The Root: Muladhara

The root chakra – also called the first chakra, base chakra, or Muladhara (Sanskrit) – is related to physical survival. This chakra “governs” most of the lower half of the body, being therefore integral to feeling “grounded.” When this chakra is in balance, one feels rooted – stable, secure and connected to the universe, comfortable in one’s body, with the ability to be still and present. When it is not in balance, one feels unstable; it is interesting to note the words and phrases we use to describe these feelings are in fact the opposite of grounded: “flighty,” “flying off the handle,” “spacey,” “feet not on the ground,” “up in the clouds.” Forgetfulness and disorganization, anxiety, are all related to blockages in the root chakra – or what some call an “underactive” or “closed” Muladhara. (I quote these because I am not yet sure what this actually is supposed to mean, yet it does seem to be useful to distinguish between deficiencies and excesses in feeling grounded.) Excessive grounded-ness, therefore, can be understood as the absence of lightness, of easiness: it manifests as being rigid, stubborn or inflexible, easily angered or irritated (reactive), belligerent, greedy and controlling. Again, think of our expressions – and the people to whom we direct them: “lighten up,” “loosen up,” “let go,” “keep your chin up,” and of course – there’s no accident here, as this energy center is understood as being located in the perineum – “take that stick out of your ass.”

Because it is related to physical survival (and accompanying fear around survival), the empowerment issues of the root chakra are around the right to existence – the right to be, and the right to be here. This is, in the modern world, extended to the right to have. Root chakra problems arise from experiences of survival issues: poverty, abuse, threats to safety and health, and financial struggles. When these basic (base, root) issues are threatened, so is the experience of stability, connectedness and security. (Issues with both food and money, whether over-controlling or overindulgent or vacillating between the two, are related to an imbalanced Muladhara.)

While a sociological perspective on the root chakra would recognize the structural relationship between, for example, growing up poor and struggling with financial issues later in life, looking at the chakras this way (from what I would argue is a social-psychological perspective) allows us to also understand the individual’s relationship with trauma and how it impacts her life. More importantly, it provides a path for action, or agency: I can do something. I can heal, I can improve, I can right my own ship, so to speak. Judith’s understanding of the chakras recognizes the impact of experience on our psyche, and the impact of the psyche with the experience of, and in, the body – which is precisely the point of a holistic or energetic approach to wellness.

Diagnostically, this is useful in multiple directions: if you struggle with anxiety, for example, thinking about the relationship for your anxiety to issues – past or present – of physical survival of course makes sense. Tackling them by increasing the energy flow in the bottom half of your body – the half that carries you – also makes sense. If you understand your life through physical symptoms rather than emotional or psychological experiences (which many Westerners do) then you might look at the physical symptoms associated with the Muladhara (the perineum) and ask yourself how safe and secure you are really feeling, regarding issues of physical survival: your health, your home, your finances. Physical symptoms of root chakra problems include, as you might guess, hemorrhoids, leg, knee and foot problems, constipation and lower bowel issues, and hemorrhoids. If there is anything to chakra philosophy, this would mean that people dealing with health problems related to the root chakra are also dealing with emotional or psychological base chakra problems, all of which, in turn, are related to their understanding of, or relationship with, their rights to exist and to have.

The base chakra, as its name suggests, and consistent with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, is the starting point. Problems with the root chakra make it extremely difficult to live in energetic (and therefore physical, psychological and emotional) balance. Working on other chakras when you have problems with your root chakra will not be effective for long, and it can worsen matters: by increasing the energetic flow in the top half of your body without being grounded, the symptoms of being ungrounded worsen. These can include feeling dizzy, light-headed, giddy, or even nauseated from the