Let’s talk the chakras.
First, let’s get grounded in the truth of the matter. The chakra system that has taken hold in the West is probably familiar to you: seven “wheels” of energy aligned along the column of the body (actually, six plus the crown perched atop the head) colored according to the rainbow.
There’s a reason that particular system pushed through the multiple other chakra systems (some far older) that originated in India. Several reasons, but the main one is that it suited the West’s already established symbolism. First, the number seven: the West has long had a love affair with seven. When everyone thought the earth sat at the center of everything, they could only see seven planets–or “wanderers”–in the sky (often depicted in this order: moon, Mercury, Venus, sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn). These paralleled the days of the week. In esoteric tradition, seven is the number blessed by Yahweh above all others (re: the seven days of Creation, dovetailing with all the sevens of Revelations that will eventually undo Creation). The major scale has seven tones–and Newton adjusted the colors of the spectrum to fit the “perfection” of seven (Newton, who admitted that he wasn’t big on parsing colors, originally assigned five, leaving out orange and indigo). All that symbolic emphasis on seven has trickled into more secular realms, and we still see it all over Las Vegas.
So, seven with its spectral division of ROYGBIV, worked for the West, despite the myriad systems that spread across India, systems with five, ten, or even hundreds of chakras, systems assign colors all over the spectrum or leave them white, systems that assign each one a single element and those that let the elements move in and out of all the chakras depending on need. Because this one is most familiar, we’ll stick with it. Symbols get much of their strength from a grounding in the psyche, and the psyche is affected by the egregore of one’s culture. There is no reason not to use the sevenfold rainbow chakras, but let’s approach it while under no illusions that is some ancient and inviolate system.
The Root Chakra. Muladhara translates as “root”. It’s often colored red (as the first color of the visible spectrum, or the one with the longest wavelength). It corresponds to the physical body, abiding in it, a sense of grounding–and because of this, it’s most often associated with the element of earth.
When we’re stressed out, what is a common complaint? “I feel scattered.” A cognate for yoga can be translated as “yoke” or “union”. Our entry-level for connection is with our own bodies. How can we connect with something subtle if we are strangers in our own skin? And even if some of us can bypass connection with the body, the complaint is often lacking a sense of grounding. If we can abide in the here and now of our physical form, we’re all the more closer for settling ourselves into the flow of life.
Typical root-chakra asanas tend to be ones that are supine or prone (low to or on the ground) or focus on the strength of the legs. However, any yoga practice can become a Muladhara-themed one if we continually affirm our connection to the ground–usually though the feet, but the hands too–and explore the way gravity works in the poses. Another tool for connecting our practice with our roots is to chant the seed mantra LAM at the beginning of your practice and then continue chanting internally with every breath cycle as you move through the asanas.
The linked video is a quick Muladhara flow meant to ground us in our bodies. Enjoy!