 3 fears. Spend some time journaling about these fears. Note where they came from and how they impact your life. What would be different in your life if you were not impacted by these fears?
Close your eyes and visualize yourself as a young child under 7 years old. Imagine your current self holding the childhood version of yourself. Silently whisper the following phrases into his/her ear:
You are safe just as you are.
You are loved just as you are.
It is safe to be yourself.
It is safe to trust yourself.
Hold your childhood self closely and then visualize his/her body merging with your current body.
Close your eyes and visualize the roots of a tree extending from the base of your spine into the center of the earth. Imagine all of the energy in your body and your field that is not authentically yours, draining down the roots into the earth. Don’t worry about who the energy belongs to. Simply allow it to drain out of your body. When you feel complete, visualize yourself chopping the roots of the tree off of your body.