The Root Chakra: 6 Practical Steps To Unleash This Primal Energy Center
Even the tallest tree closest to the sky requires a sturdy foundation in the ground.
Redwoods are the tallest trees on the planet. They grow up to 400 foot in height, and their roots stretch deep into the soil, reaching 50 feet in length in many different directions. Trees are a fitting symbol for human development, and the need for growth towards spiritual, transcendent qualities to be grounded in the Earthly.
Without roots, it’s easy to become lost, floating like a leaf in the wind. Like redwoods that grow towards the sky but remain resolute and firmly in place, energetic roots keep you grounded through the path of spiritual growth.
The seven main chakras in the system — the psychic energy centres running through the body — place strong emphasis on the importance of the root chakra, and how the root chakra creates a foundation upon which you can build.
In this article, we’ll explore why ancient traditions placed so much value on the root chakra. We’ll explain the signs of a blocked root chakra and the benefits of alignment for your life energy. We’ll also offer actionable tips on unblocking this chakra and encourage root chakra development for a greater grounding and connection to the Earth.
What is the Root Chakra?
In the traditional seven chakras, energy centers are divided into “lower” chakras and “higher” chakras. The root chakra is known as the Muladhara in Sanskrit: “mula” translates to root, and “adhara” means support or base.
This gives insight into its location as the lowest chakra, at the base of the spine, with the legs acting as roots, connecting the spine to the Earth.
Lower and higher aren’t judgements, but refer to the metaphorical “lower” Earthly and the “higher” Divine. One of the truths of spiritual growth is that humanness has to be embraced and accepted. Each of us is imperfect, flawed, made of flesh, and in-tune with nature’s cycles of birth and death. At the same time, each of us is inherently divine
This duality of Earthly and Divine is referred to by some as the “subtle body” – how we are neither solely physical or spiritual, but somehow both. The Bhagavad Gita describes the subtle body as a combination of the mind, the intellect and the ego, an essence that controls the physical body.
Wholeness and balance
The process of self-realisation and spiritual growth is to achieve a state of wholeness and balance between these two opposites. The root chakra is the foundation of all growth, the first chakra. Just like how even a 400-foot tree has to begin with edging just above the soul, one millimetre at a time. In the same way, developing spiritual qualities begins with a strong foundation and roots in the Earthly.
For all higher chakras to flow, the root chakra has to be open and balanced. A Kundalini awakening, for example, starts at the base of the spine. Symbolized by a coiled serpent, kundalini yoga teaches practices to move this potent life force up the body, through each of the chakras, before meeting the crown chakra at the top of the head. This bridge is where self-realization or enlightenment occurs.
Signs of a Root Chakra imbalance or block
Because it’s the foundation of development, the root chakra is closely aligned with feelings of security and safety. In comparing the system of chakras with Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, author Anodea Judith links the root chakra to physiological needs. These are necessary biological requirements for survival, such as food, drink, shelter, and clothing.
It stands to reason that one of the main symptoms of a blockage within your root chakra energy are feelings of unsafety. This can manifest in a number of different ways, although the most common is anxiety or panic attacks.
When I think back to when I had a panic disorder, it was caused by a general feeling of unsafety, in my environment, and in my body.
Root chakra development
The root chakra is the earliest to develop. Traditional chakra systems estimate its development to take place in the womb and during the first 12 months of life. As a result, early experiences of trauma are significant causes in a blocked root chakra. Chakra expert Judith highlights fear as the “demon” of the root chakra, and a sure sign of things being off-balance.
According to Judith, signs of a deficient root chakra include scatteredness, feeling “spacey” or ungrounded. Equally, an excessive root chakra leads to heaviness in the body, sluggishness, and attachment to security. Other signs you may need some root chakra healing include:
- Lethargy or depression
- Feelings of disconnect (or feeling spaced out) and isolation
- Difficulty taking action
- General aches and pains in the body
- Money issues
- Undereating or overeating
- Low self-esteem
Fortunately, the yin and yang of human nature mean that for every sign of misalignment, there’s a sign of alignment, or something to move towards. If you’re concerned about any of the signs listed above, rest assured unblocking the root chakra is possible and finding ways to balance your root chakra will lead to a great many benefits.
