Think of the chakras as the human operating system. It is ancient, colorful, and intelligent software designed to maintain alignment and balance of physical, emotional, and spiritual energy. There are seven major chakras - root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye, and crown. In theory, the system develops in order, ascending from the root chakra at the pelvic floor. The Root Chakra is associated with feelings of safety, security, and adequate nutrition.
Our chakras mature before we reach the age of consent - this means that third parties write most chakra code. Abusive, neglectful, or emotionally unstable parenting writes the first line of code in the human operating system -"you can not trust the world to provide or behave reliably."
With a background in Cognitive Psychology, I am also familiar with other, less comprehensive models set forth by kingpins of modern psychology. Erikson's Model for Psychosocial Development, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Ainsworth's Attachment Theory, and Jungian archetypes all mirror aspects of the chakra system.
Maslow's pyramid ascends from the foundation of "physiological needs," which are the human need for shelter, clean water, a reliable food source, and at least one consistent caregiver with a stable temperament. Erikson's model for psychosocial development begins in the first year of life marked by the dichotomy of "trust vs. mistrust." If caregivers are unreliable in any way, this stage resolves on the side of mistrust.
A mistrustful child lives with a looming sense of doubt. Doubt fosters hypervigilance— a constant anxiety that overworks the adrenal system and erodes body energetics. Maslow's, Erikson's, and the chakra model all purport that an underlying preoccupation with physical safety will prevent healthy emotional growth.
The chakra system stands out, however, as the only paradigm that ties emotional development to the physical body, leaving space for the soul. Modern approaches do not account for all three components of self. The mind, body, and soul are inextricably intertwined; the health of each third predicated on the fitness of the other two. Therefore, to me, it makes little sense to treat the mind and ignore the body and soul.
The chakra system infuses the aspects of mind and soul while remaining grounded in anatomy. Each chakra corresponds with one of the significant ganglia (plexus) as well as a major endocrine gland. Ganglia are bundles of nerves that relay intricate sensory information to the brain. The brain process this information, and the endocrine system is the hormonal reaction to sensory feedback. The root chakra corresponds with the coccygeal plexus and the gonad glands (male & female).
To better illustrate the connection of the mind, body, and soul - imagine stepping in an elevator to travel from the fiftieth floor to the first. When the lift disengages, most will experience a "stomach drop." This sensation is an evolutionary hangover. Without a conscious thought, the momentary sensation of falling sends a message of danger to the sympathetic nervous system, which engages fight or flight mode.
Upon engagement - this mode redirects blood flow to the limbs, away from the gut, and releases a shot of adrenaline. The feeling of "butterflies" is a shortage of blood flow and oxygen to gut organs. Digestion slows the pelvic floor tenses, and a massive dose of glucose releases from the liver. Those with blocked or deficient root chakra tend to experience this drop several times a day, without the elevator. This, almost primordial, way of being will hijack the nervous system each time a trigger presents.
While there is good reason for this reaction, each engagement is taxing on the physical body. Digestion becomes impaired due to inconsistent blood flow. The glucose spikes elevate cortisol in turn reducing the effectiveness of insulin. Constant tensing of the pelvic floor will, over time, change the shape of the body. The pelvis will freeze in a tucked position, which alters the foundation of the spine. In turn, this creates postural inequities. With tailbone structure, much like the submissive posture of dogs - the shoulders hunch forward in an attempt to compensate for misalignment of the spine and to protect the soft belly from would-be predators. This is where I come in.
Now, imagine stepping into the same elevator. This time, you are aware of the stomach drop. To prepare your nervous system for the experience, you focus on the fact that you will return to the earth safely. A mindful approach and staying present to triggers can rewrite chakra code, replacing biologic reaction with intelligent response.
A yoga practice can replicate stressful situations that trigger flight or fight. When the body approaches thresholds to flexibility, the nervous system can (inaccurately) evaluate stretching sensation as a threat to physical wellbeing and initiate fight or flight. The challenge of yoga is to remain present in the driver's seat. Over time, the practice will correct posture, soothe misaligned joints, and engender chakral rehabilitation.
"Chakra Rehab," like substance abuse programs, will ask each student to dissect the mechanisms of personal behaviors that feel impossible to change. I instruct asana (physical yoga) that create specific sensation and ask students to remain present to the bodily experience. By tuning in to somatic sensations that give reliable feedback - "you are safe," it is possible to rewrite the root chakra code and effect real personal growth.
Root Work is foundational to chakral healing and the first of seven classes comprising the Chakra Rehab Series. Each of the sections will broadcast via Zoom, and students may attend live or opt to download the recorded series after the fact.
The mantra for the root chakra is "I have the right to exist." Join me in clearing out anything that's got you feeling unwanted, unworthy, or disjointed from your foundation. Steady your roots and renew your inalienable right to exist.
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