It All Starts with the Root Chakra
Each chakra has a set of unique characteristics, and understanding the characteristics of the root chakra specifically, is an important part of any traveler's self-care routine.
With the understanding that energy precedes form, illness in the physical body often starts in one’s energetic field. The chakras are points of concentrated energy in the subtle (or energetic) body, and the root chakra is the first of them to form.
The root chakra grounds us into the earth so this part of our energy is highly susceptible to imbalances when we’re on the go- and especially when we are flying. The themes of the root chakra are safety, security, survival, and stability. It provides us with a solid foundation so we can be courageous and take risks in our lives. This energy center is the reason it feels so good to come home after a long stretch of travel. Energetically, it is our sense of home. The root chakra is also the reason it is terrifying to quit a job when you don’t have substantial savings. It is also the reason so many people have a fear of flying-because the root chakra likes the stability of having our feet on the ground. The root chakra demands that we feel safe so that we can live our lives fully and authentically, and as if our survival is guaranteed.
Survival during early childhood requires attachment to our primary caregivers, so healthy root chakra formation relies on caregivers who are responsive to our needs. The root chakra primarily develops in the first seven years of life. Growing up in a loving, supportive environment during this time helps children trust their ability to survive and to feel safe being themselves. But even those of us who grew up with the most loving caregivers have experienced the fear and anxiety associated with root chakra imbalances.
When we are young, being loved and accepted is necessary for survival so any time we behaved in a way that (we perceived) wasn’t met with love during this time, we feared for our survival. We instinctively learned to minimize the behaviors and characteristics that we perceived to be unloved and to express the parts of ourselves that felt loved and accepted. Over time, we stopped expressing certain parts of ourselves to preserve love and secure our survival. We compromised our authentic, but less critical needs to secure attachment to our caregivers. In this process, we did survive, we preserved love and acceptance, but we lost authenticity.
As adults, these childhood compromises may seem insignificant, but the theme of sacrificing authenticity for attachment persists. The early compromises we made while the root chakra was developing planted the seed of misunderstanding that it is unsafe to be authentic. As we grow up, the seed blossoms into every area of ourselves and our lives, and we continue to compromise our true needs, desires, feelings, and thoughts to secure love and social acceptance. The misunderstanding that it is not safe to express oneself authentically is the foundation for physical, mental and emotional dis-ease.
Imbalances in the root chakra can show up in a variety of ways. In my private practice, I see a lot of clients struggling with root chakra imbalances. Anxiety, weight retention allergies, and autoimmune conditions are all common experiences of an imbalance in the root chakra. In each of these cases, the systems of the body are confused about what is safe and what is not. Anxiety and weight retention are very common among my clients who travel frequently.
When we are anxious, the nervous system is behaving as if we are in danger. That fight or flight response can be very uncomfortable- especially while on an airplane with no ability to move around and release the energy. Weight retention creates a physical barrier between the vulnerable internal organs of the body and the outside world. It is the body’s way of protecting itself from any perceived danger.
Travelers are also susceptible to root chakra imbalances because travel makes it difficult to stick to the natural rhythms of the body. When we are babies and the root chakra is developing, we sleep when we feel tired, eat when we’re hungry and eliminate when we feel the urge. Learning to listen to and respect the rhythms of the body is integral to survival and an important part of healthy root chakra development.
As we age, we are conditioned to sleep through the night, eat at agreed-upon meal times, and eliminate when it is socially acceptable to excuse ourselves. Adapting our physiological needs to the collective is another way in which we compromise authenticity to preserve social acceptance. Travel can inflame this process because it adds another layer of disconnect between us and our authentic physiologic needs.
Supportive Root Chakra Practices
Close your eyes and focus on the sound and sensation of your breath. Imagine a large tree trunk extending from the base of your spine into the ground. Visualize the roots extending into the center of the earth. Imagine all of the energy in your body that doesn’t feel like your own, draining down the roots into the earth. Don’t worry about who the energy belongs to or what it is. Simply focus on your breath and let the process continue until you feel complete.
Say the following silently and aloud often while on the go:
I am safe.
I am grounded.
It is safe to be myself.
I am loved as I am.
I can trust myself.
Modified Mountain Pose
While on the airplane, train or vehicle, sit forward enough on the seat so you can feel the soles of your feet on the ground. Transfer as much of your weight as possible to your feet and rock your weight forward and background on the soles of your feet. Try to feel every part of the foot from the heel to the arch to the toes as it contacts the floor. After a minute or so, stop rocking and push your feet into the floor, pull in your belly in towards your spine and engage your core. Allow your upper body to get taller but relax your shoulders, neck and the muscles of your face. You should feel active and engaged but relaxed. Take 10 slow, deep breaths here.
Written by, Erica Matluck, N.D., N.P. is an NYC-based naturopathic doctor, nurse practitioner, and holistic coach. She was trained as a Reiki Master at 20 years old and began studying yoga as a teenager.
Combining over a decade of experience working in conventional and alternative medicine, she brings a truly holistic lens to wellbeing, addressing the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of health. Eastern philosophy threads through all of Matluck’s work, where she emphasizes the intersection of health and spirituality to help people find meaning through life's challenges.
Before opening a private practice in New York City, she spent eight years practicing at One Medical Group, where she built holistic services and trained healthcare providers in holistic techniques and group facilitation. In 2017, Matluck founded Seven Senses, a holistic framework for healing and transformation. She applies this framework to all of her work, which has been featured in Harpers Bazaar, MindBodyGreen and Well and Good.