The benefits of a balanced Root Chakra
Balancing the root chakra can create a domino effect of positivity. It gives a strong base in which the higher chakras can evolve, and a clear channel for life force energy to run through the entire system, leading to overall growth and harmony. Anyone committed to their personal development would benefit from considering whether their root chakra is blocked as a starting point.
When the root chakra is balanced, there is a great sense of safety and security. Keep in mind, this is a process of inner work. While your external environment can mirror this process, working to heal and unblock the root chakra leads to feelings of safety and security that arise from within.
You can think of this as the reverse of a panic attack: anxiety can arise even when completely safe physically. Equally, it’s possible to feel safe and secure, even if external circumstances are uncertain.
Unleashing a primal force
The biggest benefit of feelings of safety is that it makes you more likely to embrace risk and have the courage to follow your dreams. Judith points to this by acknowledging attachment to security as a sign of an excessive root chakra. Once in balance, decisions can be made from a place of security. Yes, fear might surface, but it will be soothed by a sense of inner safety.
Moving towards what we want in life is also powered by energy and action. When the root chakra is blocked, it’s hard to find the impetus to take the required steps needed. Unblocking the root chakra, and unleashing this primal life force, gives vitality and excitement to life, allowing you to join “the flow” of the universe, and move towards goals with greater ease, and higher self-esteem.
How to unblock the chakra system
If you’re enthralled by spiritual work, it can be easy to overlook the need for grounding. Hopefully, by now you see the value in balancing the root chakra and building a steady foundation for the so-called higher states of consciousness to emerge.
Now you’re ready to unleash the catalyzing effect of the Muladhara, here are 6 steps that will help unblock the root chakra:
1. Begin a healing process
Childhood trauma is associated with the root chakra. That means there could be some challenging, but ultimately reward steps that have to be taken. Everyone heals in their own unique way, at their own pace, in their own time. And healing comes in many forms — you may decide to opt for talking therapy, practice forgiveness or letting go towards the past, or even take the courageous first step of acknowledging feelings of insecurity or unsafety.
Because this trauma can be from a young age, when it surfaces, initially it can feel extremely unsettling. Part of the process is re-experiencing feelings of unsafety, to heal towards feelings of greater safety. Different practices, from breathwork to meditation and bodywork, all support this path. And always keep in mind you don’t have to do it alone.
2. Reflect on feelings of safety
It’s almost impossible to write about safety and security without bringing up the practices of faith and surrender. It’s difficult to feel fully safe and secure without having faith, especially when it comes to life’s uncertainties.
No one can guarantee a lifetime of material safety. No one can guarantee you’ll be safe when embarking on solo travel or when starting a business. Yet humanity’s greatest trait is the will to adventure, even when things are uncertain.
An extension of the healing process is exploring your relationship to faith in something bigger than you. Call it God. Call it the Universe. Call it consciousness. It doesn’t matter. But what is important is that you begin to cultivate a sense of being guided or supported, in an invisible way. By that I mean away from physical symbols of safety, such as money in a bank account, a roof over your head, or a particular person who cares for you.
All of those things are great! It’s not that you want to overlook them or take them for granted. But faith says: no matter what I do, I trust everything will be okay. After working on this for a while, when those symbols are no longer present, fear won’t be activated in the same way, leading to greater resourcefulness and balance.
3. Connect to the Earth
One of the surest ways to ground yourself is to connect directly to the Earth. That includes spending time in nature, away from the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day, away from social media, your email, your mobile phone.
Returning to the simplicity, stillness, and resilience of nature is healing in itself. As part of the process, you might want to walk barefoot or swim in a lake — anything that allows you to make direct contact with nature itself.
