woman practicing prayer or meditation, exploring the Chakras, energy anatomy

Stand Your Ground: Yoga’s Muladhara Chakra

Beth Gibbs, MA, E-YRT 500, C-IAYT
Updated: 
May 04, 2021

In part 1 of my series on the chakras, The Chakras: Guides on the Path, I offered an overview of how to view the chakras as guides on the path through life. This post will cover muladhara, the root chakra, and offer accessible practices for body, breath/energy, and mind.
 
The word muladhara is loosely translated as “base of support.” Its location in the body is described in various ways: 

  • Between the perineum and the pelvic bone

  • Between the genitals and the anus

  • Coccygeal plexus beneath the sacrum

  • The base of the coccyx (tailbone)

This suggests that the location is where our base of support can be sensed or felt. The energy of this chakra is related to the qualities of safety, security, survival, and the earth element. It is generally associated with the eliminatory system, bones, legs, feet, coccyx, and adrenal glands. An example of language that sharpens this association is the phrase “stand your ground.”
 
Finding ways to stand your ground in safety, security, and survival in these troubled times is a challenge, whether due to race, religion, ability, gender identification, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, body image, etc. Feeling disconnected, stressed, and fearful can be an indication of the need to restore a sense of safety and security necessary for standing your ground. 

Rooted and Stable

This points to a connection with the adrenal glands, which mediate our stress response. When we work with the energy of this chakra, our goal is to remain strong within our own process while interacting appropriately with others and our environment.
 
Feeling comfortable and at home in our own skin can be an indication that this energy is balanced. However, the additional stress many of us deal with these days often manifests as physical and psychological issues that challenge our ability to keep this energy in balance, including: 

  • Chronic lower back pain

  • Anxiety

  • Sciatica

  • Lethargy

  • Hemorrhoids

  • Constipation

I’ve had personal experience with both constipation and hemorrhoids. I’ve used my growing self-awareness to notice that these conditions occur most often when I’m dealing with financial insecurity, difficult relationships, and money or car problems. My yoga practice is always there to help me through.

How to Practice Yoga for the Muladhara Chakra 

Here are three of my favorite practices for the muladhara chakra. See if they help you feel more safe, secure, and connected to your internal strength and wholeness. Although the focus is on muladhara chakra, all the others are affected because everything is connected (I like rhyming words).
 
1. Physical Practice: Warrior I Pose (Virabhadrasana I) 

How to practice yoga for the muladhara chakra in Warrior I Pose (Virabhadrasana I)
 
In Yoga Teachers’ Toolbox, Joseph LePage recommends standing poses, such as Mountain Pose (Tadasana), Goddess Pose (Utkata Konasana), and Warrior I and II. 
 
Warrior I is my asana of choice because I am able to keep my pelvis, spine, and head in a more comfortable alignment. I practice with my hands on my hips to impart a deeper sense of resilience, strength, and grounding. Start with a 30-second hold and work up to 2 to 3 minutes per side.
 

  1. Begin by standing in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) at one end of a yoga mat with most of the mat extending back behind you. Feel how your feet connect with the floor. Do you feel even weight across the feet—from right to left, from inside to outside, from the balls of the feet to the heels?

  2. Assess your energy: What are you bringing to the pose? Do you feel heavy or light in the body? Do you feel an upward or downward flow of energy? Is your energy agitated or calm?

  3. Step your right leg straight back about a leg length (three feet or so), so that your feet are hip-width apart from left to right. If you have sacroiliac (SI) or hip joint issues, you might want to step your right foot forward a bit, so that your stance is not so long.

  4. Make sure your right foot is facing mostly forward so that your toes are only slightly angled to the right. It’s okay if your right heel doesn’t reach the floor—let it lift, but keep the right knee straight and extend strongly back through the leg.

  5. Now let your kidneys soften back into the low back so that the bottom ribs move back and your low back expands. As your lumbar area releases back, extend your right heel down a bit more.

  6. Do not try to square your hips. In Warrior I, your front leg is in flexion and your back leg is in extension. The pelvis is not meant to be square in this situation. Squaring the pelvis when one leg is flexed and the other is extended can cause sacroiliac problems down the road.

