A Restorative Yoga Sequence for Muladhara Chakra
Avail yourself of a bolster, a wall, two blankets (or large towels), and one block, as well as a strap or belt. Eye pillow (or small towel) is optional. For more on muladhara chakra, see Alan Finger’s book Chakra Yoga or Sandra Anderson’s article, "Muladhara Chakra: Root Center."
1. Hand to Toe Pose at Wall
Muladhara ("root support"), the base chakra encircling the tip of the tailbone and the pelvic floor, is connected to our groundedness and most basic stability in life and relationships. When muladhara is in balance, we feel steady no matter what life throws at us and “at home” wherever we go. Any restorative practice might be seen as a practice for muladhara; a restorative practice grounds us by bringing us close to the earth in relaxing poses and giving us time enough in each pose to sink into the home of our own center. In following restorative practice, we amplify these benefits by consciously directing our attention to some points in the body and meditative foci associated with muladhara, all the while providing extra support for our feet and our legs, which so often serve as our foundations. This practice is especially valuable for times when we are feeling unsettled, uncertain, or depleted.
As a prelude to relaxation, actively stretch the legs. Loosening the hamstrings, and consequently the lower back, will make for even greater ease in the restorative poses that follow.
Lie on your back, with your feet pressing into the wall and crown of your head lengthening toward the center of the room. Bend the left knee in toward the chest, loop your strap (you could also use a belt or towel) around the ball of the left foot, and extend the left foot up toward the ceiling, straightening the leg as much as you comfortably can. Have your hands high enough on the strap that your arms are straight, yet low enough that your shoulders can drop to the ground. Relax the sides of your neck toward the floor, and make the back of your head heavy. Arrange your lifted foot as if it is standing on the ceiling, drawing the base of the pinky toe back toward your left hip as much as the base of your big toe. Press your right foot into the wall and drop the top of your right thigh down, keeping a slight curve in your lumbar spine.
Bring your attention to the tip of the tailbone, part of the province of muladhara, the chakra that is the foundation for all the other chakras. The tailbone is itself the foundation of an elongated neutral spine, in which the back of the head and tailbone are on the same line and lengthening away from each other, with a gentle inward curve in the lower back. This the shape that best supports inner spaciousness and serves as a kind of spindle for the chakras. Can you feel that when the tailbone tips back into the mat, the lower back readily curves in? That when the bottommost tip of the tailbone lengthens forward toward the wall, it is easier to reach back through the crown of the head? The foot that is against the wall can serve as another foundation; as you press that foot into the wall, can you find still more length? Which other parts of your body serve as your foundations in this pose? What, in life, makes up your foundation? Allow yourself enough time to notice everything, and everyone, you have supporting you, making it possible for you to be here and relax at this moment.
2. Supported Child’s Pose
To prepare for supported child’s pose, build yourself a “bolster ramp” a couple feet away from the wall by elevating the part of the bolster furthest from the wall with a block on its flattest, widest setting. Place an eye pillow or small towel near the peak of the bolster ramp. Roll up one blanket halfway to its center, then sit on your heels, knees on either side of the bolster ramp, placing the slender blanket roll at the hip crease at the top of the thighs to help sink the hips deeper into the homes of their sockets. Fold forward over the bolster, supporting the forehead with the eye pillow, so that your nose does not press into the bolster. Rest your hands on either side of the bolster, palms flat. If you have blankets to spare, you can spread them under your hands and/or feet.
The element associated with muladhara is earth, and, in this pose, you are resting your hands on the ground, as if checking to make sure it’s there. As if checking to make sure it will hold you. Attune yourself to the real presence of the Earth under you: this solid, elephantine planet lumbering through space. It can hold you; it has been holding you all along. You can become heavy on it, give your weight to it. Are you resisting or gripping anywhere, or in some way trying to hold yourself up? Begin to relent: give the work of supporting you to the Earth.
3a. Reclining Supported Stretch of the West at Wall
For a grounding forward fold in which the spine is both long and supported, sit at the base of a bolster ramp about a foot away from the wall, with one of your hips flush against the wall. Swing your legs up the wall and recline along the length of the bolster. Be far enough from the wall that your hips can be heavy on the floor as the bolster shores you up from the lower back to the back of the head. If this is too much of a stretch for the hamstrings or across the chest, you can skip the bolster: simply practice legs-up-the-wall with your back on the mat, tipping the tailbone back into the mat to maintain your lumbar curve. For more of a stretch, bring the bolster up higher—try putting two blocks under it, one in the middle, on its lowest setting, and one underneath your head on its highest setting.
3b. Reclining Supported Wide-Angle Pose at Wall
Follow the instructions for reclining supported stretch of the west, then widen your legs away from each other.
3c. Supine Supported Bound Angle Pose
Follow the instructions for reclining supported stretch of the west, then bend your knees, bring your feet together, and widen your knees away from each other, placing blankets or upright bolsters underneath the knees if you experience any discomfort in the knees or the hips.