One thing I’ve found on my path is that the more you connect to the Earthly, the more you realize the Earthly is divine. Ultimately, non-dual teachings such as Hinduism point to this truth, that everything is consciousness, and there’s no true separation. But, it could be that there has to be a spell of feeling these two as separate, before being able to integrate both qualities in a deeper way.
4. Start a meditation practice
After all this talk of transcendence vs. groundedness, is there space for meditation? The answer is a resounding yes. But there is a word of warning. Meditation can easily become a form of escapism. I know, because I’ve been there myself. It’s tempting to see the practice as a way of shutting out the world and forgetting about the day-to-day, which leads to a form of spiritual bypassing or denial.
Meditation, though, is incredibly grounding when done with the right intention. It allows you to connect to a feeling of inner safety. That alone is transformative, because as Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote: wherever you go, there you are.
When meditation is seen as a practice to apply to the world, it allows you to feel more secure and safe when interacting with the world, because wherever you go, the qualities you cultivate go with you.
5. Work with the physical body
I like to remind myself I don’t “have” or “own” a body, I’m in a relationship with one. This probably sounds odd, but it’s my way of reminding myself that from the moment I was born, until the moment I die, the only consistent home I have is my body. Where I go, there my body is. Until it isn’t. Who knows where “I” will go then. But for this journey on Earth, I’m in a relationship with my body. So I’d like to treat it well.
Working with the body means feeling into its intelligence. It means exercising healthily (by not being too excessive or too inactive). It means eating well and providing the body with nourishment, whilst allowing flexibility for foods that provide comfort.
It means learning the language of the body, knowing what it feels like to suppress sadness, or know which muscles contract when you’re angry, or knowing when your body communicates that you’re making a decision from fear, not faith.
I’m a big believer that the body contains a wealth of intelligence. The chakras and systems such as Human Design view the body in this way, too. And as the bridge between the spiritual and the Earthly, the body is the vessel of consciousness and the roots into the Earth, simultaneously.
6. Practice humility
Many Buddhist teachings counterbalance delusions of grandeur with reminders of the inevitability of death and decay. It’s sobering to remember that, no matter how lofty our goals or desire for spiritual attainment, our bodies and form will follow the path of aging.
In a similar vein, Abraham Maslow captured a peculiar trait of humankind with the following quote:
“We fear our highest possibilities. We are generally afraid to become that which we can glimpse in our most perfect moments, under conditions of great courage. We enjoy and even thrill to godlike possibilities we see in ourselves in such peak moments. And yet we simultaneously shiver with weakness, awe, and fear before these very same possibilities.”
I connect these two seemingly disconnected points because they’re joined by the thread of humility. Each of us is far greater than we can possibly imagine. At the same time, each of us is far less significant than our egos would allow us to believe. This is a paradox that has to be reconciled on the path of growth. And one option is to embrace greatness with humility, not fear.
Humility is allowing yourself to be moved by the mystery of life, to revere nature, to look at mountains or skylines with awe, to put your problems in perspective, and to surrender to the “greater than” whilst believing in your own greatness.
Unlike redwood, humans don’t have a ceiling of growth, because personal growth is beyond the material. But roots are always necessary.
Root chakra: parting thoughts
One of the most uplifting and inspiring experiences is to feel your unlimited potential, and the natural pull towards the stars. Transcendent states and experiences are beautiful, and they have a place in the stages of development.
But spiritual growth isn’t about getting from point A to point B. It’s not about getting beyond humanness or working your way up a ladder of value.
Spiritual growth is about accepting and integrating opposites. That includes the light and the dark. The spiritual and the Earthly. The divine and the human. The chakra system offers a profound gift in mapping human development and displaying this need for balance.
Don’t be hard on yourself if you go through a period of minimizing the Earthly and wanting to escape. I’ve been there, and it’s sometimes necessary to “ground” into awareness before returning to the Earthly with a fresh perspective.
But as you do the work to transcend trauma, to grow towards your spiritual potential, to realize the eternal and infinite nature of who you are, keep in mind, if a 400-foot redwood needs roots… Well, you and I probably do, too.