Muladhara, literally meaning “root support,” is our connection to the ground and our energetic chord to the earth. It is located in the base of the spine, associated with the color red and regulates energy related to survival and safety. To be grounded, one has to be rooted and if trauma occurs this root gets compromised.
Experiences of trauma can result in Muladhara imbalance, resulting in chronic fear around basic needs. This can make one feel stuck and sluggish, experiencing an overall disconnection from self, others and nature. Psychologist Erik Erikson’s developmental theory of trust vs. mistrust can be applied as a template to understand this experience. If caregivers do not meet basic needs, mistrust and anxiety may develop which often leads to subsequent avoidance and social withdrawal. A pattern of inconsistent emotional regulation by others fosters difficulty with self-regulation. The ability to self-soothe and feel centered is a challenging skill for those who have not had the experience of being regulated by others. In turn, they may experience a feeling of restlessness, chronic fear or floating.
The theme of the Muladhara is “I live.” If our energetic chord to the ground is disconnected there is chronic worry about survival and uncertainty about the world we live in. When we experience trauma the mind becomes overwhelmed by situations that threaten our well-being and safety. Our bodies may respond automatically with a fight/flight/freeze response as we prepare for the worst with adrenaline pumping and muscular tension. The effects of long term unresolved trauma can leave us cautious, inhibited and fearful. However, there are ways to connect further to our root despite exposure to traumatic situations. By healing this survival energy it allows people to connect back to the earth, to others and to their full vitality. Renowned somatic therapist and author Peter Levine points out that it’s essential to have awareness of this block as we are drawn to re-enact trauma which can sometimes be severe and compulsive.
Even visually reading affirmations such as “I am grounded” or “I’m supported by my loved ones and community” help to remind us of our connection to the larger world.
Tips and Tools for Working with Root Chakra
There are ways to support our rootedness, to get grounded and strengthen our Muladhara. By working with this base chakra we feel the ground beneath us, increasing calm, trust and connection. We can use the senses as a window into facilitating this type of healing work.
Listening to grounding music like deep drumming, low range chanting or binaural beats (an auditory form of EMDR – eye movement desensitization and reprocessing – where two different tones are played in the ears allowing your attention to shift left to right across the body midline) can be helpful to increase a sense of grounding.
Using aromatherapy such as tree scents or wood scents (e.g. sandalwood, fir) can allow deeper connection to the physical world. I created Calm Ground, through my organic essential oil line Daughter Alchemy for this purpose. It contains white cypress leaf, buddha wood, atlas cedar wood, Indian sandalwood and black spruce. I used this product on myself when I was going through a painful divorce. All of the woods and leaves in this formulation are known specifically for their grounding properties.
Walk in nature allowing each step to be felt on the ground. Making contact with the earth and doing a slow walking meditation can be restorative. I also like either squatting or standing yoga poses like mountain or tree pose. In these asanas it is important to connect to the breath and breathe down into the lower part of the abdomen to connect to that chakra source. Yet another way of working with touch is to hold a physical anchor (an object used in PTSD treatment as a visual reminder of safety and being oriented to the present time). Some people are drawn to rocks or crystals as anchors. If you resonate with crystals you may want to try holding black tourmaline or smoky quartz in your hand. Black tourmaline is known to act as a protective shield against negative energy and helps to establish a base or field of energetic protection. Smoky quartz is one of the main base chakra activators. Judy Hall, the author of The Crystal Bible points out that this crystal increases a grounding chord to earth and in doing so allows one to be more engaged and connected in the world. Additionally, warm bath soaks can be grounding as they bring awareness to the ways we are supported and held up by the element of water.
Eating foods like root vegetables (sweet potatoes, parsnips) are stabilizing because they grow underground. When cooked and ingested they can have a warming effect on the body to help stabilize emotions and decrease feeling “scattered.” Tea is another great grounding tool especially on chilly mornings; it simultaneously soothes the belly while adding in the touch of the warm mug coupled with the smell and taste of the tea (I like a chai or green tea).
Going out into nature and looking at rocks, trees with wide, thick roots and massive mountains helps us to feel rooted in ourselves. Even visually reading affirmations such as “I am grounded” or “I’m supported by my loved ones and community” help to remind us of our connection to the larger world. In EMDR we use a technique called Resource Development and Installation (RDI) which includes visualizing a safe space to help increase stabilization and decrease feelings of overwhelm.
Susan Pease Banitt, author of The Trauma Tool Kit, reminds us that the chakras or “wheels” spin off energy into nadis, channels that allow the life force to flow through the body. Since the Muladhara governs the adrenals (and is the base of the chakra system) it is important to make sure the root of our system is harnessed to the ground that we walk upon or fatigue plus emotional distress may result. I like to visualize an energy path flowing up and down the spine moving up from the ground like a water well running energy through me. The practice of working with Muladhara is a good reminder that we are not alone and that we are capable of receiving support from outside of ourselves.
Dr. Janeen Locker is a licensed clinical psychologist with over 25 years of experience providing new skills and empowering strategies to adolescents and adults through psychotherapy. In 2018, she created Daughter Alchemy; organic, hand blended essential oils intended as additional coping tools to improve well-being and resilience through plants.