The other day, I met a shaman. After a lovely and brief encounter, he told me that he could feel that my root chakra had been burnt up. In general terms, he went on to describe some of the things that might have caused this to happen including a shift in security and stability and major changes in family and home life. He said when one chakra isn’t open, there can be time to focus on the energies of the other chakras. I might be doing things like starting a new business endeavor or be in a period of intense personal growth. He went on for 10 minutes or so and I sat there, feeling a little exposed and loving the attention that my energetic system was getting. (Or maybe just loving the attention.) The things he said were all true to my life though I hadn’t really thought about my life in chakra-terms before. I decided to do a little reading.
I turned to Anodea Judith’s book, Wheels of Life: A User’s Guide to the Chakra System. The book is full of information and techniques for working with the chakras. The bottom line is this: you want all seven of your chakras to be whirling and open so that kundalini (energy) can move from its resting place at the base of the spine through the seven chakras. Muladhara is the first chakra kundalini encounters as it starts its ascent. If that first chakra is a pile of charcoal, then there is a problem. Kundalini has got nowhere to go.
Here’s a list of the 7 chakras and a little bit about what each one does for us:
1. Muladhara chakra, root chakra, is is associated with survival. We need to have security and be out of survival mode for Muladhara to channel the energy through to the chakras of higher consciousness (This makes me think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). The root chakra is the energy center that is earth-oriented and has a downward force. It keeps us grounded and connected to our bodies. It helps us to manifest our ideas and to use our body to bring things into the world. Muladhara is located near the perineum, at the base of the spine and deep in the pelvis.
2. Svadhishthana, the second chakra, is located in the lower abdomen just in front of the spine and behind sex organs. It is associated with fluidity, sexuality and feelings. *Svadhisthana’s element is water- – helpful when muladhara is smouldering.
3. Manipura is located in the solar plexus, between the naval and diaphragm, and is associated with self-esteem, will and personal power.
4. Anahata, the heart chakra, is behind the sternum and it is associated with love and compassion.
5. Vishuddhi, in the throat, is associated with communication and creativity.
6. Ajna , located at the third eye, is associated with intuition and imagination.
7. Sahasrara, located at or just above the crown of the head, is associated with transcendence, knowledge and spirituality.
When a gal has all seven chakras spinning and swirling with healthy functioning, she must be pretty amazing. She would have great self-esteem, healthy relationships, be open to change, creative, loving, powerful and even transcendent. I am going to be that gal, but I’m not feeling all that transcendent at the moment. I’m guessing that this week, I’m operating at 35% chakra power. I’m scatter-brained lately because I’ve been all caught up in my ideas (blog! teaching! dancing!), thoughts (too many to mention) and relationships (new friends, getting dumped). All of these experiences, and the mental activity that goes along with them, relate to the higher chakra centers. In yoga we strive to bring the mind, body and spirit together.* When my activity is heavy on the thinking, I’m much less connected to my body and I’m missing out on the information that I could be getting from physical sensation and emotional cues. I’m also overlooking the pleasure of physically engaging with something.
I tend to enjoy thinking about things. It can be entertaining or distracting, I can do it when I’m all alone and I have these very familiar rabbit runs that my mind likes to revisit again and again. I have also noticed that thinking doesn’t actually require any action. That can be good. Sometimes I need to wonder before I come up with a decision. Too much wondering, though, and I get a little stuck. An open and functioning muladhara chakra helps to keep balance between mind, body and spirit. Muladhara is a “lower” chakra, but lower ain’t lowly. The ability to connect with the body gives us all sorts of insight and the body provides the means to engage with the world. We need our bodies to give meaning to our thoughts (it would be pretty hard to type this without my fingers). I want to do some work to get my yoga-class schedule going. I want to polish up and publish some of these blog posts. I want to do something with some of the things I spend time thinking about. I need to be present in my body and mind to do these things and the spirit helps to give meaning to it all. I need you, sweet Muladhara chakra. Come back to me.
*A simple way to practice the union of breath and body could start with this exercise: Begin to inhale and at the same time, start to move the arms out and overhead. The arms touch overhead at the same time that you finish the inhale. With the initiation of the exhale, the arms start to move down, taking the entire breath to reach the legs. Continue to move the arms with the breath, moving at your own pace and notice how you feel as mind and body work together.