I had an epiphany the other day about which chakra relates to anxiety while reading this amazing book, The 8 Human Talents by Gurmukh, a renowned kundalini yoga teacher.
Many of us are probably a little too familiar with our friend, anxiety. Almost 20 percent of U.S. adults suffer from a full-blown disorder, not to mention the scores of us plagued by racing thoughts, nerves and tension that don’t qualify us for a label.
And while the stress response has saved us from black bears for centuries, we used to burn those stress hormones off while running from said black bear, helping to reset the nervous system. Unfortunately, there’s no built-in opportunity for physical exertion when anxiety arises from less deadly encounters, like a scary work meeting.
That leaves anxiety and stress chemicals wreaking havoc on our body, increasing the risk of everything from heart disease to cancer, according to MD Anderson Cancer Center.
However, the insight I had — and maybe this is obvious for other people — was that the reasons behind this anxiety are the same. Survival.
The root of anxiety
The most common reasons people feel stress are related to money, job (or school) and relationships. These are all things related to survival. Losing a job is the modern version of a black bear chasing you down. The bear may threaten to eat you alive, but lose a job and you might not be able to put food on the table.
And while today we may not view relationships as necessary for survival, people used to gather into groups not only for social purposes, but also to increase the chances of staying alive.
One root of social anxiety is the feeling that we are not worthy of relationships, leading to fear that we will be ostracized from the group, making it difficult for us to survive.
From an energetic perspective, security issues relate to the first chakra. The Muladhara.
First chakra connects us to Earth
The chakras are wheels of energy located throughout the body. At the most basic level, we have seven located along the center of the body.
The first chakra, also referred to as the root or base, relates to survival and basic life needs: food, clothing, shelter. When we fear not having enough of these items, we feel insecure or unsafe.
And in our culture, where too much is never enough, it’s no wonder anxiety is as rampant as it is. Many people live in fear of time or money shortages. Essentially, we fear there’s not enough basic resources to go around.
Another common source of modern anxiety is feeling that our best is not good enough. This is also about survival; it’s about our fundamental right to exist and ability to gather a portion of available resources. Or receive compensation for our best efforts.
The first chakra relates to our sense of self-worth, our innate value. The shadow concern is: What if I do my best and it’s still not good enough to hold down a job, feed my family and pay for shelter?
When the first chakra is blocked, we doubt our self-worth, and our ability to collect the resources needed to survive.
The first chakra also relates to acceptance and trusting in the Universe. Meanwhile, anxiety is all about living in the future and worrying about things that haven’t happened yet. It’s a shortage of trust that everything will work out for the highest good, and that even if something we perceive as bad happens, everything will work out.
Physically, the first chakra relates to the adrenals, which manufacture the stress hormone cortisol. Adrenaline fuels the stress response and can kill our physical and emotional health when our body releases too much, never taking time to relax.
How to balance the first chakra and reduce anxiety
1. Rub your feet
The feet and legs are physical connected to the first chakra. Take some lotion (preferably free of parabens and other toxic chemicals) or oil — I like coconut — and massage your feet. Spend some time giving yourself love to this area.
I’ve been paying extra attention to my feet after ignoring them for a while because I don’t like the way they look. I’ve found this practice makes me feel cared for and calmer.
2. Hatha yoga
All yoga is awesome for balancing the chakras, but the standing postures like Warrior 1, 2 and triangle are especially known for their grounding qualities.
Breathe deeply and emphasize the exhale, imagining a long line of energy reaching from the bottom of your feet deep into the earth. Hold the poses for eight to 10 breaths per side.
3. Kundalini yoga
Try squats that Gurmukh describes in her book. Squat with your feet at least shoulder distance apart, or a little wider. Feel free to use a wall for support if needed. You needn’t drop down all the way. Only go as far as feels comfortable for you, working deeper over time.
In the squat, clasp your hands together, index fingers pointing forward, and stretch your arms out in front of you. Keep your eyes one-tenth open.
Here’s where it gets weird, but it works, I promise. Open your mouth, extend your tongue, and do the breath of fire, panting while pumping your belly in and then releasing along with the breath.
Try for one minute up to three minutes. Even after just a little while, you’ll feel much more peaceful.
4. Color therapy
Surround yourself with the color red, or visualize it. This may work for really visual people. It’s never worked for me, but didn’t want to leave it out.
5. Walk barefoot
Spending time in nature is wonderful for reducing anxiety, and if you can walk barefoot, maybe through the park or your backyard, all the better. This is called earthing, and it’s an amazing practice to help you reconnect to the earth energy.
Mantras can be helpful to calm the mind and restore faith in the universe. Essentially, we must give up the illusion that we are in control and accept that if we show up and do our best, life will take us where we need to be.
Repeat to yourself a phrase like, “I’m grateful for my gifts; I value my contributions,” or “Let go; let God.” Feel free to substitute any word that resonates with you for God. You could even say, “Let go; let it be.”
What are your thoughts about the connection between the root chakra and anxiety? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Did this article resonate with you? Share it with someone you know struggling with anxiety.
Image by raganmd via Flickr