(article orginially published in BeYogi.com )
No, matter the reason for beginning a yoga practice, every student arrives at a point in the yogic journey when they learn about chakras, our body’s energy centers. There are seven major chakras vertically spanning the midline of the body, from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. When the chakras are open, they allow a free flow of energy which facilitates a balanced and healthy life.
Each chakra governs a particular area of the body, element, emotion, and mental state. In addition, the chakras are associated with particular deities. The deities represent an aspect of us. They mirror our emotions and behaviors, and reflect back to us the subconscious feelings, habits, and thoughts that thwart or foster our growth.
The first of the seven chakras is muladhara: the root chakra, which is associated with the earth element. In our body, the earth element is represented as our bones, tissues, and our connection to the ground. Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, governs muladhara chakra. With his elephant head, human body, and portly belly, Ganesha is one of the most recognized deities of the Hindu pantheon. His job is to clear obstacles, grant new perspectives, and guide us to recognize our strength and wisdom.
Ganesha blesses all beginnings and as the deity of the first chakra, he asks us to connect to our bodies and to the earth. For many people, there is disconnect from our bodies. We move through daily routine without conscious attention to our actions. We swallow a pill to numb pain, eat quickly or distractedly, spend more time in our head than our body; when we do pay attention to our body, we berate it.
Make your spirit at home
Ganesha, commonly depicted with four arms, holds a goad in one hand to prod humans forward on the path to enlightenment. Muladhara chakra establishes survival, stability, and security. Without a strong connection to your body or to the earth element, how can you expect to listen to your breath or manifest intention? When you align your body and emotions, you manifest your ability to live a full life.
Your body is home to your spirit. Like any home, there needs to be a strong foundation. What helps you find stability? Does stability mean money, clothes, paid mortgage or rent, a good job, food in the fridge, a close-knit family, or a friend to call? The more solid your foundation, the less likely you will be blown over by life’s unexpected events.
Arriving at the mat
When we first get on our yoga mat, we tune into our body and our breath. To ground down and tune into the sensations in our body is to acknowledge pain, limitations, and where we feel good. This is akin to the mala beads in Ganesha’s hands which represent the continuous process of knowledge; we never stop learning. We must constantly return to our base. To move forward and upward, we must tune inward to the signals of the body. Reconnecting to the first chakra allows us to remain stable in our yoga practice, in our day-to-day routine, in our awareness, and inner trust.
Like a tall tree with deep roots, to grow and expand a strong connection to body and to earth is vital. Ganesha’s large head represents our own capacity for expanded awareness. We forget that the universe is within us. To live our best life, we must open our big Ganesha ears and listen to the wisdom within, build a solid foundation, and from there tune into our full abilities.