A few weeks ago I introduced a series on Chakras and bicycle maintenance. Chakras, like a physical yoga practice, can be thought of as a set of tools to explore the connections between our bodies, minds and spirits. There are seven major Chakras along the spine. The first major chakra to develop in the body is the root chakra, or in Sanskrit the muladhara. It is located at the Perineum, at the base of the spine.
Each chakra is associated with different symbols and correspondences. This partial list from Anodea Judith’s “Wheels of Life” are traits that resonate most with my experiences of the root chakra:
- Element: Earth
- Function: Survival, Grounding
- Inner State: Stillness, security, stability
- Rights: To Be Here, To Have
- Demon: Fear
- Color: Red
- Seed Sound: Lam
As the first chakra, it provides the foundation for all other chakras, and it is related to the most necessary elements of our lives, hence it is the place of our roots. The element earth connects us to all things grounded and tangible. The root chakra connects our physical body to the earth. Physiologically the sciatic nerve, which rests in the sacral plexus, extends down the legs and feet much like a tree’s root system. This chakra also relates to our physical needs like food and a sense of stability in our lives. Judith explains the importance of grounding the first chakra:
Our ground anchors the very roots for which the chakra is named. Through our roots we gain nourishment, power, stability and growth. Without this connection we are separated from nature, separated from our biological source. Cut off from our source, we lose our path…In today’s urban world, there are few people who are naturally grounded. Our language and cultural values reflect the superiority of the high at the expense of the low…Our natural bodily processes such as waste elimination, sexuality, birth, breast feeding, or nudity are considered dirty, to be done only in private and often with much guilt…By losing touch with our ground we have lost the sense of our intricate connection with life.. We become ruled by a part instead of the whole–and furthermore, a part that is fragmented, isolated and out of touch. Ignoring our ground, it is no wonder that we have a health care crisis and ecological destruction.
Finding our roots is more than just a personal task (not to discount the work or significance of the personal), it is a political task. It is a task of looking around us, at the real tangible world and understanding that trees are getting cut down for junk mail and plastic is taking over the ocean and that at some point, there will be no more ground to plant our roots in. It is a task of realizing that there are far too many refugees, homeless and incarcerated peoples who have no home, foundation or grounding at the expense of a few who have beyond what they could ever need.
There is no doubt that we live in a culture that needs transformation. This must be deep churning evolution that begins with new roots. One that values the planet and the body. One that must celebrate instead of destroy. And to take on this task, you must pull yourself out of your head and rest in your body, at the base of your spine, supported by dirt.
This all brings me to the right to be here. Your body is your access point to experiencing and understanding the world around you. You have the right to be here, to take up space on this earth and nest in your home. It makes sense to care and nurture your own body.
Cycling, for me, has been a really great way to find a sense of grounding on a physical level because I am actively using my legs and am outside. I am more aware of the quality of rain, the flowers in bloom and the phase of the moon. It also balances the chakra by not letting me get so grounded that I am stuck and lazy. Riding in traffic activates my right to be on the road and my right to take up space. It offers a way for me to challenge car culture and do something that feels good for my body. While cycling alone will not be enough to transform a lifeless culture that values consumption of stupid plastic things over sea creatures of the deep, it is a place to begin and we will grow from there.