The organ of knowledge for muladhara is the nose. Behind your closed lids, you might direct your gaze toward the tip of the nose. Begin to pay attention to the sensation of air in your nostrils as you breathe. The breath is reassuringly constant, like a home you get to take with you. You keep inhaling; you keep exhaling. As long as you are here, your breath will be here.
You might be breathing more slowly and deeply now, as though you’re smelling something wonderful. The sense associated with muladhara is smell. To further your relaxation, imagine a fragrance you associate with home, a welcoming smell you remember softening you completely the moment you walked in the door.
4. Bridge Pose with Legs Swaddled
Place a block on its flattest setting a few inches from the wall, and the bolster lengthwise along the middle of the mat. Sit in the middle of the bolster, facing the wall, and drape the blanket, unfolded once from its yoga studio fold, underneath your legs. Fold the blanket around them so that your shins and knees are swaddled securely. Lie back, arranging yourself so that the soles of your feet are on the wall, the calves are on the block, and your pelvis and much of your back are supported by the bolster, while the shoulders and head rest on the floor.
Meditation: Four-Petaled Square
The yantra associated with muladhara is a golden square with four petals, one petal at each corner. You might imagine this yantra at the feet, your usual foundation, and your hands, which sometimes serve as your foundation in yoga. Visualize a four-petaled square at the sole of each foot, petals unfurling, a four-petaled square on each of your palms, petals unfurling, until the soles of your feet and palms of your hands feel soft and wide, almost as if they could breathe. You might then imagine a four-petaled square at your heart, the petals gently spreading; four silken petals sprawling around each eye; four petals opening around a square at the center of your smooth forehead.
5. Shavasana at Wall
To come out of supported bridge and into shavasana at the wall, bend the knees, plant the feet down in front of the bolster, lift the hips up, and shift the bolster out from underneath you. Ease your way back down, and straighten your bound legs back out so that you are laying flat on the floor with your feet against the wall. Notice how it feels to have the support of the wall under your feet in a pose in which they are not usually supported.
The mantra for muladhara is lam. You might repeat this sound to yourself; even when you do not say it aloud, can you feel its reverberations at the pelvic floor and the tip of your tailbone? After repeating this sound consciously, you might find that it seems to continue by itself, like a stone you gently pushed, a stone that is now rolling all by itself. You might imagine the sound lam rolling all the way up your spine, clearing any obstacles to the upward passage of energy.
6. Reverse Child’s Pose
Roll one of your blankets halfway to its center, and fold the other in a long rectangle. Bind your ankles loosely with the strap. Lie on your back, placing the small blanket roll just beneath the frontal hip bones, the unrolled part of the blanket draped over your belly and chest. Draw your knees in toward your chest, and place the blanket folded into a long rectangle on the backs of your thighs, just under your knees. Slope the bolster from the mat to the blanket below your knees, so that its gentle weight moves your knees toward your chest. Rest your calves on the bolster and part your knees slightly. Place your arms wherever they are comfortable.
Red is the color associated with, and said to nurture, muladhara. Bring your attention to the tip of the tailbone; there, imagine a red light, brilliant and warm, that begins to make its slow way up your spine. Once the light moves to the top of the neck, imagine it filling your head: visualize red light, like the light that shines through stained glass, behind your closed eyelids. Imagine your whole being suffused with red light into which the last of your tension dissolves, the last of your thoughts dissolve.
7. Buried Shavasana
Remove the bolster and blanket from under your thighs, but keep your ankles loosely bound. Lie on your back, covering your thighs with the bolster and belly with a blanket or two. If you have more soft props readily available, pile them on top of yourself.
Meditation: Oneness with the Earth
You might imagine that you are weighted with soft earth, slowly becoming part of the earth itself as it settles and shifts and breathes. You are, it seems, the sun-warmed soil, your skin is the grass in the breeze. Pressed down gently, you allow yourself to sprawl, your sense of “here” to widen, until it seems that you are the peat and the deserts, too; you are the earth under the ice; and you are the earth under the ocean. You soon find yourself descending through the strata of your relaxation, as if pulled down magnetically, until you rest in your own core, where you are warm and strong, and untroubled by the disturbances at your surface, thousands of miles above you.
When you make your way up to a concluding seated pose, it is with a residual sense of your connection to the Earth: you could be anywhere on it, and you would be home. And when you rise, and begin to walk, you might notice that your steps are more certain: one foot holds you, then the other. You are sturdy. Life could hurtle herself toward you, throw her arms around you, and you would not tip over, you would not move, except to embrace her.
Amber Burke lives in Abiquiu, New Mexico. She teaches alignment-based and restorative yoga privately (and occasionally at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs), as well as various writing classes at UNM Taos. With her anatomically-focused articles, she aims to broaden the interface between yoga and physical therapy. She and Bill Reif, MPT, are hard at work on a book for yoga practitioners with injuries and pre-existing conditions. She is a graduate of Yale, the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars MFA... Read more>>