One of the most fundamental concepts in the practices of yoga is the acknowledgment that everything in life is subject to the ebb and flow of our existence; light cannot be seen without darkness, expansion happens after contraction; heartbreaking lows can follow incredible highs, and like the lotus flower through the muddy waters, we must root to rise.
“this is the recipe of life
said my mother
as she held me in her arms as i wept
think of those flowers you plant
in the garden each year
they will teach you
that people too
in order to bloom”
––Rupi Kaur ~ The Sun and Her Flowers
To root means to establish oneself deeply and firmly, to be grounded and entrenched in the present moment.
To rise means to emerge, to move from a lower position to a higher one, moving upwards; coming back to life.
In nature, when a seed is planted in the soil, it needs darkness and nourishment before it can be strong enough to push through the Earth and become what it was meant to become, to rise toward the Sun as a tree, or a plant, or a flower.
In yoga, root to rise can be explored from as many angles as there are yoga practitioners, and in this article we will delve into a few ones:
- Root to Rise within the Chakra System
- Root to Rise; The Vayus
- Root to Rise On Your Mat
- Root to Rise Off The Mat
Root to Rise within the Chakra System
The Chakras (or cakras) are an energetic system found in texts from India dating between 1500 and 500 BC the Vedas, the Shri Jabala Darshana Upanishad, the Cudamini Upanishad, the Yoga-Shikka Upanishad and the Shandilya Upanishad are some of those books.
We also find evidence of the chakras in the Kemetic Yoga system, which is more than 7,000 years old.
These main 7 chakras are considered the primary energetic centers of the body:
- Root Chakra (Muladhara)
- Sacral Chakra (Swadhisthana)
- Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura)
- Heart Chakra (Anahata)
- Throat Chakra (Vishuddha)
- Third-Eye Chakra (Ajna)
- Crown chakra (Sahasrara)
There is often a misconception that the chakras must be opened through the practices of yoga, when in reality, what we seek, is balance.
Balance can only occur when the whole system is in tune, and just like life, we ebb and flow in and out of balance.
The root chakra, also known as the first chakra, is situated at the base of the spine, its element is Earth, and it relates to a feeling of being stable, grounded, and establishing a solid foundation.
When the root chakra is stable and balanced, we can begin to explore the balancing of the second chakra, and then the third, and so on.
Each chakra connects you deeply to your authenticity, moving from the physical plane of being grounded and rooted into the experience of being human, muladhara chakra, to the crown chakra, represented as a lotus flower spiraling over your head, connecting you to the divine nature of who you are.
In the context of the chakra system, root to rise means to establish support and steadiness first; it’s about meeting your basic needs, and that can include having shelter, having access to healthy meals, and a feeling of belonging.
As we move up through the chakras, we’re invited to balance our sexual and creative energy in the exploration of the second chakra; the solar plexus is connected to the ego, knowing your power, and using it for good.
Pausing at Anahata chakra, as the energy continues to rise, you’ll be invited to tap into your heart’s desires, to find compassion and self-love.
Remaining rooted, as the energy rises to the throat chakra and we explore communication, the third eye, learning to trust your innate intuition, explore your dreams and find more clarity in your life, and finally, the energy rises to the crown chakra; the connection to the divine, the Universe, or God.
What we learn from this is that to be in tune with our highest self, we must learn to live grounded and present in every moment of our lives; we root down, so we can rise up.
Root to Rise; The 5 Prana Vayus
The Hatha Yoga tradition speaks of 5 energies, currents, or directly translated from the Sanskrit, winds called the Vayus, that live within us and when balanced and harmonious provide us with the vitality and the energy that we need to live with purpose and intention.
The 5 vayus are:
- Prana vayu (inward energy)
It is responsible for intake and it moves downward and inward, and it is responsible for providing you with basic energy to move through your life.
The inbreath, Puraka, is related to this energetic current.
- Apana vayu (downward energy)
Apana, translating to “lack of” or “release of” life force, is directly related to the process of elimination and release.
This energy moves downward and outward, and pertains to the outbreath; rechaka.
- Udana vayu (upward energy)
Udana vayu is the inward and upward energy that moves within you. It infuses your vision of the world, and how you relate and communicate within it.
This vayu invites growth, ascension, and upward movement, and it affects your will and enthusiasm.
- Samana vayu (inward, contractive energy)
How you process things is connected to Samana Vayu, the current that moves toward the center line, also described often as a churning energy.
Bahya Kumbhaka, holding after the exhale, promotes the flow of Samana.
- Vyana vayu (circulatory, pervasive energy)
This vayu distributes the energy as it moves outward, circularly, and pulsating.
Vyana fills out the space with creative energy, and it supports the balancing of the other vayus.
These natural Pranic patterns can be explored in the yoga practice, on and off the mat, and they are an interesting way to connect you to the concept that we must root to rise.
The way in which we move the breath and the prana within you, begins to reflect in how you move on your yoga mat, and in your life.
The harmony of your vayus will determine how you interact with yourself and with the world; when you learn to inhale deeply we create energy to sustain us, when we learn to exhale completely, we learn to let go, inviting our nervous system to relax.
Root to Rise On Your Mat
When practicing asana the idea of root to rise can be revealed from several perspectives, but here are a few of the most common that can welcome inquiry and self-discovery.
To root is to be grounded, firm, and sustained by a strong foundation. When practicing yoga, consider placing your focus on becoming stable first, and then exploring the rest of the alignment and the shape.
Rooting to rise, at the purely physical level within a yoga posture, means to be pressing down into the Earth, to feel steady in your foundation. From there we are able to breathe with ease, hence connecting to the ebb and flow, and finding balance.
Whatever is touching the ground, whether that’s your hands, feet, forearms, glutes, back or abdomen, setting your foundation.
That will allow you to grow in the shape and explore more variations, also giving you space to remain in the shape for longer when desired.
For example, while practicing Warrior II, approach it like this:
- Stand at the top of your mat in Tadasana, hands on your hips.
- Feel your feet firmly planted, engaging pada bandha.
- Inhale, shift your weight to your right foot, find balance, engage your leg
- Exhale, step your left foot back, turn your left toes toward the long side of your mat, open your arms like a T.
- Take a moment to feel your feet anchored, rooting down.
- Inhale, feel pada bandha, as you engage your legs, your hips, your core.
- Exhale, relax your shoulders and allow the energy to extend all the way out to your fingertips
- Feel the energy of being fully grounded, yet light, almost buoyant through the crown of your head; root to rise.
Root to Rise Off The Mat
Since one of the purposes of the practices of yoga and meditation is to get us more in contact with the experiences of life, exploring the notion of root to rise off the mat can help you find a new perspective and improve your day.
Imagine if before every work meeting you took 5 minutes in your office to sit in your chair and ground your feet onto the floor, taking a few calming breaths and simply imagining energy coming in and out of the body, or perhaps visualizing how you want the meeting to develop, how you will feel throughout; grounded, present, engaged, clear, etc.
Developing a pranayama practice that invites you to explore the energies of the chakras and the vayus can be very transformational, and it can get you in contact with the subtle current of prana in your body.
Whether you choose to explore the yogic concept of root to rise through energetic work, breath, asana, or in your daily life, remember as the African Proverb says: “When the roots are deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.”
As you root and connect to the Earth, when you pause and recharge, you’ll emerge more stable and stronger.