  7. With your hands on your hips, press down into your hip bones, encouraging your legs to feed down, into your feet. Root strongly through your feet as you reach your arms up toward the sky, taking care not to jut your lower ribs forward as you raise your arms.

  8. Bend your left knee, keeping the knee aligned over the lower leg so that it doesn’t roll either in or out. Keep bending your knee until it is directly over your heel.

  9. Make your lower body—from your pelvis to your feet—very heavy and grounded, and from that grounding, let the upper body—from the waist up to the fingertips—rise up and reach for the sky. Breathe deeply, and hold the pose for about 30 seconds. Then press the feet into the floor to straighten the left knee.

  10. Step your right leg forward and return to Mountain Pose. As you stand, note what has changed in your body as a result of practicing the pose. Then repeat the process on the other side.

2. Energy Practice: Adi Mudra

The benefits of practicing adhi mudra, an energy practice, to find stability and grounding in the base of the body

The Sanskrit word adi means “primordial” and refers to our natural state of being. The mudra is said to bring breath and energy to the base of the body, help with anxiety, and instill a deep sense of grounding and stillness. 

  1. Sit with your spine comfortably aligned. 

  2. Soften your chest and shoulders.

  3. Close your eyes or keep them slightly open and gaze down at the floor. 

  4. With both hands, form soft fists by placing your thumbs across your palms and folding your fingers around your thumbs.

  5. Rest your hands, knuckles down, on your knees or thighs.

  6. Hold the mudra and sit quietly for 2 to 5 minutes, as long as you are comfortable.

  7. Focus on your natural breathing process. 

  8. When you are ready to come out, release the mudra and stretch your body in any way that your body needs to stretch.

In Mudras for Healing and Transformation, LePage, states that Adi mudra should be practiced with caution if you have low blood pressure. I have low blood pressure but am able to practice Adi mudra regularly with no problems. 
 
3. Mental Practice: Roots Visualization

Yoga student practices mental practice of roots visualization to stay grounded when in stressful situations

I learned this years ago from a yoga buddy. I use it to stand my ground in stressful situations. I also practice it when I’m feeling spacey and ungrounded.
 
If appropriate, take off your shoes, connect your bare feet to the ground, and close your eyes. 

  1. If you find yourself in a place or time where you cannot take off your shoes or close your eyes, direct your attention to your legs and feet to sense deeper into the earth underneath you. 

  2. Begin to visualize roots growing from your body, starting from the base of the spine. Feel roots reaching down through your legs through the bottoms of your feet to pierce through the Earth’s crust. 

  3. Visualize your roots branching and spreading, growing stronger, and reaching deeper into the earth. Sense the strength, support, and stability that your branching roots send back to fill your entire body.

  4. With each inhalation, begin to draw in strength, support, and stability and allow that feeling to deepen your connection to the physical world and your place in it. 

  5. Draw these qualities through the bones of your feet and legs to the base of your spine and all the way up to the crown of your head. Feel your entire body safe, secure, stable, and connected to the physical world, allowing you to stand your ground and speak your truth.

  6. As you do this you may feel some tingling or pulsing in your feet and legs. That’s a good thing because energy flows where intention goes. You can shorten or lengthen the visualization as needed. When you attune yourself physically, energetically, and mentally to your needs in the moment, you can stand your ground assertively, appropriately, and confidently.

You can do these three practices separately or together. I find myself smiling when I do.

 

Jana Long, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500, Executive Director of the Black Yoga Teachers Alliance, YogaU Online presenter


 
Reprinted with permission from Yoga for Healthy Aging.blogspot.com
 

Beth Gibbs, MA, E-RYT 500, Yoga therapist, writer, YFHA

Beth Gibbs, MA, is a certified yoga therapist through the International Association of Yoga Therapists and a faculty member at the Kripalu School of Integrative Yoga Therapy. She holds a masters’ degree in Yoga Therapy and Mind/Body Health from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. She is the author of Enlighten Up! Finding Clarity, Contentment and Resilience in a Complicated World and Ogi Bogi, The Elephant Yogi, a therapeutic yoga book for children. Beth is an experienced workshop leader and public speaker. She blogs at bethgibbs.com