Yoga and Healing: Getting to the Root of the Matter

 

The root centre is an important part of our physiology and energy body. When you start yoga, whether from a physical, spiritual or well-being perspective, you at some point recognize it as a healing process. On the physical level, it can be as simple as helping with a sore back or tight hips. But when you move deeper into the concept of healing the journey may look a bit different.

The healing aspect of yoga is very much holistic. The root area is an important one in the healing journey. In many modalities when you think about healing the first go-to spot in the anatomy is the heart centre. When you are hurt emotionally you feel pain in the heart centre, thus the natural response is I need to heal my heart. But I would argue that's not the starting point for most of us.

Primal Urges

For many, the healing journey needs to start at the root centre. The yoga tradition is clear on this. Those who have practiced the techniques over millennia know this. Understanding the energy body and how it works is the starting point.

The root centre is the centre of our primal urges:

  • the need to sleep
  • the need to eat
  • the need for shelter
  • the need to procreate
  • the need to stay alive (fear)

There is another aspect which is our connection to tribe. Think of tribe as who and what you are familiar with, who looks like you, thinks like you, for example. Tribe creates a sense of community and belonging. Examples of tribes include religions, political parties, social movements, race and heritage or even occupations.  Generally, you are affiliated with a tribe(s). 

When too attached to the tribe problems may arise - your worldview becomes limited, your thinking becomes dogmatic, you begin to "other" those who are not like you. The notion of the tribe actually ends up being about separation and difference. 

With respect to the primal urges, you can see how these can become faulty or imbalanced at times. Think of issues like eating disorders, food or sex addictions, for example. 

When the energies at the root are off it affects you in many ways. 

With respect to fear, think of humans as evolved animals with a primal urge to stay alive. Our limbic system response is the primitive response system of the brain, to keep us safe and alive. And yet the root centre is where fear is situated energetically. 

The fear of staying alive (think of mortality) underpins all other fear. We live in a society that is steeped in fear. Right now living in a pandemic with new vaccines, fear of groups, fear of loss, etc., fear is everpresent. Even prior to the pandemic there was so much fear. The news is based on fear. Popular culture and entertainment also have lots of fear in their story-telling. 

What do we do to begin to heal these energies?

The yoga tradition has some root-based practices to positively affect the energies at the root. There are 5 root-based practices you can explore. 

5 Root-based practices

  1. A strong and stable pelvic -establish this in your physical practice
  2. Aswini mudra - contracting and releasing the anal sphincter; do this at the beginning or end of practice
  3. Strong standing poses - add lateral poses such as Triangle pose, Goddess pose, Warrior II to your practice
  4. Mulabandha - the root lock - lifting of the anterior wall of the perineum on the exhalation. This can be explored in asana initially. From 4s sinking back to the heels on the exhale (subtle lifting of the perineum wall occurs) and the inhaling back up to 4s (the perineum lifting releases)
  5. Lengthened exhalation - this can be practiced with forward folding, pranayama, or when moving into savasana 
What are your root-based issues that could be addressed using some of these techniques? 

These techniques can be explored as you move deeper into your understanding of yoga as a healing process, a healing journey. 

Good luck!

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